9/11/2015: perception

September_14_2001_Ground_Zero_02A Buddhist Reflection: Survivors describe how, after the debris and dust settled, there was only blue sky where the twin towers used to be. It was as if the awful devastation hadn’t occurred, mind turns away… natural reaction, a kind of sleight-of-hand,  conjuring trick – one thing becomes something else, what is seen and what it appears to be merge together. Human beings have a deep familiarity with the illusion – everything we see, hear, smell, taste, touch is perceived. Consciousness of the world unfolds and thought rationalises how it appears to be. It’s this, it’s that, the illusion insists on being there until things hidden and obscured are revealed and we cannot return to the unknowingness of how it was before… ignorance is a kind of ignoring.

Form and formlessness; there are planes, explosions and buildings disappear. The video running continuously on YouTube for 14 years, I know the sequence in detail. I also know how the mind habitually joins up all the loose ends of awareness input, interpreting reality, perception is interpretation. Now you see it, now you don’t… a technology that can break up the molecular structure of concrete, turns buildings to dust – hoover it all up, remove melted steel remnants and everything is gone. I try not to think about it anymore; war and disaster, samsara of violence, distress, pain, fear and that underlying sense that something about this is not what it seems to be… learning to live with that uncertainty.

Mind is powered and driven by TV news – forgetting that it’s just a presentation, a performance in the studio. Hair-styling, cosmetics, the newsreader is an actor reading from a script. TV news is a created product based on an event manipulated to get it to fit into media format. TV news producers create a scenario of righteous anger, Sodom and Gomorrah retributional justice; it’s all ‘their’ fault, not our fault, blame and guilt… complicity. The tendency to contract into self, ‘I’ caused it to be ‘wrong’ – no, I don’t want to think about this anymore, don’t want to dwell on anything sinister…

People living in war-ravaged countries (such as Iraq for example) know that when a traumatic event takes place everything changes. After the disaster, our surroundings are seen in a different way; in the aftermath of this truly catastrophic circumstance we come to realise that the smoke was actually dust. What we believed in before this happened disintegrates, a basic truth now included in our worldview… nothing is permanent – history taking place before our eyes. Fourteen years after the experience, some ease can be found in simply knowing the ‘terrorists’ created a shockwave that unknowingly opened a window of awareness to world attention.

Dependent on the eye and forms, visual-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as condition there is feeling. What one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one thinks about. What one thinks about, that one mentally proliferates. With what one has mentally proliferated as the source, perception and notions resulting from mental proliferation beset a man with respect to past, future, and present forms cognizble through the eye (Majjhima Nikaya, I, 111–112).

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:September_14_2001_Ground_Zero_02.jpg#/media/File:September_14_2001_Ground_Zero_02.jpg
[See also earlier posts:
9/11 2014,
9/11 2013
9/11 2012]
Related source: ‘Working with Perception’ by Ajahn Sucitto


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…



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).