CAVE JOURNAL 2000
VOL. I: PRE-VASSA
(Know your enemy)
[The notebook I used as a journal had a page headed "Personal Memoranda" which I filled in to amuse myself:]
Name: Paññobhāsa Bhikkhu
Address: Wun Cha Cave, 1 mile south of Pwingah village, Kani Township, Sagaing Division, MYANMAR
Business Address: same as above
Business Tel: none
Telex No. none
Fax No. none
Identity Card No. [left blank]
Current A/C No. none
Saving A/C No. none
Company Address none
Postal Code none
Airport what airport?
Tel: don't know
Railway Station what railway station?
Tel: again don't know
Driving Licence [sic] No. none
Radio Licence No. none
T.V. Licence No. none
Doctor not sure
Tel: maybe he doesn't have one
Dentist don't have one
Police Station about 6 miles north of here
Bank Manager none
Other [left blank]
2-2 (17:00) Arrived at "Phayah Sakhan" (my campsite at the middle of the park) an hour ago, set up camp, and stubbed my toe on my bowl, breaking open the wound I got several days ago in Mandalay when I slipped and kicked the wall coming out of Dr. Than Tun's outhouse. Am rather dazed by the 6½-hour-long truck ride and am feeling some regret that I forgot to say goodbye (or at least wave) to Moh Moh and the other people who went to so much trouble to get me here.
2-3 (14:21) Taking it easy today. Almsround at the tea shops: a bowl of very spicy minnow curry, two vegetable fritters, two little packages of dry cake, 12 lemon drops, one can of Fantasy litchee soda, one can of lemonade, and just enough rice for a meal. I appreciated all of it. May everyone get "kutho."
Went up to the top to check out the trailhead, which seems to change position every year. Also met Ma Khine Mah Kyee, my little friend who is now 13, I think. Gave her and her little brother each a can of surplus "wild buffalo" [i.e. Red Bull energy drink from Thailand] which I had taken with me for just that purpose. Definitely some unwholesome (unskillful) liking for cute little girls involved. I suppose I also committed the offense of "causing a gift of faith to go to waste."
My mind became more quiet and meditative immediately upon arriving here. I feel as though helpful devas are watching me. Offered a package of incense to them last night, just in case, and some of the incense sticks fell over causing me to utter profanity in the middle of the brief ceremony. "I worship thee ineptly."
2-4 (18:09) Tried to get an early start—left for alms at 07:25 & had some good luck—before reaching the tea shops some rich pilgrims at a bungalow gave me some high-protein rich people's food: peapods and broccoli, a scrambled egg, sardines & tomato sauce, a piece of very fried fish, and a thumb-sized piece of chicken, & enough rice for a meal. Ate all of it appreciatively, including the chicken, for strength. Packed up & left camp around 09:25 & hit the trailhead a little after 10:00. Decided to start looking for a campsite after 17:00, & came upon a good one at almost exactly 17:00. Am now sitting under an easily climbable tree w/ "ဂုံ ညင်→" carved on it. I don't know what or where ဂုံ ညင် is, but I sincerely hope it's in the same direction as Kuzeit. Am not 100% sure I'm on the right trail. Am losing the trail more often this year than last.
On the way: pheasants, a red jungle rooster, assorted tweeties, tree shrews, maybe some monkeys & maybe a barking deer, small deer tracks & big deer tracks, lots of small cat tracks & at least 4 cat tracks about the size of my fist (not including the thumb).
Getting too dark to write.
2-5 (17:20) Hit the trail around 07:20 & didn't reach last year's campsite until 13:40. At 16:05 arrived at the place by the little creek where I lost my sweatrag last year, & decided to take it easy & camp here. Surprisingly, much slower going this year than last, probably due to softer feet, losing the trail again & again, & lack of desire to repeat last year's deathmarch. Washed up in a little pool inhabited by little fishes & shrimps, w/ Jesus bugs on top, while bees licked the sweat off of my stuff.
2-6 (10:44) ARRIVE—Hit the trail at 07:00, and everything started out very nicely. Mostly smooth, mostly non-steep trail, brown monkeys in the trees, and the (auspicious) FIRST SNAKE OF THE YEAR—about 1½ feet long, all emerald green except for a reddish tail-tip, & w/ a head shaped like that of a viper. Whether it was a baby viper or not I don't know. Basking on a flat rock. But,
He, with the defective belief in lucky signs completely abandoned,
Rightly he would wander in the world. (Sammāparibbājanīya Sutta)
Anyhow, reached Pwingah around 08:45, I think, & went for alms w/ a crowd of children following behind. About 40 women & girls were already waiting w/ food. Already some twinges of irritation from women trying to put too much food into my bowl. Food mostly rice & peanuts. When I came out U Bala & 2 other guys were waiting to help me carry stuff to the cave, & Mrs. U Maung Cho showed up w/ a water pot, & last year's bamboo mat rolled up & balanced on her head. On the trail to the cave I observed that my fears of 4 years ago* were finally realized—in anticipation of my return a group of people (possibly including U Bala) "fixed" the trail: steps cut into the rock, tree roots cut away, low places filled in w/ dirt, narrow places widened. I became rather angry seeing all of it, & a few times deliberately went around the nice little steps cut into the rock. I swore in English a few times, said, "You shouldn't fix the trail,**" & at one point where the trail had been widened w/ logs I stopped to dislodge them and throw them into the ravine. Then I said, "The trail has been ruined!" causing U Bala to laugh nervously.
Upon arriving at the cave found that the pond is very small this year (looks like it will dry up before the rain starts), & that a large portion of the south end of the cave had collapsed, wiping out the clump of bamboo below it & burying the little trees I fertilized so carefully w/ pee last year under a mound of rubble. Everything changes. Lots of deep water near Pwingah this year; last year it was mostly dry sand & gravel.
Suppose I should mention that U Bala & the others seemed rather taken aback by my strong disapproval of the trail's construction/destruction, despite my vehement insistence 4 years ago that it shouldn't be fixed. They left very quietly.
(17:36) U Tin Maung & U Thein Maung ("Whitey") showed up at about 16:45 to pay respects. Was very sorry to see that U Tin Maung, who seems to be the person I like most & can relate to best in this area, has had a stroke—his right eye stares strangely, his mouth grimaces slightly on the right side, & he slurs a little when he speaks now. He didn't look very happy, which may have been due to slack facial muscles, but at any rate is understandable. They asked for & took 5 precepts, & I sincerely wished U Tin Maung well & told him I send mettā. They said they were the ones who fixed the trail, but I certainly didn't want to scold them. Anicca has been bombarding me from all directions since I got here today. Everything changes.
The skull on a stick is still here, but has no effect on me any more.
* Actually, 3 years ago—the 1st of 4 trips
** Can also be translated "The trail shouldn't be fixed." လမ်း မပြင်သင့်ဘူး [in Burmese letters]
2-7 (10:28) Cloudy, i.e. overcast, all last night & all day today (so far), w/ sprinkles in the morning. Today much colder than yesterday.
Almsround in Kuzeit looked like about 60 or 65 women & girls (& one boy) waiting w/ food, despite the fact that there are only about 50 houses in the village. Some women must have snuck over from Pwingah. Upon reaching the last & largest group I said, "It isn't possible. It won't all go in. Because of your cetana [good volition] you get kutho [merit]," & then I turned around & left w/o accepting their food. Way too much.
On the way back from the village I stopped & spent over an hour obliterating & rerouting two of the more severely "fixed" sections of the trail. Plenty of wreckage lying around to do it with. Lots of small trees had been cut down along the trail, apparently so I wouldn't have to brush against them when walking by. So, call me an ingrate. I feel sort of like a fellow who went on vacation, & when he got back he found that his neighbors had all generously chipped in & painted his house bright pink. The sight of it will stop bothering me after a little while. I am a fool.
(16:29) Not very happy about being here this year. Not very eager to start intensive practice. Even before getting here there was some trepidation concerning returning to the scene of last year's suffering. Nevertheless, staying here seems to be the right thing to do, even if it kills me. Hard to explain.
Foolishness is strange—some nice people try to help me by digging & hacking up the trail, & I just want to spit & cuss. On the other hand, inanimate Nature causes many tons of rock to wipe out the nice little bamboo grove, & I don't get mad at all. I feel a little regret, & some saṁvega when thinking about the impermanence of it all, but no anger. If a fellow from the village had come & chopped it down I would certainly have experienced anger (& hate, & disgust), even though the end result is essentially the same—no bamboo. It seems that anger is much easier if there is someone to be angry at, even if one doesn't know who it is.
Spent about an hour shaving about 3 weeks' growth of hair w/ a very dull razor, then came back to the cave & picked ticks off myself.
2-8 (16:06) Today's almsround in Pwingah: possibly the most people ever gathered together to offer me food—looked like a hundred people there. At least. Before getting to the main group Mrs. U Maung Cho & about 5 neighbors all cheated & put in more than the regulation 2 spoonsful of food, so I had about 20% of a bowlful & was tempted to turn back before reaching the crowd. Even w/ 2 spoons each the bowl was full to the top when I was only about halfway down the line. Had little choice but to make essentially the same little speech I made yesterday in Kuzeit & then turn back. Noticed U Tin Maung's wife was among the multitude that didn't get to offer anything; also noticed a pained expression on her face as I turned away. Hopefully the crowds will die down pretty soon.
Did a little more trail-wrecking today, which included wrestling two boulders the size of wiener pigs into areas where the trail had been widened, & also filling in steps w/ rocks & dirt clods. Pretty much finished now, I guess. Much of it is beyond repair.
No shit yesterday; today w/ the help of 10 cream of Magnesia tablets I pooped out a hard, nuggety little turd marbled w/ cheesy mucus & w/ spots of blood. I wonder if dysentery can cause that. Had the same problem last year, except w/o the blood.
2-9 (15:03) Well, I don't think it's dysentery. Probably change of diet combined w/ radical change of living conditions producing "mild irregularity," plus lots of insufficiently chewed, insufficiently digested peanuts tearing me a new asshole.
Pain in legs plus lousy concentration (restless mind) causing meditation to be virtually nonexistent nowadays. Easy to see what needs to be done, but difficult to do it. Must put a stop to mental momentum (= kamma = "formative perception")—an obvious problem. Oh well, at least the woods are relatively nice & quiet, so far.
(17:18) U Bala & the fellow who carved my oar last year came around 15:30, offered me a homespun towel which I have no use for & very reluctantly accepted, & then they dug me a latrine & cut some buttwiping sticks. Moved the latrine site to higher ground among the new boulders so it won't be swamped by the eventual flood.
2-10 (15:49) Making extremely feeble efforts to establish some semblance of practice. Stuck in the vicious circle of too much sleep⇆lousy meditation, which is especially easy in cold weather, & is further reinforced by much pain in legs (same as last year). Very difficult to sit as long as an hour, even early in the morning, & not only because of leg pain. Just managed about 45 minutes of very mediocre meditation in 1st & 2nd gear.
2-12 (17:04) Just finished sewing snaps onto my upper robe so it will stay on while I'm in the village. I've been having second thoughts about this all small robes thing.
Have also been having second thoughts about this journal. Seems to be just more of the same kind of stuff that I wrote last year. Only the sleep log seems worth keeping up.
Today in Pwingah there didn't look like nearly as many folks waiting w/ food as before, but I decided to count them anyway—counted exactly 100.
While I'm writing, might as well mention the humongous crawdad or whatever it is that I saw in the pond yesterday (told it it better pray for early rain this year, as the pond is smaller every day), the big crab that likes boiled corn down at the creek (warned it about being so easy to see), the birds that come & bathe in the pond every evening, & the cats that come every night to drink water & eat my extra food. Judging from the tracks & the sounds of drinking every night there are at least 2, maybe 3.
Legs still hurt & meditation still bad, but the excretion problem has cleared up & life is pretty peaceful nowadays.
2-14 (14:01) Today saw my first national park trappers for the year—not much, just 3 women & 1 man packing loads of meat down the creek. Characteristically, the women stopped talking & laughing when they saw me, & walked past in silence. The meat is always wrapped in something that looks like roots or plant stalks or something.*
Music almost obsessively playing in my mind for several days now—sometimes wake up w/ it playing. Usually a tune by John Fogerty, the name & all the lyrics of which I forget; heard a Burmese version last month on the Leo Express bus. For the last day or so it has been alternating w/ a segment of "The Necromancer" by Rush. Sometimes other things, but mostly those two.
Meditation having occasional lucid moments nowadays, but sitting rarely lasts as long as an hour, due mainly to pain in the lotus position (legs are restructuring themselves to adjust to a mountaineering lifestyle), plus simply bad concentration.
* Actually, sometimes it's in baskets, & sometimes maybe in knapsacks. (4-26)
2-16 (14:45) Working on a practical method for almsround w/ small robes—in this area a bowl lid is a virtual necessity, as the bowl gets stuffed to the rim almost every day, & covering a stuffed bowl w/ my robe only is a sure way of getting the robe mucked up w/ food & oil. But, holding the bowl & the lid in my hands & also lifting the robe out of the way (according to vinaya) is not easy. Tried keeping the lid in my shoulder bag until alms collection is finished, but the bag is small & the strap is short, so it is hard to get the lid out w/ one hand. Today tried going for alms w/ the bowl lid tucked into my lower robe up against my belly, which worked pretty well, but my shoulder bag slipped off my shoulder about a third of the way down the line of ladies, & I went the rest of the way w/ it hanging from the crook of my elbow. Also, the thick outer robe keeps slipping (don't have snaps on that one); tucking the flap under my arm from behind seems to help.
Tomorrow will supposedly be the 1st of at least 50 days of more or less intensive practice (MOLIP). Will be a struggle against sleepiness (just slept about 9 of the last 24 hours), sore legs, & continual music in my head (today's obsession: "Tainted Love"). The opening ceremony will be tonight, w/ invocation of the gods, etc., offering of candles & incense (am resisting the selfish urge not to use my best candles), & humbly requesting their aid in my feeble struggles. Struggling to go nowhere, & to attain nothing.
2-17 (12:49) Well, what should I write about today? About how the ceremony went last night? About receiving little food in Kuzeit today (apparently due to most of the ladies being at some monastery function somewhere nearby)? About a mysterious fellow who unwrecked part of my trail, for unknown reasons? About the 3 guys who stared at me for over half an hour at the creek today, causing significant irritation (not to mention the usual unmindfulness)? Shouldn't write about any of it. Ought to throw this damn book away, except for the sleep log.
Will remark, though, that persistently staring & gawking at someone for over half an hour is not considered rude or otherwise socially unacceptable in this country (neither, for that matter, is picking one's nose in public). Stare back at them long enough & they eventually go away.
(17:09) Cold this morning, w/ lots of steam over the creek.
2-18 (12:14) Dreams of outward danger last night: first dreamed that I was in a very small house w/ a large, hungry Tyrannosaurus rex waiting outside; then dreamed that 2 large, angry elephants, one of which looked sort of like a mastodon, were ferociously fighting down below the cave. Was worried that they might get me, but was safe in both dreams. Meaning seems to be that there is safety in being withdrawn. Preoccupation w/ outward things, like trails, woodcutters, fishermen, trappers, is danger & dukkha.
(17:57) Just finished over an hour of the best, or steadiest, meditation I have had at least since sitting under the easily climbable tree, possibly much longer. Maybe 85-90% solid 2nd gear (anapana, labeling everything except breathing, hearing, & swallowing).
Overcast all day w/ wind from west; light sprinkles around dusk.
2-20 (12:14) Mind intuitively drawn toward quiet anapana; mind unusually quiet nowadays. Not sure why. Not much desire for sleep, either. Hopefully a good sign.
Answer to yesterday's leg pain during meditation: "Relax & don't fight it." Actually, that appears to be the answer to many of my problems.
Breathing problem worse than usual nowadays. Have had it for almost a year. Some kind of chaotic disharmony in breathing rhythms? Nerve malfunction? Hysterical "conversion reaction"? Don't know.
(17:36) The 2nd large group of visitors today (visiting teachers from the dept. of education) just left. If the number of visitors doesn't soon die down I may have to take measures to repel them.
2-22 (15:59) Pond divides into 2 parts, much earlier than last year despite the wetter weather. Water level of the pond going down about half an inch per day, even though the weather is still cool (a little steam over the creek this morning). The shrimps in the pond all go about their business oblivious to the fact that they will all be dead within 2 months—unless there is a freak rainstorm or a certain human rescues some of them.
Feeling out of sorts, & meditation very spotty, due to a cold. Didn't want to write about it earlier as I didn't want to reinforce it by acknowledging its existence—some Christian Science reasoning there—but it has steadily grown worse over several days despite my disdain for it, & now is a full-blown snotty head cold, so I might as well acknowledge the fact that it exists. Started taking ampicillin this morning—Mrs. Eddy would not approve.
2-24 2nd group of G-men for the year just left. The guy who asked the questions obviously never brushed his teeth, & one of the other guys was packing some kind of assault rifle. Didn't stay long; asked a few questions, took a few pictures, & left. From Kani they were. (14:15)
2-25 (15:04) Did my 1st yelling at people of the year today—while eating lunch a young female woodcutter type & her silent friend came to the northern edge of the box canyon, whereupon she began singing at the top of her lungs, occasionally stopping to holler to a friend off in the distance, while she & the silent one watched me. After quite a while of this I yelled, "ဟေ့ သွားတော့" [in Burmese letters] (Hey, go away!) causing both of them to become silent. After some hesitation they walked away, the noisy one giggling.
Surprisingly few fish catchers this year—no one has set nets at night at the creek since I got here. Just a few during the day. Looks like most of them have switched over to trapping in the "national park." Lots of trappers this year.
Took advantage of cool, cloudy weather to shave today, & also went up above the canyon & looked around. Before going up felt some trepidation, afraid of what I might find, but actually it's not so bad. Maybe ⅓ of the trees to the north & west are chopped, but almost none are chopped immediately south of the canyon, & there are a few almost flat places there where buildings could be built. Maybe this place could become a monastery.
A group of young women came to see me today, including the new nurse at Pwingah, who is rather pretty. Remained standing throughout the visit as there was no male to chaperone. After they left & I was going up to the top to look around I stopped & watched them bathing in the creek for a while—in Burmese style w/ their clothes on, nothing particularly exciting. Just as well.
2-26 (12:43) Had an NE [i.e., nocturnal emission] shortly after falling asleep last night—the dream involved a large building and pornography, both of which are common images in my dreams. The only other person I remember in the dream was George from the Seinfeld show. NE occurred while I was very lustfully fondling a woman's negligée that I got from a plastic packet on a rack in an office in the building. For some reason erotic dreams are the easiest to remember.
(18:12) 2nd gear started really bogging down yesterday, so today I switched to 4th gear (Bāhiya Sutta, Soto Zen, mysticism) w/ relatively good results. *yay* Seem to need much less sleep this year (so far)—less than 5 hours last night, but very little drowsiness & virtually no dream images (so far).
2-27 (18:09) 4th gear fell apart, mainly due to nervous mind, so switched back to attempts at quiet anapana. Pain in lotus position continues to be a problem.
Too much trivia to write about. This year's journal repeats the content of last year's journal because this year's life repeats the content of last year's life. Same silliness.
2-28 (18:14) After lots of wandery, floundery anapana w/ occasional wandery, floundery 4th gear, finally switched to 3rd gear (watching the mind & keeping it quiet, Awakening of Faith method) w/ maybe 50-60% success—i.e., much improvement. 3rd gear seems to be good when the mind is too restless for 4th gear & doesn't want to put up w/ all the labeling of 2nd gear. Sometimes is almost as good as 4th.
Very cold this morning. The forest around here continues to be very quiet, because everyone's in the park trapping &, according to U Tin Maung, collecting epiphytic plants. See trappers going along the creek almost every day.
3-1 (12:31) 1st warm day in shade, methinks.
It seems that Mrs. Jink Bird has arrived. She & Jinky have been flying around noisily squabbling today. Also heard one of the big owls 2 nights ago, the female, I think—the one that goes "wuddle." Last night heard both of them. "Wuddle," "Woop Woop," "Wuddle." Have looked in bird books & still don't know what kind of birds they are. Jink birds and big monkey-faced owls.
Yesterday was a relatively good day—not too much sleep; calm, peaceful almsround; relatively good meditation; lots of blessings to little animals & no curses to humans; etc. Today also has been pretty good so far. So, according to theory, there should be some lousy days coming up to compensate & keep the universe in balance. Better not to have good days, or bad days either.
Keep returning to 2nd gear. Seems to bring the most consistent results nowadays.
(18:25) Last sit: 2nd gear feeble, w/ mind seeming to resist it, so after several minutes switched to 3rd gear w/ somewhat better results. Then after maybe 45 minutes of sitting I tried 3rd w/ eyes open & almost immediately went into a mild trance state. Not much deeper than ordinary "spacing out," but seems to be a good sign. Gazing at green leaves w/ a more or less silent mind. Felt like I was actually practicing religion, not like the sit earlier today when I spent/wasted many minutes fantasizing about deflowering a nameless Burmese bride.
The breathing problem started really getting out of hand recently, w/ much stretching and twisting in order to sigh deeply enough, so tried some mindful passive resistance, w/ considerable success. Not giving in to the urge to sigh—just looking at it—really isn't very difficult, & the urge fades away after a while. Labelling it as "wanting." Still give in & sigh often, though, like once while writing this paragraph.
3-2 (13:56) Another useful description of 4th gear: not ignoring anything.
Maybe should mention that yesterday's "mild trance state" was not just "zoning out," drifting, or coasting—it was a state of awakeness w/ active meditative effort.
My cold seems to have disappeared, long after the ampicillin did.
Comfortable weather, quiet creek, no visitors in 5 days, good health (or so it appears), above average meditation, relatively untroubled mind—things running ominously smoothly. Ha, shouldn't refer to it like that. Everything is neutral. Or, "There is nothing."
3-3 (15:14) After a drifty, not very alert morning & the standard post-lunch trying to stay awake, had some good, solid 2nd gear starting around 13:00. The most common thing labelled is "remembering"—remembered or semi-remembered images flashing into the mind, often apparently at random. Honorable mentions are "feeling" (generally leg pain), "touching" (thumbs together or finger against hand), & "thinking" (often triggered by unmindfully reacting to a flashing image of memory). Memory often mixed w/ imagination, but purely imagined images are relatively rare, except when very sleepy.
3-5 (12:23) Steam aplenty over the creek this morning, mildly surreal. The jink birds started checking out their nest site (& a fine nest site it is, too). Not many people offered food in Pwingah today—only counted 77. Almost always give in to the temptation to ogle young females; one of the prettiest girls in the village looked very pretty today. Too pretty for Pwingah. Still seeming to make progress in 2nd gear. Still relatively peaceful.
(16:04) Distracting pain in legs after 35 minutes of sitting, becoming rather severe after 45 minutes. Forced myself to sit for 50, but did little actual meditating. Bogging down today.
2nd warm day in shade (comfortable w/ no upper robe).
3-6 (12:38) Some sleepy dream images during meditation today due to less than 4½ hours sleep last night: after reminding myself to try to be aware of the whole "breath body" I see, w/ my eyes closed, "The whole body," in block letters, &, if I remember correctly, in parentheses, followed by an image of my old buddy Jim P. laughing; a large, lanky rooster running across the sand below the cave; the symbol "1," which stayed for several seconds & gradually grew larger; a large shrimp/crawdad running across the same sand as the rooster, but in a different direction, & then turning into a bird; the word, "Oxen."
The problem: to say that my brain has a hair trigger would be an understatement; my mind does not always follow the rules of stimulus/response theory. More or less random images are continually popping into my mind, so that wide-open quiet mindfulness (4th gear) generally doesn't work very well—sooner or later I get overwhelmed w/ the flood of images, one of them inspires a chain of associations, and meditation gets washed away. So, I trudge along in 2nd gear, limited & pedestrian. And nowadays meditation is relatively good—there are many times when I can't even manage 2nd gear. Or 1st.
Quietly cursed a trapper packing meat out of the "park" today while down at the creek. Possibly the worst thing I said was, "May you live a short, unhappy life." Shouldn't have said it, but did. Good chance it will come true anyway. He certainly didn't hear what I said. I really hate people sometimes.
The big pheasant who lives on the south ridge finally came out into the open this morning. (May have influenced the image of the rooster during meditation.)
Main items on the menu nowadays: rice, beans/peas, potatoes, peanuts, &, unfortunately, pale green eggplant glop.
(15:35) 3rd w.d.i.s.
(18:13) Just had about half an hour of some of the best anapana I've ever done—when the mind becomes relatively settled & quiet, relax into the breath & let it fill up the mind. No gaps, no distance between breath & mind (or, rather, touch sensation & mind). Mind in this state seemed lighter in color & "fluffy," & somehow shaped like a duck egg on its side. Probably not nimitta though. Praise to any gods who are helping me. Pain in legs seemed to be the limiting factor & reason for stopping.
3-7 (13:16) Tried to partially compensate for cursing the poacher last night by radiating mettā to all beings. Don't know if it worked.
2 baths in 2 days due to the hot heat at the creek. Also, put away the tarp/blanket today. Ha! just as I was thinking, "wasps & sweat will probably be here soon," looked over & saw 1st orange paper wasp of the year. At least I think that's what it is.
Meditation surprisingly good before lunch, lousy after lunch, so far.
3-8 (9:07) Well, either my cold has reappeared in a slightly different form, or else I've caught another one. I've never been sick here before, & when I do relatively intensive practice my health tends to be good, but this year I've caught 2 colds in one month. Could be interpreted as a good sign, I suppose—the body is purifying itself in preparation for a higher (more subtle) level of existence. Mrs. Eddy's "chemicalization." Has happened before, e.g. the variety of ailments I had immediately before my ordination. Impurity is flowing out from my head, or to be more exact, from my nose. Getting my quota of sickness out of the way early.
Maybe a bhikkhu isn't supposed to interpret signs & omens not because they are necessarily false, but because such interpretations give more significance to Saṁsāra. Significance & Samsara are essentially the same.
(16:51) After several days of faithfully pounding away in pedestrian 2nd gear, got bored w/ it & did most of a sit in 4th. A little bit shakey & drifty, but relatively wonderful. "Looking upon the world from the position of void." Sādhu, sādhu, sādhu. May my invisible teachers not withhold their guidance.
(18:17) The vine pods in the canyon starting popping today. I write too much. Nothing really matters, does it.
3-9 (12:10) This morning between around 04:45 & 05:55 had some of the most beautiful anapana/2nd gear that I've ever experienced—quiet, wide-open mindfulness w/ attention resting lightly upon the sensation of breath, w/, of course, occasional brief wandering. My arch-enemy Kamma (a.k.a. Formative Perception) was held in check for a time. Because of uptake there is force of existence. Notable that I slept less than 4hr 20min last night. All other meditation so far today has been mediocre, w/ mindfulness not good, but mind is relatively quiet.
Most metta-ful almsround of the year today. Blessings for everybody.
Shouldn't be happy about good meditation or anything else, I suppose. Good causes bad. Enjoying good times makes the bad times worse.
Cool & overcast today, very quiet. Jinky hunts for daddies longlegs (daddy longlegses?) at the north end of the cave.
(16:45) Just finished my 2nd better-than-mediocre sit of the day—alternated between 2nd & 4th for about 45 minutes, shakey, but not much wandering. Then for the last 15 minutes or so opened my eyes, & went into another mild trance state, w/ maybe a 45 second-long rush of piti, seemingly centered in the area of the pelvis. Mind lacks depth & intensity due to lack of sleep, but it seems not to be much of a problem. Too much sleep has worse results.
3-10 (15:03) My meditation really stinks today. Mind won't settle down for more than a few seconds. Maybe too much sleep.
(16:36) Just finished the 1st at-least-mediocre meditation since early morning. 2nd gear, but little actual anapana—mostly trying to note the almost continuous barrage of thoughts & images. Lots of pain in legs today; pain starts after less than half an hour of sitting.
Appear to have grown a wart on the head of Mr. Lingam. Never had one there before. More subconscious spiritual muck manifesting itself in physical form, or just a virus? Add it to my skin's list of pimples, scrapes, herpes, dermatitis, and I think maybe a slight touch of scabies. Sounds worse than it is. Am reminded of a statement made by "the Mother" that for a yogi all physical ailments have a spiritual basis. The physical world is a manifestation of consciousness.
3-11 (16:22) Just finished the 1st relatively good meditation of the day. Possible reasons: 1) Late afternoon tends to naturally be a good time; 2) BREATH CONTROL—tried "calming the breath body" & reduced it down to maybe ⅓ the usual breath rate. Still lots of intruding thoughts, but easier to manage. 1st full hour of sitting since morning. Started getting a little borderline piti, but enthusiasm became a distraction & it faded. Should experiment more w/ slow, shallow breathing.
Spotted 1st paper wasp nest of the year—about 12 feet south of my sitting place, below where the sugar & garbage are kept. One there every year.
3-12 (19:15) As usual, best meditation in late afternoon. Compare w/ an earlier sit: maybe 48 minutes w/ 15-20 of it being fantasizing about Nancy E. in college. Last sit before dusk: started w/ a slight variation of 3rd gear, watching for the origin of thoughts w/ a somewhat questioning attitude—don't know how to explain it—much more efficient at preventing stray thoughts than concentrating on the breath. Then maybe 15-20 minutes before the beeper went off switched to 4th gear w/ eyes open, w/ considerable, but not perfect, success.
When in 4th gear, try to see the entire field of vision from peripheral to peripheral simultaneously, try to hear everything simultaneously, try to feel everything simultaneously, without trying.
(21:52) Thinking of meditation in terms of stopping mental momentum is helpful.
3-13 (12:59) Some trappers packing meat out of the park stopped & bowed down to me at the creek today. That very rarely happens. Turned my back on them while they were doing it, but resisted a slight urge to scold them, appeal to their superstition by mentioning hell, etc. Increasing indifference toward them may be a good sign.
Clear while going for almsround, overcast while eating lunch, clear again while at the creek, & now overcast, cool, & very windy.
The wasps apparently came out of hibernation or whatever a few days ago when the weather got hot, but they have disappeared now that it's cooled down again. Wasp nest #1 apparently has also disappeared. Don't know why.
3-14 (15:25) Mind surprisingly quiet today during meditation—relatively few distracting images arise. The main problems are simply remembering to remain mindful, plus the standard leg pain. Just sat for a full hour, so it's not so bad today. Peacefully going nowhere in (relatively) quiet 2nd gear.
As yet have found no significant correlation between reduced breath rate & improved concentration. Primary influences on meditative efficiency seem to be amount of sleep/time of day, quality of effort, & "constitutional factors."
Brain relatively music-free nowadays, although today all morning (except when meditating) I had some western-style Burmese pop tune stuck in my mind that I heard blasting over the village monastery's loudspeaker a few days ago. Noting it is almost useless. Listening to birds, or intense concentration, help to stop it.
3-15 (11:32) 1st meditation of the morning: used the method that I "automatically" (i.e. w/o at 1st realizing it, w/o consciously deciding to do it) started following last night—anapana (2nd gear), w/ noting & labelling of touch sensation between thumbs (1st gear) during the interval between exhalation & inhalation. About 70 minutes of maybe 90-95% steady mindfulness, which for me is exceptional. 2nd sit not so good, but did maintain some semblance of mindfulness during almsround. A few spontaneous surges of metta, and also a few of irritation at ladies trying to cheat & put in too much food. Lots of dāyikās [i.e. female supporters] today.
Weather cloudy, windy, & cool. Almost looks like it wants to rain.
3-17 (12:31) Saw a (the?) padat lizard for the 1st time this year. Just about gave me a heart attack—was climbing the trail coming back from the creek, when suddenly a 2-foot-long lizard exploded from a pile of dead leaves about a foot from my foot. Hope I won't be worrying about it like I was last year. May he/she live long & prosper.
Strange—had that Burmese pop tune stuck in my brain off & on for more than 3 days; last night I was really starting to get sick of it; then this morning at the creek tried to remember it, & couldn't!* Probably because it is not integrated into my general body of knowledge—few chains of association lead to it, so it is hard to remind myself of it. Also, don't know any of the words.
Have found that the best way to eliminate music stuck in my mind is to meditate in 4th gear, sitting or walking. Works like a charm—the music just fades away. But, 4th gear isn't always easy to do. Trying to stop music by concentrating on something else is often futile.
(15:31) 2nd 1st wasp nest of the year, spotted about 4 feet from the south end of the walking meditation path—no danger, methinks. Also 1st 2nd, in the same place as 1st 1st. Probably same wasp. No actual wasp amuck time yet this year; may not be one due to the drought, famine, & wasp die-off of last summer.
*Actually, if I had racked my brains I probably would have, but for easily understandable reasons I wasn't inclined to try very hard.
3-18 (13:18) Meditation not going very well for the past few days. Not exactly "reeling in place," but the mind just doesn't want to settle down into steady mindfulness or concentration. Often what passes for an hour of meditation is mostly "free association," wandering punctuated w/ brief returns to the meditation object, usually touch of breath. Have been doing it for years.
(17:03) Wrote a little too soon, I guess—just had a relatively good sit, I would guess at least 75% non-wandering, mostly in 1st gear, for about 45 minutes until U Bala came bearing a gift of buttwiping sticks. Even had some very brief, borderline piti. How to meditate w/ restless mind: 1st, pray to the unseen powers for assistance (at the very least it puts one in a more serious & practice-oriented mood); & 2nd, pound away in active 1st gear, noting & labelling almost continuously. Riding the bronco. Following the wandering mind & noting wherever it goes. The primary object is almost ignored.
Strange, vivid memories, flashes of memory, during that last sit—a playing card lying beside the trail as I walked for alms about 5 years ago. A concrete walkway & small shed behind a neighbor's house that I haven't seen or thought of since I was a small child. At least I don't remember thinking about it. Ma Khine Mah Kyee's face.
Went almost 2 weeks w/ no visitors.
3-19 (12:32) Today may reasonably be called day #1 of Wasp Amuck Time. Big orange wasps aplenty.
(16:54) Last sit: after a day of struggling my mind quieted down somewhat, & I was starting to get into some decent quiet anapana—& then the image of a movie actor arose in my mind, & I began obsessing trying to remember his name. Wasted about half an hour & still can't remember it. Anthony…Bowers? Prowers? Can't control my mind. Still trying to remember it, even though I know I should just forget about it.
(17:13) Anthony Perkins! Is that right? Or is it Anthony Hopkins?
(17:20) I think it's Hopkins. Perkins is a different guy.
(17:25) Keep having the urge to compare this year w/ last year. Keep starting to think things like, "This year is a kinder, gentler year, so far." Then intuition reminds me that I shouldn't compare them. It reinforces a dualism of "better" & "worse." This year is this year & that's that. This is this. (That is also this—ha.)
3-20 (06:40) Meditation truly lousy this morning, but not completely lost. Seems to be just beyond my grasp.
(09:03) In order to consistently achieve excellence, one must view it as though it were average. In order to consistently experience miracles, one must view them as commonplace occurrences.
3-21 (16:35) Well, Moh Moh & ven. U Khema arrived early yesterday afternoon, so I am now on vacation from intensive practice.
Found 2 new wasp nests very near to the walking meditation path today. Knocked both of them down, which will result in the death of the eggs, & earn for me 2 pācittiya offenses. U Khema served as witness. Will probably knock down more before wasp amuck time is over. And all this after U Khema called me Hassidic.
3-23 (13:01) Trying to resume more or less intensive practice after a 3 day hiatus. Moh Moh left yesterday afternoon, & U Khema moved to a place down below. After what was practically a 3-day-long conversation (about topics wholesome and unwholesome) I requested at least 3 days of mutual silence. Mind is rather distracted now. Trying to get back on track.
U Khema's presence has helped me to see how fussy I am: cringing inwardly while watching him obliterate my neatly packed walking meditation path (the north end of it rather) by dragging his feet, & walking haphazardly back & forth across it; twinges of unease at the thought of him using my latrine, clouding up the water before I take a bath in it, etc. All my own problems, of course. "Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
Also noticed some uncomfortably male-female feelings for Moh Moh while she was here. Why does she seem prettier now? Actually, no real danger of serious temptation. Know her too, too well.
(14:40) Don't ignore anything.
3-24 (14:06) Just had probably the best sit since the Moh Moh people came 4 days ago—a little over 50 minutes of maybe 10-15% non-wandering. Meditation seems to have gone temporarily kasplooey. In addition to the effect of visitors, the weather is getting hot, which tends to help make the mind unpeaceful.
See myself as surprisingly fussy & irritable since U Khema showed up. My peace of mind is way too fragile.
(15:41) Last sit: percentage maybe a little better, & sat for a full hour, the last 10 minutes of it in pain.
3-25 (12:29) Last night was the 1st spent w/ only 2 robes: wearing Mr. Thinbine [i.e., the lower robe] & using thick wool robe as blanket, unfolded.
Also, last night heard 1st underbrush fire of the year. Apparently set by 3 minnow-catching idiots who camped all night by the creek & hid behind some rocks (in infantile fashion) when U Khema & I walked past this morning. Moh Moh thinks the people here are wonderful.
Surprisingly, 1st sit after lunch was a full hour of relatively very good 2nd gear. 1st sit after lunch is usually one of the worst of the day.
(18:34) Concentration better today than it was on 3-19. Seem to have recovered from the 3-day hiatus & its aftermath. One more day of hiatus to go before U Khema leaves, I think. It is the will of Landrew.
3-26 (06:22) 1st non-cold morning.
Strange—even after a day of pretty good meditation began struggling to stay awake at around dusk & finally crashed at 21:15. Slept off & on for more than 7 hours. Maybe a spirit of sloth & torpor invaded the canyon. My hopes for a 20-day sleep average of less than 5 hours are dashed.
3-28 (06:28) U Khema left this morning at dawn, & I heave a sigh of relief. Not because he is bad, but because solitude is very, very good. He talks a lot. Many hours every day, except for the 3 days of enforced silence.
(08:34) Jink birds begin nest construction, not in the same place as the last 2 years. In a hole in the rock closer to the waterfall.
(15:24) Trying to get back on track, again, but meditation is not good, & leg pain starts becoming a problem after about 45 minutes. Not all U Khema's fault, of course. Spent several minutes of the last sit fantasizing about being emperor of Rome.
Weather today: coolish, overcast, & sprinkly. Yesterday: warmish, overcast, & not so sprinkly.
(17:03) Ha, just sat for over an hour, but w/ less than 10% actual meditation. Probably the best sit of the day so far. Pitiful.
3-29 (10:51) Yesterday's sprinkle becomes today's drizzle. Also, Mrs. Jink Bird has apparently changed her mind & is now renovating last year's nest. Not much work to do on it; now she is lining it w/ moss.
(15:12) Mind still a little stirred up by all the talking of the past week, but steadily recovering. Last sit was a full hour of at least 25% non-wandering, maybe as much as 40 or even 50%—it's hard to say. Had a few flashes of relatively deep meditation. The beeper went off while I was thinking, "Dear gawd let me break through the veil." Am continually struck by the feeling that all this just has to be an illusion.
Good weather for meditation today, I think, although the humidity makes my legs hurt a little faster. Coolish w/ light, drizzly rain all day so far. The forest smells like the seashore—smell of wet detritus. The jink birds seem to be happy today; this seems to be their kind of weather. Better be mine, too—today is a tiny little taste of what the long monsoon season here will be like.
(17:05) Last thought before the beeper went off: "A coroner does autopsies all day long & then goes home & lustfully diddles his wife."
Am gradually becoming more & more convinced that this universe simply cannot exist. Sometimes it hits me so hard that I am almost overwhelmed by the paradox, especially when my eyes are open. Seem to be moving toward wisdom or mental illness. Maybe both. How can this exist! Why am I trapped in such a strange & narrow dream?
3-30 (13:57) Was sleepily trying to meditate, & w/ a little success, when a group of 6 teenagers came for a visit. About 45 minutes into the sit, & today is not uposatha, so I had no desire to meet them. Accepted 2 packages of utterly unwanted candles (should probably stop accepting them in future, as I have enough for many months) w/ anger in my heart & scowled silently until they went away about 3 minutes later. Wan't even interested in ogling the 2 girls. Typical of my unfriendly, irritable attitude. How to be friendly while discouraging visitors at the same time? Should mention, I suppose, that they didn't say anything either.
Also, caused the death of another wasp egg/larva today.
3-31 (08:37) Have been having a serious crash & burn problem for about a week. For example, last night around nightfall I became so sleepy I could hardly stay awake. Too sleepy for meditation worth a damn, so rested a little & accidentally fell asleep. Woke up & struggled w/ meditation a little more, occasionally w/ some mild "reeling in place"—difficult to sit still, largely due to boredom & aversion for meditation—then went to bed before 22:00. Woke up, tried to meditate, & then went back to sleep. Meditation before almsround essentially dreamy, nonmeditative stupor. I think things started to go sour w/ the anger at unwanted visitors yesterday.
This morning found that crickets have chewed holes in my umbrella.
(15:46) Last sit: an hour of I think at least 35% non-wandering in 2nd/4th gear, mostly 4th. Last thought before beeper went off: was fantasizing a little & wanted to think, "Last thought before beeper went off: None!" but wasn't all there, in a slightly trance-like state, & thought, "Last sit: None!" What good does all this do me if I'm still rude, selfish, ungrateful, contemptuous, etc. etc.?
Perception is significance is delusion is Samsara—a core conception in my silly philosophy.
"Asking me if I want to meditate is like asking a dishwasher if he wants to wash dishes." Occurred to me while supposedly doing walking meditation about an hour & a half ago.
4-1 (06:30) Last night was 1st warm dusk, methinx.
(12:17) Did I kill more wasp babies? Found a nest about 4 feet from the south end of the walking path & about 3½ feet from my head when I pass. After a few minutes of worrying I broke it down & tried to stick it higher up on the wall w/ wax. But, I failed—the fragile nest broke to pieces. I am an April fool, if you will. Forgot to mention it contained 4 eggs/larvae. It probably would have been safe. Not sure what to do.
(13:30) Ack! Just found another nest too close to the walking path for comfort. Begged pardon & knocked it down; didn't try to relocate. 7 eggs in that one. Why so many wasp nests near the path this year?
(18:34) This morning meditation was at least mediocre, w/ some 4th gear even, but this afternoon everything hit the rocks, seemingly due to the hot weather. This afternoon averaging about 45 minutes per sit, after which I simply give up because I'm not really meditating. No quiet, relaxed sitting; apparently what is needed is semi-desperate active pounding away in low gear. Hard work. Not fun. Don't like.
The sweat & grease season has apparently started.
4-2 (06:32) The only meditation that seemed to work at all this morning was 3rd gear, & that not very well.
(11:39) Hot season unofficially starts today—the hot weather bugs have started up. "swswswswswswsws…" Seems more like the air itself is making the sound than cicadas.
Undoubtedly trampled a few little black tadpoles today. They're all over the place down at the bathing spot. A Jain wouldn't have bathed.
(13:35) Find myself sitting in a small puddle of sweat after meditation. Still 2 weeks or so before the weather hits full blast (I think).
(15:10) Last sit: amazingly, a full hour of maybe 40% non-wandering. Even the wandering was relatively quiet—much quieter than if I were up & walking around. Last thoughts before beeper: "40 to 50…," thought suppressed, beep. Almost all 2nd gear. Why so much better than yesterday?
Today's musical obsession: some song by Genesis, title unremembered. Constituted much of the wandering early in the last sit. Force of kamma.
(19:22) Even when sitting meditation goes relatively well my walking meditation remains pathetic. Usually I don't even try—just pacing back & forth w/ a head full of rubbish. The most effective method I have found so far is walking in 3rd gear, walking back & forth while trying not to think. Try to go from end to end w/o thinking anything.
4th gear is easier when looking slightly upwards, even when eyes are closed. Don't know why.
4-3 (19:20) The box canyon is filled w/ a haze of smoke, as most of the dead leaves, grass, & underbrush on the east side of the valley, i.e. on the other side of the creek, is burning up. Set by some little brown guy that I would like to punch in the face. Happens every year. This side of the valley is being saved for later, I suppose. Made some fire lanes today to try to protect the canyon somewhat, but wind or birds could easily wreck them.
Meditation not going well today, & the song by Genesis is still stuck.
4-4 (08:34) Early morning meditation: Lots of random thinking & music. Spent more time silently talking myself out of giving up & going back to sleep than I spent actually meditating. After about 70 minutes gave up & went back to sleep. So much for "intensive practice." Sometimes it seems like my brain is just too unresponsive to meditate. Too much—eh, won't write it.
(15:46) Oh, forgot to mention—last night was my 1st night using only the thin upper robe as a blanket.
(16:59) Strange—wandering mind was almost 100% all day, but, as mentioned in the entry for 4-2, the wandering was relatively quiet, & grew gradually quieter & quieter until at the end of the last sit it faded away, pretty much, & my mind became silent, pretty much. Some are inclined to make a hole in their foolishness, mainly through meditative practice, & then gradually enlarge the hole; but I seem more inclined to fade the whole samsaric edifice away more or less uniformly. One reason why my meditation seems so bad—only when everything else becomes perfect will my meditation become perfect. Theoretically.
4-5 (14:13) Wasp amuck time is apparently over, & the cave drip has gone dry (but will probably start dripping again tonight).
3rd gear relatively easy & going relatively nicely today, in accordance w/ note for 2-28. Still lots of wandering, but some nice lucid moments. (15:55)
(15:56) Today at the creek felt some pain in my chest & momentarily reflected that heart attacks were like that. Then, w/o premeditation felt a spontaneous surge of pleasure at the thought of dying of a heart attack. May be a good sign. Being fed up w/ life is good. Desire to live is a deluded state & a hindrance. But, I suppose, so is desire to die.
Seeing lots of flashes of light & color in my field of vision lately. Don't know why. Saw a yellow oval, that wasn't there, about 15 minutes ago.
The breathing problem is getting worse again.
4-6 (08:26) The haze of forest fire smoke in the valley this morning is enough to burn the eyes. The fires are not nearby, but must be pretty big. On the bright side, the smoke filters the sunlight & causes the day not to be so hot.
Less than 60 food donors in Pwingah this morning.
(11:14) I stop MOLIP (more or less intensive practice) today, such as it was, & switch to just plain LIP for probably at least 30 days, until the weather cools down, and my brain cools down. Today may start reading the book U Khema sent me—Heart Sutra: Ancient Buddhist Wisdom in the Light of Quantum Reality, by Mu Soeng Sunim.
Noticed another pheasant in the canyon this morning—apparently Mr. Yit-bird has a girlfriend now. They go & eat leftover rice & peanuts together.
(17:02) The Heart Sutra book is largely about Emptiness, which inspired me to experience a little Emptiness of my own by meditating in 4th gear. While doing some mediocre 4th gear (w/ eyes open) the thought "trying to be as nonexistent as possible" spontaneously arose. That sums up the bhikkhu life in general pretty well. A little later the meditation got better, & went into a little bit of mild trance state. Would be nice if I could control it better.
(18:30) 1st chain-reaction cicadas o' year a little while ago.
(18:46) Ha! The critter that I thought was a large jungle kitty finally came out before dark, & it doesn't look like no cat I've ever seen. Long snout, hind legs much longer than front. Light, almost blotchy* gray fur, w/ darker tail, dark snout & ears, & a dark mask over the eyes like a raccoon. I'm guessing "civet." Don't know why it's out so early. Heard it eating cookies. Oh, tail almost as long as entire rest of body. May it be well & peaceful.
4-7 (06:18) Last night was 1st night w/ no robe as blanket.
(08:50) …followed by hot, slightly sweaty, & very fly-infested almsround.
Way too unrestrained in the village. Way too much looking around, especially at my favorite little girl.
(12:25) Important to remember to be mindful of the entire breath "body" when doing anapana.
4-8 (10:29) Today while down washing my bowl heard some guys coming down the creek toward me. Immediately began thinking things like "They're creations of my own mind," & "They're all just part of my own monad." Knew they were poachers before they got close enough for me to see what they were carrying due to the forced tone of their laughter as they approached. When they got closer was surprised to see that the guy in front was actually packing a rifle. Stared at them long & hard as they went past, hoping to see some distinguishing personal features to report to the (hopelessly lazy & apathetic) authorities, but all those guys look the same. They walked by in silence, & then, after getting a "safe" distance from me, started up w/ the strained laughter again. Typical behavior. I think I handled it relatively well—only a half-hearted urge to curse them, & didn't really get angry. Maybe I'm just getting numb.
(17:26) Lots of horseflies this year. Mostly smallish ones. After it rains there will probably be lots more. Part of my monad.
(18:36) Meditation pretty lousy today. Mind won't settle down.
4-10 (11:50) While walking back from the village this morning I reflected upon the seeming one-sidedness of the almsround deal. Ladies get up early & cook food for me, then wait in line to offer it to me, & what do they get in return? My mettā? Usually not. Good feelings, I guess. Wasn't feeling particularly worthy of their alms this morning, partly because I tried to look down a blouse or two. And I always check to see if my favorite pretty girls are there. Today they weren't. Just as well. Ultimately it doesn't matter.
Last night & this morning experienced strange feelings of "immanence"—the feeling that something is near that is too big to fit into my mind. Accompanied by spontaneous flashes of relatively high-quality mindfulness. Not sure how to explain.
In the past the last sit before dusk was often pretty good, but nowadays it is frequently interrupted by horsefly attacks. Don't remember a previous year when there were so many before the rain started. Also, the population of tiny, whiney mosquitoes has greatly increased over the past few days, presumably due to the sprinkles of a while ago. Surprising how little rain is needed to cause a mosquito explosion. Wasn't enough for big ones, anyway. Meanwhile, there appear to be about the usual 20 wasp nests on the back wall of the cave—haven't made a good systematic count yet. 2nd 1st nest has at least 5 adults from last year plus about 20 eggs/larvae. The biggest larvae are about the size of small peas, I guess. Mrs. Jink Bird has been putting finishing touches on her 2nd nest; nest building seems to be her hobby, as she has made 2 so far & as yet hasn't laid an egg in either. The pond has shrunk down to a shrimp-filled puddle about 6'×3', plus another, smaller puddle. Kind of sad to see Popeye the giant crawdad hiding under the dead leaves unknowingly awaiting his death. Have decided to rescue a few, maybe tonight (Operation Save the Crustaceans), in part to somehow compensate for the wasp eggs I caused to die & the occasional horsefly I have taken out of commission w/ my trusty sweatrag.
(20:30) Decided to shave my noggin today before dusk so I could kill 2 stones w/ one bird & keep the pre-holiday minnow-catchers away from the bathing (& head-shaving) spot also. So, the last sit before going down there I was so nervous, strangely, that I couldn't meditate; spent several minutes of the sit fantasizing about being a violent political terrorist, & gave up & got up before the hour was up. Had to go down & take a dump out of sheer nervousness. Butterflies in stomach. Anyhow, before going down to the creek caught about 10 shrimpdads (3 mediums, 1 small, & about 6 tinies) & let them go at the head-shaving spot. (I think maybe a fish ate one or two of the released tinies—at least I tried. Such is life.) When I got down there saw a young guy heading away from the bathing spot; he went about 80 yards downstream & then sat & obviously was waiting for me to go away. I took my time, though—spent about 40 minutes abrading the hair off my head w/ a dull K-mart razor blade—so he finally stopped waiting & set his fish net downstream. While I was shaving & he was waiting 4 guys came down the creek, one of them packing a gun that looked like something Jed Clampett would shoot. Didn't get a good look at it because, of course, the guy kept his body between me & the gun so I wouldn't see it. I am considered the Dhamma police. Didn't bother me much, although I will certainly complain to the next forest service guys I meet ("Don't you guys want to catch poachers? They're all over the place. What's your problem?"). All part of my own silly kammic monad.
PLACE: spatial aspect
DATE: temporal aspect
4-11 (06:23) Last night had a rather absurd dream in which my duty was to act as "interpreter" for human-sized rectangular booth-like things, each bearing the likeness (on the front) of a member of the Thai royal family. Towards the end I was required to conduct a kind of ceremony between 2 of the booths, during which I woke up. Went back to sleep & began having a strange, semi-nightmare: (13:01) Don't remember all of the dream, but at one point I was going for alms in a city, & in that city for some reason I depended upon shopkeepers for my alms, but on that day I received nothing & went back to the house where I was staying w/ an empty bowl. Shortly thereafter a young Indian woman that I met last year stood in front of the house w/ some other people & informed me that there was a plague of insects about—insects were infesting people's bodies & chewing them up. Then she held up one hand & showed that there was a large beetle or cockroach at the end of each finger. Then she & the others tried to get some of the insects into the house I was in; it was somewhat similar to the movie The Omega Man. I tried to lock the door & all the windows, but finally noticed that I had overlooked all the windows on the wall to my right, which were standing wide open. I tried to close them, but it was too late—I found myself being bitten by a large bedbug-like creature. I picked it off & threw it out the window, but then noticed some smaller ones running across the floor. As I stood there realizing I was doomed I woke up. The almsround part could have been influenced by my reflections of yesterday morning; the insects could have been inspired by my recent preoccupation w/ shrimpdads; & the outsiders trying to destroy me could have been influenced by my somewhat adversarial relationship w/ nature-attacking villagers. The rectangular Thai royalty remain a mystery.
It seems that yesterday evening I interrupted that fish guy in the process of setting a net at the bathing spot. Didn't notice it last night, but this morning saw a row of stakes crossing the stream there. While wading across the stream pulling up stakes, surprise, surprise, saw more poachers hauling meat out of the forest. When they saw me crossing over to their side of the creek they stopped & hid. Typical.
2ND SNAKE OF THE YEAR—Maybe 4½ feet long, dark-color w/ fine reticulations. Big eyes. Was hunting on the sunny hillside near the trail going down to the bath spot.
4-12 (12:25) 1st day of "Thingyan"—cloudy & almost cool. No puddles of sweat so far today.
Today while eating lunch saw some guys packing military rifles coming down the trail to see me. Didn't much care for the guns, but my meditation has not been going well lately, plus it is "Thingyan," so visitors were not unwelcome. Turned out they were park rangers w/ some soldiers from Kin army base. One guy said they were out looking for hunters & woodcutters in the "park." Ha! Amazing! Good guys, sort of. So, I took the opportunity to admonish & exhort them—told them they were late, because the poachers come out of the woods to sell meat before a festival starts; told them about the hunters I saw w/ guns; told them they ought to come a few days before a festival next time, when they could catch 20 poachers in one day easily; & told them there are twice as many poachers this year as last year, to which one of the rangers agreed. He said the park doesn't have enough protection, to which I agreed. Gave me 4 cans of orange soda. After they left I felt some mildly joyous exultation, partly because I met someone at least making a token effort to catch poachers & protect the forest, & partly because I received a much-wanted opportunity to vent my frustrations. But, shouldn't expect too much from those fellows.
(18:27) 1st actual skirmish w/ minnow catchers this year, a minor one: this afternoon heard lots of fish guys down at the creek, which is surprising, considering that this is Thingyan & usually everyone takes a holiday. Anyhow, went down to the creek & found 2 guys (18:51) w/ nets at close quarters (so to speak). One guy cleared out immediately w/ nervous laughter, but the other guy had already set his net, exactly at the bath spot—in fact he used the rock I put soap on as an anchor. So I went down & retrieved the soap rock & put it back in its place, causing one end of his net to fall slack. Then I went back up the hill in silence & sat down on a boulder overlooking the creek, & waited for his move. After a few minutes of being teased by his laughing friend he talked 2 kids into hauling his net in, continually exhorting them w/, "Don't be afraid! Don't be afraid!" Then he moved upstream. Actually, I probably wouldn't have messed w/ his net if he hadn't messed w/ the soap rock. I've had to retrieve it too many times. I'm impressed by how unhostile these guys are, very unlike what one might find in America. I confess that when the guy was climbing out of the water naked I observed his behind w/ slightly lustful interest, & did the same to one of the boys, who was also naked—a Burmese male's behind is superficially pretty similar to that of a woman—just as smooth & just as hairless. I also confess that I ate lots of fish today, & enjoyed it. What would an arahant have done? Probably nothing. If he did anything at all he probably would have kindly requested that they not set nets there. "A mendicant would not train himself in audacity." Still, I don't think I handled it so badly. Not nearly as bad as last year, yet. The man's good-natured response is partly responsible for the fact that I don't bear any ill will toward him. I do hope he doesn't catch anything though.
4-14 (14:49) 2 days ago in Pwingah, on the 1st day of Thingyan, after reaching the end of the line of ladies I tried to remove the bowl lid from my shoulder bag & dropped 2 cans of "pop" & some candy onto the road. Today in Pwingah, on the middle day of Thingyan, after reaching the end of the line of ladies I tried to remove the bowl lid from my shoulder bag & caused the heavy wool robe folded across my shoulder to fall off onto the road. What will fall onto the road day after tomorrow in Pwingah, on the last day of Thingyan, I don't know. Hope the ladies don't take it as a bad omen. Still haven't mastered the all small robes thing yet.
Late last night before going to sleep the 2nd time experienced dream images almost vivid enough to be hallucinations. Mostly Picasso-ish cartoon legs & feet, mostly female if I remember correctly, plus other visual images & also some auditory & even tactile ones.
Have been having long, vivid dreams lately, but only remember 2 brief fragments from last night: in one I made it to about "2nd base" w/ an attractive young woman whose grandfather held some strange title starting w/ "N" in Singapore, while we were standing near a mosque; & in the other, 2 large fillings fell out of my teeth. They were connected together.
Meditation still pretty much on the rocks, although I have occasional lucid moments. Last sit contained several minutes of some of the naughtiest lustful fantasizing of the year. One college boy & 2 college girls, &, curiously, I was one of the girls. At least there was no lustful self-touching involved—hopefully I am finished w/ that sort of thing. So far much less lustful than last year. Ah! No comparing! It is against the rules. This is this.
(17:22) FIRST SIGNIFICANT RAIN O' YEAR—Began w/ thunder, lightning, & sprinkles at around 16:25; by 17:00 the waterfall was at medium roar w/ an estimated flow of ≈100 gallons/second; shortly thereafter the pond was full & overflowing (although it's still pretty silted up). The Burmese new year will be welcomed w/ the songs of thousands of frogs. W/ the exception of about 60 shrimpdads that I caught & released at the creek, & maybe a few dozen too tiny for the birds to notice, all crustaceans in the pond were eaten by small forest predators. Just over an hour ago the pond was nothing more than a puddle maybe 3 feet in length. Too bad almost everybody had to die before it filled up again. Such is the indifferent way of nature. I dedicate the merit earned from rescuing shrimps to venerable Ketivaṇṇa, who used to work on a shrimp trawler.
4-15 (14:33) Last night I had my 1st armed conflict w/ frog catchers since my 1st year here. Some time after dark I was trying to recite the Pātimokkha over the din of a thousand hollering frogs, when suddenly, somehow, I heard the voices of humans inside the box canyon. Saw frog catchers moving about earlier, despite the holiday, of course, so was immediately on the alert; & sure enough, w/in a minute saw human forms moving in the dark toward the pond—they weren't using their flashlights, obviously to avoid detection. So I yelled at the top of my voice in the echo-chamber canyon, "မရဘူး! ထွက်သွား!" [in Burmese letters] (which loosely translates as, "There's no way! Piss off!"), then to add some authority to the shout chucked some chicken-egg-sized chunks of sandstone at them, but they were out of range. They appeared to clear out quickly, but in the dark I couldn't be sure, so after some consideration I took the bamboo fire-fighting pole/quarterstaff & went to police the area. When I was about halfway up the hill I heard voices down by the lower pond, & after searching about in vain in the darkness for some rocks to chuck down at them I finally succeeded in starting a small avalanche down the cliffside above the pond, which resulted in loud shouting down below. As they cleared out, shouting, & headed up the creek I lobbed another sand clod at them, but it apparently hit a tree before it got anywhere near them. After that I stood on the hillside, quite ready to smite them w/ bamboo if they returned, but they didn't return, which is good. I stayed up until after midnight, guarding the frogs. I am such an alien creature here—for the Burmese villagers it is virtually inconceivable that anyone could like amphibians & reptiles more than he likes the people who kill them. People are the most noble & exalted of all beings, supposedly. Animals are just things. I even go one step further beyond inconceivability & willingly take the risk of cracking a person's skull w/ a rock in order to protect a pond of frogs.*
Today the level of the creek had only risen a few inches, but the water looked like beef tea & was undrinkable & unfit for bathing. Was surprised to see along the edge of the water lots of fishes (one kind I had never seen before—looked like some kind of greenling), crustaceans (including countless numbers of what looked like mysids—never noticed them here before), & water insects, all either dead or in distress. Also saw lots of young, bloodthirsty, ersatz Buddhists going up & down the creek collecting stressed-out fish and shrimp. (Briefly considered throwing rocks at them, but decided not to.) So, characteristically, I tried to rescue some of them (including 3 bullhead things & a spiny eel about a foot & a half long) by putting them into my bowl & releasing them into the newly filled pond, where they could breathe different & hopefully less toxic water, & also be removed from the destroying humans. As far as I know, they are still alive in the pond. An old guy who visited today said the problem is caused by leaf ash from the underbrush fires washing down into the creek & poisoning the water. The rain wasn't big enough to dilute it & wash it away quickly. Anyhow, the pond should be safe, as there have been no major fires on this side of the creek yet. Don't know what an 18" spiny eel will do to the pond's ecological balance, but if I had left him he would have been a goner.
Lots of frog catchers going out early today. May the divine forces guide them away from this place, please.
Ironically, I was feeling considerable hatred for one frog in particular this morning—kept blasting away in a foghorn baritone until well after broad daylight. Finally chucked a few rocks in his general direction to shut him up. In addition to (the) destroying humans I also dislike noise.
Dissatisfied w/ almsround this morning. Instead of radiating mettā, as I should, to the nice ladies offering me food on the day before new year's, I worry & become irritated, because the bowl is filling up too fast. Also check out girls. Be peaceful & well & forgive me my foolishness. Well, if I am to be forgiven I should forgive them their foolishness.
(17:33) Forgot to mention: the only remembered fragment from last night's dream involved me walking through a sporting goods shop w/ a rifle cartridge held between my teeth. How's that for a symbol of aggression.
*also commit a dukkata offence, I guess
4-16 (5:52) 1st day of the year 1362 M.E. May it be an auspicious one.
NE last night—occurred during a dream in which, if I remember correctly, I was kissing & caressing a Burmese cub scout. Embarrassing to write about it. Would have zero inclination to do such a thing in an ordinary waking state.
Practically impossible to meditate this morning, & also late last night. The mind is rebelling against it.
(17:00) Have failed so far today to sit for more than an hour at a stretch, & not because of leg pain. Concentration is simply shot. Last sit was about 55 minutes w/ a few minutes of 1st/2nd gear, w/ lots of labelling, but it seemed like utter drudgery, & my heart just wasn't in it. Restless mind, w/ background music.
4-17 (13:37) Was feeling very lustful last night—wanted very badly to fondle Mr. Lingam but stopped just short of it. Not while it was kammanīyaṁ, anyway. Got to put such behavior behind me. A number of aggravating factors combined: yesterday was the day after a wet dream; the weather is hot; my mind is restless & my meditation is shot.
Had a long, interesting dream last night, but won't tell the whole thing, partly for political reasons. Involved hunting Imperial storm troopers* in Rangoon w/ a ray gun. More violent dreaming.
Got a pleasant surprise during a relatively mettaful almsround today—miraculously received 4 letters; 2 from Mother, 1 from Father, & 1 from Moh Moh, who sent all 4. Father paid me an unusual complement—"I was an old man when you were born But I think your soul is older than mine. And mine is old—old—old." Figured he was probably dead by now, but he apparently isn't, as he began the letter w/, "Surprise, Surprise, I'm not Dead—". I don't consider death to be such a bad thing, but was happy to find out he's still around.
On the other hand, the 18" spiny eel has passed away. Found it belly up in the pond this morning. Wonder if any of the fishes will survive.
(21:35) Started reading Hume today. Might as well.
* Like in Star Wars
4-18 (12:09) Bathing in slightly stinky, dark brown water at the creek, w/ a few dead fish still floating around on the surface. Not much choice—have to wash off yesterday's layer of salty grease to make room for today's. Sunny days & cloudy nights in April make for lots of salty grease.
The brain is running a little quieter today; at least I can sit still for a full hour, including a few minutes of quiet anapana. Maybe as much as 10%, & maybe not. (15:29) Last sit: definitely not.
4-22 (13:45) Trying to get back on track—mind has quieted down somewhat over the past few days, enough to do a little quasi-quiet anapana every now & then. The crash & burn sleep problem, which is largely due to bad meditation, which is largely due to nervous brain, which may be largely due to hot weather, has lasted almost a month.
The mosquito population began exploding 2 days ago. This year I wimped out or wised up & started using a mosquito net, which feels so luxurious that I have been feeling occasional twinges of shame. Monks didn't have them in the Buddha's time; they patiently got bitten. But, I am a fool. Anyhow, probably less akusala in grinning & thumbing my nose at mosquitoes thru the mesh than in repeatedly losing my patience & angrily flailing at them.
Meanwhile, the creek is almost almost clear again, the water in the pond is full of tadpoles & is the color of Coca-Cola (from all the tannic acid or whatever leaching out of the dead leaves—don't know how the fishes would survive), birds & snakes eat squealing frogs below the cave, wasps w/ broken wings (from fighting) walk around on the sand, probably not knowing that their life is effectively over, & out there in space entire galaxies are exploding.
4-23 (17:59) I do believe Mrs. Jink Bird has laid an egg. She is now sitting quietly on the nest above me. (18:03) Mr. Jink Bird has just chased away an intruding stranger of the jink bird tribe. Territorial, don't you see.
4-24 (17:04) Last sit: maybe 25% or more successfully executed meditation (i.e. non-wandering). Occasional vague, brief glimpses of beauty & profundity. Good enough to endure leg pain for, which indicates significant improvement. The mind is definitely quieting down, seemingly due to no effort on my part—apparently a fluctuation of brain metabolism over which I have little if any control. Probably something karmic, like my minor skin troubles. Crash & burn sleep problem also seems to be over, knock wood. May my invisible teachers please guide me, or continue guiding me.
Last thought before beeper went off: "Touching." Was actually noting something. 1st/2nd gear; not up for 4th yet. Still reading Hume.
4-25 (12:26) Last night & the night before I experienced a mental state typical of my situation, & which I have experienced many times before. Around 8 or 9 o'clock began what was similar to the dreaded "reeling in place," but not quite the same; whenever I would be sitting & my thinking mind would relax I would become so full of restless energy that it was difficult to sit still. The urges to rock back & forth, roll my head around, & just get up & stop meditating were particularly strong. It was like I had just drunk 4 cups of strong coffee, although relative lack of sleep seemed to be part of the problem. If I started doing active meditation w/ lots of noting the trouble would quickly disappear, but maintaining the effort was difficult, & I generally didn't maintain it for long. Didn't experience it during walking "meditation" (wasn't really worthy of the name).
A positive use for lustful behavior: early this morning was struggling w/ sleepiness during meditation, so fondled Mr. Lingam until it started to become "turgid," & then stopped, 3 times. Very effective in waking me up—probably the adrenaline associated w/ arousal rather than the actual mental state. Best not to think lustful thoughts while doing it, & doing it only as a desperate last resort. Lesser of two evils.
2nd sit, before almsround: maybe 50% actual meditation, much of it of relatively high quality. The brain was in a quiet phase.
Almsround today in Kuzeit was relatively very mindful—until I got to the main crowd in front of the village monastery, where I began worrying, w/ some irritation, about certain women putting in too much food & my bowl getting stuffed before getting to the end of the line.
A month ago there were lots & lots of little fishes in the creek, but now there seems to be only about 5-10% as many. Largely due to the ash poisoning of several days ago, but also partly due to the fact that for the past few weeks the village minnow catchers have been relentlessly assaulting the fish population w/ their nets, trying to catch as many minnows as possible, presumably in order to buy as many cigars as possible. So it goes.
4-26 (15:05) 2nd significant rain o' year—a small storm blew in from the south; significant rain started around 14:17 & lasted about 25 minutes. Windy & thundery, but flow of waterfall only got up to an estimated 15 gallons/second. Now the clouds are blowing from north again. Pond is just about full again, but did not overflow, so the water is still black. May Providence deter frawg catchers (ketchers) from entering this place tonight.
(17:46) Just now one of those big black wasps w/ orange band around abdomen & baritone hum attacked a paper wasp nest, held at bay the 2 adults that were guarding it, plucked a big white larva out of one of the cells, & flew away w/ it. It just came back, but this time the guards are more successful at fighting it off. After about 2 minutes of battle it has just flown off w/ another larva. Kind of creepy to watch. (17:59)
Maybe should mention that about 7 young ladies from Kuzeit came today to pay respects & make some humble offerings (including hard candy & incense). None were raving beauties, but all were apparently very healthy, & I did some serious ogling, especially from behind as they were leaving. In the struggle between intelligence & instinct intelligence is the underdog.
(18:12) Just noticed 3 frog catchers spying on me from the north edge of the canyon. Silently requested them to fuck off.
Tried a little 4th gear today, w/ some success. Weak & shakey, but 10× better than it would have been 10 days ago.
4-27 (12:19) Last night's meditation stank, of course, as frog catchers were swarming all over the place, & I was obsessively/compulsively determined not to allow any of them to sneak down to the pond. Apparently nobody even tried. So far today's meditation has been pretty lousy also, although not entirely nonexistent, largely due to lack of effort. But, strangely, have little desire for sleep nowadays. Woke up about once every hour last night.
Yesterday's guardian wasps have pretty much given up—the big black wasp comes back again & again, apparently has eaten all of the larger larvae, & now bites open the sealed pupa cases & eats the pupae. Strange that I would feel sorry for paper wasps who are just as ruthless w/ their prey as the big black one is.
(12:55) More rain.
(18:31) Coming back from the water hole (in the sand near the pond) found rolling around on the sand in the cave a paper wasp & a big black one locked in mortal combat, trying w/ all their might to kill each other. Paper wasp sacrificing its life to protect the nest. After a few minutes they broke it up & both flew away, but it looked like the stinger end of the paper wasp's abdomen had been partly bitten off.
4-29 (11:52) First new baby frogs hippity hoppiting around the pond. Lots, lots more still in the water making the transition. 2 weeks from egg to frog.
4-30 (12:15) Meditation 2 days ago—completely shot, essentially nervous non-meditation. Yesterday—up to mediocre-minus, best sit being maybe 20% non-wandering. In early morning the mind seemed heavy, & locked into relatively solid, steady anapana relatively easily, but only briefly. The rest of the day 4th gear seemed easier than 2nd. After dark experienced the same strange phenomenon that is described in the entry for 4-25, & rolled my head around, impulsively, several times. Today—only 2 sits so far today, but mind seems quiet & alert, & meditation is actually enjoyable, worth enduring leg pain for. Nevertheless, the better of the 2 sits was only about ⅓ actual meditation. During the last sit, towards the end,* doing 4th gear w/ eyes open, experienced a few twingey rushes of euphoric piti, accompanying brief glimpses of profundity. Blessings. But, despite my relatively quiet, meditative mind today, & my radiation of mettā to little baby frogs (lots of 'em), birds, & green, budding plants, & my sending mettā to my good alms donors in the village (getting into the habit of doing that every morning—definitely beneficial), still ogled the girls, & tried to look down a blouse or 2. 2 of my 3 favorites in Pwingah offered alms today; while one of them was putting some hard candy into my hand I secretly hoped her hand would brush against mine, but it didn't. Oh, let me become wise. Not dualistically wise as opposed to foolish, just wise. Ha.
"Gain and loss, right and wrong—Away with them once for all!"--Seng-T'san
(15:08) The 1st new adult paper wasps of the year have started emerging from their cells. The nest raided by the Darth Vader wasp a few days ago was abandoned by its guardians. The smaller larvae that were not eaten presumably will starve to death.
* My meditation is usually much better at the end than at the beginning.
5-1 (14:08) Last sit—more than an hour of seemingly more than 50% meditation. Last 15 or 20 minutes or so in 4th gear w/ eyes open, & w/ considerable muscle tension, twitching, etc. Yesterday's relatively clear, alert mind & enjoyable meditation continues. Why does my sitting posture almost automatically improve when my concentration improves?
Ask, & it will be given; seek, & ye shall find; knock, & it will be opened unto you. I hope that is true. If so, need to knock more often. If not—I don't know.
Also don't know exactly why, as U Khema pointed out, I frequently use the virtually meaningless word "basically" when I speak—but rarely when I write. Use "apparently" & "seemingly" (etc.) much more often when I write. "Basically" seems to be used as an intermediate between "essentially" & "actually." Maybe it just slows down the flow of thought & makes it more digestible.
5-2 (06:17) Last sit—75 minutes of seemingly about ⅔, maybe a little more, non-wandering. Mostly 2nd gear, w/ the attention quietly resting upon the breath, but continually undermined by stray mental images (see entry for 3-6). Last thought before beeper went off: "imagining." Definitely the steadiest, most solid attempt at meditation in a long time.
(11:41) More rain, & the ground is covered w/ thousands of tiny frogs. Setting out to seek their fortune. Never seen so many frogs before.
5-5 (12:28) Yesterday after lunch my relatively quiet & enjoyable meditation started to peter out, w/ almost reeling in place in the evening (see 4-25) & a serious bout of the breathing problem. This morning was not better. But, last sit was 65 minutes of sleepy but relatively peaceful 4th gear. Just sitting, as quietly & emptily as possible. W/ the exception of a 24-hour hiatus my brain has had an unusually low idle speed lately. Brain fluctuations over which I have not nearly enough control.
Occurs to me that sometimes 4th gear is "narrow" & sometimes "wide," the common characteristic being non-perception. Lately it has usually been narrow.
Also occurs to me that, just as I shouldn't compare this year w/ last year, I shouldn't compare one sit w/ another (but undoubtedly will continue anyway).
Each time the only time. Be absolute, not relative.
5-6 (12:55) Zillions of little frogs in and above the box canyon this morning. Difficult not to accidentally step on them. Dozens of them down in the latrine pit—just moments after taking a dump counted 8 frogs perched on the turd, plus I think one buried underneath. A devout Jain would be paralyzed.
(14:48) Weather more or less cloudy & more or less sprinkley for several days now. Hot season apparently ended about a week ago, altho still some sweat & grease due to warm, high humidity.
5-7 (14:18) Every meditation yesterday was a struggle to keep my mind quiet—didn't hopelessly fail, but didn't exactly succeed, either. 3rd gear in particular simply wasn't there. Today the mind seems a little quieter, but am wasting lots of time fantasizing about space aliens & naked, horizontal young women, among other things. Last night crashed at 20:50; definitely a significant correlation between poor concentration & too much sleep.
(15:11) What a luxury my mosquito net is—rain no longer fills me w/ dread, & I can look upon it w/ indifference.
(16:36) The forest is relatively very quiet nowadays, the overwhelming majority of noise during the day coming from non-stop cicadas. Most humans are presently staying in the vicinity of the villages & preparing for the rainy season. Minnow-catching season is pretty much over, as high, fast water can come down the now brown, muddy, swollen creek at any time.
5-8 (07:57) This morning took the overland route to the village in order to avoid the mud by the creek, & found the remnant of forest north of the cave swarming w/ woodcutters armed w/ axes, & already 2 of the dwindling number of large trees there had apparently begun to be chopped. I realized I had no right to stop them, as it's not my forest (before very long it won't be anybody's, as it will no longer exist), but did walk by w/ a little bit of a disgusted scowl on my face. Not much mettā radiated in the village today—just trying to be mindful seemed more appropriate. On my way back to the cave the tree nearer the cave was down lying across the trail & was being dismembered. As the group paid respects to me I remarked, in Burmese, "My friend has died," which apparently caused them some mental unease. The villagers cut down 300-year-old trees* w/ pleasure, while the goofy foreign monk will scoop up a little seedling in the sand by the pond & gently move it to higher ground, so it won't wash away when the big water comes. Why does the supposed holy man love trees & despise humans? The Burmese & I seem to represent opposite extremes. No big deal.
Semi-mindful suffering is an awful thing—if one unmindfully indulges in suffering one often derives some satisfaction from it, from hate, or anger, or thinking things like, "This happens every goddam time!" But if one is semi-mindful the suffering persists, but the satisfaction is gone. Just a hollow, aching abomination.
Oh, well, what's done is done.
* Actually, the one they cut was probably much less than 300 years old. Maybe 80.
5-9 (12:00) This morning found 2 more freshly cut large trees near the cave, one of them lying across the trail & blocking it. Another big tree nearby had been freshly girdled. While walking out of the village this morning imagined trying to explain to absolutely anthropocentric Burmese villagers that the human race is a cancer upon the earth, multiplying out of control, & destroying its own environment. They would think I had gone insane.
(14:18) Meditation relatively lousy today, so far—more like floundering than being completely belly up, though. Mind semi-quiet but just won't get into the groove. Semi-meditation; quiet wandering.
(16:23) Counted no fewer than 30 inhabited paper wasp nests on the back wall of the cave. Not including countless potter wasp pots, & some digger wasp holes on the floor.
5-10 (08:01) Well, so much for the hot season being over—yesterday was blazing, & today is by far the hottest morning so far this year. I return from almsround drenched w/ sweat. I prophesy that many hundreds of baby frogs seeking their fortune on the hillside will bake to death today. Creek is still flooded, tho; about halfway up my thigh at the ford to Pwingah. Am totally drenched in sweat.
(12:14) Over the past several days I have observed my meditative concentration gradually dwindling away. In the almost 3 hours of of formal sitting practice so far today, the total amount of actual meditation is essentially zero. Remarkable how little control I have over my mind. Remember the Great Comforting Thought. ("Even if I make no significant progress in this life, at least I'm staying out of trouble, more or less.") At least I'm mindful or aware enough to perceive that my mind/brain fluctuates like this. Never really noticed it as a layman. Have also noticed that it's harder to feel mettā in the village, or be patient w/ insect pests, when I can't meditate worth half a damn.
(15:37) I myself personally think that there is at least one baby jink bird in the nest above me. Starting today Mrs. Jink Bird is taking food up there & then making the little chirping noises that mean, "Here, eat this," in the jink bird tongue. Also heard hungry-sounding peeping coming from the nest during a long upote [i.e. uposatha] day visit from faithful dayakas. (The mother won't approach the nest when strange people are here, which caused me a little concern. Will also add that I have been looking forward to writing "I myself personally think" for several days now. My dream is fulfilled.) Approx. 18 days to incubate a jink bird egg.
5-12 (11:26) FIRST DELUGE O' YEAR started about 10:00. Not a very big one—waterfall didn't get anywhere near maximum size, & the inside of the cave hardly got damp. Deluge minus. Thousands more baby frogs down below, & many dozens of big maggots trying to get out of the unflooded but rain-soaked shitter.
Started writing letters to the parental units last night. A monk came yesterday & said he would go to Wun Dwin soon.
5-13 (12:46) I do hereby retract the FIRST DELUGE notice written yesterday. The creek was hardly flooded at all this morning. No rain upstream apparently.
The Sleep Log reveals a phenomenon indicative of shot meditation (which continues today)—I wake up in the morning after a reasonably long stretch of sleep, then I try to meditate, miserably fail, and then lie down and go back to sleep. Part of the problem is I just don't try hard enough. Strong aversion for continually going back to the beginning (elementary meditation w/ lots of labelling) & grinding away at the ABC's.
After one day of rain, coolish weather, and a luxurious absence of the layer of salty grease covering my body, today we go back to blazing heat. At least the Coca-Cola in the pond washed away. After the mud settles it should become clear.
5-14 (08:26) Met U Maung Cho, plus a bunch of other guys, on my way to the village this morning. Asked him where he was going, & he said he was going to cut down trees. Said the army has ordered the men of Pwingah to cut down lots of trees—I think I heard they were going to build a bridge, presumably to facilitate hauling out logs. Lots & lots of woodcutters today. Shortly before making it back to the cave heard a big one come crashing down a little ways upstream, followed by the sound of hooting and laughing, & then the sound of me saying, "Fuck you guys." To make matters worse I found out today that the storm 2 days ago blew down 3 trees by the trail.
This morning on the bank of the creek across from Pwingah saw the heads, feet, & guts of 3 monitor lizards. Part of them got put into my bowl today—my 1st mouthful of food inadvertently contained a piece of monitor lizard.
To top it all off, this morning is blazing hot. Drenched w/ sweat at 07:30. Am really getting tired of being coated w/ a layer of sweat and/or salty grease.
Have been having a relatively bad morning—meditation still shot, hot & covered w/ sweat, & throngs of loud, destructive, nature-hating villagers running amuck through the forest. This morning is the 1st time so far this year that I have felt significant twinges of hate for existence and the world. A careful examination of this journal would probably reveal that I am much more likely to be cynical and pessimistic when my concentration is on the rocks.
5-15 (15:16) Last sit: actually sat for more than an hour (for the 1st time today), w/ a few moments here & there of weak, shallow 4th gear, eyes open almost the entire sit. Ordinary anapana w/ eyes closed seemed beyond my capabilities—too much active control involved. Intensive practice is on the shelf until the weather and my brain cool down.
Yesterday evening while I was down near the creek to chase away minnow catchers I noticed that one of the multitude of woodcutters yesterday took a few chops at a large tree not far from the cave, causing me some dukkha. It occurs to me repeatedly nowadays that I am much too attached to the forest here—very possessive of trees, fish, frogs, etc. that I do not own. Unhealthy & adhammic; not conducive to wisdom unless I mindfully observe the pain it causes. What to do. Passively tolerate the villagers destroying the forest around me w/ perfect equanimity? Hell no! Only a wise person could do that. Sometimes I think I ought to live in town, or in a desolate wasteland that is already destroyed. Why do I love the eternal battlefield of nature? Everywhere life feeding upon death, endless suffering and killing.
The hot season is starting to depress me, just a little so far. I hope the rain will start soon. Actually, this is the mildest hot season I have experienced here, at least w/ regards to weather.
(18:58) Today U Maung Cho dropped by, & mentioned that the army has demanded 50 logs from Pwingah. While he was here I heard the sound of chopping very close by; if UMC wasn't here I probably would have immediately gone to check, but he was, so I didn't. While it was going on I thought I heard a voice at the creek say something about not chopping wood/trees at the monk's place. Anyhow, went down later to police the area & found probably the largest tree in the box canyon, which is down by the bathing spot, w/ its bark all hacked up. Probably the same guy as yesterday, pathetically trying to show his defiance, or audacity, or something. Didn't bother me as much this time—at least he didn't have enough guts or defiance or hate to actually kill the tree. Got some freshly deposited mud at the creek (not against Vinaya, I hope) & covered the wounds w/ it. Bless those that curse me—unless I catch the guy in the act, in which case I might attack him. Seriously.
5-17 (06:04) Today is Buddha Day, 1st day of the year 2544 B.E., & also one day after Paññobhāsa Bhikkhu's 9th birthday (by the Buddhist calendar). (08:24) So I usher in this holy day by soiling my robe w/ a wet dream, oversleeping, & then sitting for an hour in a kind of restless stupor, occasionally making very brief & very feeble attempts to actually meditate. At least the fact that it is Buddha Day deterred me somewhat from trying to look down women's blouses in the village today. (Came back from the village drenched w/ sweat, as usual. Will be very, very glad when the rain starts. It is overdue.)
NE occurred while, in my dream, I was ogling a hardcore porno magazine (2 guys & 1 girl). The plan was to look at it for a while, then go to a porno shop & buy another one, & then maybe stop off at a bar & have a shot of Scotch; but after the emission occurred I figured maybe I ought to just buy some work socks.
(12:55) Ah, luxury! It's raining. No monsoon yet, but a good shower at least. No more sweat & grease today, methinx.
(13:42) Today at the creek I was thoroughly despising the "brainless, infantile, hillbilly mentality" of Pwingah villagers. But, we are not so different. They presumably believe that Dhamma is right & true, but nevertheless they don't follow it, despite the fact that half a moment's thought would plainly reveal that the killing of animals, etc., is, according to their own culture's highest standards, evil. I on the other hand know quite well that I shouldn't fantasize about sex, despise villagers, etc. etc., but do so anyway, despite the fact that I can see that such mental behavior is a great hindrance to me, keeping me suffering in Saṁsāra. I'm just stuck at a slightly higher level of foolishness. A slightly more intelligent breed of dog. The Aṭṭhakavagga, which I revere, says again & again that a bhikkhu should not despise anybody, for any reason. Only a wise person could be like that.
5-18 (10:41) Had another erotic dream last night (2nd night in a row)—NE occurred while looking all the way down the bathing sarong of a grungy-looking village woman while she adjusted it just inches in front of me, and, incidentally, shortly after she had chopped the legs off a live & unhappy pheasant w/ a dull machete. A fair symbolic representation of my situation here.
This morning on the way into the village encountered a caravan of about 120 hollering woodcutters* (lost count at about 115) going up the creek, armed w/ axes, saws, & machetes.
Also this morning found a dead baby bird floating in the pond. I assume it's a baby jink bird; there's still at least one more up in the nest making peeping noises, though. I think maybe the biggest chick(s) gets fed 1st, & the youngest chick only survives if times are very good. A jink bird is a very harsh, hard-hearted being.
(14:12) It took a month, but I finally finished reading Hume last night. Now I think he's my favorite Western philosopher, although he's no Nāgārjuna, & I don't accept all of his philosophy—for example, I think his definition of "belief" is pretty feeble. And even tho his skepticism is "extravagant" I don't think he went far enough: all perception, all significance attributed to anything, depends upon instinct & habit. If a newly created conscious being were absolutely devoid of instinct & habit not only would he be unable to predict that Hume's billiard ball would cause another to move upon impact, he would be unable to perceive a rolling sphere (or even a moving circle) distinct from its surroundings. His experiential, subjective, skeptical point of view is excellent, tho, plus he set Western philosophy upon its ear, which is good.
The sweat & grease have started to make a comeback. Also, gadflies (especially the longish, mottled grey ones) are reaching plague proportions.
*well, all of them weren't hollering.
5-19 (14:30) Well, FIRST REAL DELUGE O' YEAR—shortly before 13:00 saw something I can't remember ever seeing before: clouds changing shape at high speed, swirling, twisting, bending, & splitting apart. Shortly thereafter a bank of thick, dark cloud flew across from the north, & the world became dark & thundery. So, I quickly fetched some extra drinking water & started battening down the hatches, figuring it was going to be a big one. Only rained about 40 minutes, but the waterfall got pretty big. Spray came into the cave for the 1st time this year. Ought to put the tarp up soon. If I actually manage to spend vassa here it looks like there will be many days when I will simply have to fast. When waterfall is big, pond looks very difficult to cross.
5-20 (18:59) It seems like the only meditation method nowadays that is bearable and produces even partial results (is even partially effective) is letting my gaze rest on a bright patch of green in front of me & just trying to keep my mind as quiet as possible—which usually isn't very.
Cool, comfortable weather, helping my mind to be somewhat calm today. Wore the thick wool robe most of the day.
5-22 (14:28) The vampire fly problem continues to worsen—zillions of the little bastards, especially when coming back from almsround via the overland route, & in the late afternoon. After several days of striking out in self defense (as is my right) w/ the absolutely necessary sweatrag/snotrag/fly flail/mouth wiping cloth/washrag, today I smashed a few w/ the palm of my hand w/ the (angry) intention of killing them. I willingly accept the pācittiya offenses, plus whatever akusala kamma is involved; I cannot bring myself to believe that one gets only demerit by killing them. The only benefit anyone gets from a vampire fly is when it dies. I rid the world of a few truly noxious vermin—the only good vampire fly is a dead vampire fly. Let my judges be those who have gone thru the same experience. They are worse than horseflies, & uglier, too.
5-23 (09:10) Yesterday one of my favorite pretty girls in Pwingah offered food, & I spent much of the rest of the day fantasizing about her, especially about marrying her & then teaching her about "the birds & the bees," so to speak. By evening the fantasy became quite pornographic & culminated in me lustfully fondling myself (altho I haven't broken the self-imposed rule yet this year of not handling Mr. Lingam when he is not, eh, limp). Did some more not-yet-erect fondling this morning, supposedly to help me wake up (cf. 4-25). Then in Kuzeit this morning there were a number of braless young ladies inadvertently offering tantalizing glimpses of their smooth, light brown breasts. I think 1 or 2 might have noticed that I was staring at their tits. To top it all off, the last woman to offer food was late, so she came running, w/ her full, round, braless breasts jiggling & bouncing as she came toward me, inspiring in me some very pleasurable interest. Before she got halfway to where I was she noticed what was happening & covered the front of her blouse w/ a towel. I am a horny, foolish dog.
(18:01) Too much trivia today to write about—drongo attack in the sacred grove (I accidentally walked too near their nest); vampire fly attacks & counterattacks (I smashed one flat w/ my fist while roaring in anger, after a split second's hesitation to decide whether or not I should*); making the instinctive animal sound "uhh!" when a big black scorpion started moving toward me (made the same sound 2 days ago w/ regard to a scolopendra); hearing another big tree come crashing down near the cave, then idiotically getting up from my bowl of food & searching in vain for it, returning to the cave drenched in sweat (hopefully it's on the other side of the creek, which is pretty much already destroyed anyway); looking at my little canyon & feeling a pang of sorrow, knowing that the forest is being killed (no parenthetical insertion needed for this one); feeling blessed for having the opportunity to read Hume—feel like I ought to study & master his teachings of skepticism.
Meditation still floundering, but seemingly trying to make a comeback. Can easily sit for an hour, anyway.
*shouldn't, but did anyway
5-24 (15:45) Yesterday the breathing problem got pretty bad, & continues so today. Seems increasingly more likely to me that it is a neurotic symptom, or some kind of psychologically unhealthy compulsion anyway. Like my old habit of puffing air in between my gums & my cheeks & lips, for example.
Seems like my floundering attempts at Dhamma practice are more effective at helping me to see my faults than at helping me to eradicate them. Dhamma practice is more or less a matter of rubbing my nose in my own defilements.
Meditation worse today, partly due to hip pain, which may be due to low atmospheric pressure. Looks like the monsoon is finally starting to blow proper-like.
(17:23) A few minutes ago received my 1st wasp sting of the year, right on top of the head. I shouldn't have been stung—was outside the danger radius, & wasn't even walking fast. If that starts to be a regular occurrence I may have little choice but to commit an act of mass insecticide, which I would rather not do. The nest is still relatively small, but contains about 300 eggs/larvae & about 40 adults. Will be thousands when it reaches full size.
(20:07) Spent much of my last sit trying to think of a good solution to a potential wasp problem. Another minor source of worry in my silly little life. I forgetteth the Good Book: "One sting doth not a problem make" (Detritus 4:17). A burned child fears the fire.
Around dusk noticed a medium-sized crab in the cave. Don't know where it came from, or how it got here.
PLACE: the cavern of Yalthribmanok
DATE: 12th day of the forest moon of Ibbok-Jabdool, in the year of the one-legged flaming owl
5-25 (05:54) Ha, just noticed that after using it to go to the village once, the handle on my umbrella is busted. And it's raining again this morning. Only 5 more months to go.
(14:15) 3 visitors just came bringing a letter from Moh Moh, & one of them got stung by a wasp from the same nest as yesterday.
5-26 (6:06) Vaguely remembered semi-nightmare last night—2 men, a Russian & a German, apprehended me & were going to kill me for some unspecified official reason. At one point I had the opportunity to kill the Russian w/ a butcher knife, but decided I'd better not. Eventually escaped from them, w/ the help of a dog.
Wind blowing from north again this morning. More drizzle.
(08:43) Strangely, spontaneously radiating mettā today. Easier to love people when I know they love me; today, as usual nowadays, the ladies & girls of Pwingah waded across the creek & offered food on this side so I wouldn't have to get wet. Maybe 60 or 70 of them. One little girl gave me a garland of flowers. Then a soldier visiting the area followed me back to the cave & offered me a lovely can of wild buffalo. Plus, the weather is very comfortable nowadays, few people in the forest, &, surprisingly, very few vampire flies today—they seem to be clearing out. I almost don't even hate them any more, the precious little darlings.
Have decided to begin 2 months of More Intensive Practice tomorrow, despite the fact that my meditation has been floundering for more than 2 weeks. That's what I'm here for. (I.E., practicing, not floundering.)
Seems like all the beings around here are having babies except me, &, of course, the babies themselves. The baby jink bird (only 1 in the nest) looks to be about half grown, & its peeping is starting to sound kind of like jinking. Last night saw a mother rat taking a litter of about quarter-grown babies to the back of the cave. Meanwhile down below baby snakes eat baby frogs, & in the cave the baby wasps are more & more each day.
(15:54) Well, so much for the vampire flies clearing out—the sun came out around 15:00, & so did they. Instant plague in the cave. I smashed about 7 of them, & also knocked 1 horsefly to the ground, before getting the mosquito net set up (early today on account of the emergency). Let me rephrase my earlier statement: I don't hate them so long as they don't attack me en mass,* or inside the cave; almost don't hate them anyway.
Put my garland of fragrant flowers on top of the skull.
*Is that spelled right? En masse?
5-27 (05:59) Early morning sit may have been as much as ½ non-wandering mind, for well over an hour. Just sitting, w/ the mind as alert, aware, & quiet as possible. Seemingly the best sit I've had in at least 2 weeks, which is a good way to start my projected 2 months of More Intensive Practice. May my invisible teachers continue to guide me toward the ultimate goal. Hope the relatively good sit wasn't simply caused by the can of wild buffalo I drank last night.
(21:05) Have found that mindfully hearing the sound of the waterfall is a good way of anchoring myself in the present moment. The sound is always changing, yet always the same. The eternal present. Strange how easily the mind drifts away from it into dreamy reverie. Need to avoid dreaminess as much as possible. Be here now.
5-28 (18:54) A strange little problem: a little black, white, & grey bird that looks like a sparrow keeps coming & crapping on the rolled up gunny sack I use for a sitting cushion, 5 times so far. Apparently it wants the jute fibers for a nest it's building. Then today while I was making feeble efforts to meditate, it landed on my leg & tried to pull out some of my leg hairs. It's a cute little bird & I didn't want to scare it, but then it crapped, & flew away when I reached for something to wipe it up. It came back later & pulled more hairs, but then crapped again. A cute little bird, but it just shits too much. Must hide the gunny sack under the sitting cloth when I leave the cave.
5-29 (05:25) Early morning meditation: little more than a struggle to stay awake. (13:41) After that, received 2 screeching blows to the head while passing under the sacred drongo nest (takes about 3 months off my lifespan every time that happens); irritation during almsround because the ladies of Kuzeit stubbornly persist in offering too much food each; then returning to the cave soaked in sweat (blazing sun + maximum humidity) w/ fly flail in constant motion, unmindfully cursing the vampire flies all around me. ("Death! Death to you all! You deserve nothing but death!") Blazing sun one day after rain results in fly plague—today is one of the most fly-infested days on record. This morning, while washing the sweat, grease, & bird shit out of my sitting cloth, was thinking, "Everything is Dukkha—especially on certain days."
(16:16) Put up the tarp today—not finished yet, but thoroughly fed up w/ trickling sweat & vampire flies. Will finish after it gets cloudy again. Not much meditation getting done today. Dukkha.
5-30 (05:49) I dread going for almsround today. Blazing sun & vampire flies await. (12:07) Actually, it wasn't as bad as expected. But, today has been by far the most miserably sweat-drenched day of the year so far. Sweat dripping off my eyebrows, chin, & elbows, trickling down my chest, back, & legs, while resting in the shade at 09:30. Plus, of course, lots of vampire flies, which lately have been arousing in me violent, passionate hatred & volition to kill. Will be very glad when the hot weather is over. Again, not much meditation getting done today, despite the MIP status.
(14:36) Ah, luxury! Rain & cool wind. Just a little thunder shower, but cool enough for my sweat to dry.
6-1 (15:56) Too miserably hot & humid to stay under the mosquito net, too vampire fly-infested to meditate in peace w/o it. My supposed "More Intensive Practice" is, so far, a bunch of crap. It's always gotta be something. If it's not one thing it's another.
(18:30) I ought to be practicing equanimity w/ regard to dripping sweat & biting flies, but instead I go around bitching & cursing. I ought to practice restraint of the sense faculties & stop trying to see village women's tits, as I know it to be an impediment, but I don't. I am, as ven. U Vesārajja once put it, stuck in a rut. Or, rather, I am the rut. So how do I get out of myself? How do I stop being a slave to my natural inclinations (instincts & habits) if not by going through profound despair? I don't know. I think even profound despair may be beyond my reach. Trapped in Samsara, but not entirely against my will. Γνῶθι Σεαυτόν, O thou neurotic fool. "He whose face puts forth no light shall never become a star."
6-2 (10:36) Significant twinges of depression last night. Felt like my mind was in pain—mind-ache. It seemed like my life recently has been little more than just surviving an ordeal. Pointless suffering w/ no consolation but the Great Comforting Thought—at least I'm staying out of trouble (more or less). Brought on mainly, of course, by continuous lousy, stinking weather (rained just enough last night to keep the humidity at maximum w/o significantly reducing the heat), vampire fly plague, & almost complete inability to meditate.* Other contributing factors included the sores on my foot that don't heal. (I think at least one of them has dirt or something stuck up inside it—may have to just let it fester out.) Very little that could be called pleasure in my life now, mainly just problems & discomforts w/ lots of neutral filler. Then this morning, in accordance w/ the principle When It Rains It Pours, above the cave, about a hundred yards from here as the crow flies, saw a woodcutter clearing the brush around one of the biggest trees up there, then met about 10 more guys coming up the trail armed w/ axes & saws. Could have politely asked them not to cut down trees near the cave, but didn't—like a fool I just scowled & walked past them in silence, ignoring them when they bowed down to me. I hated them. When it came time for me to send loving-kindness before entering the village I couldn't work up a single molecule of it. The women who offer me my food are the wives & mothers of the destroyers of the forest—& it will be completely destroyed some day, unless somehow the stupid human race destroys itself first. Seems like a completely hopeless situation. But, after almsround things got a little better—the sky clouded up so it's not so hot so far today, there are relatively few vampire flies about (was only bitten about 15 times this morning; ah, what luxury! only 15 gadfly bites in one morning! like householders who enjoy pleasures of the senses**), & when I got near the cave I saw that the big tree was still standing, & wasn't even girdled, w/ no woodcutters to be found. Hopefully someone suggested that they cut something further from my cave. Also, I saw another one of those pretty yellow & black digger wasps that prey upon horseflies searching for a nest site in the cave. If they eat horseflies they can't be all bad. My walking path is getting dug up by digger wasps.
A long, complicated dream last night: don't remember how it started; the earliest part I remember, I think, involved my father in a kitchen I didn't recognize making some kind of frothy egg custard stuff. He told me not to worry—it would all get eaten eventually. I told him that if it wasn't all eaten by tomorrow afternoon I'd eat it myself. Shortly after that I was standing on a driveway or road in front of the house, & was looking at a small white shed. At first there seemed to be nothing unusual, but then I noticed that images of me wearing yellow raingear would sometimes appear & disappear beside the shed. I then realized that I was seeing a fast-motion replay of earlier on in the day, & I would briefly appear only when I had stood still for a long time—usually the replay was moving too fast for me to see myself (I think I was wearing raingear in association w/ being a fisheries biologist, not because it was raining.) I don't remember what I was doing at the shed w/ raingear on. The image always or usually had its/his back turned to the self standing in the driveway watching. Then, while I was standing there, I became a little boy like Beaver Cleaver, & I had a plan to sneak away from the house & meet 2 of my friends so we could do something, I don't remember what. But then I somehow came to know that one of the friends was in the hospital, so I went there to inquire about his condition. When I got to the doctor's office I noticed a large rack there w/ lots of bread in clear plastic bags. When I saw the doctor & asked about my friend he immediately smiled & gave me instructions concerning a bus going to the middle of town. Somehow I concluded from his prompt response that my other friend had already been there. As people left the doctor's office he would give them a package of bread, but to me he gave peanuts & what appeared to be candy. Also, he offered me some kind of powder that had been extracted from the sick boy's skin; he presented me w/ a small metal object covered w/ what looked like whisker stubble cleaned from an electric shaver. It didn't look like anything I would have any use for, so I let him keep it. Then, as I left the office I became an adult again & took the bus to the middle of town. There I found what was called Kaba-Aye Pagoda, but which was actually the stupa at Sarnath, India, except it was located in Canada. Ven. Pakhokku Sayadaw was there along w/ a small retinue, & an older guy from the retinue showed me around the stupa, which had recently been fixed by the Japanese. Near the stupa were a number of large structures, including what looked like 2 wading pools surrounded by a stone or cement wall. It was explained that they were to stand in if one's feet got hot from walking around barefoot in the sun. Also nearby were a number of stone or cement seats w/ footrests. I wanted to go look at the old monastery ruins, but I went the wrong direction & wound up in town. So I tried again & found myself at a kind of video game arcade. I saw a young guy playing a game that involved a blip shooting a machine gun at enemy blips, & after he was finished I played it; don't remember how well I did. After I played a young woman played it, & I realized that the game was sort of like Hesse's glass bead game—one's attitude determined how the game should be played. Her blip didn't do any shooting but was apparently doing quite well just glowing in the middle of the screen. While she was playing I began fondling her, masturbating her in fact, & altho she became quite aroused the dream remained a dry one, & I wandered back to the back of the arcade. There was a counter there where people could play casino-style blackjack or another game that I couldn't identify. The dealers were Canadian-looking women, & if one played one had to have one's name & occupation written down on a register, plus the amount one won or lost. I figured my occupation would be "biologist," but decided not to play. Around this time I looked at a handful of my change & noticed a U.S. quarter w/ some kind of horned dragon-bird or bird-dragon on it. Then I decided to play the machine gun game again, but accidentally played a different one that shot real lead pellets at targets; I didn't do very well. Then I remembered that I wanted to walk around on top of the stupa, as I hadn't done it yet. A western tourist lady told me it would be a good place for a dance floor, but I informed her that dancing was against the Buddhist code of discipline, which she seemed to think was strange. But then instead of going back to the stupa I somehow arrived at what I supposed to be my monastery. Near the gateway there was a table w/ 1 or 2 Christian men collecting money for something like Red Cross. I took out a handful of change & put about a third of it into a collection can that was already stuffed—it was hard to get the money through the slot. Then the guy nearest me asked if what I had put in amounted to a dollar's worth. I asked, if it did does my name get taken off some kind of list? He said no. Then we spoke briefly about Buddhism in general, I think, & then I woke up. (12:45)
(14:40) Today while passing thru the sacred grove, noticed that no screeching drongos were bouncing off my head, then looked up & saw that their nest had been knocked down, pretty much as I expected. May have been done by the dayakas who cleared the path for me.
Meditation, if it can even be called that, has truly stunk for the past few days. During the last sit had a few minutes of partial success w/ 3rd gear, so might as well go w/ that for a while, I guess.
* which could possibly be yet another neurotic symptom cooked up by my screwed up brain
** These statements are true, but are misleading, & make the situation sound worse than it was—few flies, but quite a few bites—more than usual, I think.
DATE: not Eternity, I hope
6-3 (10:52) Overcast & rain today, w/ yesterday's layer of sticky, gooey, salty grease washed off under the waterfall. At least one day of relief from sweltering & dripping sweat. Still no monsoon, tho. Late this year.
(13:47) Well, part of a day of relief anyway—the rain stopped & I'm sweating again.
(14:58) THE PROBLEM RESTATED* Meditation for me is mainly trying to keep my brain as close to "conscious resting metabolism" as possible, trying to keep the mind as alert & relaxed as possible. But when the brain's resting metabolism is way too high, as is definitely the case nowadays, I am not proficient at any way of lowering it. 3rd gear seems to have some effect, as mentioned yesterday, but it is like holding my breath & trying not to breathe—the mind recoils from it w/ strong aversion after a very short time. All the more reason why I should do it, I suppose, but it is very unpleasant. I wonder if drugs would help. I wish I knew just what to do, & how to do it.
Universal spiritual advice: Stay Out of Trouble.
(18:22) Last sit: after many minutes of relatively quiet floundering, automatically started doing the old 1st/2nd gear combo, w/ surprising success; probably more than 10% actual meditation for a 63 minute sit, which nowadays is remarkable. I think it is no coincidence that my meditation takes a nosedive when the weather gets hot, & then starts to recover when it cools down again (right now is coolish & comfortable). Maybe I should move to a place that's colder than this.
* see also entry for 3-6
6-4 (15:06) Apparently the baby jink bird flew away this morning—I haven't seen it up there all day (except maybe early morning), & the parents haven't been going up there. Wait—I remember it being up there before almsround. Anyhow, I think it flew away during a thunderstorm while I was eating lunch. 17 days from laying to hatching, 25 days from hatching to flying. Slightly regret not seeing it fly away. Good luck to it; may it live long & prosper.
(17:23) Have noticed myself talking to myself a lot lately, not whispering either, but in full conversational tone. Ought to stop doing that, partly as an exercise in mindfulness, & partly because if anyone sees me doing it they'll think I'm silly and/or pretty weird. Also, have noticed that when thinking or talking to myself I use the word "fuck" a lot, which isn't good. Ought to stop doing that, too. And I make the exclamation "Jesus!" much more than befits a Buddhist monk. The other day while in the process of falling down & denting my bowl I exclaimed "Fuck!", & about 2 hours later when I almost slipped & fell into the pond I made some instinctive animal noises (which cannot be transliterated accurately) followed by "Jesus!" Curiously, I seem to only use the word "basically" when imagining that I'm talking to someone else (see entry for 5-1).
Have also observed that the breathing problem seems much less likely to occur when my meditation is floundering or when I am being otherwise unmindful. If so, that would support the neurosis hypothesis. Insufficient data.
6-5 (12:31) A real monsoon seems finally to be arriving. Rain again last night, low clouds moving steadily from south today. This morning the creek was the floodedest it has been so far this year; took the usual route, & by crashing through bushes & vines was able get as far as the slough. While standing there considering whether or not it was possible to cross it a group of women & children from Kuzeit came running to the other side, one of them hollering to me not to cross. At my direction a volunteer from the group dressed in a bathing sarong waded thru neck-deep slough water, received my bowl, took it back to the other side where it was filled, & then waded back & returned it. Then 3 young women arrived at my side of the slough via a different route, one of them soaked to the skin & obviously wearing no underwear of any kind (delicious eye candy, or, rather, eye wine—just did a little non-erect fondling of myself while thinking about it), just thin cotton blouse & sarong. Anyhow, they tried to show me an alternate route back, but they didn't know the way any better than I did. Followed part of the way behind the wet one, my eyes fixed upon her glistening buttocks. Horning & perving, again. Strangely, there is no vinaya rule against ogling wet women, but of course it is akusala kamma anyway. It is pleasant to know that I am loved by 2 village-loads of women, although most of the pleasure & probably some of the love itself are just sublimated animal sexuality. In my case, maybe not so sublimated. I could benefit so much from a wise, mind-reading teacher w/ a big stick. "Ogling again, were you?"—Whack! "Thank you sir may I have another."
(17:16) Have not yet sat for a full hour today. Usually sit for about 50 minutes before giving up. Repeated occurrence of that great hallmark of completely belly-up meditation—thinking & music at the same time.
6-6 (13:50) Today's trip to the village found me wading thru chocolate pudding mud literally up to my knees. Tried to take the high road back, but lost the trail for the 3rd time in a row. Finally made it back to the cave w/ my as yet unhealed toes freshly battered & coated w/ mud, drenched in sweat, & w/ a veritable swarm of vampire flies all around me. Kind of put me in a bad mood. A great many fly bites today.
The toes on my right foot are having a serious string of bad luck. Don't know what will become of the festering one; roared in pain today when it caught in some dry grass. The unfestering one, tho, looks like it's finally starting to heal up—the ulceration is usually dry now, & the toe is not quite so purple. But, today I noticed that the bottom of the big toe on that foot has been split open somehow. Don't know how that happened.
My ability to meditate is just about at rock bottom nowadays. I wake up in the morning, try to meditate, fail, & then go back to sleep, even tho I'm not very tired, because continued floundering seems pointless. Unconsciousness seems more worthwhile. Why, why is meditation so easy sometimes & virtually impossible at others? Where is my teacher? Certainly not at Paṇḍitārāma or Pah Auk.
6-8 (13:03) Yesterday morning met U Thein Maung & told him about the toe problem, asked him for band-aids, & made the mistake of saying I might want to see a doctor, if it is convenient, about toe #7 (the festering one). He responded by bringing Pwingah's reasonably pretty nurse (cf. 2-25), which put me in a good mood, & like an idiot I've been thinking about her frequently ever since. Continually noted the urge to look at her, say nice things to her, give her a present; & after she left, like a dog I walked down the path in the cave checking to see if she left any dainty little footprints I could admire. As it turned out, her tracks are not particularly attractive. Gawd. Irrational mating urges are very strong, strong enough to make the world go around. Me want woman. If I had to live in close proximity w/ an attractive woman for an extended length of time there is a high probability that I would be a goner. Speaking of mating urges, Mrs. Jink Bird started building another nest yesterday. The jink birds, the rats, the digger wasps, etc. go thru so much trouble to reproduce, & they derive absolutely no material benefit from it. At least the paper wasps increase the number of fighters in their air force (the reasonably pretty nurse got stung yesterday). Seeing all the reproducing birds & bees around me (plus reading Hume) has helped me to see humans as irrational animals—not just intellectually, either—I really get a feel for it. Some kind of insight. Reproduction especially is irrational bestiality. Nevertheless, the urge is very strong in me—not to have children, but to have a mate & to impregnate her. What better proof is there that we are simply a species of relatively large-brained ape? Beautiful, smiling village girl w/ flowers in her hair in the span of a year becomes grungy, tired-looking woman w/ a snotty-nosed baby strapped to her back.
6-9 (13:38) Yesterday evening noticed a subtle change in brain metabolism—less tension in the back of my mind, causing meditation to be somewhat less difficult, w/ less resistance, less feeling like I'm trying to hold my breath. Strange to feel in my mind the potential for meditation. Thought maybe I could start rebuilding momentum in practice, as it is now virtually zero, BUT, today is seeing the return of blazing hot, humid, sweat-drenched weather. I spend much of the day lying on my back fanning & wiping myself w/ a saturated sweat rag. If I sit up & start trying to meditate the sweat immediately starts to flow. No significant rain in 4 days; the waterfall has been completely dry since yesterday.
(17:09) Last sit: it finally cooled down enough to sit w/0 stewing in sweat at around 16:00, so I gave it a shot. Almost immediately began obsessing, trying to remember the name of the president of the Pali Text Society. Was pretty sure it started w/ C, & had an O in it; thought names like Cowan & Corman were close. After almost an hour of trying different variations I was able to remember the 1st name—Richard—by trying to imagine the name at the end of the foreword to K. R. Norman's translation of Sutta Nipāta. Then it seemed like his name ended in something like -ak, & while I was going thru the alphabet for about the 4th time it suddenly popped: Gombrich! Richard Gombrich! Slapped myself in the face a couple of times, & w/in seconds (about 5) the beeper went off. Slightly more than an hour of essentially non-meditation. Momentum of practice still virtually zero.
PLACE: hot sweat place
DATE: hot sweat day
6-10 (15:48) Early this morning felt like I still had potential for decent meditation, but sat for well over an hour w/ most of that time occupied by sleepy spacing out, & much of the rest by lustful & very pornographic fantasizing. Came very, very close to erect fondling of self, but I refrain from giving the lurid details. Then, after lunch, sat for less than an hour (more like half an hour) in the typical post-lunch stupor. And from then until now I have spent most of my time lying down, often fanning the sweat rag, trying to stew in as little sweat as possible. (Wrestling w/ the urge to write, "This weather sucks." Definitely indicative of unwisdom. This is this.) While lying here came even closer to lustful erect handling of Rasputin (i.e., Mr. Lingam*), while entertaining some very pornographic thoughts. Hot, hot weather like this is a dangerous time, as I become too idle, unmeditative, & lustful. Oh, me want woman. I am a dog. Me want bitch in heat. Was in a pretty good mood earlier today, but now I'm just enduring again. Pariḷāha samayo—time of sweltering. At least there are fewer vampire flies now, for some reason.
(22:42) Dumb poem I composed while supposedly doing walking meditation:
I'm Paññobhāsa Bhikkhu, I used to be Dave,
I lived in a house once, but now in a cave;
I hide from the world so that I can behave,
But to my defilements I still am a slave.
I wear dirty robes, my noggin I shave,
I stay in big forests and try to be brave;
I'm thought to be wise, but still am a knave,
And fear that I shall be til I go to my grave.
I like the one about my old buddy Tim T. better:
There once was a fellow named Triesch
Whose wife kept him on a short leash;
She said "Now you've got
To stop smoking that pot!"
So he started up smoking hashish.
Have actually had some at-least-mediocre meditation tonight—for the 1st time in a long time meditation is not like trying to balance a marble on the tip of a sharpened pencil. Hitting something of a groove. But, certainly no cause for celebration yet. Things are still pretty feeble. Interesting that the change in brain metabolism is noticeable.
If you call me neurotic I'll rant and I'll rave.
* i.e. Mr. Euphemism
6-11 (13:52) Strange—this morning woke up after less than 4:10 of sleep feeling refreshed & alert, then sat for well over an hour w/ easily some of the best meditation I've had in weeks. Very hard to estimate, since most of it doesn't register in memory, but I think probably much more than 50% actual meditation/non-wandering. Quiet 2nd gear, mostly, so clear that it verged upon 4th. Quietly watching the sensation of breath; going after the sensation wrecks it. Passive is better than active. Wish I knew what causes these fluctuations in my brain. Hope it's not neurosis. The other 2 sits I've had so far today have been mediocre-minus at best, but I still feel the potential for something deep.
An unofficial extra verse, composed this morning:
I'm a celibate hermit, yet women I crave;
Lust washes over me wave after wave;
Myself from myself I am trying to save,
But deep in my heart I'm debauched and depraved.
Doesn't really fit the rest of the poem. Too exaggeratedly pessimistic.
6-12 (19:25) Semi-amazingly, have had a few slight twitches of slight piti today, although meditation overall has been nothing to write home about. Still lots & lots of free association (i.e., wandering mind). Ah, well, at least my efforts don't seem futile now, plus it was cloudy today. No rain, tho.
6-13 (16:46) Meditation stinks so far this afternoon, as my mind is polluted w/ aversion for humid, sweltering, hot miserable weather. The heat is causing the insects to go ballistic also, but I can't stay under the mosquito net because it's too goddam hot. Bitch, bitch, moan, moan. Pariḷāha samayo. I am Dukkha.
6-14 (12:20) Just got stung twice by the same wasp, once on the back of the neck & once on the arm, down at the south end of the walking path. Probably the same wasps that got the reasonably pretty nurse last week. (12:37) Was just interrupted by some visitors from Labo, & one guy got stung on his way into the cave & stung again on his way out. If I understand correctly, after he got out he told one of his buddies that he was stung 5 times. After the attack I saw 2 nests swarming in attack mode, one of them about 14 feet up, which isn't good. I may have little choice but to stop doing walking meditation during the day, at least during hot weather, which is pretty much all there is lately. (The metabolism of cold-blooded animals doubles w/ every 10°C rise in temperature—thus, hyperactive sting-happy wasps on hot days.) The only other alternatives would be moving somewhere else, committing mass insecticide, or simply getting stung a lot. The nests still look like they're only about ⅓ maximum size; the biggest ones so far look slightly smaller than a dinner plate. Also, noticed some more nests yesterday, so my new estimate is 38-40 of them in the cave this year, not including potter wasp pots & digger wasp burrows. Ah, well, at least it will reduce the number of visitors, which is pretty low nowadays anyhow. I just hope I don't get attacked while trying to carry out a full piss pot. That could be a minor catastrophe.
6-15 (12:48) Well, today so far has been a BAD DAY. It started out, of course, w/ lousy early morning meditation. Then, since there has been no significant rain for many days & the water level at the creek is only a few inches above hot season level, I took the hot season route to the village, down along the creek.* Almost immediately after making the decision I started experiencing emotional feelings of aversion, fearing what I might find. But, it could have been much worse—most of the places that had been "fixed" & which I had wrecked by covering them w/ branches, etc., had been refixed by clearing the branches out of the way, so I compulsively stopped immediately & rewrecked them (or, rather, re-re-re-rewrecked them); & the only newly cut tree was one that had already been girdled last year & was dead. Long before getting to the village I noticed that my upper robe was stinking pretty bad, so decided I'd better wash it despite the fact that the morning was overcast & it looked like it might actually rain. Felt some unease in the village knowing that the ladies would smell my stink better than I could, as I have a weak sense of smell. Also felt some irritation in the village, as many women were cheating & putting way too much food into my bowl. Too much unappetizing food too, like crunchy, chewy fried beans & pale green eggplant glop. Despite the dark, overcast weather, was soaked w/ sweat. Tried to send some mettā, but it was insincere. After the meal the sun started coming out, & I started getting completely drenched in sweat, & largely as a result of that my disposition took a complete nosedive. I cursed the sky again & again, bitching & moaning to myself about the miserable humid stinking hot weather. This weather has truly been a surprise—for years I have been told, "Big rain here during the rainy season," "Big rain here during the rainy season," so, naturally I expected some rain. But no. No significant rain in about 2 weeks, & I'm soaked w/ sweat almost every goddam day. I try to keep my robes clean, but it is impossible because the dirt flows from my body. And if I wash the robes they hardly get dry because the humidity is somewhere in the neighborhood of 100%. If I had a wall to punch this morning I probably would have punched it. Anger at the sky, anger at existence, anger at everything. I have little desire to try another rainy season here. Anyhow, horseflies & gnats at the pond tried my patience even more, & when returning to the cave there was the very real problem of wasps. For the past 2 days, since yesterday's stings, I have been experiencing a certain degree of fear or dread every time I have to walk past wasp nests. After washing my robe I came into the cave naked w/ my robe in my hand, cautiously made it past problem nest #2 (at the south end), & started very slowly inching past #1 w/ fear in my heart; but a wasp zipped out & stung me on the leg anyway. It took about 2 seconds before it finally got me, during which time I was making loud, alarmed animal noises & frantically flailing at it to keep it off me. I finally made it past the nest in ultra slow motion & went to hang up my robe, fuming. But, a large black & red digger wasp then went into a state of alarm & started buzzing all around me, as it had started a new burrow below the clothesline. By this time, tho, I was thoroughly fed up w/ wasps, so I chased it away w/ the trusty bamboo pole & covered its burrow w/ a rock. 3 stings in 2 days is just too much. It could get a lot worse when the nests get bigger. So, tonight I will attempt operation Wasp Shield—will try to cover problem nest #1 w/ a large piece of bamboo matting. There may still be lots of wasps zipping back & forth, but at least the ones at the nest won't see people walking by. Plus, the nest will be in the dark—maybe the wasps won't like it & will move away. They get only one more chance, tho; if I receive another unprovoked attack, even when trying to be careful, I will switch to operation Wasp Storm, will accept several hundred pācittiya offenses, & will knock down the son of a bitch (or, die of a hundred wasp stings in the attempt). Anyhow, after hanging up my robe I noticed that ants were swarming all over my mat; apparently they had found something edible. At this point I went quite into a rage, & began slapping them off the mat w/ my sweatrag (& undoubtedly killing many) while cursing them in anger. While thus slapping ants I accidentally slapped my toothbrush all the way out of the cave, & it landed down by the pond about 40 feet away. Shortly thereafter, while retrieving the toothbrush, slipped on some slick rock & almost fell into the mud at the edge of the pond. While skiing down the slope balanced on one heel, made an animal sound like, "Uhhh!" & after catching myself (from falling) followed it up w/ a semi-vocalized "Fuck." Since that time things have settled down a bit.
* for the 1st time in about a month.
6-17 (5:52) Now I am getting what I bitched & moaned for: it's raining, & even almost cool. My reheated & overcooked brain needs the relief. Almsround may be difficult, tho.
6-19 (14:22) Have been observing my peace of mind & concentration gradually improving over the past 3 days or so, i.e., since the weather started cooling down again. The last crash in meditation was not caused by hyperactive, hypertense, hypermetabolizing brain, as was the month-long crash of 5-8 to 6-8, but probably for the most part by aversion & anger due to the return of hot weather. Foolish, of course—a bhikkhu should have no preferences, as I well know.
To set up what you like against what you dislike--
That is the disease of the mind. (Seng T'san)
Meditation today has been pleasant, but unusually sleepy. Last sit probably at least ⅓ active practice, I think. Mostly quiet anapana—letting the brain idle, more or less, during a time of naturally quiet mind. Would simply have been impossible a month ago.
6-20 (17:24) Mrs. Jink Bird is sitting on her nest again, the same nest as last time. Not sure if this is the 1st night.
Good old U Tin Maung offered me a rain robe today, which I will have to cut down to the regulation x<6×2½ handspans. Have never heard of a monk in modern times using one before.
6-22 (06:04) This is typical: last night I struggle to stay awake, meditation floundering, & crash at around 21:30. Then I wake up around 02:00, try to meditate, fail, & go back to sleep at around 02:30 even tho I wasn't particularly sleepy. Then I wake up again around 04:00 & sit for an hour in a kind of restless stupor, w/ lots of dreamy free association & music.
(18:16) First really big waterfall of the year, caused by biggest rain of the year so far. Early afternoon. Unfortunately, my flood-proof latrine got flooded, as the new boulder at the outflow end of the pond catches logs & debris, resulting in dammed-up pond & very high water. Latrine is still serviceable, tho, which is good—digging out the combo of mud, shit, & maggots would be very very messy. The dam broke during the downpour, & hopefully will stay broken. Judging from the effects of big waterfall, rainy season in the cave will be survivable, but misty, drippy, & damp. Directly beneath problem wasp nest #2 the sand is still nice & dry, but unfortunately it's directly beneath problem wasp nest #2.
6-23 (17:40) As a result of persistently lousy meditation combined w/ persistent sleepiness last night I took the desperate measure of starting to read Paradise Lost.
6-24 (16:38) According to my calculations, if all goes according to plan today is the midpoint in my forest retreat this year. The seasonal year has just passed its midpoint also, & the days are starting to get shorter now, which is welcome—yesterday the sun blazed w/ equatorial intensity. Today is cloudy, but still hot.
Today U Thein Maung & 3 older ladies came for an uposatha day visit, & all 3 women were stung by wasps from problem nest #2 on the way in, & at least 2 were stung on the way out also. Told them not to come in together & to walk slowly, but it is against Burmese custom to follow directions. Managed to get 2 of them to walk slowly on the way out, but by then it was too late, as the nest was on the alert. It's getting so that I don't dare to do walking meditation during the day. In addition to problem nest #2 (#1 seems not to be a problem now that the bamboo screen is up) there are the yellow & black digger wasps that are continually digging burrows in the walking path (they prefer packed sand, probably because it doesn't cave in so easy); I haven't been stung by one yet, but they fly around my feet excitedly when I walk past them, which is rather distracting. It's too hot nowadays to do walking meditation during the day anyway—just getting up & going to take a pee causes the sweat to start flowing. My meditation is still shot, so the loss is not a great one. It's just as well that I started reading Paradise Lost. Truly a classic, & even enjoyable, but I would appreciate it more if I were a fundamentalist Christian who actually believed all that Adam & Eve stuff.
From now on until the wasps go away I suppose I should meet groups of visitors down below & not let them come into the cave. I think problem nest #2 will prove to be a much more effective visitor deterrent than the skull on the stick.
6-26 (15:38) A few minutes ago I very accidentally came close to committing sanghādīsesa #1 while rubbing myself w/ a piece of wood. I am an idiot.
Very little meditation so far today, due mainly to heat, humidity, & the desire not to become drenched in sweat again, but also partly due to the fact that my concentration (i.e., meditative concentration) is STILL SHOT.
Oh, dukkha. If one were to very literally interpret the aforementioned S#1 it could be argued that I actually committed the offense, thus leaving some room for doubt in my already sorely distracted mind. But in the Vibhaṅga or at least in the Commentary deliberate "emission" means deliberate emission from its "place" (of origin), & that I did not do. The doubtful event occurred when, figuring there was probably some semeny stuff in my urethra, I quite unlustfully went & urinated, thus washing it out. More, more troubled mind. No offense according to orthodox, possibly even canonical, interpretation, but still I feel doubts, & unease. I would like to confess to somebody, but walking into the village & confessing to an unconscientious sayadaw doesn't seem like a good idea. Oh, where is my teacher?
6-28 (18:12) W/ all due apologies to the reverend teacher Mary Baker Eddy, I seem to have caught another cold. For much of the day I felt rather giddy, as tho I had a bong hit or 2 of cheap homegrown—not altogether unpleasant, except for the snotty nose & the aching muscles. At around 16:00, in order to be silly & to help a little girl earn merit, I ate a handful of gooey, mushy "hard candy" offered to me this morning by a cute, very snotty-lipped toddler who undoubtedly had not washed her hands. The mushiest ones I didn't eat (I've never seen semi-liquid hard candy before), & the 4th to last one revealed a tiny maggot-like creature inside the wrapper (didn't eat that one either). Then around 16:30 some army guys plus at least one local came for a visit. They're working on the new road; an infantry major was socially the highest member of the group. I met them down below, as there were about 5 of them. The major & one of his underlings seemed disappointed after I informed them, contrary to popular opinion, that I was not an arahant. Then 3 of them, including the major, wanted to go up & see the cave. After rewarning them of danger I showed them how to get past problem nest #2 w/0 danger, & everyone actually made it in unscathed—although the village guy received a bit of a poke on the way out. Shortly after they left I began feeling chilled w/0 my upper robe on, & am now wearing my upper robe in the afternoon for the 1st time in several weeks. The weather isn't really cool, tho—I am quite feverish. Whether it's malaria or not I don't know. Ultimately it doesn't matter. Or is it, supposedly it doesn't matter? Ah, it doesn't matter.
7-1 (14:35) Yesterday was not so good: it began w/ an hour of sitting, but not really meditating, followed by a very angry almsround—not angry at the people, altho there was occasional disgust at some of the food I got; the anger was at the weather—blazing sun, & me drenched in sweat at 06:45. Shortly after eating little of my unappetizing lunch I had a brief visit from a forest service guy, & shortly after he left I started feeling chilled, feverish, & sick again. So, the diagnosis is malaria. I lay huddled up in robes on a blazing hot day trying to keep warm, not wanting to get up for any reason, & hoping that someone would show up & wash my bowl & fetch water for me. Considering that it was uposatha day & that some of my dayakas already knew I was sick, it seemed likely. Finally around noon two young men came to the top of the trail, maybe 80 yards away, & then stopped. So I called to them to please come, several times, but they just stood there staring at me. After continued calling to come I said, "If you don't want to come, don't come, but please inform my dayaka(s) U Tin Maung or U Thein Maung in Pwingah, because I am sick & need help," but they continued just standing there staring. So a little later I called out, "If you don't want to come, don't come, but don't just stand there looking at me!" but they remained standing there in silence. Finally, after about 25 minutes one of them said, "Let's go," & then they left, & apparently didn't tell anybody. I'm not sure what their problem was,* but I derived some malicious satisfaction from the thought that their idiotic behavior would earn them demerit. I was in a foul mood. At around 14:00 it started raining, which virtually guaranteed that no one was going to show up. I eventually managed to wash my bowl, but didn't fetch water, drinking up most of my emergency water supply instead. This morning, although I didn't feel exactly well, I was in an unusually good mood, joking & smiling & chuckling to myself; partly because I was slightly drunk on mefloquine, & I think partly because of emotional backlash from yesterday's dukkha. Not much of an almsround today—when it was almost 08:00 I figured no one was going to bring me any food, so, w/ some irritation, I got my stuff & started toddling dizzily toward the village. Got about a hundred yards down the trail when I met the brigade of women & girls coming the other way.
Practice is pretty much gone. Nowadays I just survive, occasionally reading Paradise Lost.
* My best hypothesis is that they were fishermen or poachers who came to see me and then chickened out at the last minute due to guilty conscience. Or, maybe they had shot a bird w/ a slingshot & were looking for it.
7-2 (15:02) Yesterday's mefloquine drunk has given way to the long mefloquine hangover. Still too hot to write.
7-3 (14:23) Hangover not so bad today, but took a 3rd day off from almsround to pamper myself & avoid the heat as much as possible. Wimped out yesterday & told the U T. Maungs what kind of food I wanted to eat, but didn't get very much of it today. Seem to have forgotten much of what I intended to write yesterday. Sickness tends to make me lustful for some reason (maybe because meditative mind disappears, I've got little to do but lie there & fantasize, & almost the only thing I can reach w/o discomfort is my own body), plus wearing the thin, skimpy little rain robe yesterday & today has been so luxuriously comfortable & sensually stimulating that I have been continually physically aroused (←euphemism) & have been feeling rather strong self-lust. Have given way a few times to some brief, unsatisfying fondling. Another foul mood this morning, caused by blazing, blazing heat & aggravated by the hangover. Got a letter this morning from Moh Moh saying it's raining cats & dogs in Wun Dwin (a semi-desert region), but here where I've been warned, "Big rain, big rain," it's blazing hot almost every day, hotter than hot season, w/ most of the rain I encounter being a rain of sweat from my own body. In Wun Dwin the dams are breaking. I've just got to find a colder place to live than this.
A more or less Freudian simile of myself that occurred to me during my sickness: I am like a pressure cooker cooking over a fire; the lid keeping everything under pressure is my (Vinaya-respecting) superego; the boiling, seething stew inside is my ego, my conscious thoughts; the id is the fire burning underneath & occasionally flaring up & trying to blow the lid sky high. I suppose my verbal & physical behavior would be represented by the steam sputtering out of the pressure-release valve. Behavior like keeping this journal, talking to myself, swearing, raving at the sky, coming down w/ psychologically influenced ailments, etc. etc.
(19:26) Just finished my 1st attempt at formal sitting 'tation since early morning of 6-30. Actually hit the anapana groove once, & stayed there for many seconds. More than an hour & 15 minutes of sitting, w/ definitely more than 1% of it being actual meditation. Pathetic, of course, but probably better than the attempt of 6-30. I hope that part of my recent concentration problem was, & no longer is, a low-level (at 1st) malaria infection affecting my brain. I increasingly suspect, tho, that much of my problem is id-fueled subconscious resistance to the notion of becoming enlightened, remaining celibate all the rest of my life, ceasing to exist, etc. I think the ex Ajahn J___o had a similar problem, which defeated him.
7-4 (14:10) Well, the 4th of July here is as blazing hot & as windless as any little American kid could wish for. Kids would be collapsing unconscious from heat prostration w/ lit firecrackers still clutched in their little hands. Not much to do today except sleep, & convalesce, & fan myself, occasionally wiping sweat from the arm holding the fan. I used to wish for successful practice this year, but now I'm just wishing for practice, or, rather, weather conditions which will allow me to sit & walk w/o becoming drenched w/ sweat. Oh, well, at least I can wear the rain robe now; it's cooler & easier to wash than the big one.
Might as well mention that I finished reading Paradise Lost yesterday. Hume was better.
7-6 (12:08) Early this morning Mrs. Jink Bird flew down to the pond & discarded a freshly emptied eggshell. New baby jink bird. Also, yesterday & today have noticed medium-sized shrimps motoring around in the pond & in the rock pools above the lower falls. Evidently they've been climbing up the lower falls from the creek & lower pond.
My health is much improved now, altho I still seem to have a little bit of a cold, plus the last remains of the mefloquine hangover. Even the stubbed toes are all healed, tho the nail on one is growing out thick & funny-looking now. Improvement in health plus semi-comfortable weather (overcast sky yesterday & today) has my body humming w/ vitality—that is, the fire under the pressure cooker has gotten a little hotter. The mind is relatively clear now, but meditation still has a long way to go before it is recovered. First after-lunch sit today lasted about 40 minutes & consisted mainly of sleepy fantasizing about a fictional Burmese whore in Rangoon who had bobbed hair & bright eyes & spoke broken English. Have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the state of war my mind is in, id vs. superego, w/ all the rest of me casualty of battle caught in between. The thought of being in a state of inner conflict all my life, a seething pressure cooker, does not much appeal to me; on the other hand, declaring my weakness & living in defeat as an animal for the rest of my life appeals to me even less. Even if superego doesn't win the war, at least I should be able to drag this thing out into a stalemate. That would be a victory of sorts; not like surrender & total loss. My situation is not very unlike Rocky Balboa's in the movie Rocky. Just to go the full 12 rounds as a more or less conscientious bhikkhu would be some accomplishment. And who knows? Maybe the id will break someday.
Great Comforting Thought #2: "Blessed are they who know their spiritual poverty." (The very 1st words of the Sermon on the Mount)
7-7 (16:13) Only 100 days til the end of vassa.
Great Comforting Thought #3: "The fool who is aware of his folly is at least wise to that extent." (Dh. 63)
Ha, just recalculated—only 97 days til the end of vassa.
7-10 (17:24) Last sit was undoubtedly my best meditation in weeks—maybe as much as 15-20% non-wandering. Not great, of course, but at least I've got some capacity for meditation now, which is an improvement. Meditation consisted largely of trying not to play "Peggie Sue" by Buddy Holly (which song I don't even like) in my mind—i.e., 3rd gear, more or less. The weather nowadays has cooled down to almost comfortable, almost, plus there are few digger wasps on the path now, so I've been doing a little walking meditation during the day for the past few days. Don't know what to think about practice any more; it's liable to go kasplooey at any moment & stay that way for a long time. Still don't know why, & still don't know what to do about it. Don't know much, it seems.
7-12 (13:55) Did something this morning that I can't remember having done before—stomped on an ant highway in anger, thereby undoubtedly squishing some ants. Did it spontaneously in the heat of the moment, & was surprised at myself afterwards. The problem (part of it, anyhow) is that small, black, very bitey ants like the same kind of paths that humans do, so they had a bustling highway going right down the middle of the trail this morning, making it difficult to walk w/0 stepping on them, & w/0 being bitten. So, irritation flared up & I gave them a stomp. Probably wouldn't have done it if I weren't so used to slapping at vampire flies & horseflies w/ intent to kill. While confessing my sins I might as well admit that, as usual, I ogled girls & tried to look down a few blouses this morning in the village. Not much to look at today in Kuzeit, tho—not like the beautiful little girl in Pwingah that I gazed at in fascination yesterday. She's only about 12 or 13 years old, I think, & her nose is just a wee bit too broad, but she is by far the prettiest, most graceful female that regularly gives me food. 3 pieces of pineapple & a little plastic bag of honey yesterday…but I digress. Sins today also include irritation at women offering too much food, resulting in a few brief scowls I think during almsround; indulgence in sloth & torpor after lunch & luxurious waterfall bath; & several minor indulgences in general lustfulness. Intelligence vs. instinct, paññā vs. salla—who will win the war? Maybe the war must be transcended, not won.
7-13 (12:38) Thoughts that I frequently think nowadays:
"Everything is Dukkha."
"A man is a relatively large-brained ape, & the mind of a man is the mind of a relatively large-brained ape w/ verbal language & a crude approximation of reason superimposed."
"Dear God please have mercy upon me a sinner." (Not a satisfying or comforting thought, as I do not believe that there is a God who gives a damn. Not sure why I think that thought so often.)
"Futility of futilities, all is futile."
"Blessed are they who know their spiritual poverty."
"Fuck off!" (Directed at pesky insect)
"Oh Jinky you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind, hey Jinky. Hey Jinky." (Directed at jink bird)
"It doesn't matter."
(18:56) Far out—there's a turtle swimming around in the pond. Smooth, mud-colored shell about 8 or 9 inches long. Don't know where it came from. Good luck to it; may it live long & prosper. My superstitious mind considers it to be a good sign. Must never tell any locals about it, or it won't live very long.
7-14 (16:04) Lots of people in the forest today, which is unusual nowadays. Undoubtedly most of them are out trying to kill as many sentient beings as possible, for the sake of the big holiday tomorrow. Lots of meat & fish gets eaten on holidays.
Just now sat for almost an hour & 15 minutes, w/ several of the minutes being relatively (somewhat) profound 4th gear, of a sort. Rereading the Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation (a few minutes per night) seems to be helping. "Although the One Mind is, it has no existence….It is not a multiplicity, and is omniscient….Although it is Total Reality, there is no perceiver of it….Although possessed by all beings, it is not recognized….Again and again look within thine own mind…." Consciousness is ultimately of the Void, & w/0 characteristics. 4th gear occasionally mixed w/ thoughts like the above. But, naturally, the bulk of today's "meditation" has consisted of sexual fantasizing, gratuitous philosophizing, & general free association.
Another frequently thought thought:
"I am an idiot."
Twinges of sadness last night while contemplating the turtle. It seems so vulnerable—its only hope of survival is to remain unknown to Burmese villagers. Similar twinges of sadness sometimes when gazing upon the forest—it is all ultimately doomed; the trees aren't even able to flee & hide. All at the mercy of little brown humans w/ zero respect for nature.
Ultimately it doesn't matter.
7-15 (14:26) Feeling slightly icky today—mainly due to heat & dehydration (forgot to drink enough H2O after lunch), but maybe partly due to the fact that I actually ate a few ounces of pork today. My bowl was loaded w/ it, as today is the full moon of Wazo, a big holiday. Tasted good, & was undoubtedly nutritious, but it was still the flesh of a sentient being treacherously murdered, who died in a state of agony & terror. The human race is still far from being fully civilized. Tried to feed some pork to the turtle, but don't know if it ate any. Don't know if it even eats meat.
Thinking about spiritual effort this morning; how's this for a hypothesis: enlightenment is attained by the cessation of effort, not by the success of it. Perfection that one does not already have can never be attained—"He whose face puts forth no light shall never become a star." At the moment of enlightenment absolutely nothing is gained; we are always pervaded by Ultimate Reality, & all consciousness is pervaded by, is of the nature of, Ultimate Wisdom—mystic omniscience. But, this absolute perfection appears to be obscured by efforts of various sorts, including the very efforts employed to attain it. It is infinite & therefore utterly inconceivable; it does not lie w/in the scope of "existence," & cannot truly be said to exist. The Great Everything/Nothing—tat twam asi. All efforts are ultimately futile, as there is nothing to be attained, or lost. So why do I live in this cave?—a private koan. "The world is such a wide world; why do you answer a bell and don ceremonial robes?"
(16:51) As tomorrow is the 1st day of vassa, today seems to be a convenient day to conclude vol.I of this year's journal (Volume I: Pre-Vassa). So, I will try to fill in the remaining few pages w/ a description of some of my futile philosophical beliefs. Now is opportune, as it is still too hot to sit in meditation w/0 flowing sweat.
One of the most important tenets may be expressed as follows: Pairs of opposites come in equal measure in any closed system. An individual perceiving mind would be a closed system. thus one person might objectively seem happier than another overall, but each individual is subjectively an equal mix of happy & unhappy, good & bad, beautiful & ugly, etc. etc. The unhappy-seeming person derives satisfaction from indulging in his unhappiness, & may habitually frown & bitch & moan even when he's not particularly upset. Some people just can't be happy unless they're miserable about something, or pissed off, or whatever. A seemingly miserable beggar might be overjoyed to receive a piece of stale bread, while a seemingly happy & lucky millionaire might be irritated because his filet mignon is slightly overcooked. Careful observation of people, especially people who believe themselves to be happy, will bear this out. The practical implications of this are profound—e.g. whenever one becomes happy he is simply setting himself up for future unhappiness. All attempts to be more happy than unhappy, more good than bad, etc., are futile. One has a choice of a positive/negative roller coaster ride or of complete neutrality—but the neutrality must not be viewed as such, or it will then oppose & equal out w/ its opposite, i.e. non-neutrality. The reason for this balance of opposites is that all opposites exist only in the mind; they are perceived dualistic value judgements; & it is the nature of dualism to divide the world into halves, calling one half "positive," "good," "beautiful," etc., & the other half "negative," "bad," "ugly." Any universe must seek equilibrium, or it cannot exist for more than a split second. Anything that exists for more than a moment must form a stable energy pattern, & balanced dualism is such a pattern. Eliminate all the bad from one's life, & the lower half of what one formerly called "good" becomes "bad." Or, new evils arise to take the place of the old. There cannot be good w/o evil to compare & contrast it with, & the same is true for beautiful/ugly, right/wrong, big/small, ad infinitum. ultimately, the +/− duality & non-dualistic neutrality add up to the same zero, & it is simply a matter of personal taste which to prefer. But neutrality has certain advantages, e.g. it is not so chaotic & out of control, & it does not necessarily rely upon perception, which is deluded animal mind. For many years I have assumed this more or less Taoist doctrine to be true. It has largely undermined my enthusiasm for life, as I consider general happiness to be a myth.
A basic hypothesis that I have been working w/ for a few years may be tersely stated as follows: Perception=significance=belief=delusion=Saṁsāra. Interested fools may read the details in a previously written essay, as I won't go into them here. Not only does it all add up to zero, but it is all an illusion as well. Faith, any belief whatsoever, is insanity. One should not believe anything, including the notion that one should not believe anything. This hypothesis, of course, requires me to be rather skeptical.
Another tenet which I accept pretty much by instinct is that the Universe is a manifestation of consciousness—i.e. Idealism. What the physicists call "energy" is actually consciousness, generally in a very primordial, simple state. This hypothesis makes people like Theresa Neumann, Edgar Cayce, & Uri Geller much easier to explain, & its main practical importance is that it causes me to be more willing to accept, in a Samsaric context at least, the possibility of what are commonly called "miracles." But, of course, ultimately there truly exist neither miracles nor non-miracles. There is only the Great Everything/Nothing. I suppose I should add that consciousness does not exist as separate units; thus, the minds of all conscious beings, all things in fact, are linked together, or, rather, merged together. It is perception, not consciousness, that conceives differences, that makes things seem separate.
(19:44) Well, it's still too hot to meditate w/o flowing sweat, so I continue writing.
Here is probably the most tenuous & tentative hypothesis that I seriously entertain (in admitted delusion): The Universe (not just the small u universe of the astronomers) must be completely infinite, it must contain Absolute Everything, because Absolute Everything is equivalent to Absolute Nothing—it must be completely infinite in order to account for its seeming existence; it goes beyond mere existence & cannot truly be said to exist. The Universe must be Infinite in order to arise from Nothing & be Nothing. 0̅=∞̅. "0̅" here does not simply mean the number falling equidistant between 1 & −1, & "∞̅" does not mean anything like the number of points on the circumference of a circle; they are both absolutely absolute & utterly inconceivable. Like Buddhist Void & Vedantist God. I need to discuss this w/ a mathematician who specializes in infinity.
The following hypothesis seems to logically follow from the previous one, but does not necessarily rely upon it. It is the bleakest, most horrible hypothesis I've got, & the reader might do well to just stop reading at this point. Reading Jude the Obscure would be refreshingly upbeat by comparison. Anyhow, it is as follows: If the Universe is infinite, in space and/or in time and/or in other dimensions, the 5th, at least, being probability, then anything that can happen does happen, & anything that can be conceived can happen, or so it seems. Thus, even if I were to become enlightened in this life, there would still be an infinite number of versions, copies, of me remaining sorely deluded, & an infinite number of versions of me dying of AIDS, & of cancer, & of radiation poisoning, & being tortured to death, etc. etc. etc. If this hypothesis is seriously entertained, then it causes everything, even Dhamma practice, to seem pathetically worthless. Futility of futilities, all is futile—former futility worse made futile. The only consolation is that all versions of me exist only thru deluded perception & are not real; it's all just a dream. There is only the Great Everything/Nothing. Unfortunately, I cannot satisfactorily disprove & refute this hypothesis. It seems like it ought to be true. Nevertheless, I don't think of it very often, mainly because it's so darned unpleasant. The mind recoils from it.
So, let me die, O Lord. Whoever is dreaming me out there, Wake up! Wake up! You sleep too goddam much. Maybe I shouldn't use profanity at times like this. Aw, hell, it doesn't matter.
The Burmese Pampas grass in front of the cave is being devoured by bristly white caterpillars w/ fake eyes on their behind, & that sting like nettles when one brushes against them.