remainderless fading

SunrisePOSTCARD #216: New Delhi: The mind forgets. All the months of headache gone overnight. These days I wake up in the morning feeling normal again and I have to consciously remember what it was like before this, the billiard ball crashing around inside the skull whenever I moved. I understand how it works of course; an injection of anesthetizing agent into the root of the nerve and there’s no pain. It’s almost like it was never there, but the reprieve is for a limited time only. Two or three months then it’ll not be effective anymore and I have to go for the next injection.

This is the interval, the interim, a breathing space, and a time to reflect on how, for the most part, the body/mind organism has the capacity to heal itself. That built-in elasticity comes as a surprise, a kind of awakening. The true meaning of recovery. The Buddha’s Third Noble Truth (nirodha); the realization we don’t have to remain stuck in this unsatisfactory state. Suffering (dukkha) can be overcome when we let go the craving (tanha) that feeds it.

It is an easing of the suffering of mind caused by holding on to things that seemingly reinforces the belief in a small self inside ‘here’ directed by how the ego interprets sensory data received from the world out ‘there’ through the eye, ear, nose, tastes, feelings: nice or not nice, and how I feel about all of the above. Thus ‘I’ am this, or ‘I’ am that, according to what I like and what I don’t like. Neutrality is an option but it usually swings one way or the other in this state of duality.

Wanting things to be different, other than what they are, is the cause of endless dissatisfaction and profiteers’ goods and services have created an opening; phones, tablets and adult toys that hold the mind in this unhappy state. After the newness wears off there’s the seeking for this or that, not included in the current model. Clever advertising creates the perception of ‘me’ in a world of other beings preoccupied with devices that can render the ‘self’ as an actor ‘I’ choose to project to others; mind reflects upon itself in its own sense of being, is aware of its perception of itself as subject in its own blissful states. Other times seeking an escape from that world when things that were blissful turn bad with the same intensity, and the truth arises that all this is not real. How to get out?

It’s here that people wake up to the recognition it’s a dependency, but there is a way out of the sickness, no matter how much the marketeers pull us towards it. There is the natural elasticity in the knowledge it doesn’t have to be like this, true happiness and contentment are possible. Let go of that craving for more, allow for the far reaching concept of renunciation, relinquishment and release, the remainderless fading & cessation of suffering. Let it go and it all comes to an end, the way out of suffering and the Noble Eightfold Path.

“The main affliction of our modern civilization is that we don’t know how to handle the suffering inside us and we try to cover it up with all kinds of consumption.” [Thich Nhat Hanh]

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Header image: the library of Ajahn Vajiro
source of the quote above: Lou @ Zen Flash, “We don’t know how to suffer”
~ G R A T I T U D E ~

pain/resistance

fishing netsPOSTCARD #133: Scotland: Overnight flight from Delhi to Heathrow, train from Euston station and I’m in Glasgow. Can’t recognize anything, it’s been years. I feel like a foreigner… then later having breakfast at the hotel, 7am and sitting by the front window, watching everybody on the street going to work. Hats and coats and it’s cold out there; the happiness of the people in Thailand, sunny and bright… just not here. Reminds me of the following post, written when I had a part time job teaching English in Geneva, Switzerland – migrant workers employed in the factories and light industry going to work by bus in the early morning:

(originally dated August 22, 2012) I’m on the bus, going to an early morning class in the industrial zone. As we get near, the bus is stopping at every stop to pick up people employed in the factories. Migrant workers from East Europe; men and women speaking a language unknown to me. Thin, sad, serious faces; reminds me of Van Gogh’s drawings of the miners in 19th Century.

Van Gogh 'Miners' 1880 (detail)Bus is getting crowded, I have a book to read: ‘The Noble Eightfold Path’ by Bhikkhu Bodhi: ‘The search for a spiritual path is born of suffering. It does not start with lights and ecstasy but with the hard tacks of pain, disappointment and confusion… for suffering to give birth to a genuine spiritual search, it must amount to more than something passively received…’ 

More stops, more migrant workers get on the bus. It feels like I’ve got to have my head down reading my book because there’s nowhere else in this bus to look without encountering another pair of eyes looking straight back at me; my shirt and tie, polished shoes. What they don’t realise is that I’m a foreign worker too: UK citizen resident in Switzerland. I know how it feels to live in someone else’s country. Okay, guys! I’m a teacher of English, and I’m on my way to teach your bosses, yes – but, as far as I’m concerned, we’re all the same here. And that’s how it is now, squashed up against the window glass; thin shoulders and arms pressing against me. Continue reading:

‘It has to trigger an inner realization, a perception which pierces through the facile complacency of our usual encounter with the world to glimpse the insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot. When this insight dawns, even if only momentarily, it can precipitate a profound personal crisis. It overturns accustomed goals and values, mocks our routine preoccupations, leaves old enjoyments stubbornly unsatisfying.’

Urgent circumstances; this is about a level of suffering hard to endure and there’s just no getting away from it. A long time ago, I had an operation for colonic cancer and there were a number of confrontations with pain… unbearable, I had to give in to it. As soon as that happened, something unseen tipped the balance… for a moment there was the easing –  I discover it’s the resistance to it that causes most of the discomfort.

What would it take for Bhikkhu Bodhi’s insight described here to be meaningful for these migrant workers? For them, it’s about holding on, not letting go; as long as they can withstand hardship, it will go on like this. They’re putting their small amounts of money together to send back home to support the family. They structure their lives around employment and the innate ability to be happy becomes a fleeting, temporary happiness found in consumerism, built-in to the system. People can’t escape from it unless they step out of the earning momentum they’re stuck in, and risk losing everything.

The bus gets to the terminus, stops, air suspension lets out in one long last gasp, and the bus lowers itself on to its structure. I get out with everyone else in this strangely remote place with factory smells and set off walking along the path to the industrial buildings in the distance. Behind me the bus starts up, a worrying moment, no wish to be stranded in this particular reality. I look back at it as it rumbles off on its little round wheels.

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Image: Vincent van Gogh 
Drawing, “Miners”, Pencil on Paper,
 Cuesmes: September, 1880, Kröller-Müller Museum.
Note excerpts here from an earlier post: ‘Choosing Liberation

corridors

IMG_0533POSTCARD#53: Delhi – Chiang Mai journey: A day of travelling, 9½ hours door to door – say two miles of walking through corridors in three airports and a total distance of about 2000 miles. It’s like a long tunnel of facing mirrors, continuously extending out in front of me as I’m moving through; the illusion that I’m entering something but never really getting there because another environment contained inside it opens up, and within that environment there’s another. No end to it and dizzy with the glitz of endless duty-free, life-size enhanced photos of celebrities wearing impossibly expensive watches, diamonds, gold; perfect dental work and a great wealth of cosmetics and perfumery. Pause for a moment to consider the mental state of marketeers who create this outrageous fiction. All the suffering, sadness and disappointment in life is caused by attempting to gratify the desire to make things different from what they are.

It doesn’t have to be like that – there is the Noble Eightfold Path. Keep walking, the corridor extends on through areas of wall-to-wall alcohol and tobacco products – follow the signs, stay on the route. Look at my watch frequently, look at boarding pass, look at time of boarding… calculate the amount of time remaining as I’m walking along. Bag on shoulder, laptop inside and a book: ‘Unborn’ by 17th century Zen Master Bankei. “The farther you enter the truth, the deeper it is.” Speed up the pace slightly, legs appear below; left foot, right foot… and a slight arm-swing – eyes looking out, reality is a projection of sensory functioning and the experience of containment in a body with four limbs, a head. The skull is worn like a crash helmet; brain occupies all the space inside… feeling like it’s cramped in there? Strange how this metaphor is everywhere, things inside other things, corridors inside other corridors.

Down the last corridor and into the aircraft. Stewardess with palms held together as if in prayer, bows head and says, “sawadi ka.” It’s the Thai flight and today I’m sitting in seat number 48G. Have I been in this seat before? Did I sit here last time, here in exactly the same seat, in exactly the same aircraft? I feel like I should carve my initials somewhere, or do something to say I was here, like the handprint found in the prehistoric Lascaux caves in France. Waves of human beings pass through these corridors, no individuality, only data, anonymous builders of the pyramids, information about itineraries, arrivals point A – departures point B. Clearance from control tower, taxiing to runway, a huge acceleration, velocity and takeoff…

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“The mind that’s not conditioned is originally unborn; what is conditioned doesn’t exist—that is why there’s no delusion. Though the years may creep ahead, mind itself can never age… always just the same. Wonderful! Marvelous! When you’ve searched and found at last the one who will never grow old—‘I alone!’ The Pure Land where one communes at peace is here and now, it’s not remote, millions and millions of leagues away.” [Zen Master Bankei, 1622-1693.]

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