Parting Shots ~ Part 1


As if I needed confirmation
Of the love people have shown me,
It has become abundantly clear
Since I discovered, in November 2007,
That an octopus had made its abode inside me.
I'd felt some pain for some months,
And had difficulty in swallowing at times
And so, before flying out from Malaysia
To Nepal again, as was my plan,
I visited a doctor-friend in Malacca ~
T.P. Goh, who'd often assisted me before ~
And described how I felt.
His face grew grim, and he sent me
For an endoscopy.
The next day, therefore,
I saw another old friend ~
How lucky I've been! ~ Dr. Ravi
(Nicknamed by my incorrigible self,
'Ravi-oli') ~ who put me
Through a barrage of tests ~
Endoscopy, CT-scan, x-rays ~
Which showed, to the surprise
Of all concerned, a tumor in my gullet,
The biopsy of which revealed, the following day,
That is was not benign.

This, of course, changed the picture a lot,
And I quickly abandoned my plan for Nepal,
And got a one-way ticket to Adelaide,
Thinking to avail myself of a doctor who'd
Helped me so much in 2005,
When I needed surgery for facial-injury.

However, Dr. Le Cong Phuoc confessed
That this was outside his field of expertise,
And he knew no-one who could help me.
But I was not lost, as the night
Before I went to see him,
Several Sri Lankan doctors I'd known for years,
Having learned of my condition,
Called to offer me encouragement and support,
And one of them ~ Dr. Deepal ~
Stepped into the breach
And got things moving for me
At Adelaide's best state-medical facility,
The Royal Adelaide Hospital.

There, over the following weeks,
I had tests more exhaustive
Than in Malacca,
And not only was the malignancy confirmed,
But the extent of it traced;
It was beyond being operable,
And I was offered several options
In the way of treatment.
By this time, grateful for everything
That had been done for me,
And the kindness throughout
Of all I'd met in the hospital,
I’d accepted the fact
That I would have a choice
Between quality and quantity,
And had resolved upon the former,
Especially as the difference between
The two was not considerable.

Most people accepted my decision
Without trying to dissuade me.
It didn't mean I was giving up,
As I'm trying other things,
And although not completely convinced
That they'll send the octopus
Scurrying into retreat,
Neither am I pessimistic;
And in the meantime,
The kindness and support
Of people around me
Is just so heartening.
Do I deserve it all,
Or is it just the way things are?

Let's see what happens.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


This body
Came into being
Beyond my control ~
Beyond anyone's control ~
I didn't ask for it
Or place an order for it.
It grew and grew
And continues to grow,
Although no longer upwards,
But outwards and down.

No-one, nothing's to blame or praise;
It just follows Nature's laws.

Although it was not the best body
Or most well-proportioned,
And there were things about it
That I’d have changed if I could,
It was the only one I had,
And it served me well,
Carrying me all over the world,
To places most people
Would never go.

Did it not bring me to the
Caves of India,
Where I felt I was coming home
After being away a long time ~
An event that changed my life
And set it on a course that
Continues until now?
How can I be ungrateful to it?

My heart never failed,
But pumped uninterruptedly, non-stop,
Without me thinking of it,
A miracle, really.
My breath, too, didn't fail,
Even though at times,
It was hard.

And what if there were minor ailments?
Even the best machines ~
Rolls Royce, Mercedes, Grundfos, and so on ~
Don't last forever
But eventually break down.

I'm not complaining,
Nor wishing things to be otherwise.
Let's see how things go.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


The body is not ours because,
If it were, we would be able to say,
With all certainty:
"I'm not going to grow old, get sick or die."
It is beyond our control.
And is the mind any different?

We want to be happy,
And spend so much time thinking about
And looking for happiness,
But are seldom happy.
And when we are, it doesn't last,
But goes just like it came.

How can we consider the mind to be
Any more ours or us than the body?
Can we catch the wind, control the mind?
We may understand it more
Than we do now, and observe
Our changing moods, but
Can we make it as we want it to be?
It is fickle and unpredictable,
And slips through our fingers like mercury.

We fight with shadows, to no avail.
What, then, to do?
Just give up and let things be?
Or should we learn to see through it,
Change our way of looking,
Until realization of Emptiness comes ~
Emptiness of self-being,
But Fullness of how things are?

Oh, how long it takes,
And how we suffer until then!
This is why the Buddha smiles,
Because, like an indulgent and patient Parent, He sees
through it all,
But must let us grow,
With all the pains that growth entails,
Unable to take away our pain,
Just as a mother must allow her child
To fall repeatedly while learning to walk.
To say, "Oh, my dear,
I love you so much,
And cannot bear to see you fall and cry,
So don't bother;
I'll carry you wherever you need to go."
Kindness, yes, and love, too,
But unwise and unavailing.

How shall we learn without pain?
Dukkha is the gate through which
We enter the Way and reach, eventually,
That which does not change,
The Amata, or Bhutathata.
It is not for nothing that we live;
We shall not be forever prisoners
Of this Body-Mind.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~



What I've been doing all these years ~
Or trying, hoping, aiming to do ~
Through my Dharma-talks,
Is to hold up a mirror, as it were,
And say, "Don't look at me;
Look at yourselves."

If you look at me, what will you see?
A poor exemplar of the things
I talk about.
What shall I say about this?

I set out on this way
In order to become enlightened,
Whatever that meant to me at the time.
And now, after all these years,
Am I any nearer to it,
Or maybe even farther away?
I cannot tell.

What I know, however, is that,
Among all my mistakes, now and then
I've been able to touch people ~
One here, one there ~
And make a difference;
Had I not, I'd have given up long ago.

So I dare go on speaking as I do,
Even knowing how short of the Ideal I fall,
And have so many faults and failings.
I do not need to bear the burden
Of trying to be perfect or live up to
The unrealistic expectations of others.
I'm not a superman, but simply human,
With all the magnificent potential of that.
Have I not said, do I not maintain that,
As human beings, we are already
So successful, so rich, and so enlightened?

Prove me wrong; I'm waiting.

Who knows me better than I know myself?
I know I'm not a nice person
Or a good monk,
But when I see myself
As a human being,
My faults and failings appear
As human qualities rather than personal things.
I know, too ~ don't you? ~
That human beings have many positive qualities,
Including the most positive quality of all ~
The capacity to see and become enlightened ~

Even if, right now, it is only potential,
Like the fully-blossomed lotus
In the seed, a seed in a flower that
Has sprung from mud.
And who is any different?
Are you?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Life's as short as a breath,
So delicately balanced.
If we breathe in, but not out, we die;
And if we breathe out, but not in, the same.

From the time we are born,
We're on a life-support machine:
Breathing in, breathing out ~
Can we hold onto our breath?
In order to breathe in
We must let go of the out-breath,
And vice-versa.

Life's a process of letting-go,
Why don't we see this?
Why cling so fiercely to things,
Unwilling to relax our grip
And let go?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


What does life promise us?
When we are born,
We come with no written guarantee
Of living to a ripe old age.

All along, life speaks to us
Of uncertainty.
Why are we so blind to this?
Why refuse to see?

Why is it so hard to accept the fact
That one day ~ sooner or later ~
We will die?
Many have spoken about it,
And tried to wake us, but we insist
On turning away, and hiding from
This unpalatable truth;
And so, when it comes, it is
Very hard on us.

And yet, far from making us
Morbid and fearful,
Knowing that we have limited time
Fills us with a sense of
The value and importance
Of living while we may;
We do not simply give up
In despair and defeat,
But try to add something to
The sum-total of human endeavor.

"Eat, drink, and be merry,
For tomorrow, we die."
Yes, but more:
Enjoy life ~ we should ~ and do something
To make the world ~ our world ~
Not mine or yours ~
A little bit better
From having lived in it.

"The world owes you a living,
But you have to work hard to collect it."
Don't stand in your field
Waiting for a harvest from seeds
You haven't sown.
You will soon starve.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Three stages has the Way,
The first, Study of Dharma (Pariyatti),
The second, Application of
What we've learned (Patipatti) ~
Some call it Practice ~
And the third, Realization (Pativedha).

A sound understanding is essential, yes,
But we don't need encyclopedic knowledge,
Nor to memorize all;
We must just know well the basics.

And what are these, you ask?
Well, Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta,
Realizing which, Siddhartha
Became Buddha.
Here, look:

"Thus have I heard:
At one time, the Exalted One
Was staying at Savatthi in Prince Jeta's Grove,
In the Park of Anathapindinka.

Then the Exalted One spoke thus to the monks:
'O monks.'
Those monks replied, 'Lord'.
The Exalted One then said:
'Monks, whether there is the appearance of Tathagatas
Or there is not the appearance of Tathagatas,
There is this established condition of Dhamma,
This fixed Law of Dhamma:
All that is conditioned is Impermanent.
That, a Tathagata is fully awakened to,
He fully understands.
So, awakened and understanding,
He announces it, points it out, declares,
Establishes, expounds, explains and clarifies that
All that is conditioned is Impermanent.

Monks, whether there is the appearance of Tathagatas
Or there is not the appearance of Tathagatas,
There is this established condition of Dhamma,
This fixed Law of Dhamma:
All that is conditioned is Dukkha.

That, a Tathagata is fully awakened to,
He fully understands.
So, awakened and understanding,
He announces it, points it out, declares,
Establishes, expounds, explains and clarifies that
All that is conditioned is Dukkha.

'Monks, whether there is the appearance of Tathagatas
Or there is not the appearance of Tathagatas,
There is this established condition of Dhamma,
This fixed Law of Dhamma:
All things are Without Self.
That, a Tathagata is fully awakened to,
He fully understands.
So, awakened and understanding,
He announces it, points it out, declares,
Establishes, expounds, explains and clarifies that
All things are Without Self.'
Thus spoke the Exalted One.
Delighted, those monks rejoiced in what
The Exalted One had said."

* * * * * * *

And again, from the Dhammapada:

"All conditioned things are transient" ~
When one comprehends this truth by one's own wisdom,
Then does one get appalled at this misery
(that is, of the Body and Mind);
This is the Path of Purity.

"All conditioned things are sorrowful" ~
When one comprehends this truth by one's own wisdom,
Then does one get appalled at this misery
(that is, of the Body and Mind);
This is the Path of Purity.

"All conditioned and unconditioned states are transient" ~
When one comprehends this truth by one's own wisdom,
Then does one get appalled at this misery
(that is, of the Body and Mind);
This is the Path of Purity.

Enough for a Dharmafarer,
These three words.
Recalling how Siddhartha's search
Brought him almost to ruin before
He realized that what he'd been doing ~
Starving and mortifying his body
Believing it would lead to Moksha ~
Was wrong;
And how the memory
Of his childhood experience at
The Spring Ploughing Festival ~
When, unbidden and untaught, impressed
By the pain and suffering of
Life all around him, his mind
Spontaneously became calm and clear ~
Surged up, and showed him the way.

Here, under Dukkha, can be found
Its Cause and its End.
But we must face it fearlessly,
Without turning away.
And how strange that here,
In that we would escape from
Can be found the Way!

If we merely taste it
With the tip of the tongue and
Spit it out with distaste and loathing,
It will be in vain;
It must be swallowed,
Digested and transformed.

But we get stuck in endless preoccupation
With Study and Practice,
Unaware there are things we can do
And things that cannot be done,
But which must be left
To work themselves out.
It is impossible,
By anything we might do,
To figure everything out;
It's been tried before, without success.

Sir Edwin Arnold wrote,
In his opus magnum 'The Light of Asia':

"Measure not with words the Immeasurable,
Nor sink the string of thought
Into the Fathomless;
Who asks doth err,
Who answers, errs. Say nought!

"The Books teach Darkness was, at first of all,
And Brahm, sole meditating in that night:
Look not for Brahm and the Beginning there!
Nor him, nor any light

"Shall any gazer see with mortal eyes,
Or any searcher know by mortal mind,
Veil after veil will lift ~ but there must be
Veil upon veil behind."

Our search ~ a selfish search
Motivated by Desire and Fear ~
Desire to get something we've
Been told we might get if
We do certain things,
And Fear of not getting them ~
Prevents us from seeing
What's right before our eyes,
And blocks realization.

Oh, how hard we try, and
What we are prepared to do!

But Desire and Fear
Are never good foundations.
Better to see and understand
What we've got and are,
And appreciate how far
We've already come.
Realize your Realization.
Stop looking, and see!

Let the Dharma express itself
In your understanding,
Live in an enlightened way;
With joy in Dharma,
The Dharma can work within you
Like yeast in the dough.

There is no way to get to
Where you already are.
Consolidate, and then
You may go further.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~



A common Buddhist benediction is
"Sukhi Hotu Sabbada" ~ which means:
"May you always be well and happy!"

How often we speak without
Understanding what we're saying,
Merely repeating things like parrots!
To wish for someone to
Always be well and happy
Is to wish for the impossible,
And has no meaning.

Would you have someone
Sleep forever and never wake up?
That is how it would be if
We were always well and happy;
There would be nothing
To stimulate and inspire us
To work for other things.

Something else we loosely talk about
Is loving and caring about all beings.

All beings?

Can we imagine that?
Are not our words empty?

We should try to say what we mean
And mean what we say.
If we did that, we might say
Much less than we do, but
Wouldn't it be better?

Liberate yourself from scriptural cliches;
Come back to reality;
Get your feet on the ground.
Be not like the group of young Buddhists
I once observed piously chanting
About 'saving all beings',
But who went, immediately afterwards,
For lunch in a restaurant,
To help some of these beings
Down into their stomachs, when there was
A vegetarian restaurant just opposite.

A more realistic thing to say would be,
"May you become more enlightened,"
For that is possible,
And so, I wish you that!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


"Please sign here".
Many times, I was asked to sign
Consent-forms for various tests ~
Scan here, ‘scope there,
Ultrasound here, biopsy there,
Blood-tests, deep-breathing,
Needles galore;
I was punctured in so many places.

Throughout it all, however,
Everyone was no nice,
Friendly and kind,
And that put me at ease,
Reduced any anxiety I felt,
Although, really, I've succeeded
Quite well in looking at this thing
Objectively and detachedly so far,
And have taken it as just another reminder
Of how lucky I've been and still am,
As people have rallied around me,
And the upswell of sympathy and support
Has been simply staggering,
And shows that my life has not been
Lived in vain.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Here is a tale of shocking truth,
From India's epic poem,
The Mahabharata:

After the great battle of Kurukshetra
Between two rival families,
Yudisthira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers,
Ruled for many years as king, until,
Growing weary of life,
Abdicated his throne
And went of into the forest
To become an ascetic ~
A thing not unheard of before,
But almost to be expected of a Hindu
Following long-established tradition,
As this was the prescribed course.

Alone, but for a faithful old dog, he went,
Carrying nothing but bowl and staff.

After many years of living contentedly,
Wandering from place-to-place,
With no fixed abode,
Yudisthira came one day
To a pool of still, clear water,
And, because the weather was quite warm,
He bent down to slake his thirst.

Before he could touch the water, however,
A ferocious demon appeared.
"Stop!' he roared.

"That is my water, and you may not drink
Unless you can answer one question.
And if your answer is wrong,
I will tear you limb from limb
And devour you!"

Yudisthira, his life in the balance, said,
"And what is the question?"

"My question is this", said the demon,
"What is the most remarkable thing in the world?"

Sharpened by years of reflection,
His mind clear and bright,
Yudisthira pondered a while,

And then replied,
"The most remarkable thing in the world
Is that, surrounded by death on every side,
We live as if we are immortal."

Deprived of his victim,
But true to his word, the demon said,
"You answered rightly.
Go ahead, and drink".
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


The past has gone, we say,
But this is not so.
The past is always here,
And we are the past,
With a little bit added to it,
Making it the Present.

All that we have and are
Has come from the past;
Are you aware of this?
If not, then you are and will remain
A victim of the past, forever bound.

Have you made yourself as you are?
Think about it.
You are the result, the sum-total,
Of countless causes, conspiring
And working together,
But without plan or purpose,
To produce you, as you are;
Although you might not like this,
Feeling more important than you are,
It is the same with everyone
And everything else.

And see, even as you watch,
You change again,
And become something, someone, else.
Can you stay the same, frozen in time?
Try to, and see what happens.

There’s no-one and nothing
To praise or blame for what
And how we are;
We haven't made ourselves like this,
And no-one's responsible.
We can, however, by understanding,
Give life a purpose by the way we live,
But if we sit, waiting for life to
Reveal its Grand Design,
We must be prepared to wait
A long, long time,
And grow old in vain.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


You will forgive me, I hope,
For being somewhat personal here,
I mean no offence,
And it's for a good purpose
That I do so.

I want to say something
About Beatrice;
Please do not mind.

Those who know her
Will agree, I'm sure,
That she's a beautiful lady ~
Gentle, kind, humble, self-effacing ~
And you can imagine how she looked
She was when she was young: stunning!
Ravi, you are a lucky man
To have such a wife!

I should really call her elder sister,
As she's made fourteen more trips
Around the sun than I.

There was another lady by the same name,
And a poet who we know from history as Dante,
Famous for his play, The Divine Comedy.
Dante fell in love with Beatrice,
And his love for her was such that,
Whenever he thought of her ~
Which was frequently, needless to say ~
He could think nothing ill about anyone;
His love left no room in his heart
For anything like that.

But, you'll be surprised to learn
That he never even met or spoke with
The object of his love,
And only saw her twice in his life!
What love was that!
Beatrice lived in his heart,
And he was never apart from her.
Indeed, those we love ~ and others, too ~
Are never more than a single thought away,
And thought is faster than the speed of light.

There was at one time,
A lady by the name of Khema, a queen,
So proud of her great beauty, as many are;
And, fearing that the Buddha
Might say something disparaging of her ~
Speaking, as He often did of Impermanence ~
She held back from attending
Any of His discourses.

One day, however, drawn,
Like a moth to a candle-flame,
She found herself among the crowd,
Gathered to hear Him speak;
And He, knowing what was in her mind,
Decided to give her a lesson.
Creating, by His psychic-power,
An apparition of a girl so fair
That no-one there that day
Had ever seen anything like it,
He caused the girl to fan Him
From one side, while He
Continued to teach.

Khema, like everyone, gazed in fascination,
At the wondrous beauty,
And visibly, the Buddha caused it
To age, speedily passing from
The high flush of radiant youth,
Through maturity, and into old age,
Becoming bent, wrinkled and grey, until
Finally, it collapsed beside him and expired.

Shocked by what the Buddha had shown
Especially for her ~ although she didn't know this ~
Khema realized that what she had loved so much
And been so proud of was ephemeral
And would not last;
And with such realization
She let go, and entered the Path,
Finding beauty that changes not.
It is thus that it happens.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Wind is air,
So is air wind?
Sometimes it is, but not always;
Air is more than wind.

Every doctor is a man or woman,
But not every man or woman is a doctor.
Being human is greater than
Being a doctor, or whatever else.

We should know that, similarly,
Every Karma is Cause-and-Effect,
But not every Cause-and-Effect is Karma.
Err not about this.

Too many people erroneously think
That everything that happens to us
Does so for a reason, or is due to karma;
Thus, they bind themselves
More firmly in their ignorance
And don't allow themselves a chance.

Not everything that happens to us happens
Because of something we've done before;
There are other forces at work in our lives,
Twisting, molding, changing us,
Influencing us to become what we are,
And all the time, we are becoming something else.
It is not simply a result of our karma;
We cannot ascribe all to this.

We are not in control,
And have not made ourselves like this,
But are swept along by the currents
And eddies of life.
We add things now and then,
And causes of whatever kind
Do produce effects, even though
We can never really be sure
Which causes produce which effects.
Indeed, a single cause brings about
More than one effect,
While each effect has numerous causes.
The whole thing is just so complex,
And cannot intellectually be worked out.

The overall Law of Cause-and-Effect rules all,
And has five modes of manifestation ~
That is, it is made up of lesser laws,
One of which is Karma,
Although this, at our stage ~
Let's be honest ~ is a concept,
And not a proven fact,
As a theory or law needs to be.

"Cetanaham bhikkhave, kamma vadami",
Said the Buddha.
"Intention, O monks, I declare to be Karma".

And so, Karma means action ~
Intentional action ~
And its fruit, or reaction, Vipaka.
Action and reaction are different,
Although not apart from each other,
Like seed and fruit.

The others are as follows:
Utu Niyama:
Physical inorganic order,
For example, winds and rains,
The procession of the seasons,
With their characteristic changes and events,
Nature of heat and cold, and so on.

Bija Niyama:
The order of germs and seeds ~
Physical organic order ~
Tomatoes from tomato-seed,
Sweetness from sugar-cane or honey,
The peculiarities of fruits;
The scientific theories of cells and genes
May be accounted for under this order.

Dharma Niyama:
The order of natural phenomena such as
Storms, earthquakes, plate-tectonics,
Tsunamis, volcanic eruptions,
Gravity, electricity, and so on.

Citta Niyama:
Order of the mind:
The processes of thought,
Elements of consciousness,
Abilities like telepathy, retrocognition,
Premonition, clairvoyance,
Thought-reading and other such things
Which cannot be explained by science.

* * * * * * *
Come, argue with me about all this,
For the sake of clarification;
Don't simply believe what I ~
Or anyone else ~ say.
By opening ourselves and
Exposing our ideas,
We stand a better chance
Of learning what is right or wrong,
Whereas if we cling to our beliefs ~
Thinking they must be right
Merely because they are ours ~
Afraid or unwilling to submit them
To public scrutiny or observation,
How shall we know?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


"The Blessed Buddhas,
Of Virtues Endless and Limitless,
Are born of the Law of Righteousness;
They dwell in the Law,
Are fashioned by the Law;
They have the Law as their Master,
The Law as their Light,
The Law as their field of action,
The Law as their Refuge.
They are produced by the Law....
And all the joys in this world and the next
Are born of the Law and produced by the Law.

The Law is equal, equal for all beings;
For low or middle or high,
The Law cares nothing.
So must I make my thought like the Law.

The Law has no regard for the pleasant.
Impartial is the Law.
So must I make my thought like the Law.

The Law is not dependent upon Time;
Timeless is the Law.
So must I make my thought like the Law.

The Law is not in the lofty
Without being in the low.
Neither up or down will the Law bend.
So must I make my thought like the Law.

The Law is not in that which is whole
Without being in that which is broken.
Devoid of all superiority and inferiority is the Law.
So must I make my thought like the Law.

The Law is not in the noble
Without being in the humble.
No care for fields of activity has the Law.
So must I make my thought like the Law.

The Law is not in the day
Without being in the night.
Ever firm is the Law.
So must I make my thought like the Law.

The Law does not lose the occasion of conversion.
There is never delay with the Law.
So must I make my thought like the Law.

The Law has neither shortage nor abundance.
Immeasurable, innumerable is the Law.
Like Space, it never lessens or grows.
So must I make my thought like the Law.

The Law is not guarded by beings;
Beings are protected by the Law.
So must I make my thought like the Law.

The Law does not seek Refuge.
The Refuge of all the world is the Law.
So must I make my thought like the Law.

The Law has none who can resist it;
Irresistible is the Law.
So must I make my thought like the Law.

The Law has no preferences;
Without preference is the Law.
So must I make my thought like the Law.

The Law has no fear of the terrors of birth-and-death,
Nor is it lured by Nirvana.
Ever without misgiving is the Law.
So must I make my thought like the Law."

(From the Dharmasangiti Sutra, Siksasamuccaya).
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


So much water under the bridge,
So much pain and sorrow;
Such things come abundantly,
Like weeds in a garden,
Unwanted and unsought,
While what we want
Comes only now and then,
And soon passes.

Our lives rush by;
It seems like only yesterday
That we were young and carefree,
And before we know it,
It’s time to follow
Where everyone else has gone.
Does anything remain?

A wheel touches the ground
Only on one point.
The past has gone, beyond recall;
Tomorrow never comes and
Is no more ours than yesterday;
And even today we cannot call ours,
Being so long.

The moment is all we have,
And if we don’t live or use it,
It’s wasted, like so much of our lives.

We should know that we’re never alone,
For that’s not how we live,
Even though it seems so.
Never, ever alone; no-one is.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


At one time,
The Buddha was sitting surrounded
By a great company of monks
And other people,
All listening attentively
To what He was saying.

Suddenly, a monk coughed,
And the one sitting next to him quietly said:
"Sshh, brother, the Master is speaking!"

Such was the respect
Shown towards Dharma-preaching,
And so it should be, because
If people are really concerned
About Dharma, and understand
The great benefit to be derived from it,
Automatically, they will pay attention
And be respectful,
As they do or would when
Someone they consider important
Is speaking;
They would not interrupt in any way.

Respect for Dharma is to be encouraged,
As it is sadly lacking now,
And often, during a Dharma-talk,
People in the audience can be seen
Chatting blithely away, getting up, going out,
Coming back in again, even though,
When necessary, translation is provided
Into languages they understand.

Then, people are so reluctant to turn off
Their hand-phones ~
This newcomer into our lives ~
Even for the space of two hours;
So essential have these things become,
And so dependent ~ addicted ~ are they on them,
That although asked to turn them off for a while,
Few people actually do so,
And a talk is seldom completed without the sound
Of someone's phone ringing.

I once met Nepal's leading Sanskrit scholar ~
Swami Ramanandagiri, a Hindu monk,
Who daily addresses large numbers of disciples.
Highly respected, he is known as
'The Fierce Swami',
As he tolerates no interruptions
Or disturbances, and people are
Afraid to even look at their watches
In case he sees them.
Yet still they come, in their hundreds.
Good for you, Swami-ji!

How come so many Buddhists
Treat Dharma-talks so lightly,
Obviously thinking it's enough to be present
In order to 'make merit',
With no need to listen or understand?
Far from 'making merit',
By disturbing others who want to listen,
They only make 'demerit',
And it would be better not to come at all,
But to stay at home and watch TV!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Too much kindness backfires because
We often don't think things through
And act impulsively, whereas a little thought
Would expedite things.

Well-meaning we might be,
But unwanted advice is seldom welcome
And causes resentment.
We should beware, and not think
That what might be good for us
Is also good for others.

People are fond of giving advice
About my current situation,
And thrusting things ~ books, tapes, CD's ~
At me, advising me to read and listen,
As if I have no mind of my own.
It is insensitive and becomes tiring.
I try not to intrude upon others,
Telling them what's best for them.
There are 84,000 Dharma-doors, 'tis said;
We must each find our own way.

Years ago, I was invited by someone for dinner,
And expected it would be in their home.
When they picked me up, however,
They proceeded to drive me right
Across Melbourne, over an hour,
Then took me to a sea-food restaurant,
And although they ordered vegetarian food,
It was something I wasn't fond of ~
Rubbery artificial fishy-stuff,
Which I find hard to chew and swallow.
Consequently, I didn't eat much,
And they were not pleased.
What was I to do?
Have no feelings of my own and pretend,
To make them feel good?
Well, I can do this, to a point, and often must,
But they would have done well to inquire
If I had any preferences, instead of assuming
That I would like what they liked.
Disappointment could have been avoided that way.
I never saw them again.

Good intentions are not enough;
Remember, it's said that the road to hell
Is paved with good intentions.
We should think ahead somewhat,
And envisage possible consequences
Instead of hastily doing what we think is good.

There's the well-known story of a man
Who had a pet monkey,
Which he'd trained to fan him
During his afternoon nap..
One day, while the man was asleep,
The ape noticed that flies
Had settled on his face, and so,
To prevent them bothering his master,
He picked up a log of wood lying nearby
And aimed it at the flies, killing them,
But also killing his master!
Good intention, disastrous effect!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Here's hypocrisy for you:
At year's end, you tend to hear
From people you've almost forgotten,
But who write to say,
"Just like to wish you a Happy New Year",
Totally unaware
That we do not live year-by-year,
Or even day-by-day.

It's just like the commercialized 'Mother's Day':
Why do we need such a thing?
If you care anything about your mother,
You won't wait until a certain day
To tell her so.
She might not last that long;
Many don't, and then it's too late.

Years ago, when I began using email,
Several people said to me:
"It will be easier to keep in touch with you now",
Although I'd always given a mailing-address
When I'd written before.
"Yes", I replied, "If you want to".
And in many cases, my words were prophetic,
As I lost contact with more people AE ~
'After Email' ~ than BE,

And then, if we meet again,
They apologize for not writing,
And make all kinds of excuses,
Which are transparent:
"I lost your address",
"Didn't know what to write",
"Nothing to say", and so on.

Well, friends come and go,
And most of us have so few
Real friends that they can be counted
On one hand; sad, but so.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Someone once visited a monk I knew
and asked if he'd like a cup of tea.
"No thank-you", said the monk.
"Are you sure? I’d be happy to make it.”
"Thanks, but I'm alright," replied the monk.
It wouldn’t be any trouble, you know.”
“No, thank-you.”
After several more exchanges like this,
The monk was gritting his teeth, and
Barely restrained himself from saying,
"I don't want a bloody cup of tea!"

This is kindness without wisdom,
And can only lead to disappointment.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


A philosophy is something
That helps us to deal with life,
To see our place in the world,
To help us make sense of things.
We all have philosophies,
But those of most people,
are crude, narrow and self-centered.
Yes, but can it be anything else?

There is surely no other place to begin
Than with self as the reference-point,
The starting-point.
It should not end there, however,
But should expand outwards until
We have a complete world-view,
With nothing outside.

Do not try to be without ego,
As that is not within our capacity,
And we will never succeed,
But only tie ourselves in knots.
Ego is only overcome, uprooted, destroyed,
Or seen for what it is ~
Unreal, an illusion ~
By the arising of insight,
And we cannot make that arise.

Meanwhile, we must use it ~
We need it ~
But in a skillful, non-harmful way,
For without it, we would be
Spineless, like jellyfish.

Egolessness, like humility,
Is a result; it cannot
Be practiced or done,
For who would be there to practice it?
Do not try to run before you can walk.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Listen to the popular songs
Of any age ~
Even hundreds of years ago ~
And you’ll see that when singing of love
They are expressing the need
To be loved and the fear
Of being alone.
And we inherit all this,
Along with so much more,
And accept it unquestioningly,
Unaware that there is also the need to love,
To give as well as receive.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I was lying on my bed in pain ~
The morphine of little avail ~
With a smile on my face
My heart full of of joy,
Looking out the window and thinking ~
As I've often done ~
Of the man who invented spectacles.
Just then, my kindly sister looked in
And solicitously asked if I'd like a drink.
"No, thanks" I said, still smiling.
"Something else, perhaps?"
"No, thanks; I have everything."
"Anything I can do, then?"
Said she, still unaware of my smile.
"Yes, think."
"Thinking makes you sad,"
She said, with tears in her eyes.
"It also makes you happy," said I,
"So we have a choice,"
With tears in mine,
As tears must have come to his
When he succeeded and made
Clearer seeing possible for
Billions of people since then,
But his were tears of bliss rather than sadness,
For his came from insight and inspiration ~
That is, from looking and seeing within.
Billions ~ including me ~ were blessed by his ideas,
His research and endeavors.
Who was he, this man ~ one of many
Who lived to benefit others?
I don't know, but I know that someone did;
I know of the results of his struggles
Because I use them as I've done
Since I was nine or ten.
How shall I let him know how grateful I feel?
When I don't even know who he was?
And there were so many others who helped me ~
Who helped us ~ every one of us, in so many ways,
For no-one lives alone, by and for themselves, do they?
It is impossible, is it not?
Yes, maybe it is, but this should not impede
And prevent us from doing something
To make life easier and more convenient
For others who come after us.
We hold a bunch of keys in our hands,
That we must add to, you and I.
One of them is Love, another Care,
Others yet, Concern, Desire to bring about
Change and Improvement in the world
That others wish to destroy because
They do not see how much they depend upon
And need others?
Am I dreaming hopeless dreams?
Ask Pham Thi Bach Ngoc ~ Miss Ngoc ~
About my stone seats in VRC,
The Refugee Camp on a beach in southern Philippines ~
The acronym standing for 'Vietnamese Refugee Center'
Or something like that; how we love
acronyms so! ~
With words that were carried overseas
By other people I did not know.
What did they do with these inscriptions?
Passed them on, perhaps, or memorised them
To use on appropriate occasions,
Or simply forgot them,
Not having understood them anyway.

21st March 2008, Nambour, QLD. AUSTRALIA.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(By Abhinyana)

And take the high road to Ghorapani,
What here is rain might there be snow.
And if I strain my ears;
It is almost drowned out
By the sound of rain on the
Roof over my head,
There’s a new sound now –
One that wasn’t there before.
I’ll await the morning before deciding,
But the steady downpour seems to favour the
And it is ominous for the trek ahead
As the dust will turn to mud,
Making for poor grip on the track.
Also, if I do not change my mind
I can still hear the river, dinly,
As it rushes ever on,
About the weather; it’s out of my hands.
Lower road to Beni and sooner back to Pokhara.
For now, I’ll sleep, as there’s nothing I can do
Tatopani, 18th Feb. 2003.

(By Abhinyana)

Hastily, we embark upon
Dangerous trails, not thinking
Of what could so easily happen:
One slip could mean certain death
In the river-gorge below and at one side,
At times, only inches away;
No place, this, for carelessness.
Step by step we rise and descend
On steps cut roughly from the rock,
Or pick our way nimbly over loose
And scattered stones.
Not infrequently, we meet
Strings of donkeys, heavy-laden with
Things needed and wanted by people
Further up; we must squeeze past them
On the narrow way, but they are accommodating
And sure of foot, and do not contest our passage.
Like the people who live in these mountains,
I have no insurance to cover me in case of fall,
But unlike them, I think of it now and then.
Ideas of insurance they know not of;
They live their lives perilously, born in these wilds.

On the Trail, 31st, Mar. 2003.

(By Abhinyana)

I wake in the midnight
And immediately hear the sound –
Incessant sound – of the river
Not far below my windows –
The Kali-Gandaki that we’ve
Been following since coming down
From Mukhtinath and will continue
To do so for several more days.
It’s a soothing sound – sshhhhh----
But there’s another sound – a surprising sound –
That seems out of place here at this time:
A man-made sound. I raise my head
From the pillow to make sure it’s not in my head,
Mind-made. It isn’t; it’s still there, and seems
To be coming from below me.
I rise, and beswathe myself in blankets,
Ready to sit upright,
Having slept enough for now; it’s an ideal time
To observe my breath and let the mind be calm.
And then I get it – the sound’s cause –
It must be from a refrigerator –
So now, I’ll let it go.

Tukuche, 15th Feb. 2003.


(By Abhinyana)

I hear the sound of the wind
Entangled in the branches of
The pine trees on the slopes behind me,
Struggling to free itself, soughing as it does.
Wisps of it, escaped, brush past me,
Gently touching my face with cool fingers;
It has come from Dhaulagiri’s icy peaks.
To one side, a chicken, destined for the pot,
Goes about its daily round,
Blissfully unaware of what lies in wait;
Are we also not like this somewhat?
From somewhere comes the muted sound of a radio,
And human voices, one of the most disturbing
Sounds of all, because so meaningful.
Approaching, up the lane, and passing by,
I hear the bells hung around donkeys’ necks –
Pleasant sound to me, but a sound of bondage;
What karma to be born a donkey?
Flies buzz past me as I sit still upon a step
Of a mountain-lodge at Kalopani
Where we’ve stopped for lunch;
It was a hard walk of 2½ hours to
Get here this morning, and we have
A similar stretch ahead of us this afternoon,
With my energy almost gone , my legs
Aching and my ankle playing up.

Kalopani, 15th Feb. 2003.

(By Abhinyana)

I sit on the topmost
Of a flight of steps
Up to the monastery of Marpha,
From where there is a fine view.
I see below me the flat clay roofs of houses
Surrounded by ramparts of logs, split,
And beyond them
The fields delineated by dry-stone walls
And paths that criss-cross them.
There are orchards, too, of various kinds –
Apple, apricot, peach,
Though their branches are bare now.
Then, behind, rising in tiers, the hills
And mountains climb, culminating
In peaks capped with snow which
Never melts.
I hear, instead of engines and
Man’s machines, the sound of bells hung
Around the necks of ponies, donkeys and cows
As they trudge along beneath vast burdens –
A pleasing sound, though indicative of Pain.
Then, from behind and within, comes the
Sound of boy-monks playing, off for a while
From their studies; life’s not hard for them.
The wind blows slightly, not strong, as yet,
But later it will increase in force and cold;
I will not sit here long.

Marpha, 16th Feb. 2003.

Are we Descendents or Ascendants?
Have we come down from those who went before us?
Or Arisen?
I had parents, like everyone else, of course,
Otherwise I would not have appeared here.
But my genes stop here when I go hence,
As I've sired no offspring;
No-one ascended from me.

21st March 2008, Nambour, QLD. AUSTRALIA.

(By Abhinyana)

Life is like a cord or string,
Composed of countless strands,
All the time other strands running in and others running out.
Some, too, cross ours at right-angles,
So briefly as to be practically unnoticeable,
Some strands run with us for many years
— some, almost our whole life, —
While others soon leave us.
Yet still they leave a mark, and impression.

Nepal, 14th February 2003


< Previous  -   Next>

Home  -   Against The Stream  -   As It Is  -   Because I Care  -   Behind The Mask  -   Boleh Tahan -   Just A Thought -   Let Me See  -   Lotus Petals  -   Not This, Not That  -   Parting Shots  -   Ripples Following Ripples  -   So Many Roads  -   This, Too, Will Pass  -   Wait A Minute!  -   Your Questions, My Answers  -   Download  -   Funeral  -   Links  -   Contact