POSTCARD #258: New Delhi: I perceive the world as a solid tangible thing, I see, hear, smell, taste, touch and in the mind’s eye I believe this to be so. But it’s a hologram – outer and inner, subject/object split as One; all of it is holographic. Therefore, the planet Earth seen from outer space, shining with color, is holographic. If that is so, all neighboring worlds, seen to be dead planets, could be teeming with life and we can’t see it because our sensory mechanisms are not compatible with their operating system, so to speak. In the same way, those other world populations are seeing their holographic extension of themselves, and can’t see our world for the same reason.

An idea for an SF story… the way it is, so clear to me now, waking up after a short snooze on the sofa and the headache almost gone. Birds twittering in the trees outside, they react to the drop in temperature as the heat of the day turns towards cool. Let’s see, it must be around 4 pm, raise the remains of my headache up from the sofa, legs over the side and stand up, feet into slippers: flip, flop, flip… over to the window and look out.

Trees standing around here and there, pointing at the sky and contemplating the situation: if a tree falls in the middle of nowhere, it makes no sound – it’s nowhere so, nobody’s there to hear it. But if you split the word into two parts: ‘now’ and ‘here’, somebody’ll hear the sound of it, because it is ‘now here’, and that’s a time/space location in the hologram which makes it real in this context. You could say, because this is so, I am. You are. We are ‘here’ in our world and out there is just ‘out there’, the abstract realm where: you are what you is, and you is what you am…[Frank Zappa].

There was a time when I wasn’t here, not born yet. The world just going on without that person called ‘me’ in it – there’s an anonymity about this that’s quite liberating. The day before I was born, everything was just going on, birds twittering in the trees as they are doing now, and all the other random events taking place as I was birthed. And all those I was to be connected with, one way or another, arrived from what I’d call the past, dissolving into circumstances of present time as it falls away into the future, encapsulated in the timeless moment we are in, always. Nothing out of place, as I see it now, and here at the open window on the second floor of the house where the treetops are level with the window and higher… birds twittering more and more, as the day turns towards evening.

“The universe lies before you on the floor, in the air, in the mysterious bodies of your dancers, in your mind. From this voyage no one returns poor or weary.” [Agnes de Mille]

Photo source


the road

IMG_2120POSTCARD #180: Chiang Mai: For most people in the Christian world, the Christmas festival has jingle-bells, santaclausisms and the Jesus Teachings are embedded in this but that’s okay. Somehow the essence of it got assimilated in the warmth of our Christmas-shopping and why not, it’s all-inclusive isn’t it? For a reason that seems odd and perplexing to us, somehow the two go together; spending money and generosity means exercising the purchasing muscle… and it feels like there should be more to it than that but we’re not willing to say there’s anything wrong with it because we’re all in some way compromised. A tacit approval of consumerist behavior integrated into our lives. The essential part of our spiritual Truth got shifted out of the way and consumerism came along in its place.

The Truth of the Jesus Teaching can be applied today of course in the same way as it has been for centuries. What’s missing is the gnosis (knowledge) part of the teaching. The instructions on seeing the constructed nature of appearances and the stepping-through the illusion of our world to discover the non-duality between God and ourselves:

‘His disciples said to him, “When will the kingdom come?” 
<Jesus said, > “It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying ‘here it is’ or ‘there it is.’ Rather, the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it (113).”’ [Nag Hammadi Manuscripts].

The Jesus Teaching is immersed in a oneness of spiritual teaching all of which say something happened, in a particular geographical location. An event (or events) took place, somewhere in the region stretching from Israel and the Mediterranean through to North India, a distance of about 3000 miles. There was an ancient highway there, a road not unlike the East/West route in the early days of the expansion by American pioneers – except of course along the way, there were already communities and townships, and here and there a populated place hundreds of years old or more. This road, formed through the necessity of trading, had become part of what was called the Old Silk Road trading route stretching all the way from the Pacific side of China to the Mediterranean Sea.

We can quite accurately imagine the people living there then – some of them traveling on the Road as a livelihood because it had always been there. Facilities were set up alongside for travelers, rooms and all kinds of industries and businesses were connected with it. There’d be talk about politics, marriages, births, deaths and there was the Mystery, whatever name it was called in one place and different in another.

Others would discern the truth, discuss and explain aspects of it and an understanding of the Mystery evolved; refined learning, study and excellent teachers instructing students: it’s not about worshipping someone else doing it on your behalf, the Truth is within, you can do it by yourself. This Truth, though, was thought to be subversive by the power structures, and in that sense there’s no difference between then and now.

It is interesting that all the world’s religions arose here in this same region: the three Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and those related. Also the Brahamanic religions Hinduism, Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta and those related. We could quite reasonably propose that something took place here long ago that changed the world – maybe more than one event, enlightenment had become possible. All sorts of discoveries happened in the vicinity of this route… as long as the width of America coast to coast – the impact of it spread everywhere and all through time.


Note: excerpts from an earlier post: Maya & Christmas
Image source: Dhamma from Phra Ajahn Jayasaro: ‘Teachers who have gained insights in the dhamma have confirmed that no matter what difficulties one has to endure, the results of the practice are worth the effort.’

beyond belief

IMG_4118POSTCARD #131: Delhi: I received this photo of a plane journey on my phone from M, my 11-year-old Thai niece. She was on a night flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. All our devices are connected so I get her photos, downloaded images, screenshots, kiddie’s apps and have to subscribe to an increased GB storage plan due to these thousands of ‘cute’ digital items, increasing daily. I read in Google somewhere that the number of mobile phones exceeds the population of the world, due to users that own multiple devices. Let’s say there are trillions of images all around the planet… whatever, there’s just this sense of vastness. Like the stars seen through M’s downloaded pic of the plane window. More than that; a quick look at Google tells me there are 200 billion galaxies out there, a Universe filled with a septillion: 1024 planets –on ‘the short scale’ (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) and 1042 on ‘the long scale’.

Changing from the Macro to the Micro, each star that can be seen from the plane window out there looks like a micro particle – wiki tells me that ‘point-particles’ are zero-dimensional. So it doesn’t take long to start thinking about transparency, lightness, non-being:

You are boundless space.
You are nothing that you appear to be.
You are the fathomless ocean, forever flowing.
The waves do not affect you.
Nothing affects you, for there’s no you.
[Robert Adams]

(reblogged from: Known is a drop, Unknown is an ocean

It’s just that everything I’ve been taught as a child is the received perception that’s passed down through generations of those with the same mind/body organism as I have. Most of us hold on to creationist belief systems, “God” – the ‘Big Bang’. But what caused the big bang? What came before that? A lot of people I know spend most of their time in contemplation, one way or another  – meditation or focused thought, and seeking a way of living that allows for this because it’s possibly the most important thing you can do with your life.

Advaita Vedanta talks about Brahman being the cause, and the world is the effect. Without the cause, the effect is no longer there. What that means is the ‘World” is real when seen with Brahman but it’s false when seen without Brahman. So basically Brahman is the original cause and those of us who see without Brahman are seeing the World as an illusion. Sounds like the sky is blue, the grass is green because the human sensory system creates it like that, and there’s no way to prove this is ‘real.’ That’s how it seems to be, in a manner of speaking – the sense there’s something missing… Brahman/Pure Consciousness/Reality? Not seeking, just considering the question. I like what cabrogal says: ‘Pure consciousness has no object’ – this has become like a kind of koan for me.

The Buddha didn’t agree with the external, eternal creationist idea:

“As far as the suns and moons extend their courses and the regions of the sky shine in splendor, there is a thousandfold world system. In each single one of these there are a thousand suns, moons, Meru Mountains, four times a thousand continents and oceans, a thousand heavens of all stages of the realm of sense pleasure, a thousand Brahma worlds. As far as a thousandfold world system reaches in other words, [the universe], the Great God is the highest being. But even the Great God is subject to coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be.” (Anguttara-Nikaya X 29)

It’s like saying these are all concepts and true reality is not a concept – words cannot reach that far. I received another picture from M, her painting of a beehive, done after she got off the flight and back in school again. It’s a natural hive in the forest. When Jiab asked what the bee outside the hive was doing there, she gave it some thought and said it was counting the stars – a created answer, sort of an on-the-spur-of-the-moment thing…



Note: I Googled the title of this post after I’d set up the thing for publication and discovered in Amazon it’s the title of a book: ‘Beyond Belief’ by Elaine Pagels about the “secret” Gospel of Thomas. The idea that the Jesus Teachings were changed by Churchianity. Jesus was saying he was the son of God but we are all the sons and daughters of God, no difference. We can all be enlightened. I was wondering if anybody had read this book and should I order it from Amazon?

random continuity


POSTCARD #103: Delhi: Traffic congestion at the market area and there’s this old black and yellow taxi in front, with red lettering on the back. I take a photo of the misspelling of ‘keep distence’ (distance) and ‘power break’ (brake). It’s this tradition they have here of keeping everyone informed with written messages on moving vehicles [check out Google’s image page: Horn Please]. Also the curious illusion of the ‘OK TATA’ slogan appearing in the back window of the taxi as if it were stuck on with tape. A closer look tells me it’s actually painted on the back of the yellow truck in front, seen through the windscreen of the inside of the taxi. The OK TATA’ slogan is everywhere; OK (ti-kae ठीक in Hindi), keep your distance… that’s close enough.

The car moves slowly through the market area. Delhi streets are compelling, always something going on. My view of the world is a sequence of unrelated events except that the movement of the car seems to link them together in a random continuity of space/time. A curious connectedness that seems to make sense; it’s all of a oneness [not-twoism]. The frame of reference extended so far it’s all-inclusive; everything out there is connected to ‘me’ in here; the truth of separation and the illusion of I/ you/ he/ she/ it, in the place where we appear to be.

Car moves through the crowd and there’s a woman at a bus stop; suddenly she goes into a whole complete turn of the body, graceful extending of the neck and head… completes the movement just as I pass in the car. Can’t think what she’s doing… then afterwards I realize she must have been looking to see if the bus was coming.

The elongated, ambulating long-limbed walk of a man wearing a gathered-up white cotton garment around the legs and jacket on top. Exactly at the moment I see him, he steps down from the high pavement to street level and there’s deep bounce of limbs and musculature – stretchy ligaments taking the strain.

At the traffic lights, a very thin man slows down on his big old bicycle and his naked brown foot reaches down to come to a stop; leather shoe on dusty street… pause, rearrangement of limbs; sitting on bicycle seat, allow for distribution of weight, rest in this new posture and wait for the lights to change.

There’s a deep familiarity about this… coping with human form, weight, corporeality – I know how the man on the bicycle feels. I experience it subjectively; I am a mind/body organism, inseparable part of the whole construct. It’s something mechanized, organic with articulated joints enclosed in a warm pulsating fluidity and the sensation of the breath in nasal cavities.

Seeing the events without the story like screenshots in a sequence; a few gestures and there’s a pause, taking a moment to receive the data… mind decides whether it’s important or not. It’s as if there’s a small seed of wisdom buried deep in the layers of unknowing; lying dormant, waiting for things to evolve and the right conditions to be there in order to wake up.

“What you are basically, deep deep down and far, far in, is simply the fabric and structure of existence itself.” [Alan Watts] (source openobserver.wordpress.com)


the hide-and-seek game


POSTCARD #85: Delhi: The house seems different; everywhere there’s the sound of Thai voices like the songs of birds echoing off the walls, ceilings and tiled floor. Guests in the spare room, girlfriends of Jiab here for a visit. They are greng-jai with me (reluctant to impose themselves) knowing I’ve had to move some of my things out of the way to allow space for them. I try to convince them, mai pen rai khap, no problem. I don’t mind having to use the bathroom on the roof… there’s a bathroom on the roof? Yes, it’s a partially built second floor, just the stairwell and the bathroom up there (see photo). There are also two thatched shelters to create shade in the hot season so that it’s cooler in the rooms below.

Hot, though. I can feel it as I’m going up with my bathroom things, but there’s a fan in there. Close the door and I’m in this personal space. Only one small window I can’t see out of. Feels like I’m hidden away from the world… birds sit on the roof, wondering where I’ve gone. Trees and the sky wait for me to come back. There’s a small mirror on the wall, I see my own face looking back at me, always the eyes are held – the awareness that looks out of the mirror. Is this my “self”… is this it? I feel like I’m “it” in the hide-and-seek game: Do you want to be “it”? No, not me thanks, I was “it” last time. Then I decide to volunteer, okay, I’ll be “it”, the one who has to stay at the designated base, close my eyes and count to 100, while everybody runs away to hide.

Commence ablutions, run the shower, get under the showerhead, hoping for cool water but it’s hot. Fierce sun shines all day on the outside water pipe that connects to the water tank on top. So I’m standing there waiting for the hot water to be used up and the cool water that’ll come from deeper down the water-tank. Sure enough, the cool water starts to come through… nice. Then it gets too cold, a gust of cool air from the fan whips up the cool temperature. It becomes icy for a moment – sharp needles – jump back from the shower to let the cold water run through, then under the showerhead again. The cool water starts to be replaced by surface tank water, which is warm, nice, and then it’s scalding hot – woa! Jump back from the shower again, dry off and open the door.

The world outside opens it eyes… ah, there you are. Towel around the middle for decency’s sake and step out. It’s possible to dry off in the sunshine – stand in the doorway of the bathroom to brush my teeth, shoosha-shoosha-shoosha… stop for a moment and look again at the face in the mirror. Is this the same “it” who played these hide-and-seek games so long ago? Is this the seeker? Looking out of these eyes in a reflection of itself, and seeing a world that’s separate from the sense of “me-ness” situated inside this body. We see each other like mirrors of ourselves, even though there’s no self to speak of, nobody at home. The closer I look, the more it’s not found. The enigma of stuck-ness…

Laughter of the Thais coming up from below, I go downstairs and make my way through them all… cognitive hybrid who speaks their language like a simpleton – they say I speak it well, this is why I never learned to be fluent. Really no need to ‘be’ anything, living in both worlds…

“You will never find it, because you are it. Therefore, seeking it is the denial of its presence. In seeking it, you compel it to seem as if hidden or lost. It is You that does not alter, You, Awareness. You are that for which you long and your longing is this very presence of love coupled with a thin veil of belief that it is absent, that it is an object that can be lost and found.” [Rupert Spira, All We Ever Long For]


arrivals – departures


POSTCARD #82: South East England: Somebody I know died. There was a ceremony, the monks came, chanted blessings and now she’s gone. All that remains is her absence, her empty rooms, her pictures on the walls, objects chosen, placed on shelves and now there’s no one here who made the choices. Sadness… her clock-radio still starts at 8.00 in the morning and the bedroom is suddenly full of classical music. Empty bed, bedclothes made up neat, tidy and not slept in. Nobody in the house can bear to change it. My task is to pull away the bed from the wall, find where the cable leads to the socket, and disconnect it. Orchestral music spinning around the walls and ceiling as I search for the socket. It’s next to the skirting board I can just reach it… click, the music is gone. Push the bed back in place and contemplate the silence. A nice, quiet room with morning light coming in through the windows. She was a musician who became a Buddhist, then was a Buddhist Chaplain visiting hospices and caring for dying people, until she finally reached that stage herself.

Memory is all there is… faded like an old sepia tint photo. The enigma, the empty space where that person used to be. There’s ‘nothing’ left here, it’s not ‘something’, it’s not ‘anything’. Try to see past the words, concepts in the mind and there’s nothing remaining, only the holding-on to whatever it is that was defined in words but was never really there in the first place. Language is a tool for explaining how it appears to be, what it resembles, what it’s like… a wonderful shared software that names things, identifies feelings, etc. Poets and artists are compelled to use words and there are others, spiritual advisors, who refer only to cessation. Truth is inexpressible, no words for it; a ‘nothing’ that carries the feeling of no-thingness and brings with it a great sense of release, of peace, of rest, of ease and gentleness. I no longer have the burden of my thoughts. I let it all in, let it all out and everything fades away, ‘melted into thin air … the baseless fabric of this vision… we are such stuff as dreams are made on…’ [The Tempest]

A lifetime is a story told. Details accumulate and it appears to have form and direction as it goes on, but only when the end comes near does it have a context. The route by which I arrived at this point becomes somehow, explained – it was the right way, the best way to come here and everything I did in my life seems to fit together now I’m at the end. A curious reversal… I’m on the way to get here and yet seem to be able to look back on the journey and know how it came to be as it is. Buddhist cause/effect is an illusion, sequenced in linear time. In the totality, everything is ‘now’, an ‘everywhere-shared instantaneity’ and each moment is simply a shift in focus.

Why does it have to be like this? There’s something about the question/answer relationship that’s always gently considered, without directing it too much. Trying to understand what this sort of thing might possibly be is enough to begin to know it – no need to go any further. More to do with indirect action. Death must be the true meaning of the ‘past tense’. Standing here in her room, the tidy bed, empty wardrobe, eyes move towards the window, look out at her overgrown garden. Birdsong, and the light of this particular time in the morning. Colour and images form, conscious awareness is the same for me now as it was for her then, standing as she was, in this same place….

“For life in the present there is no death. Death is not an event in life. It is not a fact in the world. Our life is endless, in just the same way that our field of vision has no boundaries.” [Wittgenstein”]


Excerpts from an earlier post: sense of release. Also Michael’s post: Special Effects, thank you for the word: instantaneity. Upper photo: Edinburgh airport, waiting for the flight to Gatwick
–  G  R  A  T  I  T  U  D  E  –

the smell of rain

DELHI-SKY_11_6_2013POSTCARD#76: Delhi: Standing outside in the rain that’s just beginning, bare feet in rubber slippers. Can’t see clearly in this indistinct light, eyes still dazzled by the intense blue sky and sunshine of the hot season now coming to an end. I look up at the pearly grey rain clouds, water vapour becomes form in the vaulted dome of sky. A sprinkle of moisture on my glasses, hair damp, arms feel cool. Wet hands, finger moves to lips, the taste of it… and the smell of rain, a wonderful fragrance of earthy greenness. A mist of invisible particles in the air around the tall trees here, near to the park, where we are.

The smell of rain reminds me of something, triggers a memory and the mind scans through the files containing everything that’s known – looking for a reference, a precedent for this experience. Nothing found… a proximity search, closest value, nearest match? Traces of a familiarity created by this fragrance but connected with what? No associated recall, I have sensory input but no source memory… only the physiological function of the sense of smell itself, inherited from ancestors with a developed awareness of the approach of rain. Who’s to say? A prehistoric being may have been standing here, in this exact place where I am now, sniffing the air as I’m doing now, and conscious experience of the scent of rain would be no different for that human being then as it is for me now – except that this kind of thing is not in my vocabulary… only the nostalgia of smell.

Take shelter inside the house, doors open as wide as they’ll go. Listening to the rain falling on the tiles outside, it has the quality of a whisper. An immeasurable mass of individual raindrops merged together in waves of tiny collisions, thousand and thousands of small finger snapping sounds, high frequency applause. The generosity of rain – all these other rain drops still on the way down, elongated streaks of stretched-out water pulled by gravity, crashing into the earth – the miracle of it takes my breath away.

A crow flies in from the northside, craw… craw…. Flying in the rain. The sound gets louder and louder as the crow flies over the house, craw… craw…. At the patio doors I hear it pass above me and on through the rain in a southerly direction, over the park, craw… craw…. The calls are further away, echo off the walls of tall buildings on the far side of the park. Fainter and fainter until there’s no sound at all – only the act of listening. Awareness poised in a huge silence that feels like it’s about to become something else… a hesitation before the next thought arises. Tiny sounds of birdsong far away, and incidental thinking episodes float through. Awareness moves through thoughts like a bird flutters through the branches of a tree – the interval between thoughts, the space that happens before the next thought arises, and the space between moments.

Awareness of thought and the empty space surrounding it. Awareness of one object that includes awareness of another – and the awareness that knows this. Contemplate the state of the body and contemplate the mind contemplating that and everything that led to this….

‘Alert to the needs of the journey,
 those on the path of awareness, like swans, glide on, leaving behind their former resting places.’ [Dhammapada verse 91]


Source for image here

the unexpected thing

IMG_1043bird1POSTCARD#70: Chiang Mai/Delhi flight: The journey from Chiang Mai to Delhi unfolds as a sequence of corridors within corridors, connected end-to-end with moving walkways, security points, departure areas and flight gates. Before that happened there was the sad goodbye scene with little M at Chiang Mai airport drop-off point. It was like I’d already gone – she was stuck in silence, looking at me with these deep eyes, holding mindfulness of this moment as a child does. And the question: how could this be happening? Not coming back for four months? A long time if you’re only 10 years old. Then I’m waving bye-bye, her car accelerating away and M waving back to me through the window, small windscreen-wiper movement of the palm: bye-bye Toong-Ting, and she disappears round the corner. I turn towards the queue at the security gate and the journey begins.

Here in the bardo of the in-between; 1 hour from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, a short transit there, and 4½ hours to Delhi. Not far, but we have all the processing to go through. Three, maybe four X-ray machines; take off belt, remove shoes, go through, get dressed again. Then the immigration zone, show passport, scan everything, and stamp passport thump! I am who I say I am… look at the photo – yep, that’s me. Out into an area of duty free shops the size of a small town; gold watches, cosmetics and leather bags. Follow the signage, stop at the same coffee shop I was in last time, and the unexpected thing occurs: a small bird flutters by, perches on a glass wall. Small head swivels around, lost the way out, or maybe doesn’t know there’s any reality other than this; hatched in a nest in the roof structure… this is a world of metal trees. I take a photo and it flies away. Down to the flight gate, more waiting before we’re allowed through the walkway into the aircraft, and I can find my seat – the whole point of the exercise. Squeeze into the allotted space, chair moulded to fit the human body. Fasten seat belt, take off… these are the days of miracles and wonder. Look out at the sky, clouds, and the surface of the planet. I am a tiny speck of life, a microscopic cell in a universe so vast I cannot understand the totality of it and live in a world of concepts.

They serve the meal then shades are drawn and we watch the movie. Stewardesses appear in the darkness with drinks then disappear like the kuroko in Japanese Kabuki dressed in black, appear on stage like shadows, change stage scenery in the middle of the performance and disappear. I think of M and remember finding her one day in the shadows of a late afternoon turned into early evening having forgotten to put the lights on as it started to get dark. Face illuminated in the bright light of the smartphone display, a mesmerised 10 year-old sitting there for hours, didn’t hear me when I came in. Didn’t look up when I sat next to her, the reflected digital display making colours flicker on her small face. That’s probably what she’s doing now…

The plane arrives in Delhi, through the airport formalities and out into the immense heat. I get to the house, and looking around to see what’s changed in the three months I’ve been away… then the unexpected thing occurs, I see the shadow of a bird perched on the fencing, take a photo and it flies away….


“Advaita (nonduality) does not mean “one” in the sense of eliminating all differences. The differences are present in the one in a mysterious way. They are not separated anymore, and yet they are there.” [Bede Griffiths (1997)]


Upper photo: the bird in Bangkok airport. Lower photo: the bird in my back yard in Delhi.
Note: Kuroko reference from: The Ptero Card
– G  R  A  T  I  T  U  D  E  –

assumed identity

IMG_0788POSTCARD#58: Chiang Mai: Arrived in the early evening and out through the exit tunnel into the airport corridors. Turn the first corner and we’re looking back through a large window at our plane with passenger bridge attached. M says, in her 9-year old voice: take a photo of it… put in your blog Toong-Ting (she calls me that). There’ll be a time when M takes a direct editorial role in this blog… so I take the photo and here it is now. A large reptilian mouth sucking out the contents of a passenger aircraft that has a painted face, intensely happy smile, and it seems okay about what’s happening. M is silent for a moment as she considers the elasticity of this strange stretched metaphor. Then we continue along the corridors to get our bags from the luggage belt. I put everything on the trolley with M sitting on top, push the wheels through the glass doors, opening as we approach and we’re in Arrivals. Her mum is waiting for us, pleased to have M back.

Bags in the car and we’re off. Heavy traffic on the way into town and M, still silent, looking out at it all considering, maybe, how one thing can become another, tells me that cars have gender: boy-car and girl-car. It’s the look of the ‘face’ of the car – that kind of ‘grin’ created by the front bumper and radiator grille. She sees it as the face of a boy or a girl or, if she can’t decide which it is, it must be a katoey, effeminate gay male, third gender, or whatever – she giggles a bit, it’s okay in Thailand. I ask her to identify a boy-car for me, just to see if I can recognise its ‘maleness’ – although I’ve boy caralways thought of cars being male. She points at one: that’s a boy-car Toong-Ting (see left pic). I want to say… how d’you know that? But this kind of challenge to her  reasoning might be too much, so I’m just going along with it. She asks if I can identify the gender: you tell me, Toong-Ting, it’s a boy-car or girl-car, okay? I have a feeling I’m going to get this wrong… let’s see, there’s one that’s got really male characteristics, I point to it and say that one is a boy-car. No, Toong-Ting it’s a girl-car… looking at me like, how come you can’t see something as obvious as that, hmm?

M spends a lot of time on the road, going to and from her school, a long way from her house. I think she probably knows the brands of all kinds of cars now, maybe not the names, just a familiarity with their appearance and long ago decided some were boy-cars, some were girl-cars, and those in-between were katoeys. As we’re going along I take a photo of the back of a car and show it to her so she can study it in detail: boy or girl? (see pic below) She says she can’t really tell looking at the back of it, can’t see its face, but thinks maybe it’s a girl-car, because she remembers that she decided at some earlier time, that particular make of car was a girl. It’s a case of remembering which is what (or what is which?) or what she had already decided it was when she first saw that make of car.

girl carThere’s intelligence in her playfulness, a reality in her personifications that challenges my usual insisting there is no ‘self’, the Buddha’s Teaching on anatta: ‘self’ is an illusion arising from the 5 Khandas. I feel I’m holding on to something I should let go of, with M going around happily applying the attributes of ‘self’ and gender to all kinds of things. She can create an identity and let it go, because it’s one among many. She can escape the entanglements of ‘self’ because she plays with a multitude of ‘selves’, like waves in the ocean and an ocean in all the oceans of the world. Everything in the universe is Self. The ‘self’ I believe to be ‘me’ is an assumed identity – there is no ‘self’, everything I see is ‘me’.

‘Brahman is full of all perfections. And to say that Brahman has some purpose in creating the world will mean that it wants to attain through the process of creation something which it has not. And that is impossible. Hence, there can be no purpose of Brahman in creating the world. The world is a mere spontaneous creation of Brahman. It is a Lila, or sport, of Brahman. It is created out of Bliss, by Bliss and for Bliss. Lila indicates a spontaneous sportive activity of Brahman as distinguished from a self-conscious volitional effort. The concept of Lila signifies freedom as distinguished from necessity.’ [Ram Shanker Misra, The Integral Advaitism of Sri Aurobindo]


kateuay car






Above pic shows M’s katoey-car
Note: “Everything I See Is Me” was inspired by a post in the Hip Monkey site

a kind of subjectivity

IMG_0671POSTCARD#56: Bangkok: I’m the one that got away, the escapee, the spiritual refugee. I followed the road that led away from the place I was born and never went back. The link with ‘home’ is broken and even if I could get it reset there’s no connection now. Somehow it fits with the history of where I came from; of war and battles lost and won, victory, defeat, the pibroch, the dirge lament, death like a flood sweeps away a sleeping village; the kamma of immense grieving, Celtic calamity, the catastrophe, the ruins, the mourning, s’affliger, generations of the dispossessed, and all the elders are gone.

Is integration the opposite of disintegration? If so, I came from a world in disintegration, I stowed away on a ship, sailed over many horizons and by happenstance got shipwrecked on a strip of land in the South China Sea. I am the Western urban migrant, assimilated, integrated here, got the password, userID and blessed to find the Buddhists in Thailand. A sense of connectedness, although it hasn’t been easy these 30 years, carrying the weight of Western thinking, causes and conditions from early times, likes and dislikes. And, being the only foreigner in the family, I’ve learned to go along with the preferences of others when it comes to food. As it was this morning, for example, faced with Korean kimchi at 10.30 AM because somebody thought it was a good idea to go to the Korean food buffet downtown, and if it were up to me I’d have chosen something less exotic so early in the day, but Jiab thinks our niece, we call M, needs to eat something substantial so maybe she’ll like this. Okay go for it.

M tries the kimchi and tells me: not spicy, Toong-Ting, her name for me (see the M posts). She’s waiting for a response… I taste it, blood red and trailing strands of human skin and tissue –  a vampire thing? But there’s nothing wrong with kimchi really, I’ve had things far more out-of-this-world than that. I nod with approval and give her a smile I think is convincing. But M can see kimchi doesn’t quite hit the spot. She comes over and tells me quietly they have ice-cream here too. Yeh… well, ice-cream at 10.30 AM? If I said I didn’t like that either I’d lose all credibility. So I say, Nice! Do they have caramel/toffee? Thirty years further on in the journey and I’m eating ice-cream with a nine-year-old. I’m amazed that she likes me… maybe she responds to this quality of improvised simplicity I’ve developed, anyway it’s a privilige and quite wonderful how things have gotten very much easier since M came into the world. She corrects my Thai pronunciation (the tones), has a continuous chattering bird-like dialogue with me and discovers useful-to-know things about my phone I never knew were there. M is an empath – no words for it, it’s a kind subjectivity. Maybe because she’s a child in a bilingual situation and has to find the easiest route to understanding others, or maybe all children are like this and because I never had any children of my own, it seems special to me.

Being part of her world means there’s less of the holding on to ‘self’. Anyway, there’s less of an emphasis on individuality here in Thailand, things are shared, a largely Buddhist population. And my ‘self’ is so totally different from everyone else’s self, it’s not appropriate to be imposing my ‘standards’ here, creating supporting statements to prove what I’ve already decided is the correct way of going about things, and convinced about this simply because my continuing engagement with it somehow seems to confirm it has objective reality. In the East, the ‘object’ is not the goal. The starting point and the answer are revealed in the interaction with the context of the question – inductive reasoning, it takes longer, it’s more revelatory, exploratory, open-ended.

M runs off to look at what kind of drinks they have. Comes back and tells me about one she thinks I like but can’t pronounce the name, I ask her how do you spell it? Never mind she says, can she borrow my phone? I give her the phone, she’s always ‘borrowing’ my phone. M runs off to the drinks section again and comes back immediately; she’s taken a photo of the drink, shows me: Chrysanthemum tea, wow! A difficult one to pronounce. Nice, I’ll have that. M is gone for a moment then returns with a glass of iced tea held in both hands, places it on my table without spilling a drop; loving-kindness, she steals my heart away…

‘There is ultimately no individual self or soul (jiva), only the atman (universal soul), in which individuals may be temporarily delineated just as the space in a jar delineates a part of main space: when the jar is broken, the individual space becomes once more part of the main space.’ [Gaudapada] source: Non-Duality America (Link to original)



Lower photo: M‘s Pic of the Chrysanthemum Tea dispenser