Back in Malaysia, I made another extensive trip, and was again requested to give talks at the Genting Highlands casino-complex outside K.L. While in a restaurant there, I was approached by a Singaporean named Charlie; I told him I’d been invited to give talks in Indonesia during the Wesak month in May, but didn’t know where I would stay in Singapore before flying out from there to Jakarta. He said he’d arrange something, if it was only a hotel, and gave me his number to call before going there. I did, and he met me off the bus, taking me to a hotel beside a vegetarian restaurant, where he told the people to charge my food to him. He introduced me to his wife, Susan. After two days there, I flew to Jakarta, and was met by Onfat and Ros, who I’d first come to know in ’78, and who’d organized my visit. They had set up a program for me, and took me first to a large temple in central Jakarta named Ekayana Vihara, which was to be my base for the next month. It had been established by a disciple of Ashin Jinarakkhita, who I mentioned earlier. I was surprised at the large number of people who attended the services, but this was largely because religion was strongly encouraged to counter any communist inclinations.

The heat and humidity were awful, but what to do except endure as best I could? I didn’t have to like it. Apart from giving talks in several places in Jakarta itself, I was sent to other cities in Java, including Semarang, where Vajira met me at the airport and took me to her home, where I would stay. Now, I knew she’d taken over her parents’ business when they died, but wasn’t sure what this consisted of. I was in for a surprise. Arriving there, I was struck by what ~ to me, as a long-time vegetarian ~ was an aw-ful smell, that of meat being cooked! This was her business: cooking meat for sale. I thought, “However am I going to stay here? Shall I go to stay in a temple after all?” This was immedi-ately followed by, “No, Vajira has been a good friend to me for many years, and would be unhappy if I moved,” so I stayed, and tolerated the smell; there are many things we can do for the sake of friendship. It was good to see her again, and she took good care of me, making my stay very pleasant. Later, when I wrote to her about this, she was very apologetic and said she hadn’t realized she was inviting me ‘into her hell,’ as she put it.

From Semarang, then, to Jogja, and between my talks there, I was taken to visit not only Borobudur, Mendut and Prambanan temples ~ where I’d been before ~ but also to other ancient ruins in the area; I was surprised at how many there were. Most had been destroyed by earthquakes long ago, but were impressive even so. I was also taken to visit some villages in the mountains where the people had remained Buddhists since the collapse of the Majapahit Empire over five centuries before. How they had held out against the tremendous pressure to convert to Islam I don’t know, but I was full of admiration for them.

After a month in Indonesia, I returned to Singapore and Malaysia again, with the idea of making a trip to Turkey. For many years I’d wanted to do this, feeling I’d missed something during my trips through there before. When I told people of my inten-tion, some of them were surprised and said things like: “Why do you want to go to there? Turkey is a Muslim country. There are no Buddhists there!”

“Yes, I know it’s a Muslim country,” I replied, “and no Buddhists there ~ I’ve been there ~ but Turks are also human beings, are they not? If we are concerned only about people who call themselves ‘Buddhists,’ what kind of Buddhists are we? How many people do you know who say they are ‘Buddhists’ but who know nothing ~ and in fact, mis-know ~ about Buddhism? The name doesn’t make one a Buddhist. Also, I don’t care what people call themselves; it’s more important what they are. Nor is it my aim or hope to convert people to Buddhism. I’m only concerned with people as people; in fact, I want to help Buddhists become free of Buddhism and discover their human-ness, for this ~ to me ~ is what it’s all about. A name is not enough.”

So, in August ’97, I flew from K.L. to Istanbul, and was thrilled to see the marvelous city again, and for the first time from the air. Nor was it long before I had a completely different impression of the Turks than before. To overcome prejudice is always good, as it makes the mind so much lighter, which is what enlighten-ment is all about. I would like to tell of some of my experiences there, but for my story to make sense, I must start by saying that I went in ordinary clothes, not dressed as a monk. There were reasons for this: Firstly, had I gone in robes, they would only have attracted unnecessary attention and served no useful pur-pose. In Malaysia ~ and in other countries with large Buddhist communities ~ many people are very respectful towards monks, often without knowing anything at all about them; they react to their appearance. Knowing this, certain persons have dressed as monks and gone begging on the streets, and because this has become quite common (a number of such fake ‘monks’ have been arrested), there are now calls for monks to carry special identity-cards.

On the other hand, in some countries, I’ve been subjected to abuse with obscene language on the street because of my ap-pearance: same appearance, different reactions, and in both cases, by people who knew nothing about me personally.

I decided to go incognito, not as a monk, but as a human-being, and relate to people on that level, to communicate with them by my own merit, if you will, to make it on my own, without the robe. I’d never done this before, but in retrospect, this was clearly the right decision. In Malaysia, no-one ever mistook me for a Malay-sian, nor for an Indian in India, but I was able to blend in so well in Turkey that people often spoke to me in Turkish, thinking I was a Turk! And whereas I’ve quite often been verbally abused in India, I was never once hassled there, but experienced much kindness and helpfulness. People would willingly leave whatever they were doing ~ their work, shops, and so on ~ and go out of their way to direct me, often without knowing any English and without expecting anything in return. Turks also smile easily. It made me feel good! I do not remember that about them from be-fore; had they changed so much over the years, or was the change more in me? Maybe it was both. Or maybe it was just a case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder.

It was very hot when I got there in August, and upon passing a travel-agency one day and noticing ads for cheap flights, I de-cided to go to England for a month, and bought a round-trip ticket. I called Glen, and she got Karin to drive her to the airport to meet me.

(At the end of ’86, feeling the strain of caring for her husband, and wanting to visit mum in Australia, she’d asked the doctor if he would admit Harold to a care-center while she went, and he agreed to do so, although it was not normal practice; “You go,” he said, “You deserve a break.” While there, however, her neighbor called to say that Harold had rapidly deteriorated and so she had better return quick, which she did, just in time to see him before he died; he’d become like a vegetable, knowing noth-ing; he didn’t recognize her, and she could hardly recognize him. She told me she didn’t grieve when he died, as she’d already done her grieving before; it was a release for both him and her. She had loved him so much, but just had to let go).

Apart from doing various jobs around the place for her, I made several trips with her, one to Chester, and another to York, where I’d never been before but had long wanted to go. Glen was not interested in history ~ in fact, she wasn’t at all intellec-tually inclined ~ but went to please me. I greatly enjoyed visiting the marvelous York Minster and walking around the old city-walls; we also went into the old castle-tower, where I came upon this inscription:

“Richard I, the Lion-heart, became king in the summer of 1189. Richard was fighting the Crusades in the Holy Land and came home briefly for his coronation, but returned to the war almost immediately.

“Across Europe there were massacres and murders, and in an at-mosphere charged with religious passion, anti-semitic riots broke out up and down England.

“In York, the Jewish community became so frightened that they asked the royal constable for help. He allowed some 150 men, women and children to shelter within the castle while an angry mob gathered outside. The Jews began to mistrust the constable and refused to let him back in when he went out on business. The constable asked the Sheriff of York for permission to eject the Jews, which he granted. The unruly crowd laid siege to the terri-fied Jews, who courageously defended themselves for several days.

“When siege-engines were brought to knock down the gates, many of the Jews decided upon suicide rather than submit to the mob. A fire was started, but rapidly got out of hand and burned the wooden buildings, forcing the surviving families out into the crowd where they were massacred.

“The ringleaders of the mob were a group of noblemen who were heavily in debt to the Jewish moneylenders, and wanted to avoid paying. They went to York Minster and forced the custodians to hand over the details of the debts. They gathered these together and burned them in the middle of the church to destroy any evidence.

“The Jews probably first came to York early in the 12th century as scholars attached to the Christian community. The small Jewish population grew to include physicians and landlords. The Christian creed forbade lending for profit, so the Jews undertook money-lending and dealing in bonds, providing private credit for major landowners, and even the great religious houses of Yorkshire.”

It seems that Jews first arrived in England itself following the Norman Invasion in 1066. England has a horrible record regard-ing its treatment of the Jews; in fact, the persecution of the Jews of the Diaspora began in England. Following are some details from the Internet, in chronological order:

In the course of a generation, Jews establish communities in London, York, Bristol, Canterbury, and begin to prosper by trading, lending money to the baronage, and by advancing money to the Crown in order to secure the revenues of the Government. In this way, the Jewish community serves a vital role for the State treasury. As a result, the Crown protects the Jewish financiers and their assets.

In order to finance the tremendous expense of the Crusade, the Jews were assessed higher rate of taxation than rest of England: i.e. Jews were taxed 1/4 of their moveable property while rest of England was assessed 1/14.

Although Jews constituted less than 0.4% of English population, the Jews contributed 8% of the total income to the Royal treasury.

1194. This is the year in which the Crown establishes Exchequer of the Jews.

The Exchequer of the Jews is a catalogue of all Jewish holdings in England. This registry allowed the Crown to systematically exploit Jewish resources by arbitrarily collecting taxes upon the revenues that the Jewish community collected from those resources.

The Jews responded to this tax upon their revenues by charging higher and higher rates of interest on the loans that they extended to their customers. This hike in interest rates only increased the unpopularity of Jewish money-lenders in general.

The Jews effectively became pawns of the Crown in a kind of per-verted "trickle-down economics" whereby the Jews indirectly collected taxes for the Crown: by selectively taxing the Jewish financial wealth at higher and higher rates, Jews were forced to charge more and more interest, and the borrowers were forced to pay more and more money. This structure of exploitation inevitably propped up the coffers of the Crown.

1217. This is the year that English Jews were made to wear yellow badges to identify them as Jews.

It is perhaps inevitable that this yellow badge, which functions as an obvious marker of the status of the Jew as an alien within English so-ciety, will bring to mind the yellow stars that Jews of Europe were forced to wear during Nazi occupation in World War II.

The fact that Jews were set apart from the rest of English society with this visible marker sets the stage for their increasing segregation and persecution.

1255. This is the year in which Jews were once again accused of a case of "blood libel"

This case involves the death of Hugh of Lincoln. The facts of the case are that Hugh, a young Christian boy, ran after a ball and fell into a Jewish cesspool. He drowned there and his body was found 26 days later, during the Jewish wedding of a prominent Rabbi.

The fact that a large congregation of Jews had come to Lincoln to cele-brate the Rabbi's marriage fueled Christian speculation that the Jews had killed the boy as part of some bizarre ritual ceremony.

As a result of the accusations of "blood libel" that arose in the wake of the death of Hugh of Lincoln, 100 Jews were executed.

The story of Hugh of Lincoln is celebrated in The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer. "The Prioress's Tale" tells of a young Christian innocent who is singing some Christian hymn while walking through the Jewish sec-tion of town. The Jews, presumable outraged at the boy's Christian pi-ety, slit his throat and dispose of the body. But the boy keeps singing even after death, which allows his body to be discovered. The super-natural nature of the boy's singing ensures his eventual canonization as a saint.

1265. This is the year in which the rising influence of Italian bankers begins to make the financial services of the English Jews superfluous.

The fact that the English Crown now turned away from the English Jews and sought financial aid from the Italian bankers paved the way for the waning influence and importance of the Jews in English soci-ety. The Jews, in effect, were of less use to the Crown, so that Crown had less interest in maintaining and protecting Jewish rights.

1269. This is the year in which Jewish rights are gradually restricted.

The Crown no longer allowed Jews to hold land, nor were Jews al-lowed to bequeath money to an heir: Jewish children could no longer inherit the money of their parents. In effect, a Jew was a royal serf whose money was absorbed by the Crown upon death.

1290. This is the year, under reign of Edward I, that all Jews are ex-pelled from England.

Although some Jews managed to stay in England by hiding their iden-tity and religion, the overwhelming majority of Jews - about 16,000 altogether - were forced from England. Many made their way to France and settled there.

But this expulsion led to three and a half centuries - 350 years - of Jewish exile from England.

This fact is vitally important to understanding the relationship be-tween Shakespeare, Elizabethan society, and anti-semitism, because Shakespeare and his contemporaries, who lived roughly between 1580 - 1620, had never seen a Jew in their lives. All the Jews had been ex-pelled about 300 years before Shakespeare was born!

Although much wisdom and perspicacity shine through in Shakespeare’s works, if they were written today, they would be branded ~ and rightly so ~ as racist, because some are horribly anti-semitic; he was a product of his society, however, and we can gauge the tenor of his times from his plays.

These things were forcibly brought to my mind by that visit to York; it was a real eye-opener, and throws a strong light on the situation of today!

Returning to Istanbul in September it was cooler, and pleasant to move around unhindered, and not to stand out in the crowd. I would often meditate in the marvelous mosques, wherein there is a very special atmosphere; their lofty minarets and soaring domes lift the mind to spontaneous calm and quiet. I met several interesting people this way.

One of my favorite places for meditation was the Sultan Ahmet Mosque ~ otherwise called the Blue Mosque, because of the blue tiles on the interior ~ even though it was often crowded. I would sit under the portico in the courtyard, eyes downcast and half-open. One time, some boys came and tried to disturb me, but I didn’t respond; they waved their hands before my eyes, and bent down to look into them, but still I didn’t move. Only when I stirred did I look at them and answer some of their ques-tions. We can, if we want, be still and quiet in any conditions.

Once, after my meditation in Fetiyah Mosque ~ established by Mehmet, the Conqueror of Constantinople ~ I was ap-proached by an elderly man who spoke to me in fluent Eng-lish and said he was curious, as he had never seen anyone sitting like this before; he asked if he might talk with me. “Certainly,” I said, so we sat on the carpet in that tranquil setting and had a nice conversation. We introduced our-selves, and he told me his name was Ali, saying he was a re-tired school-headmaster. When I told him I was a monk, he said: “Oh, I’ve read something of Buddhism; but the Buddha was not a prophet, like Mohammed; he was only a philoso-pher.”

“You are right,” I said; “he wasn’t a prophet,” but did not add that he was not only a philosopher. He then spoke to me at some length about Islam and tried to convince me of its su-periority. I listened without interrupting, and when he had finished, I told him something about Anicca ~ Imperma-nence, or Change ~ and how we can hold on to nothing and claim it as a possession. I also told him that by ourselves, we know very little, that most of what we think we know is not our knowledge at all, but has come from other people or books. And, because he had spoken a lot about God, I asked him about that word: “Where have you got it from? Is it something of your own experience? Did it suddenly come into your mind one day when you didn’t know it before? And do you have only the word, God, or do you know what it represents, what it symbolizes, what lies behind it, if any-thing? A word is not a thing, not the thing it stands for.”

It caused him to think, and he did not really know what to say. Instead, he took from his pocket a rosary, and pre-sented it to me, and I, in turn, took from my bag one of the geodes I carry with me. I explained the meaning ~ or rather, my meaning ~ before giving it to him: “What we are looking for is not outside of ourselves.” He was surprised at the dif-ference between the outside and the inside of this stone. He then invited me to a coffee-shop nearby where he introduced me to some of his friends and we spoke more before going our different ways.

The next day, I visited him again, although I hadn’t intended to do so and he wasn’t expecting me. He was pleased to see me, but was different from the previous day ~ not so assured or pushy; in fact, he was almost abject, and said to me, in a choking voice: “I am a bad man. I’ve done so many bad things and made so many mistakes; I will go to Hell forever; there is no hope for me!”

Of course, I did not agree with this, and said to him: “I don’t think it matters if you do not pray five times a day” (as Mus-lims are supposed to do, but which many do not, and of those who do, many pray mechanically and as something expected of them, rather than because they want to do it. In this, they are not unlike followers of other religions, most of whom do not really understand why they are performing the things their religions require of them); “our right actions are our prayers.” Then I told him a story from The Hadith, which is a book recording tales of and about the Prophet Moham-med:

It is about a prostitute who had lived an immoral life and had been in no way religious. One day, however, she came upon a cat lying beside the road, dying of thirst. Feeling pity for this cat, she took off one of her shoes and scooped some water from a well in it, and gave it to the cat to drink, thereby saving its life. The book says that because of this kind ac-tion, when she died, the woman went immediately to Para-dise.

Telling this tale cheered Ali up. He had been feeling so sorry for himself, and here I come ~ a Buddhist monk ~ and tell him a Muslim story to restore his spirits! We parted friends.

(The story I told him, however, contrasts and contradicts something found earlier in The Hadith: how, four months af-ter the moment of conception, an angel is sent to appoint the destiny of the foetus in the womb: what kind of person it would become, what kind of actions he or she would per-form, the livelihood he/she would engage in, and whether, af-ter death, he/she would go to Paradise forever, or to Hell. The person would have no choice about it, as everything had already been divinely appointed for it. [St. Augustine, and John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, said much the same thing]. This, surely, presents Muslims with a problem as to what to believe here. On one hand, they are told that every-thing is predetermined, and on the other hand, the story of the woman and the cat indicates that destiny can be changed. Buddhists do not have this problem, as Buddhism teaches that everything happens because of causes, and though the past has conditioned the present, here, in the present, we have some choice, and can change the condi-tions; it does not hold that things are predestined). And here’s an example of this:

One day, while buying postcards in a small shop, someone asked if I were a doctor. I don’t know why he asked me this; do I look like a doctor? I answered, “Well, yes, I suppose I am.”

“What kind of doctor are you?” he then asked.

“A doctor of the mind,” I said.

“Oh, then maybe you can help me,” he said. “You see, for the past few months I have been having terrible headaches, and al-though I’ve been to many doctors and even specialists, none of them were able to do anything for me.”

“Alright, do this,” I said. “Sit down and take a paper and pen, and starting with your headaches, make a list of all your ail-ments, sicknesses and pains; it won’t take you very long. Then, taking another paper or papers, make a list of all the things you could have, but which you don’t. This list will go on and on and take you a long time. And then, compare your two lists; they will make you happy that you only have headaches!” I went to see him again some weeks later, and asked him how his headaches were; “No more,” he said.

You see, we can change things, and are not bound to receive the results of everything we have have done. New causes can change things considerably. Consider the case of a lady I met in Muar, who suffered badly from stomach-ulcers, but refused to undergo treatment for them ~ even though they can be simply treated today ~ as she took them as things of karma, to be worked out that way. I told her that was fatalism, and following that line of thinking, we shouldn’t take any kind of medication whatsoever, but just accept whatever happens to us.

I retraced my old footsteps in Istanbul and explored this history-soaked city. I took an enjoyable cruise up the Bosphorus, and tours around various palaces, before setting off on a long trip in the provinces, visiting places I’d been and not been before. The easternmost point was Erzerum, where I’d had several unpleas-ant experiences years before. It is a very old town, with ruins dating back to Roman times; however, my purpose there was not sight-seeing, but to finally lay those experiences ~ like old ghosts ~ to rest; I did this, and now feel peaceful about Erzerum. While there, I had an encounter which, though neither good nor bad, holds a lesson. Someone came up to me and tried to sell me a carpet (this often happens in Turkey, famous for its hand-made carpets). I told him I didn’t need a carpet, and that if he could sell me one, he would be the best salesman in the world.

“But everyone needs carpets,” he said, and when I repeated that I didn’t, he asked why not.

“Because I have no home,” I said.

“Then where do you live?” he asked.

“I live here,” I replied.

“Here, in Erzerum?” he asked, puzzled.

“No, here,” I said, stamping my feet on the ground, meaning that I live just where I am and nowhere else (in fact, we all do; it’s impossible to live elsewhere and other than Now).

Unprepared for such an answer and not understanding me, he said: “You’re crazy!” and walked off, giving up all hope of selling me a carpet. But does it mean I’m crazy because he didn’t un-derstand me? Maybe I am crazy, but not because of that!

I went to Cappadocia in central Turkey, where people had long ago built underground cities for defense against enemies; with air-shafts and store-rooms for whatever was needed, they ex-tend downwards for up to seven or eight levels. They had also hollowed out rocky outcrops above ground as homes, and peo-ple still live in them ~ many are now used as budget hotels; I stayed in one myself, and they are remarkably comfortable.

In Konya, I visited the tomb of Jallaludin Rumi (whom Turks call Mevlana), Sufism’s most well-known saint, of the 13th century. Sufism is the mystic branch of Islam, and is regarded by many Muslims as heretical, as it is so open, flexible and accommodat-ing of other religions and paths. This inscription from Rumi’s tomb may show why:

“Come, come again, whoever, whatever you may be, come; heathen, fire-worshiper, sinful of idolatry, come. Come, even if you broke your penitence a hundred times; ours is not the portal of despair and misery, come.”

It was in Konya, too, that I was arrested! I’d boarded a tram for the first time in Turkey, and had bought my ticket before getting in, as is the way there, but not knowing that I should enter by the front door, I went in by the middle door, expecting a conductor to take my ticket inside, but there was none. No-one paid me much attention. I got down at my stop and was walking away, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. Turning, I found myself face-to-face with the driver! He thought I had ridden without a ticket! I opened my hands in a gesture of helplessness, saying “I don’t know!” then fumbled in my pocket for the ticket, at which he realized I was a foreigner and said: “Oh, tamam, tamam” ~ “Okay; never mind!” I walked away smiling, at having been taken for a Turk.

Turkey is full of ancient places from Hittite, Greek, Roman and Byzantine times, not to mention those of the Turks who came much later; it is a veritable historian’s paradise! In Ephesus, the amphitheatre could seat 25,000 and had splendid acoustics. For a long time it was the second most important city of the Roman empire, and tremendously wealthy. The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was situated near here, but was destroyed and rebuilt several times, once by a madman who set fire to it in order that posterity would remember him; in the 3rd century, the Goths destroyed it for the final time, and that was it. Gradually, the nearby river silted up the estuary and de-stroyed Ephesus as a port; it’s source of income gone, it was abandoned in the 14th century and fell into ruin.

The best part of my trip in Turkey was towards the end, when I arrived in Canakkale, a small town situated at the entrance to the narrow strait that separates Europe from Asia known, from ancient times, as the Dardanelles. It is from Canakkale that most people visit the ancient city of Troy and the WW1 battlesite ofGallipoli . I’d also come for this, and had been advised by other travellers I’d met along the way to join a tour-group rather than doing it alone. This, therefore, is what I did, and found myself in the company of mainly young Aussies.

The tour began at 9 a.m. with a visit to Troy. Our guide was a re-tired submarine-commander named Ali, whose manner of nar-rating facts and stories was quite endearing; he clearly loved his work, and I can hear his voice now, as he began: “Ladies and gentlemen.” He made Troy come alive for me; I ‘saw’ scenes described by Homer in The Iliad: of King Priam and his son Paris, whose abduction of Helen had precipitated the war with the Greeks; of the fierce combat between Achilles and Hector, in which the latter was slain; of the death of Achilles himself, caused by an arrow in the only vulnerable part of his anatomy: his heel, hence the term for a person’s weak point: his Achilles heel. Finally, there was the Wooden Horse, by which subterfuge the Greeks finally gained entrance to Troy and destroyed it.

Always interested in history, I asked Ali a number of questions about Troy. We returned to Canakkale and crossed the Darda-nelles to Gallipoli. I’d heard of Gallipoli before, of course, but un-til going there, knew little about it. Now I know more, and would like to tell something of it before going further.

The First World War was precipitated by the assassination of an Austrian noble in Sarajevo in 1914 by a Serb. Austria declared war on Serbia, and Russia ~ Serbia’s ally ~ declared war on Austria; Germany took Austria’s side, and Britain and France came in against Germany. Turkey, because of some stupidity on the part of London, found itself on Germany’s side (European al-liances were so complex and fickle, that this year’s enemy might be next year’s friend).

Britain, then, had the largest empire the world has ever known, and could call upon almost-unlimited manpower. Many Aussies and Kiwis ~ either from patriotism or desire for adventure ~ enlisted to serve in places that most of them had never even heard of. From cities and farms they came to fight for the Em-pire, knowing nothing of those they would face. They were then shipped off to places like Egypt, given basic training in military discipline and the use of arms, and then boarded other ships for the invasion of Turkey, the aim being to capture Istanbul, thus knocking Turkey out of the war, and opening the Bosphorus to Russian shipping.

Had these plans succeeded, Istanbul ~ which consisted mainly of wooden buildings at that time ~ would have undergone a fire-storm. But the Turks were anticipating invasion, and heeding their German advisors, had mined the Dardanelles, so when a combined French-and-British fleet ~ the vaunted British fleet that controlled the oceans to the anthem of Rule Britannia ~ tried to enter, several of its ships were sunk by mines in the first day, forcing withdrawal and reconsideration.

The powers in far-off London then decided to land troops on a peninsula not far from the entrance to the Dardanelles, at a place known as Gallipoli. But again, the Turks were prepared, and although the Allied ships launched a tremendous bombard-ment of the Turkish positions, the invaders were unable to ad-vance very far and were pinned down by Turkish fire. To shelter from enemy fire, both sides dug trenches, but were so close to each other that in places the distance separating them was only about 10 meters. The battle went on for 8 months, during which British, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, Indian and Gurkha casualties (killed and wounded) were 205,000 out of 410,000, French casualties 47,000 out of 79,000, and Turkish 250,000 to 300,000 out of 500,000. The suffering was incalculable, but the stories of courage and heroism that emerged from it have be-come legendary, and made of the Battle of Gallipoli something unique in military history. (It is not my intention to glorify war and fighting, and I hope it doesn’t seem so; my purpose in writing this is to point out that even on a battlefield, with death and suf-fering all around, people are still able to see beyond).

Following military custom, orders were given for bayonet-charges to be made. The men, though naturally afraid and want-ing to live, obeyed without question and went over the top to al-most certain death. They didn’t say, “I don’t want to go! I don’t want to die!” but climbed out of their trenches and faced the withering fire of the enemy’s machine-guns. The carnage during these futile and stupid charges was horrific!

After one such British charge, when the survivors had withdrawn to their trenches and the gunfire had ceased, from the blood-stained and corpse-strewn ground between the trenches came the cries of a badly-wounded British officer. No-one dared go to his assistance as they would have been immediately cut down. But then something amazing happened: A white flag appeared from the Turkish trenches, and a burly soldier climbed out, went over to the wounded British officer, picked him up and carried him to the British trenches, where he gently put him down and unhurriedly went back to his own position. No-one knows the name of this valiant and compassionate Turk, but such acts ~ it wasn’t the only one; there were others, on both sides ~ gave rise to deep respect in each for the other.

The night before the tour, together with others, I watched a video about Gallipoli, showing survivors from both sides, now very old men. Almost invariably, they said that although they’d fought and killed their opponents, they never hated them, but merely followed orders. They spoke, too, of the respect and ad-miration of the courage shown by their erstwhile enemies.

With such background information, we trod the hills and dunes of Gallipoli with awe and reverence. It has become a sacred place, a place of pilgrimage, visited by millions from both sides with homage in their hearts. Young Aussies especially (I met so many of them in Turkey that half of Melbourne seemed to be there!), are drawn to this place, as it has a special place in Aus-tralian history. Every year, on ANZAC Day, people march down the streets of towns and cities of Australia and New Zealand in remembrance of those who died in such battles. The years have carried off the remaining few who fought at Gallipoli, but before, when there were still some survivors from those days, they marched if they could, in their old faded uniforms with medals on their chests, tears in their eyes and thoughts of fallen comrades, heads held high; some went by wheelchair.

In the trenches, unable to advance and the battle a stalemate, some men resorted to making hand-grenades from tin-cans filled with stones, glass, lead-shot and so on; but the fuses on them were so long that they would take up to 30 seconds to burn down and explode ~ ample time to pick them up and toss them back to where they’d come from; the deadly missiles would go to and fro like ping-pong balls before exploding, and no-one knew where they would go off; sometimes they would explode in their places of origin! It was soon realized this was too risky; they were killing themselves as often as their opponents!

Then, someone must have seen the irony and stupidity of the whole situation ~ maybe someone with some understanding or feeling for Universal Dharma ~ and from the Australian trenches, instead of bombs, chocolate-bars began to fly across no-man’s land! The Brits and Aussies ~ unlike the Turks ~ had supplies of chocolate. When the Turks ~ who I came to see have a good sense of humor ~ recovered from their surprise at such strange weapons, they expressed their appreciation and reciprocated by tossing back fresh fruit, which, being on home-ground, they had in abundance, while their enemies lacked this.

One day, from a Turkish trench, a packet of tobacco came flying over, with a note on a scrap of cloth in broken English: “Me, you, tobacco. You, me, paper. Okay?” They had tobacco but lacked paper to make cigarettes; the Brits and Aussies had paper, but were short of tobacco. So, from the allies’ side, magazines and newspapers started to fly. Each side got what they needed.

I don’t know if these tales were true or apocryphal, but, told by Ali ~ one of whose grand-fathers had been killed at Gallipoli ~ they brought tears to my eyes, and I could see that many of the young Aussies in the tour-group were similarly moved. But there was more:

When the powers in London finally realized they had made a huge blunder and couldn’t win this battle, they reluctantly de-cided to evacuate their forces from Gallipoli. But how to get out? The Commander-in-Chief of the invasion force was asked how many casualties must be expected during the evacuation. His casual reply of 50% caused outrage; he seemed to regard the troops as ‘throw-aways,’ with plenty more to fill the places of those lost. He was replaced by someone less callous and more efficient ~ someone to whom men were not so expendable. Plans were made to withdraw during the dark phase of the moon, and orders given to make no sound that might alert the Turks to what was going on; elaborate devices were rigged up to create the illusion that life in the trenches was as normal.

But it is impossible to move an army quietly, the Turks knew what was happening, but their C-in-C, Mustafa Kemal ~ who was later to become the first President of the Turkish Republic, and honored with the title of Ataturk, i.e, Father of the Turks ~ had given an order of just three words: “Follow your tradition,” which was taken to mean: Don’t shoot a retreating enemy in the back. So, whereas the Brits had expected to lose many thou-sands of men, they lost none at all, only two men being wounded. So deeply had the Turks grown to respect their valiant enemies that they allowed them to leave peacefully. What honor! Where can we find another such example of it?

Wandering around the Allied cemeteries at Gallipoli, reading the epitaphs on the stones, I was stunned that a high proportion of those who took part in this deadly conflict were just boys in their late teens and early twenties. Most of them had enlisted to go and fight for king and empire in places many had never heard of.

Because I’d asked Ali some questions during this tour, too, near the end, he took me to one side and pulled from his pocket a tiny box containing some bullets and shrapnel from the battlesite and presented it to me. I was very touched by his gift, but not more than he when, in turn, I presented him with one of my ‘thunder-eggs,’ saying: “What we are looking for is not outside of ourselves.” He was so moved when he opened it that he said: “I will keep it in my pocket always!” A few words had affected him so much! I then told him that I am a monk ~ the word in Turkish for monk (it’s actually Arabic), is rahib ~ and he said: “I knew there was something different about you!”

Ali and I at Lone Pine, Gallipoli, ‘97

At the end of the tour, I thanked Ali, and told him that although I’d had a good trip in Turkey and visited many wonderful places, this had been the best part, and I would surely write something about it in my next book (I kept my word about it). He shook my hand very firmly and warmly, and raised it to his lips and kissed it saying, “You are my teacher!” I had made a new friend.

Over the years, I have given such stones to people in many places, with differing effects. Some merely said “How nice!” and promptly forgot about it. But others, like Ali, the Turkish tour-guide, were deeply touched.

A few days later, before I left Turkey, I wrote to Ali from Istanbul, but because I knew neither his full name or address, I sent my letter to the hotel in Canakkale ~ ANZAC HOUSE ~ that had ar-ranged the tour, not sure it would reach him, but hoping it would.

It was early November when I returned to Malaysia, and two weeks later, I received a heart-warming post-card from Ali; this is what he wrote:

My respected teacher Abhinyana,

thank you very much for your kind letter. Actually, I was expecting to hear from you one day. I really appreciate the teaching you gave me and the secret truth in it will lead me all the time. I’ve learned a lot from you. My kindest regards to you.

Your very faithful student, Ali Efe.

I spent three months in Malaysia this time, during which time I visited Teluk Intan, a small town near Ipoh, and spent a few days in the Buddhist Society there; I’d been there before, and was invited to give talks at their Holiday Youth Camp; this was fun, and I enjoyed it.

"Do not say you have no time, for you have plenty of time; it is not a mat-ter of lack of time, but is disregard or disinclination."
~ J. Krishnamurti, 1895 - 1986 ~

“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.”
~ Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese Author and Poet, 1883 – 1931 ~

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