IMG_0106POSTCARD11: Delhi: There’s a wasps’ nest in the bathroom at the end of the corridor. I’ve been away for two months, didn’t know it was there and didn’t notice it at first, in the half darkness of 5.30am, walking along to this bathroom we don’t normally use. And wearing glasses because I’ve always worn glasses but since the eye operation it’s all a blur. I forget, put them on and in the darkness, can’t see any difference. Switch on the light in the bathroom, look in the mirror; is this really ‘me’? An awareness of a low humming sound; a multi-frequency buzzzzzz, just on the edge of hearing. Something crawling on the window, what’s that? I have to take my glasses off to see, a strange reverse action I’m not used to, then wait for a moment until vision gets in focus… wow, a wasps’ nest in the bathroom, not good. Back out of there fast, close the door and get as far away as possible from it – closing all doors between me and it. Seeing imagined wasps in faulty vision.

It’s full daylight in an hour and I go back for another look… some kind of large-bodied heavy duty, Indian-wasp-like species; googled it later: ropalidia marginata. The nest is not actually in the bathroom, it’s built on the underside of the top part of the bathroom window, outside… thankful for that, but still kinda scary, even though there’s mosquito mesh on all doors and windows and they can’t get inside the house. I go outside to take a photo but nervous about all the activity so the pic is not clear. The wasps are transparent orange, the nest is grey, a truly colourless grey; remarkable because of its absence of colour. Kind of supernatural, like dust, or ash.

Ropalidia_marginata_2A species so distant from where we are, there’s a reluctance to look at this, yet a fascination with it; more like science fiction than real. The Queen wasp and attendants, baby wasps, larvae, that will emerge from all these small hexagonal openings. Yeh, well… somehow it’s difficult to think of them being cute. Wiki says the females contend with each other for the position of queen. They’ve evolved through aggression and hostility. How to understand this? I don’t know, but keeping a safe distance from it, and mindful of that action – not pushing away. The contemplation of aggressive aversion and the tendency to create a category for things I hate; enemies, difficult people, personality issues at the office – all kinds of other situations worse than that. Social conditioning has made me critical; looking for the fault in people, where to lay blame. Living in circumstances I don’t always feel comfortable with. Seeing what’s wrong, not able to see what’s right. Metta, loving kindness, isn’t a case of: “I love this person, but I don’t love that one.” Metta is non-discriminatory love, all beings have conscious awareness, a shared subjectivity….

Metta is unconditioned love; you don’t have more metta for the nice things and not as much for the bad things, it is evenly distributed: our beloved friends and our detested enemies. The action of metta is unconditioned, it is patience and non-aversion. We accept the pain, disappointment, failure, blame, persecution, abuse and all the experiences we can have in a lifetime. We begin with: ‘May I abide in well-being,’ starting with yourself. It’s an attitude of acceptance and patience with the way it is; accepting the anger, resentment, aversion, or the little petty things.’ [Ajahn Sumedho]


Lower photo from the Wiki page

girl at the traffic lights

090420131781New Delhi: Sitting in the car, Shym driving, and I’m in the back seat looking out through tinted windows, incognito. Slow down and stop at the traffic lights. Street people and traders walking up and down between the vehicles, selling kiddy’s toys, books, and all kinds of stuff. Children with bunches of wilted  roses knocking on windows, and discussing with passengers in auto rickshaws. One of them presses her face against my window, hands and arms cupped around her head so she can see inside through the tinted glass film. A shadowy head and face spin around looking for where I’m situated in the dark interior. Finds me, then some kind of eye contact, and: tap-tap-tap-tap on the glass with a small coin…. tap-tap. Doing it just to see what’ll happen. Shym puts the car in gear and drives forward a little bit, trying to discourage her but she remains stuck to the glass like glue, walking sideways, legs slightly back out of the way of the turning wheels.

IMG_9171I slide down the window and give her a folded 10-rupee note. Hot street air enters the cool interior of the car like a blast from a huge hair dryer, and I see a dark girl about 9, with hair a light reddish-brown colour, dusty with the street atmosphere. The entrepreneur. How does it look to her? A foreigner gives her money, somebody with colourless eyes, pale, half invisible; like a creature that lives at the bottom of the sea, no sunlight. Her dark eyes hold my attention, intense, penetrating; there’s only ‘the look’. I slide up the window again. Giving her a few rupees is encouraging this kind of livelihood – that’s not really what I want to happen… but what to do? The lights change and we’re off, accelerating through the traffic, overtaking on the left, or the right, wherever there’s a space.


There’s a small smear on the glass where she was looking in. How does the world seem, seen through her eyes? Must be a no-choice situation; hardship at a level I can’t comprehend – we’re not watching the same movie. But it reminds me of something in the early times in Scotland. In those days I was pretty much caught between polarities. A rocky road. I went down South to England and I’d look at other people’s lives there; unbelievable to me, how their reality seemed to be so… bland? Where I was living you’d open the door of your house to go out and the wind would blow you back in. Extremes of climate, extraordinary confrontations; the rough and tumble. At that time, I didn’t know about the Buddhist perspective on suffering dukkha, all I had was the experience of it. The cloud of unknowing… life was held by random karma. Consciousness was a kind of unconsciousness. Awake but unclear, living in a dream… dum-di-dum. Subject to all the whims and fancies; tugs and pulls. Like/unlike – and for long periods, quite lost in samsaric realms. I thought I could just carry on like that, hoping to muddle on through…

Carefree, at times, and reckless, not happy, no sense of an applied mindfulness other than, okay, so… what’s going on here? Sometimes I was nearly right, other times terribly wrong. I’d weather the storm and somehow things stayed okay. The mistake was (although there are no mistakes) I’d be trying to get ‘it’ to do something or be something or become something (or not become something), without realizing that I didn’t have to do anything with it, or make a ‘thing’ out of it, or have it become anything. Just letting it be there in the background, or the foreground or seeing it in the middle distance, not focusing on it unduly – whatever. So the ‘it’ became not so important; less and less of an identity found in the ‘object’, more like a larger subjectivity. It’s the same for everyone but at the time I thought it was just happening to ‘me’.

AVN_TRAFFICDELI_282719eIt’s not about guarding that little self-construct called ‘me’. The Buddha’s Noble Truth of Suffering is about receiving the suffering as it is, conscious experience. Open wide and let it in so then there’ll not be a self for it to attach to. If I can allow the Suffering to enter, I’m not confused by it or perplexed by the fact that I don’t know why I don’t know what it is. I ‘know’ what it is: maintaining a ‘self’ that isn’t there. So I can let all of that go. It’s about relinquishment, giving it all away – a shared experience. A kind of generosity, like giving money to the girl at the traffic lights; she was there to enable my simple act of generosity (raison d’être for panhandlers). Who knows, maybe she has the wisdom I’ve been looking for all these years. I’ve been caught in delusion, a dull puzzleheadedness, caused by the influence of the painted consumer god, the psychiatric witch-doctors – is it so very different from her world? Failing to see that if my life is never nourished by anything greater than what I need and want, I become cynical and negative. There are some people like that; holding on to ‘self’ with such tenacity, they get old and bitter with disappointment. Offering something to somebody else makes me feel good, brings gladness into my life… ‘The Buddha-Dhamma spreads out from here to all sentient beings throughout the universe. Mettā, loving–kindness and goodwill is generated for the welfare and development of all beings everywhere: seen, unseen, born, not born yet, animals, devils and angels. The whole cosmology of possible sentient beings is included in the practice of mettā bhāvanā…’ [Ajahn Sumedho]


– G  R  A  T  I  T  U  D  E –
Ajahn Sucitto, for the use of the word: ‘puzzleheadedness’ also and

not something – not anything


When the iron eagle flies and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered over the earth, and the Dhamma will go to the land of the white man.’ [Prophecy by 8th Century Indian sage Padmasambhava]

Chiang Mai: The flight takes four and a half hours, Delhi/Bangkok, then the long walk through this celestial airport and into the domestic terminal. It’s a one hour flight Bangkok/Chiang Mai and you’re there. Arrive late evening, drop bags in the hall and crash out on the bed like how you park the car: reverse in, switch off, lock doors, shut down and lights flash in acknowledgement. Sleep for eight hours, wake up next day and it’s one and a half hours earlier. Dis-joint-ed-ness of a different time zone, a bit bewildering. Pondering over something Ajahn Sumedho says about what is real and what is not; the real is not something, it’s more like it’s not anything. If I can see it like this, there’s a sense of ease; the holding-on thing is not getting in the way.

The flight experience is easy, it’s getting on the plane and getting off again that takes the time and if you have to do it twice, there’s an opportunity to contemplate the experience. At Delhi airport, I had an hour in duty-free up in a place on the second floor, looking out at the planes standing down there on the hot airport tarmac like huge lizards in the desert. Wings displayed like curious extended reptilian protuberances, skin stretched over a lightweight structure of hollow bones and the heaviest thing is the engine. Unbelievable power, hundreds of thousands of horsepower, and I’m caught for a moment, thinking of all these horses an A-380 needs, something like half a million horsepower. I imagine them galloping along the runway faster and faster and when they reach the speed of about 150 mph they all take one mighty leap up into the air, above the mountains, through the blue sky heaven realms, leaving a long straight line of white vapour in a southeasterly direction, and land in Bangkok, 1800 miles in the distance.

Over the hills and far away over many horizons; this is the place of my origin. Northern Europe, distant in time and space like another planet. I’ve left the past so far behind now, it feels like this is it; I made it into the future – time traveller contained in a bubble of the present moment. Thirty years of living in other people’s countries – gratitude – always a visitor. And here in Chiang Mai there’s M, my niece aged 8 years, who comes close to my face and looks intensely at my left eye, then her gaze flickers over to my right eye. She looks at that for a while; shifts back to the left eye again, then asks her mum: ‘Tamai lung mi tah si fah?’ (why does uncle have blue eyes?). And mum says it’s because he comes from the West and, over there, lots of people have eyes that colour. While this is going on, I have the wonderful opportunity to see M’s small face and almond shaped eyes absorbing me into her consciousness.

There’s a familiarity with Thailand that I don’t have anywhere else. I’m the pale skinned cognitive hybrid, one of these giants who live here, situated in the population but in a separate place… not really part of anything. I’m somewhere between being ‘in’ this world and being ‘of’ this world. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution seems to take on a different meaning: survival of the fittest – done so by any means to achieve that end lobha, dosa, moha  (Greed Hatred and Delusion). Thais just don’t see it that way, mai pen rai (nothing is serious), everything is light and easy, innovative ideas held together with bamboo, string and rubber bands. Easily relinquished, it exists only for the time it’s needed then it’s gone…


‘The real is not something, it’s not anything. It’s not a phenomenon. You can’t think about it, you can’t create an image of it. So we say unconditioned, unborn, uncreated, unformed. Anatta (not-self), nirodha (cessation), nibbana (liberation). If you try to think about these words you don’t get anywhere. Your mind stops, it’s like nothing. … if we’re expecting something from the meditation practice, some kind of Enlightenment, bright lights and world-trembling experiences, then we’re disappointed because expecting is another kind of desire, isn’t it?’ [The End of the World is Here, Ajahn Sumedho]