the kamma of not seeing it


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]


the way out

yak2Chiang Mai: 06.00hrs and it’s still yesterday in the West, internet is slow and unpredictable, busy with the millions of people over there wishing each other well for 2013, sending messages, sharing images, ‘liking’. World is populated with beings preoccupied with devices that can render the ‘self’ as an actor that ‘I’ choose to project to others; mind reflects upon itself in its own world, is aware of its perception of itself as subject in its own blissful states. Other times seeking to escape from the perceived emptiness surrounding the idea of ‘me’ being separate from the world; go that route and, in the end, there can only be an experience of total aloneness – it can’t be that way. But here, some people find God, superimpose a personification on that emptiness. Others just go along with it anyway, what else is there… we’re all on the road to nowhere, yes, I could be convinced, enough to comply with the economic system the politicians try to assure me is real even though I know it’s just based on a concept.

So, taking it on face value, like this I know the whole thing could so easily fall apart, it’s so very fragile but somehow it doesn’t – there’s that collective holding-on thing. The God mechanism is there whether I believe in it or not and I may go on being controlled by circumstances or I can decide to investigate, examine it. What’s going on here? I see everything in the world, through consciousness but I can’t see consciousness itself because I am that consciousness, there’s a subjectivity about everything. Then, when I see things and other people out there in the ‘world’, I’m suddenly an individual again, a self, separate from the world. ‘I’ engage with everything, subject to inherited kamma and actions create more kamma, mostly of no consequence, possibly laying foundation for another state of being at some future time? And from that ‘distant’ place, this place ‘here’ is seen in hindsight, as if it were a former life – this is how it began?

Why bother with beginnings, so distant and removed from this time and place. There’s only what there is now; no past and no future – time is a construct. I’m here situated in the East, 7 hours ahead of London, 12 hours ahead of New York, 15 hours ahead of San Francisco and then time measurements come to an end somewhere in the Pacific ocean, so it’s called a different day, of course. Continue in that direction and I return to the time zone I’m in now, except that, supposedly it’s the day before yesterday. It’s not, of course, it’s always the same day, only present time exists. Always present time and the way out of this puzzle is here, nirodha, Third Noble Truth.

“… the remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving. (the noble truth of the cessation of dukkha) “— SN 56.11 (dukkha nirodho ariya sacca).

Daylight coming through the windows, I hear the monks chanting downstairs and go to the small balcony, to see. Down below there are about thirty people from the hotel opposite kneeling, receiving blessings for the New Year – and two large baskets of donated food, dāna generosity. Four monks in pale tangerine robes facing the small group and the sound of Pali verses created in the Buddha’s time 2600 years ago…


– Best wishes for 2013 fellow bloggers and thank you for dropping by in 2012 –


Switzerland: Sun rising, water reflects the light and a black crow flies in from the lakeside with louder and louder calls until it passes below the balcony and the sound gets fainter as it disappears behind the next building, then into the distance … CRAWCRAW.  I’m sitting here, alert, and listening to that sound until nothing can be heard at all. No object to activate ear consciousness. It’s the Sunday morning sleep-late feeling; only the zzz zzz zzz ZZZs coming from all the apartment buildings around. Look out the window, nobody about, streets are empty. Am I the only one awake? I listen for some sound and there isn’t anything happening here; only the act of listening. Awareness poised, waiting for some object to come into range of the receptors. Without an object, awareness goes on forever. I can hear some sounds that are very far away, therefore I have an idea of  ‘faraway-ness’. Beyond the range of receptors there is the great empty dome of sky, the void, suññatā1, spreading out around all things and present in all things

Attention drifts away and a series of incidental thought episodes appear; an anthology of short stories, then it’s all gone again in a moment. The empty space returns, the interval; why this pause? What is this still point where there’s no thought?

‘… (the) still point is not in the mind, it’s not in the body; this is where it’s incapable of being expressed in words, ineffable. The still point isn’t a point within the brain. Yet you’re realising that universal silence, stillness, oneness where all the rest is a reflection and seen in perspective…. personality, kamma, the differences, the varieties … are no longer deluding us because we’re no longer grasping at them.’ [‘The Way It Is’, Ajahn Sumedho, page 123]

The period of pause is just the space that happens before the next intensely demanding thought arises and the tendency to create an identity for it, but before that happens there is this state of nothing. A non-event is taking place; everything gradually stops shifting around, settles down; time begins to stretch out and it all moves incredibly slowly. I forget and attention wanders again.

A pigeon flutters in, comes to rest on the balcony rail, folds away it’s wings, and there’s this small sigh. Quite a deep bird-sized sigh, filling its lungs with air, releasing it and a little ‘bob’ of the fat round body: ah, that’s nice…. It looks at me with extended neck curiously then gets involved in preening feathers in strangely revealing postures.

I hear Jiab in the back room, doing things. She arrived from Phnom Penh via Bangkok yesterday. Not jet-lagged, she says, but we do have to do the laundry at this unusually early time in the morning. The laundry room is in the mezzanine of the building, so off we go, very quietly, one step at a time, downstairs, 6:00AM, past all the sleeping doorways of other people’s apartments, carrying the laundry in bags and trying to be really silent because the whole thing is a bit like being in a graveyard.

Then Jiab wants to sneeze… Oh no! It’s held for a moment then escapes. A surprisingly loud short sound like the bark of a small dog played backwards. The noise of it echoes around the tiled corridor and staircase, the glass panels vibrate for a moment; metal rails hum in resonance and there’s the echo of it all through the stairwell. Dynamic. The silence is shocked by it! We spend some time after that trying to control the intense laughter as we go quietly down with our heavy bags.


1suññatā: (Śūnyatā) the absence of inherent existence in all phenomena.

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]