blessings fill the room

POSTCARD#311: Chiang Mai: 07.00 hours: The alarm rings…. and it takes a moment to recognize I’m in Chiang Mai, arrived last night. Heavy curtains over the window; a darkness I’m not used to. It’s quiet here, the sound of monks chanting anumodana on the edge of hearing. A motorbike whizzes by in the distance, nothing else. Senses are alert, listening, feeling, searching for a way to ‘become’ something that will establish ‘me’ in this place and time but I can’t, I’m distracted by these new surroundings and keep returning to the narrative associated with interesting objects.

Too many, too much, I go to the window, feet on cool tiles, flip flop, flip flop, a sense of empty rooms, as yet uninhabited; space/time occupied with the moving of its integral parts – chapters from a book about furniture being moved into a new apartment, the ending hasn’t been written yet and the beginning is a continuation of what happened before that.

Future time slides into present time, tomorrow becomes today, and ‘now’ becomes yesterday – here we are in the awareness of this moment, the means by which we arrive at this point in time remains a mystery.

Slide open the curtains of all the windows. A blaze of colour, monks in varying shades of orange, faded tangerine robes and a group of kneeling Thai tourists from the hotel opposite. (Note: the original post refers to Christmas Day 2012, and here in a Buddhist country it is just an ordinary day).

Jesus and all the other great teachers in history were really saying the same thing. In the peace and quiet emptiness of the moment there is no hungry ‘self’, no driving ‘urge’ and from this place in awareness, it’s possible to see that I am continually re-born in tiny slices of time, minutes, seconds, into this self-perpetuating loop due to the habituality of trying to get what I want or to get rid of what I don’t want. Thinking that yes, so life is about trying to get it right, but caught in attachment upadana; even this, the desired state, belongs to ‘me,’ the act of possessing it requires that there has to be a ‘me.’

Everything I have, everything I want, all of this is ‘mine.’ Even that which I consider to be ‘my’ enemy, is also ‘mine.’ Thus creating a self that is incomplete, unfulfilled, searching for the truth in all this and failing to see that it’s the searching that maintains the state of being lost. Layers of associated narrative obscure the issue. People say they are so busy with ordinary tasks; earning enough money to support the family and no time to think of anything else.

In the same way, belief in an external creator creates attachment and unthinking devotion to this returns me to the same point of entry, again and again. It’s not so much about taking refuge in the Jesus or Buddha of the mind. It’s about here-and-now behaviors: sila, samadhi, pannya (virtue/ mindfulness of present time/ and the applied intelligence that goes with it). The blessings of the monks fills the room; slowly waking up to an awareness of this reality….

‘If those who lead you say to you, “See, the kingdom is in the sky,” then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, “It is in the sea,” then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.’ [Selected Sayings of Jesus from Gospel of Thomas, Nag Hammadi manuscripts]


Reflections on an earlier post titled habituality of former lives

 

the forever war

POSTCARD#307: Chiang Mai: The image here, was taken while we were on a visit to the holy Buddhist sites in North India. It shows a group of men involved in some sort of argument, viewed from the window of our tour bus, as it was moving through crowds of pedestrians and various kinds of vehicles. The sound of very loud angry voices and heavy blows got everyone’s attention, all I could see was the top of their heads because other passengers crowded the bus window. No room to squeeze in, so without seeing where to point the camera, I held it in a downward position and ‘click’. It was guesswork, thinking it’ll probably not come out, but it did – the group perfectly positioned in the centre of the frame. The bus made its way slowly through the crowd then accelerating along empty streets and we were gone in a moment.

Looking at the image now, the man in the green shirt is trying to do something with that pole and the other guys are preventing him or pushing back. The tremendous intensity coming from the green-shirted man is noticeable.  Murderous thoughts ready to explode on the surface. There’s another emotion too, he looks determined but tearful, as if he might start to cry. It was significant, I suppose because there we were on a tour of the Holy sites where the Buddha had spent most of his life, and now this 2500 years later, an example of Greed Hatred and Delusion. The Buddha must have come across many such disputes, and quietly observed aspects of the argument, or sometimes he would have been asked how best to resolve the issue.

Looking at what’s written about the three defilements, or three poisons, and contemplating these, I see that the natural human preference is that conflict be forgotten, and as long as no effort is there to keep it going, conflict falls away by itself. There’s all kinds of other stuff that engage the mind however, conflict is gratifying, feeding the base sensory driven state. We fuel the fires to maintain conflict in the mind; in our world media coverage and war-mongering, the opportunity arises to build up tension, involving narratives in the mind, peaking in justified outrage. If the political manipulation of circumstances were not there, we could just as easily allow the conflicted mind go, but we’re drawn in, and it gets to a point when engagement with the consequences of conflict is inevitable; this is always how it is.

I started up my laptop this morning Thai time, and discovered that the US led coalition had sent missiles into Syria. I wanted to write something about it, then found an old post titled ‘Conflict and Release’ that seemed somehow unfinished, waiting for events to be right for its conclusion. So that was all I could do, and here it is rewritten. Regarding the event itself, all sorts of things come to mind, mainly to do with cover-ups, otherwise the same as all other kinds of war and arguments forever unfinished. The Buddha offered a way to understand how the mind works and to see, through ordinary human experience, the way to bring an end to Suffering.


I seem to be rewriting old posts these days, rather than writing new posts. This is how it is at the moment, busy in the studio and not active in front of the screen. I hope to be able to offer up some examples of new Art soon.
Be well
T

 

samsara of advertising

POSTCARD#307: Bangkok: Everywhere in shopping malls, magazines, TV channels, images exerting the ‘pull’ 24/7 so that we can easily, unknowingly enter into a world of choices – the idea that ‘I’ can have a personal preference, thus am I caught in ‘self’. The Western model, reshaped by East Asian style and adapted to fit Thai cultural behaviour. Stories acted out by adults who look like children; cute faces, attractive personalities, charm. Products presented as if it were a game, makes it all seem quite real and acceptable; the high-voltage sales strategy is unseen, cloaked in naivety – preparing for a whole new generation of consumers, a new Thai society – the corporate entity engaged in long term planning.

I can get caught by it, drawn towards the TV screen, something I see in the advert triggers it, and the who-I-am thing arises, and a voice inside me says: I LIKE THIS and it all gets to be really important, relevant, vivid and intense. I feel suddenly energized, compelled and, I WANT TO HAVE IT, ready to start discussing with sales staff at the retail point and proceed with the purchase; the plastic in my wallet getting hot, I’m being swept away by the samsara of advertising. Too bad because I can apply the brakes at this point, as it is in the patticcasamupada, remembering the way to stop craving (tanhã) arising, is to cut off the conditions that lead to its beginning; interrupt the sequence before craving happens, and bring the whole thing to an end. I know it will cease of its own accord if I can allow it to become nothing, and fortunately it’s all in a language I can switch off from so it all fizzles out…

To become the owner of a purchased product, I have to believe in it – I have to consciously engage with it. To become me, I have to think ‘me’. The ‘me’ that I believe in depends on me thinking it. I am conditioned to be attached to my opinions, my emotionality, and the sense of self in all kinds of ways. I can manipulate the conditioned world so that, from this perspective of thinking, I see (my) self situated favorably – or it could be unfavorably if I’m caught in being the victim (but there is always a way out). Everything arises due to causes and conditions, then thinking about it, excessively and often enough to have it appear to be embedded in the fabric of this self construct I recognize as ‘me,’ subject to its perceived whims and waywardness, as some kind of fictional character.

But there is a way out; everything that arises falls away. Let it go and it’s gone. The simple truth is don’t mess with it, don’t think it into being, and it won’t arise. Maintain a proximity-to but distance-from position: the Middle Way. There is viññāṇa, conscious awareness, self-sustaining; I don’t create it. There’s the body, moving through the population, minding its own business, other than that, no personal essence given to me by (some external force); nothing added, nothing extra. The simplicity of this seems to immediately throw everything to do with ‘self’ into disarray; enough to cause it all to come tumbling down; a house of cards. Knowing this, we can rebuild the concept with an awareness of its parts. Leading to a more enhanced sense of ‘self’ if that’s what seems preferable… nothing wrong with personality, it’s the attachment to it that’s the problem…


Excerpts from my earlier post: March 28, 2013. Photo image: Coke ad Ploenchit

tick-tock-tick

POSTCARD#283: Delhi: We’re clearing away everything from this house, piece by piece. Today is exactly two weeks to the time we have to vacate the premises, and the demolishers enter our rooms with their steel hammers, remove ceiling fans, knock out windows and doors, then take down the entire building bit by bit, clouds of brick dust rise and rubble everywhere. World coming to an end, collapsing like a dead star, all matter reduced to the size of an atom and gone in a flash.

Time is just slipping away, I pause for a moment to look at the little clock we brought back from Switzerland: tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock, pendulum madly dashing to-and-fro for the last three years without a stop. The strange urgency of it going on unnoticed like this, all through the days and nights and times I’ve been away. This time we go away and we’re not coming back. The Swiss clock goes on measuring out the time until somebody takes it off the wall, removes the battery from its tiny wooden compartment, and it’s placed in a box wrapped in bubble wrap.

But the time for that is not here yet – tick-tock-tick – there’s only an awareness of the pause, before it happens. Future time slides into present time; tomorrow becomes today, and the ‘now’ falls back into yesterday. The sound of the clock, tick-tock-tick is the context for a sort of back-to-the-future thing. The ‘now’ I experience at this moment was the future for me when I was in the past.

Where are we now? Let’s see, time stretched out to include packing of suitcases, filling of boxes, things ticked off the list, but the whole project is too large, it’s nowhere near being completely done yet. I’m held in the awareness of the pause before it gets here – a shavingth of an instant before it does. If I say there’s a beginning, I create linear time. Without that starting point there’s no causality, no ending, no beginning – the empty space of what it could be, held for as long as it takes me to notice it’s there.

Gathering up objects and labelling with a code so the shipping company can pack them in the correct boxes. Language creates an identity for things, and they become events in space-time, ‘this’ happened here, ‘that’ happened there, (but) ‘there isn’t a that without a this, and the that is essentially inseparable from the this.’

What I was thinking about disappears in the space between things, and I fall back into the emptiness of no thought, the observed world and the observer of it… where does it go from here? It feels like this moment is just one screenshot taken in the making of a video about my whole life… well, I suppose that’s what it is. The seeing of it happens, and I can’t ‘unsee’ it. I am the context for what it is. Parts of me in disarray, deconstructed, the opposite of a catastrophe.

Bags and cases lay open, clothes taken from wardrobes, folding and placing, folding again. Unfold, enfold, enclose, embrace, wrap, package, I am my name only; the ‘me’ I live with. Not a substantial thing – there’s a fragility about it – sometimes not there at all. If I’m curiously adrift in a future time, a place of speculative conjecture and hypothetical likelihoods, the constant sweeping along of things brings me back always to the place I set off from, to see what remains to be done… there’s an alertness, sensory mechanisms waiting for things to happen – it’s in their nature to do that. The awareness is all there is.

“…Not a single particle out “there” exists with real properties until it’s observed… reality is a process that involves consciousness.” [Robert Lanza]


 gratitude to blogging friends for the discussion on past, present and future time

tanhã, craving

Wheel.of.Life-largeOLD NOTEBOOKS: Craving perpetuates the fever of unsatisfied longing, this is the state of tanhã. The opposite of a sense of well-being, tanhã is not a happy bunny. It constantly feeds the hunger of desire but the action of feeding it only sharpens the edge of appetite. Too much is never enough. It explains very well the reason why some people are committed to ‘wrong view’ with an intensity that takes your breath away. Tanhã is this deep craving for the ‘self’ we construct in fear of ‘no self’, a result of tanhã. I am ‘me’, in this world, due to tanhã, the reason for rebirth.

In the story of King Assaka and Queen Upari, Queen Upari died and became a cow dung beetle in the next life. But she felt quite at home in her lowly existence as a cow dung beetle, because of tanhã which is delighting in whatever sense object presents itself and wherever it finds rebirth. Reborn as a dog, it takes delight in a dog’s existence; reborn as a pig, as a chicken, there is always delight in each existence. [‘Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective’ by Mark Epstein].

In the causality sequence that forms the 12 step cycle of the wheel of existence (paticcasamuppada), tanhã is step 8. The way to stop tanhã arising, is to cut off the conditions that lead to its beginning; interrupt the sequence before tanhã happens, and bring the whole thing to an end. The entry point in the cycle is just before tanhã: step 7 feeling (vedana). At the vedana stage, there are three possibilities: pleasure, pain or neutral feelings. If feelings of pleasure or pain arise, then craving or aversion will take place and tanha will be the result. If, by an act of will, only the neutral feeling is allowed to arise, the 7th link will be neutralized, de-activated. That being so, tanhã cannot arise, and the next link (upadana) will fail to arise and so on. [See “Fundamentals of Mainstream Buddhism”, p214-215, Eric Cheetham]

For me, the discovery that interrupting the sequence at vedana changed the momentum of everything was awesome, to say the least. This is how I quit the tobacco habit and my whole attitude changed. By allowing the neutral response at vedana to be present for a moment, I noticed an easing in the craving, a cessation, just enough to trigger my curiosity. The cessation took place when I noticed it was the way out of the cycle of repetition, and I understood then how to be free of it. The neutral feeling didn’t register as anything, just the awareness that there’s a space, a gap that wasn’t there before; a vantage point where I could see how to change the cycle of events. It’s in the nature of tanhã (as with everything else) to be transient like this, it’s something that comes and goes. Knowing it leads to Suffering, we can stay distant from tanhã for a moment, and allow it  to start the process of cessation by itself. Trying to confront or defeat tanhã will not work because willed action only causes it to arise again.

Situations that used to completely overwhelm and demolish me disappeared; other habitual behaviour began to fall away. I began to notice the wonderful emptiness, the wholeness, a peace of mind that comes about when you understand there is a way out of Suffering; everything that arises, ceases.

…there is a noble truth about the cessation of suffering. It is the complete fading away and cessation of this craving [tanha]; its abandonment and relinquishment; getting free from and being independent of it. [Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta]

————————-

Source for header image
this is a summarized form of an earlier post titled, ‘too much is never enough

created fragrances

nose_sinuses_smellOLD NOTEBOOKS: Switzerland: Industrial Zone: Waiting for the bus home. There’s that slightly odd fragrant smell in the air again. Somebody told me about it; there’s a laboratory here that creates commercial smells: odorants, aromas. The air is always full of fragrances. It’s the smell of fruity jam today. Another day, it’ll be a different smell, a more subtle thing you can’t identify, a component of a popular smell – not unpleasant, just odd. The fragrance of fruity jam, which strikes the nose when I open a new jar, is  a ‘replacement aroma’ created under laboratory conditions by chemists.

The manufactured smell is a chemical compound designed to trigger an olfactory experience. I’ll react in the same way even though the smell/aroma/fragrance is completely artificial. I fall into the ready-to-purchase mode – mind is saying, yes, yes, yes, get it, own it, have it… the familiarity of the smell is all that it takes. A perfect example of the Buddha’s Paticcasamuppada, the chain reaction of consciousness (dependent origination). The wonderful smell of bread from the bakery section in the supermarket. I’m drawn to it because of the aroma even though there’s no baker’s oven in a supermarket. I know it’s an illusion, but still respond to it as if it were real.

The artificial smell starts a sequence of mini events in the mind instantly when it makes contact (phassa) with the memory/ recognition/ acceptance, and there’s feeling (vedana). As soon that point is reached there’s the craving for it (tanha). I experience a state of wanting, a kind of greed, (upadana) and it’s very likely that I’ll go into the ‘bakery’ just to take a look, caught by the nose… it’s not real, it’s a chemical compound pumped into the air or sprayed somehow inside the bakery section.

Airline food served at 600 mph, and an altitude 38,000 feet; an exotic olfactory experience of roast potatoes, beef, onions, cheeses, French cognac, a hint of cigar smoke, ground coffee, crème caramel, port, liqueur. And we are served sad-looking pre-heated food… a bit disappointing. Do they really expect us to not see through this? But I think that’s part of it; somehow we’re satisfied with the illusion, a puff or a spray that releases the manufactured odorant in the air we inhale. There’s a knowing acceptance of it: “well isn’t it interesting how they can create artificial fragrances these days?” It’s okay to do this. Not only food, there’s the smell of leather upholstery in a new car, that distinctive odor created by chemical processes sneaks into our consciousness and we allow it to happen. All kinds of products, the smell of a new carpet triggers something in the brain, a physiological change and in the mind there’s recognition and the familiarity about it. An acknowledgment of the illusion being part of the whole panorama of illusion we create in our world of perception. The characteristics of the illusion lock into place and it becomes as real as anything or everything else. Does it really matter if it’s artificial… the whole world of perception is artificial.

The bus arrives at the stop and we all get on. It rumbles off down the road into town and the smell of fruity jam is still in the atmosphere, I can smell slight traces, then I get distracted and soon after that I’ve forgotten all about it.

‘Though my view is as spacious as the sky, my actions and respect for cause and effect are as fine as grains of flour.’ [Sogyal Rinpoche]

———————-

Summarized from an earlier post titled Fragrant Illusion, written during my time as a teacher of English in banks and offices and small industries in a small town in Switzerland.
Source for header image. Please visit the original page for the interactive version of the image.

 

velocity

IMG_2403POSTCARD #192: DELHI: Photo shows the hoarding (with part of the word ‘caution’ in Hindi) behind which, work on the Delhi Metro underground is taking place. The construction zone encroaches on to an already crowded roadway as three lanes of slo-mo traffic are bottle-necked into two, then one – all that earth has got to be shifted out of the hole I suppose… traffic congestion so bad, road rage is a palpable thing… static electricity flashing and sparking in the spaces between metals very close but don’t actually touch; a kind of unseen neon percussion hi-frequency zizzle in the surround-sound of car horns in a musical composition on alto sax, trumpet, trombone and all the various combinations of horns in the brass section of the orchestra. Yes it is quite bad. Ok for me, I’m not the one driving, just sitting in the car interior here, trying to not be upset by it and get a headache coping with the traffic jam in my mind, What’s needed here is breathing; a long deep in breath, and slow outbreath….

Thoughts without substance arise and fall away. The good feeling is nice when it’s here, the bad feeling is nice when it’s not here – and the often overlooked position of neutrality situated between the two extremes; the Buddha’s Middle Way. It was a turning point in my life when I first saw that if I could remain in neutrality as the feeling comes on and be aware, observe how it’s possible to sidestep the clinging thing, the Velcro of self that’s always inclined to attach itself to the same old thing: this-is-mine-so-it-belongs-to-me, then the chain of events is interrupted and everything that happened moves on, ungrasped-at… as simple as that.

The sense of being in a state of no-self is one of astonishment and the relief that the whatever-it-was THING did not take place… wow! how good is that! This feeling moves it all forward in such a sensible and wholesome direction. These small successes are necessary in a world that doesn’t educate children about this basic truth and the moments of conscious experience are instead allowed to form events that occupy our thoughts. No teaching on how to liberate oneself from unrest and the state of always having to make something out of it; the present moment cloaked by Mind pondering over either some past memory or preoccupied with something in future time that hasn’t happened yet. Never really at ease, never able to witness this peace… the inherited karma of generations.

Forever unable to see that thought processes lead nowhere in the end, maintain themselves hesitantly, and are forgotten in the on-going awareness of what’s happening now. I’m part of it, but I’m not ‘in’ it. The present moment is not the near future, it’s happening now – so fast, you could say, look, there it goes, into the past. Yep, history taking place before our very eyes…

We learn from the principle of dependent origination that things and events do not come into being without causes. Suffering and unsatisfactory conditions are caused by our own delusions and the contaminated actions induced by them. [Dalai Lama]

————————-

cruel pillows [part two]

Aluvihara-Resting-BuddhaOLD NOTEBOOKS: Delhi: You may know already about my permanent headache caused by PHN on right side of the head and I’m a Buddhist so I can’t appear to be too grouchy about it. I can walk around gently balacing this headache, do my shopping and as long as things are simple and easy, I’m okay. I’ve been researching the kinds of pillows available in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It’s an on-going search because of my disturbed sleep at night. And it’s not easy in Chiang Mai a country town, where the staff are trained to smile, look nice and be elegant, but they don’t actually know anything about the product: I want to buy the softest pillow you have please?.

The sales girl shows me a pillow and poses beside it as I give it a little squeeze with my hand and she smiles. It’s not soft enough, try the next one, squeeze it, and sales girl, elegant, posing gives me a little smile again and I’m beginning to feel, get me out of here, there’s a headache coming on. I try every pillow they have in the shop and the sales girl is tiring of the instant smile when I squeeze; but I buy one because she was so good at posing beside the product. Get back and crash out with a bad headache. My side of the bed is full of pillows tried, discarded, there’s no space for any more.

Eventually I find one in Delhi and this pillow is so good! I take it with me everywhere; a totally soft pillow placed in my suitcase on top of everything. It’s also a good way of holding a whole lot of loose items tight in an oversized bag because the pillow expands into all the corners when you squeeze it in and zip up the bag tight. So, fling in loose items like pens, cables, adaptor plugs, knowing that the expanded pillow will hold everything in place and get to the other end, take out the pillow and everything’s like a screen-shot of how it was when you were packing at the last minute.

So I took it with me to Switzerland then all around the UK and back to Bangkok. One morning, early, Jiab puts the pillow into the washing machine. I see my pillow pegged out there on the washing line and I’m in a state of shock! Yes, she says, pillows can be put in the washing machine and I have to go out to look at it a few times hanging there in the hot sun, but it it wouldn’t dry out enough so I had to improvise something else that night and was tossing and turning for hours… cruel pillows. It was dry by the end of the next day but when I tried it that night, it was lumpy.

So I found another one in India, a crafty- artisan place, wild cotton filled fragrant pillow, I was assured. I tried it one night and it was great, so good to rest the head and feel normal. Then a couple of days later, I went for an afternoon nap – the headache is always better when it gets laid down. And, lying on my side with ear planted deep into the soft cotton, I was just drifting off into sleep when I hear something moving inside the pillow! An insect? A tiny lizard? Something struggling to get out from the weight of my head for some reason. The thing is you get insects and ‘things’ in the strangest places here, and not impossible that, when the pillow was being filled maybe some cotton-habitat creature ended up in there. So I opened it up, scissors at the stitching at one end. Spread everything out on the floor. No insect, no small creature… maybe it scuttled away unnoticed, aha! freedom, didn’t see it, but I did find some leaves and a bit of a small branch. Well, getting that all cleaned out and stuffed back in again was not easy and there was quite a bit left over. Never mind, stitched it up again with needle and thread, Then the final fluffs of cotton removed and got it back into its pillow case, slightly slimmer and looser, slowly lowered my head on it and it was wonderful, even better than before. So good!

I’ve suggested to Jiab we open up all the hard pillows in my collection and take out some of stuffing but so-far she’s unconvinced…

the kamma of not seeing it

blowhorn2

POSTCARD #84: Delhi: Eight thirty in the morning, coming into town from the airport, great rivers of traffic and car horns hooting and tooting like flocks of geese in a poultry market. Shym is driving, I’m in the back… an opportunity for me to consider how difficult all this could be. Confrontations up-front and in-close brinkmanship… give-and-take becomes push-and-shove, not enough space, no room to move. Scarred and scratched vehicles, smashed rear lights, dented bumpers. Trumpets blare, somebody blocking the lane – get out of the way! Insist on it thru the sheer force of horn blasts: plaaaaah, PEEEE, pap-pap-pap! Everybody gets into it, scenarios of outrage, high octave shouting in a language I don’t understand. Then Shym starts singing in Hindi, a voice with trembling vibrato. Maybe I should ask what’s that nice song he’s singing and we can have some light conversation? But I see his hands gripping the steering wheel, white-knuckling it, a sense of the radiant nuclear fury of the sun. This is how it must have been in the Wild West – except they had guns. The ever-present sound and odour of gunfire, young cowboys wearing holstered revolvers and composure like stainless steel. Somebody loses their cool, chairs fly away and everybody dives for cover under the tables.

Things being as they are it takes longer to get to the house than planned, driving with extra caution through these hair-trigger hazards in Delhi traffic, and me with these whispered voices I try not to listen to, voices telling me, it shouldn’t be like this, and seeking calm, steadiness in the intention to be mindful. Remembering to disengage the automatic irritation response. Just notice it – yep, that’s it, and leave it alone. Let sleeping dogs lie. Lessons learned from a lifetime of kamma-vipaka, cause/effect – this is the result of something that happened in the past. Whatever that was, caused this. And what caused that cause? There must have been another cause and this is the effect of that effect, then… and before that cause? Another cause, same thing. My presence here, ‘me’, is the result of a very long cause/effect sequence stretching all the way back through the ages to the Big Bang (The Original Cause, or was there something that caused that?). I am here as a result of generations of those who came before ‘me’, believing it was an inevitability, destiny tattooed on one’s forehead. Going about their lives and managing likes, dislikes; the desire to have, want and get-away-from. The kamma of not seeing it – not seeing that there’s an end to kamma.

So, everything is holding together reasonably well and we reach home in the end. Out of the car, hi everyone, I’m okay yes, thanks, just been sitting in an aircraft economy class seat all night. Into the house, drop bags where I stand and collapse on the sofa. It’s been three weeks but feels longer; three Buddhist monasteries, a funeral and a wedding – and the 4000-year-old stone circle in NE Scotland. I came back to India to take a rest from all that… watch the breathing, heartbeat all a flutter, lying here in the horizontal position. There’s a trembling vibration running through my body, is it the sofa, the floor? Raise my head, is it an earthquake? Look around, no indications of it, nothing falls off the shelves – not an earthquake, just life itself….

“… in its fullest sense, liberation from kamma is liberation from cause and effect in the mind. It’s a process of mentally, emotionally, stepping back from any state and seeing it just as a state, without reactions and attitudes. This simple skill, which most of us can do from time to time, is what we develop in Buddhist practice.” [Ajahn Sucitto, Kamma and the End of Kamma]

————————- 

round-and-round

IMG_0998POSTCARD#66: Phuket: It was nearly the end of M’s school holiday and she hadn’t had much experience of the ‘beash’ (beach: her mispronunciation of the ch/sh sound). So the three of us decided to take her to the seaside, got on a flight to Phuket, 1 hour 50 minutes from Chiang Mai and some of that time spent speaking in English and making jokes about the ch/sh sound: washing TV (watching TV). I asked her when she’s ‘washing’ TV does she uses BREEZE detergent, is that a good one? Hahaha, etc. No, Toong-Ting, I wash TV with MAGICLEAN because it’s anti-bacterial… (there’s a kind of one-upmanship developing, now she’s past her 10th birthday). Arrived in the early afternoon, lumpy chunks of land rising from the sea, seen from the plane window. Busy airport, flights from all parts of the world arrive and depart, waves roll in from the ocean and drift back out. There’s an Aeroflot jumbo jet arriving at the gate next to ours, direct flight from Moscow, and signs in Russian everywhere in the airport. In the town too, also Russian travel agents, Russian car rentals, Russian laundries, Russian restaurants, and guided tours for Russian tourists with Russian guides – they’re more noticeable than other Caucasians; large human beings who don’t smile at all.

Coming in by bus from the airport to the Centara Hotel at Karon beach (a hotel catering for families with children), M sitting with me in the front seat behind the driver, and she seems unusually quiet – busy with the iPad. I ask her if she’s okay… mm-hmm, (like I’m doing something quite complex, don’t bother me right now). We’re going round and round on these circular roads; signs for the airport keep coming up. The bus driver chatting with Jiab and M’s mum, saying it’s because it’s an island, the GPS brings you around in a circle and all the roads lead back to the point of origin. Nowhere else to go, limited land space, commercial potential of everything examined, evaluated, exploited to within an inch of its life. All to create another crescent shaped beach, same palm trees, same everything.

It was then I noticed there was this slightly dizzy feeling; a lot of up-and-down and around on cliff roads to get nowhere in particular because everywhere in Phuket looks exactly like the place you’ve just arrived from and the same as the place you’re going. And M turns to her mum, says something that mum can’t hear, has to repeat it; I hear it as cha-ooap (cha is a future indicator, ooap means to be sick). The recognition of it comes slowly; I see the driver’s eyes in the rear-view mirror looking at us with alarm… M shouts out cha-ooap! She’s going to be sick – there’s a rush and fumbling among the passengers on the bus to find a plastic bag… shouted instructions on how to hold the bag and how to lean forward. But she wasn’t sick, soon we were in the hotel and everything got back to something resembling familiarity.

tsunamiNow it all looks pretty exotic here. A lot of Russians and if I look away from the grim expressions, I can really get to appreciate the lovely deep resonant tones of the language. The tsunami of December 26, 2004 was a visiting catastrophe, came and went and the memory of it now is like biblical karma. We don’t like to think of it… gone is gone. Could be we are the only Thai group in the hotel – I’m not Thai but identify more with them than Westerners here, and really amazed at the long story of what has led to this, dependent arising, and the karma that’s brought me into this situation ~ [to be continued]

For the early Buddhists, karma was non-linear and complex… karma acts in multiple feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; present actions shape not only the future but also the present. Furthermore, present actions need not be determined by past actions. In other words, there is free will, although its range is somewhat dictated by the past. The nature of this freedom is symbolized in an image used by the early Buddhists: flowing water. Sometimes the flow from the past is so strong that little can be done except to stand fast, but there are also times when the flow is gentle enough to be diverted in almost any direction. [Thanissaro Bhikkhu]

————————-

Upper photo image, view from the van that took us from the airport
Lower photo image source