sustaining factors

monkey-tap-india_1626153iNew Delhi: Monkeys swing through the trees, jump down on to the roof terrace and turn on the tap to have a drink of water. I don’t mind; except that they don’t turn it off when they’re finished, just leave it running – water trickling down the drain from up above – that’s how I know they’ve been there. The neighbours have the same problem. I see somebody climbing up a ladder to the water tank up there at the highest point… what’s he doing? hmmm, replacing the tank lid; the monkeys have pulled it off to get in and drink, and have a little freshen up. Yes, well, it’s hot here, Jiab said around 45°C. Not worth it, being precise about temperatures above 40°, just waves of hotter air wafting around in slightly less hot air, something like being in a swimming pool of hot water. It’s so hot, I feel like a pancake on a hot plate. I don’t want to eat a pancake, I feel I am a pancake… cooked and kept warm. No problem, really, we have a room in the house with air-con, and I’m in there. All I need to consider are these long power cuts, but nothing more than 10 minutes. Longer than that is uncommon. But it did happen once [Link: Power Failure], what can you do? If it happens, it happens – the uncertainty element. Causes and conditions, no more than that. Phenomena are sustained only as long as their sustaining factors remain:

‘When this exists, that comes to be. With the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be. With the cessation of this, that ceases.’ Samyutta Nikaya 12.6

I can’t say I’m as detached as that when it comes to coping with stifling heat but knowing that this is how it is helps me to ease off and away from the proliferating stories in the head I don’t know are there because I’m seeing through them [Link to: The World is Made of Stories]. If there happen to be long periods with no air-con, it’s best to go outside, find a shady spot to sit and say hello to the neighbours, who’re all outside for exactly the same reason. Outside is better than in; the heat is trapped in these brick and concrete oven-like buildings. But, so far-so good, most of the time I’m sitting in this cool room.

It’s still early morning but I better get on and cook the food for the day because the kitchen will be like a furnace by noon. I open the door to go in there and enter an atmosphere that could be the planet Mars, images of volcanic slopes and bubbling lava… I have to boil water in the electric kettle, a curious old thing made of metal and if you forget to empty out any remaining water at night, when it has cooled down, tiny ants climb up the side and sit there enjoying the coolness of this small reservoir. Then, for some reason I find them drowned in the water the next morning. I think they must drift off in a dream state and fall in. I suggested to Jiab we just spoon out the ants, then boil the water but this is not well received: I do not want tea made with water that has been swam in by ants! So I’ve learned to empty out leftover water in a bucket to give to the plants.

Kettle boils, add the hot water to the steamer, put in the vegetables and switch on the gas. I can sympathize with the ants, there’s a ceiling fan spinning around, swooshing and splooshing the hot air in gusts and not doing much to lower the temperature. I have to switch it off, even so, when using the gas cooker because the gas flames get blown out and I’d asphyxiate in gas-flavored hot air (limp bizkit, chocolate starfish and the hot dog flavored water – no, no, not that, please…). Switch on the extractor fan, maybe that’ll help. The stove heats up the atmosphere by another 10 degrees and now it must be about 50°C. Strangely, it seems okay because there’s an object in awareness; the heat is coming from that; the gas stove. I don’t notice it’s hot, just standing waiting for the food to heat up, then it’s done and I can return to my cool room…

All there is is sitting in the coolness with this mindful alertness: the possibility that the power may go out any moment. There are more attention-grabbing existential phenomena but this’ll do me… listening for the monkeys and M’s little rhyme she taught me in Thailand comes to mind…

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed, one fell off and bumped his head. Mama called the doctor and the doctor said: “No more monkeys jumping on the bed.” Four little monkeys…

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Upper Photo: monkey-tap-India_16761531 GIRISH KUMAR : Message : Animals in News. Lower Photo: Cassia fistula, golden shower tree (the tree the monkeys use to access my roof).

world as thought-construct

Chiang Mai: 06.00hrs. Sitting on the cushion before the day actually begins and there’s that colourless light of dawn filling the room, a greyish-green glow. After what seems to be quite a long time, the day gets it’s total act together and the sun rises; things take shape in my vision and colour enters the visual world. The show has started. Sky is blue, sun is yellow, plants and trees are green. That’s how it is here at, 18°47’N, 098°59’E. I notice it because of having only recently returned to this place from the Northern Hemisphere where there are these same colourless dawns; but they’re followed by colourless days – often and unforeseen; the changeability of everything. For the local people there’s no experience of continuity.

I do find it curious here that every day is pretty much the same, some small seasonal differences but not much. For the people in this location it’s always been like this, of course. It’s how it was when they were born; it’s how it was when all known persons in their lineage were born and future generations will go on like this. There’s never any experience of anything being different from this. And for me too; all my sunny days in Asia in the last 30 years could be said to be simply one very long day – the period of night time is a blink of the eye; one huge flow of days, like moments moving along in their sameness, never ending.

In this context it’s easier to get a handle on the teachings of Ādi Śaṅkarācārya, in South India, in the 8th Century (the days were exactly the same then as they are today) and the Advaita truth of timelessness where the endless day, that I am experiencing now, stretches all the way back into the past and out into the future, in one continuous ‘now’ time happening everywhere. There’s no end to it and no beginning. Time and space phenomena are delusions, add-ons. There are, therefore, no causal relationships; cause-leading-to-effect is a temporal process – thought-constructed, and not what I take it to be because the entire objective world is a thought-construct, created by desire-motivated ways of thinking and acting. ‘…Time is generated by the mind’s restlessness, its stretching out to the future, its projects, and its negation of ‘the present state.'[6]’

Knowing this, from the Advaitist perspective, is the whole Truth. Nothing needs to be attained or done; one simply wakes up to the truth of Ātman/Brahman, and anything other than this is māyā, delusion. Where does māyā fit in? No explanation; it cannot be inside or outside Brahman; one doesn’t know where that could be (māyā truly is a delusion). Buddhist practice or any spiritual practice is not a solution to the problem, just another version of the problem itself. Any practice leading to an enlightenment experience maintains the dualism that it strives to escape; projecting a thought-constructed goal like this into the future loses the ‘now’, the place of liberation.

‘… there is absolutely nothing to attain, which is not to deny that that is something to be realized clearly. The difference between attainment and such realization is that only now can I realize I am that which I seek. Since it is always now, the possibility is always there, but that possibility becomes realized only when causal, time-bound, goal-directed ways of thinking and acting evaporate, to expose what I have always been: a formless, qualityless mind which is immutable because it is “nothing,” which is free because it is not going anywhere, and which does not need to go anywhere because it does not lack anything.’ [David Loy]

The colourless dawns, followed by colourless days in the N. Hemisphere did not bring me to this experience of continuity. I stumbled upon it in Asia and found traces of it in this location: ‘Everything – subject, object and the perceiving thereof – is inseparable from this experience-ing-aware-ing-ness … and who can escape this immanence?’ The Buddhist experience tells me there has to be a middle way in here somewhere. I’m looking for some route that allows Sankara’s truth of Ātman/Brahman to be combined with the Buddha’s no-self truth in nibbana. The Buddhists will say I’ll not find anything, the Advaitists will say there’s only One thing to be found: “all of the above”. But there has to be a middle way in here somewhere. The investigating process itself is the Path: ‘the nature of the self and causes and conditions.’ Beyond that is speculation.…

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This post created with excerpts from: ‘The Path of No-path: Śaṅkara and Dogen on the Paradox of Practice’ by David Loy

Quote from: miriam louisa

Quote from: undividedexperience

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Photo image: Ch’mai TukTuk