CAVE JOURNAL 2000
VOL. II: VASSA AND BEYOND
"Abandon all hope ye who spend vassa here"
VOL. II: VASSA AND BEYOND
"Abandon all hope ye who spend vassa here"
PLACE: midway between everywhere
DATE: midway between always
7-16 (13:21) Imasmiṁ vihāre imaṁ temāsaṁ vassaṁ upemi (×3). The 1st day of vassa today; it hasn't started out very well. Last night after 22:00 I tried to sit in meditation, but it was still too hot, & the sweat began flowing immediately. So I gave up & lay down in anger to go to sleep, but lying on my right side was too hot, & the sweat continued flowing. Had to go to sleep last night lying on my back, as it radiates heat more efficiently & is slightly cooler. Had several long, complicated dreams last night; in one I was the assistant to a garbage man (influenced no doubt by my thinking last night about a garbage man I met once); in one I was a college student who went to an on-campus snack bar & ordered a large chocolate milkshake, then spoke semi-flirtatiously w/ the girl behind the counter, & briefly discussed art; & in the last one the bamboo screen covering problem wasp nest #1 had to be taken down for some unremembered reason, so I was warning people to beware of the wasps, as the nest was very large; a blonde woman didn't heed my warnings & apparently thought they wouldn't sting her, so she kept getting closer & closer, trying to get a good look, until finally her face was very near the nest, whereupon the wasps came out & stung her several times on the face & neck. Cameo appearances were made in that dream by my father, &, if I remember correctly, the actress Bernadette Peters. Anyhow, I got up in the morning & tried to meditate, but was unsuccessful, partly because I had to get up & go relieve an attack of diarrhea. Then the weather-induced anger returned, as the rising sun had resumed blazing. Went for almsround in Kuzeit & received lots of unappetizing food—the people don't like to offer peanuts & beans (i.e., good food) on festival days, & instead offer things like bamboo shoots & icky glop that I would rather not even look at, much less eat; received so much food in fact that my bowl was full & I had to turn back before even reaching the main group of people, which I'm sure they didn't like. Returned to the cave & fanned myself for about 15 minutes to partially dry the sweat, then hunkered down behind my umbrella to stay out of the sun's fiery blaze, half-heartedly picking at the unappetizing food, stopping once or twice to fan my sweat some more. My mood steadily deteriorated as the day steadily got hotter, indulging in much disgusted bitching & moaning to myself about how the monsoon season here is even hotter than the hot season, & wondering why I do this shit to myself. After washing the bowl & my perpetually stinky upper robe I lay down for about 2 hours, fanning myself & feeling slightly sick. It's probably just borderline heat prostration, altho I think it could possibly be the onset of another bout of malaria. Now it's gotten relatively windy, & has clouded up a little, so it's not quite so hot, & I am not quite so disgusted w/ the universe. But, I really am fed up w/ blazing sun, sweltering heat, dripping sweat, & bloodsucking flies. I could be at a comfy place in town reading lots of books, & even getting a cheese sandwich w/ my food now & then; but for some reason I want to do this shit to myself.
(20:24) Critter Update: There are 3 baby jink birds in the nest this time around, & the parents are hard at work trying to keep them fed. Today there was a large stick insect, the tail of a lizard, & what appeared to be the head of a baby rat littering the ground beneath the nest—evidently baby jink birds are fussy w/ their food. I actually saw the baby rat being killed. A parent jink bird found a rat nest in a crevice over by the (now dry) waterfall, grabbed a baby, & flew over the pond w/ it while the mother rat squeaked in alarm. The baby made a few attempts to get away, but was eventually beaten to death against the ground & torn into pieces. Shortly thereafter the mother rat was running around inside the cave w/ a different baby in her mouth, looking for a new hiding place. Compassion for little rats. As for the wasp situation, some gentlemen came today to pay their respects on the 1st day of "Lent," & at least 2 of them were stung, one of them by a nest that, as far as I know, had never stung anyone before. It's directly above the path & not easily avoidable, which is not good. On the somewhat morbid bright side, on the other hand, most of the nests don't look much bigger than they were a month ago. This is because there is a different kind of wasp that is preying upon the larvae of the paper wasps. They infiltrate a nest somehow & pull larvae out of their cells; if a larva is big, the wasp flies away w/ it, but if it's small, the wasp just drops it & pulls out another one. Most of the paper wasp larvae appear to be dying in this way; some nests have very few pupae. Most of the larvae that fall to the ground are collected by jink birds & taken up to the nest, w/ most of the remainder being eaten by rats & ants. Lately when I do walking meditation at night 2 little bats that fly in tandem flutter & swoop around my legs, which is rather distracting. I presume they are attracted to the mosquitoes which are attracted to my blood. Meanwhile, down at the pond, the mysterious turtle is still there (I don't know how it could go elsewhere, unless it is a kind of turtle that is skillful at climbing steep terrain). There are relatively few tadpoles left—most of them have either metamorphosed or been washed down into the creek to become fish food. A wilderness is a battlefield. Life requires death. So why do I love forests & nature? Maybe it's irrational animal instinct.
7-17 (13:56) Ah, semi-luxury…the weather cooled down somewhat & there was a brief shower yesterday evening, & so far today it's been overcast, relatively breezy, & occasionally sprinkly. At midday it was almost cool enough to be comfortable. I realize, tho, that my dualistic preferences are just prolonging my stay in Saṁsāra. Comfort is better than discomfort, contentment is better than misery—Bah! Rubbish!* Clearly, nondualism & no preferences are much better than dualistic preference. (←humor)
(17:11) Surprise, surprise, meditation isn't going very well today. Possibly as much as half of the last sit was occupied w/ truly perverted & unarousing sexual fantasizing. The main problem now seems to be lack of enthusiasm & motivation for practice. Also lack of momentum. Kamma is momentum.
(18:29) Further tragedy in the rat family—When I was over at the pee pot I suddenly noticed a baby rat running up the slope into the cave. Then I heard a commotion down below & saw a brown snake about 4 feet long tumbling down the slope w/ the mother rat chasing after it. The snake threw itself into the pond, & the mother rat jumped in also, in hot pursuit—possibly because the snake had one of her babies; I couldn't see well enough to tell. The snake looked large enough to eat the mother rat under ordinary circumstances, but she was being desperately ferocious in an attempt to protect her children. One of the babies ran north toward the dry waterfall, & a jink bird swooped down & grabbed it. The baby squeaked in distress, & the mother started to hurry toward it, but she was too late & too far away; the jink bird flew away w/ it, beat it to death, & started tearing it apart, just as w/ the one last night. The other jink bird was on the alert, but another baby was able to make it to the shelter of some rocks in time. More compassion for little rats. They're really not bad—they almost never mess w/ my stuff, plus they're kind of cute—sandy brown little forest rats w/ long hind legs. They remind me that I am fortunate that my main causes for complaint are nothing more than hot weather & feeling slightly unwell, plus being foolish in general. Existing.
* Good is better than bad—what nonsense!
7-18 (12:02) Last night while looking at the TBGL [i.e., the Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation] my thinking mind came to a screetching halt upon reading the following words:
"…there are no two such things as existence and non-existence."
How can such a statement be understood? Nevertheless, it seems to be pretty much in agreement w/ one of my working hypotheses: There are no two such things as Everything & Nothing. Everything is Nothing. Incidentally, the Kalahavivāda Sutta says that existence & non-existence (bhava & vibhava) are founded in phassa—"contact," or maybe "stimulation"—apparently a mental state in this context. 2 other passages that I lingered over last night were,
"The non-created, self-radiant Wisdom here set forth, being actionless, immaculate, transcendent over acceptance or rejection, is itself the perfect practice." and,
"By not taking the mind to be naturally a duality, and allowing it, as the primordial consciousness, to abide in its own place, beings attain deliverance."
But all the names like "Wisdom," "mind," "primordial consciousness," etc., seem too positive, too suggestive of positive existence. As it says near the beginning,
"Although the One Mind is, it has no existence."
The Great One Mind/Zero Mind. To be completely undifferentiated is to be Voidness. And bare consciousness is completely undifferentiated. The TBGL is exceedingly profound, & thus I don't understand it well enough.
After writing that the rats almost never mess w/ my stuff, last night one of them chewed up my bowl bag. Will require a few hours of sewing to fix it.
This morning I saw a veritable crowd of poachers on their way into the so-called "national park," taking advantage of the non-rainy weather. They are like big brown flightless jink birds. The human race seems to be a hopeless case—we wallow & roll in Saṁsāra because we want to wallow & roll in Saṁsāra. Intensely want. As the Good Book says, "To the large brown flightless jink bird wisdom appears as foolishness (and vice versa)." (—Californians 5:18) Life requires death. Wisdom requires folly. Happiness requires suffering.
Walking thru the fields to Kuzeit nowadays involves wading thru a sea of waist-deep weeds w/ occasional sesamum plants interspersed. The farmers in these parts are apparently not particularly keen on cultivation (or hard work in general). The biomass of the fields looks to be about 80% weeds. Compare & contrast w/ farms in Japan, where the fields look as tho they've been manicured & sterilized, w/ all the crops perfectly spaced in neat rows, & w/ plastic sheeting on the ground & shiny ribbons stretched above the plants to vibrate & hum in the wind, & thus scare the birds away.
7-19 (18:49) Another frequently thought thought to supplement those recorded in the previous volume of this journal:
"'Big rain here during the rainy season' they said. 'Big rain, Big rain.'"
I sit under the mosquito net fanning myself, w/ little Anopheles mosquitoes all around me trying to get in.
7-20 (11:25) This morning while returning from my daily pre-almsround dump I was entering the cave & slowly easing my way past problem nest #2, when a wasp—probably not a paper wasp, I think, but one of the larva-stealing kind—zipped away from one of the nests there & bounced off my shoulder, causing my heart to skip a beat. I froze, & a moment later wasps began angrily boiling out of the nest. I don't think it was because of me, but I was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time, so I turned & fled as fast as I could go, bloodying one of my feet as I bounded at full speed down the steep, boulder-strewn slope. But, I still had to get into the cave, so I collected myself & made a 2nd attempt, which was successful. Got ready for almsround & set out for the village still slightly shaky w/ adrenalin. Upon my return, while carefully & slowly moving past PN2 I suddenly heard a loud buzz near my head, causing my face to contort w/ fear/dread; but, altho a few wasps have bounced off of me I haven't been stung even once today—in fact, I haven't been stung since the Bad Day of 6-15. Several visitors have been stung since then, tho.
On my way to the village this morning saw plenty more poachers heading into the forest. One fellow, when he saw me coming along the creek, began singing loudly, apparently to demonstrate his lack of regard for monks, & Buddhism in general. I experienced feelings of hate, & contempt, & disgust w/ human animals. They truly are animals, too—but then again so am I. Well, maybe not truly are; as the TBGL would say, "human animals" is merely an illusory conception of mind.
"The Qualityless and Formless" is also a mental concept.
While walking back from the village it occurred to me that lately my meditative practice has become virtually Rinzai Zen, w/ the TBGL being my koan. I have been in a quandary for days trying to clearly understand it; trying to clearly understand the Primordial Consciousness which is, yet does not exist; trying to understand what transcends understanding. Going around w/ a confused & serious look on my face, trying to see through Saṁsāra, trying to penetrate. Ultimately struggling in vain? I don't know. Ha, maybe this strange mental state I'm in is just a symptom of pre-malaria.
This morning after lunch I noticed something largish and dark making ripples in the water near the edge of the pond. Couldn't tell what it was from up here; thought maybe it was a big black butterfly. When I went down there I saw that it was a baby jink bird, which presumably had fallen out of the nest & tumbled all the way down the hill into the pond. It was still alive, & after some 2nd thoughts I fished it out of the water & brought it back into the cave. I put it on the sand directly below the nest in the hope that one of its parents would see it & carry it back up to the nest, but, of course, neither of them did. So after racking my brains for a while I tied my plastic drinking cup to the end of a long bamboo pole, put the baby into the cup, made a brief prayer to any angels that might be willing to help, & lifted the baby way, way up to the nest. Getting the baby out of the cup was rather difficult, but after repeated & very careful shaking of the pole it finally fell out onto the rim of the nest, where it lay precariously balanced. So, I took the pole down, quickly removed the cup, & then lifted the pole back up & nudged the baby farther into the nest. It was a difficult & risky operation, as the nest is about 18 feet up, & for the 2nd time this morning I was a bit shaky w/ adrenalin. The little bird seems to be alright now, altho it may just fall back out again. Ironic that I consider it proper to save lives, & at the same time consider life to be an affliction. Oh, well, maybe the merit from this deed will to some degree counteract the demerit from all the vampire flies I've been unconscientiously smashing this year (one more last night). It occurs to me that maybe I shouldn't even write about helping birds. As Jesus says, it is better to keep one's good deeds secret than to advertise them. So, I suppose I shouldn't tell anyone about it, & if anyone else reads this, well, reader, I share my merit with you. Ahmya, ahmya, ahmya. I didn't do it for merit, tho; I did it because I felt sorry for the bird. (13:09—more than an hour & a half of writing.)
7-21 (14:30) A baby bird fell out of the nest again a few minutes ago. Don't know if it was the same one as yesterday. The replacement operation has already been effected, & ran much more smoothly than yesterday's. I sincerely hope this won't become a daily occurrence. It may just be the harsh way of jink birds to hatch more chicks than will survive, w/ the smallest & weakest eventually being jostled out of the nest; but how can I let it lie there on the sand 8 feet in front of me w/o doing anything to help it w/ its problem? They're almost fully fledged now, & their eyes are open. Not much bigger than a newly hatched chicken. The nest looks much too small for 3 half-grown jink birds—I think I may become a foster parent in the near future.
(20:02) The 2 main preoccupations of animals are personal survival & reproduction; and, naturally, these are the 2 main preoccupations of the human animal. A bhikkhu is supposed to be more or less indifferent to the 1st, & is to absolutely avoid the 2nd. All desire for a mate, for sex, or for children is essentially blind, irrational animal instinct w/ some cultural conditioning & habit added as reinforcement. A bhikkhu is a man trying to stop being an animal.
A fundamental problem, tho, is that perception itself, which is the very foundation of all human thinking & so-called "reason," derives from irrational animal reflex & instinct. To perceive (believe, attribute significance to) anything is to be in the grip of semiconscious animal mind. Perception is semiconscious animal mind. But, on the other hand, "semiconscious animal mind" is itself a false perception. "False perception" is also a false perception.
7-22 (12:17) Well, I woke up this morning to find the baby jink bird lying on the ground in front of me again. Probably the same one as yesterday; obviously its nest mates don't like it very much. It seems futile to keep putting it back into the nest again & again, so today I switched to plan B & started trying to be a surrogate mother jink bird. Made a nest out of my smallest clay pot & collected wasp larvae from the floor of the cave (the ones that aren't dead are utterly doomed anyway once they fall from the nest, regardless of what I do or don't do to them; nevertheless, feeding them to a baby bird is still technically depriving them of life, & is against Vinaya). The problem is that the baby bird doesn't trust me, & when I try to feed it it just cowers at the bottom of the nest in fear. So, given the choice of letting it starve or force-feeding it, I strangely & perhaps foolishly chose to force-feed it. I open its mouth w/ my fingers & stuff a few larvae into it, whereupon the little guy falls into a kind of swoon, lying motionless w/ the food still in its mouth; after a while, sometimes several minutes, it revives & swallows the food. Often it is the sound of a parent at the nest up above & the hungry peeping of its siblings that causes it to revive. I hope it gets used to me soon, as I don't want to force-feed a bird 12 times a day for the next 2 weeks. (14:17) Was hoping to receive some fish or meat during almsround, but got no suitable jink bird feed. On my way back from the village I happened to meet U Thein Maung & told him about the bird situation, asking him to bring me some unsalted dry shrimp or fish. He said he'd come, but he showed up a little while ago empty handed, saying there was no shrimp at the market, & suggesting that I just dump the bird somewhere. What would an arahant have done—would he simply have let the baby bird die of exposure at the edge of the pond 2 days ago? Depends on the arahant, I suppose.
I have done almost no meditation so far today, due mainly to self-inflicted difficulties. I am a fool.
(21:15) After devoting the daylight hours of this day to a very stressed-out little bird, continually searching the ground for fallen wasp larvae w/ which to feed it, continually trying to get the little being to eat what little I could find, shortly before dusk I rested from my labors & sat down to meditate, & at around 20:30 I got up to take a pee, lit a candle to see my way to the pot, & what do I see? Another baby jink bird lying on the ground before me—causing me to say to myself, "Another one. Jesus." (Is this some kind of practical joke? Am I on Candid Camera?) It seems to be the hard, harsh jink bird way for the biggest, strongest, most psychopathic chick to push the others out of the nest. If so, I don't want to put tonight's victim into the little clay pot nest w/ last night's victim, as one of the victims will simply revictimize the other one. So, what to do? Ignore the new one & let it starve? Construct another nest & try to scrounge up enough food to raise 2 jink birds to maturity? Put it back up into its nest & hope for the best?—Maybe. I shouldn't spend another rainy season in this cave, if only to avoid the problem of falling baby jink birds. Everything is Dukkha. Tonight's little victim sleeps upon the sand; & a certain selfish, heartless part of myself secretly wishes that mother rat will find it there & have her revenge upon jink birds, thus neatly solving the problem. Or, messily solving it—but solving it anyhow. I think there is a good likelihood that I will dream about birds tonight.
7-23 (19:07) Today's bird dukkha was worse than yesterday's. Yesterday afternoon the little jink bird in the clay pot started trusting me, sort of, & eagerly accepted my food, opening its mouth wide for it. It ate everything I had to give it, which unfortunately wasn't much. This morning also it was inclined to accept food from me. But after lunch, for reasons of its own, it started fearing me again & went into a long fear-induced trance. I couldn't even force-feed it today, as it would simply spit out whatever I put into its mouth, even if I poked the food way back. It probably ate more yesterday than today; & I doubt it will survive, especially so long as it fears the only friend it's got in this world. In retrospect, maybe I should have left it in the water 3 days ago. My efforts are merely causing it to die a slow death instead of a fast one. As for the one that fell out of the nest last night, it is larger & more developed than "my" bird, & is able to hop around a bit; so, after a few futile endeavors on my part, which need not be described here, it eventually hopped off the ledge & tumbled down to a flat, rocky place near the pond, where I assume it still is. Surprisingly, the parents continued feeding it; in fact it received much more food today than the one still up in the nest. Presumably the parents instinctively "know" that the one on the ground is extremely vulnerable, & needs to eat as much as possible in order to grow & mature & get off the ground as fast as possible. I doubt that it will survive, tho—there are carnivorous animals, including a large civet, that regularly prowl around the pond at night. I considered bringing it up into the cave at night, but it seems as tho all my efforts to help just make things worse. Let nature take its course. Experiencing frustration, exasperation, & even a little despair over the little bird who is terrified of the only being willing to feed it; & sadness when seeing the healthy, well-fed one sitting completely helpless & vulnerable on the ground near the pond. Nature is truly a horrible thing. It seems to require so much misery & death. Life for one means death to another, & vice versa. Sometimes one must simply look on w/ compassion & make no effort to help.
Needless to say, my meditative practice has been completely derailed for 2 days in a row. The prospects for tomorrow don't look so good either.
I have often wondered if I am in a situation similar to that of the baby jink bird in the pot—are there beings vastly superior to me who try to help, w/ me being too blind & idiotic to let them, or even to begin to comprehend the situation? I beg you to please be patient w/ me, O Venerable Ones. Please have mercy upon me a sinner.
7-24 (11:05) My baby bird was still afraid of me this morning & continued to refuse my offerings of food. So, it became obvious that it was going to die so long as its parents didn't feed it; & so I made one last attempt to save it, by putting it back up into the nest again in the hope that it would at least get something to eat before being pushed out again. Everything seemed to go smoothly—I lifted it up on the pole, & it slid out of the cup right into the nest…but w/in just a few seconds I saw it flop over the rim of the nest & plummet to the ground. The best explanation I can give is that its big, cruel brother or sister immediately shoved it back out again. I picked it up off the ground, whereupon it went into some feeble convulsions & lapsed into unconsciousness. I put it down on the rock near its earthbound sibling, & it died shortly thereafter, if not while still in my hand. Apparently when it fell out of the nest it landed on a small rock which put a dent into its belly, but I think it probably died more from starvation-induced weakness & sheer fright than from any injury sustained from the fall. During the whole time I was "helping" it it probably considered me to be a big terrible monster continually menacing & threatening it w/ death, which I practically turned out to be, despite my good intentions. Later on I helped the jink bird family one last time by removing the dead chick from the vicinity of its former sibling & tossing it into the pond (from whence I originally retrieved it), & now it floats in the water on its dead side. Ah, well, at least its problems are over now. May it have a good rebirth—if, that is, the affliction of rebirth is really necessary. I do hereby abandon all efforts to save baby jink birds. Let nature & the law of kamma take their respective courses.
Sometimes kamma simply will not allow one to be relieved of one's suffering, regardless of external help. Kamma (habit energy, formative perception) is the Logos, the Creator & Lord of this world. The will of a seemingly diabolical God.
(18:21) Still feeling occasional urges to (try to) help the baby bird down below, which is now crouching in a rain channel among the boulders. All I'd have to do is take some dental floss &…too much. Already gave my word (& attained some peace of mind by doing so).
The metaphysical question I would most like to know the answer to: "What is Reality?" (the metaphysical question)
The ethical question I would most like to know the answer to: "What should I do?" (the ethical question)
7-25 (12:28) Today is the 37th birthday of Mr. John David Reynolds, altho few people call me that nowadays. When I was much younger than I am now I used to often wonder what my life would be like in the year 2000, at the age of 37. It seemed so far away then; 37 was well into middle age. I could hardly have guessed 20 years ago that I would become a celibate & slightly neurotic Buddhist mendicant hermit, disenchanted w/ the world & w/ myself, living in a wasp-infested cave in a forest in tropical Asia, w/ possibly hundreds of people, mostly female, literally worshipping me. A laboratory technician w/ a relatively lovely wife, a house in the country, a nice car, a big book collection, & maybe a beagle would have seemed a more likely guess. Somewhere in this Universe such a John David Reynolds probably exists.
Speaking of wasp-infested caves, this morning I discovered a small new paper wasp nest inhabited by 3 medium wasps of a new yellow variety I have never noticed before, attached to the plastic tarp about 6 feet from my mat. 6 feet from the mat is too close for comfort, & besides, when it finally comes time to take the tarp down 3 months or so from now I would rather not have any large wasp nests connected to it; so, I seemed to have little choice but to knock it down w/ the trusty bamboo pole. The material of the nest wasn't as papery as the usual variety; it was translucent & more plasticky. I counted 13 eggs in it. I have been deliberately depriving far too many insects (& insect eggs) of life this year, & also last year. Non-killing is one of the more important rules of discipline. While I'm on the subject of wasps I might as well gratuitously mention that a tree shrew hunting for dropped wasp larvae at the south end of the cave was swarmed & apparently stung this morning.
(21:43) The weather was actually comfortable today—almost no sweat. But, received no birthday cards, & aside from the usual daily food, no gifts. Don't plan to go out partying tonight either.
I noticed today that despite a very restless mind, making meditation difficult, I've been unusually unlustful lately. No humming vital energy in the area of the loins, & almost no sexual thoughts. The graceful little beauty of Pwingah village still fascinates me when I see her, tho. Dreamed about beautiful women last night, but they kept all their clothes on. (Strangely, I also had another revolutionary political dream, the details of which should not be written down in this country.)
7-26 (15:21) The baby bird up in the nest has been peeping hungrily & very loudly all day long. The sound is high-pitched & piercing, like a metal spoon being rapped against a glass bottle again & again & again & again. The murderous little bastard would be getting fed a lot more if it hadn't pushed both of its brothers out of the nest. The noise is starting to give me a headache. I hate noise, especially the sound of crying babies.
Cloudy & hot today. Usually cloudy nowadays.
(18:04) This morning while I was walking to the village I saw 3 guys wading across the creek packing a bunch of equipment. Guys packing gear into the forest are usually poachers, so I indulged in contemptuousness (atimāna) & said to myself, "Shitheads." Then I noticed that one of them was packing an iron cauldron, which caused me to start thinking that maybe they were from Sine Teh & were coming to help me dye my robes; on the last full-moon day I told a dayaka from Sine Teh that I needed to dye my robes, & that it would require a cauldron. Sure enough, that's who it turned out to be (was overly hasty w/ the "Shitheads" remark), & they didn't come a day too soon, either. My upper robe has faded to a hue somewhere intermediate between lavender & pastel pink, & just last night I noticed that both robes that I wear every day in public* were rather stinky. Wearing a stinky pink robe in public is an embarrassment, & would have been even more so if I had come out of the forest & back into "civilization" w/ it. Actually, the upper robe had been more or less stinky for about 2 months; washing it did not make the stink completely go away. Mildew or something living in the cloth. But, now the color of the robes is much improved, & more importantly, the boiling hot dye made the stink go completely away. I didn't get the shade of brown that I asked for (the upper robe is now sort of a cranberry color—Burmese people seem to think that cranberries are brown), & I got chemical dye instead of vegetable dye as I requested, but I shouldn't make a fuss. May my dayakas get lots of "kutho."
* It's still way too hot to wear the thick wool outer robe. I don't think I've even unfolded it, much less worn it, in over a month. Haven't worn it since May.
7-27 (05:48) Well, so much for unlustfulness—yesterday afternoon one of my "meditations" consisted almost entirely of romantical fantasizing, followed by some slightly autoerotic behavior, & last night I had my 2nd NE in 2 nights. The dream involved a cute little blonde that I had never met before, & one of the longest French kisses in dream history. In the dream I was a bhikkhu & was travelling around w/ ven. Pakhokku Sayadaw & 2 other monks, plus sayadaw's usual retinue of laypeople. I think the other monks were the same ones that are to accompany Sayadaw, & possibly me, to America next year.
(08:23) Could last night's dream have been a warning of danger? America is a dangerous place, especially for me. A land of encouraged sensuality & temptation. For me, avoiding falling back into a state of animality & sexuality is like trying to avoid being sucked into a whirlpool while already slowly spiraling around it. But, I would like to see Dad again, & mooch some more books, & eat pizza, & maybe get high, & maybe look at a few pornographic pictures…ack! I'd be better off staying here & seeing nobody, & having few books, & eating rice & icky bamboo shoots, & taking no stronger drug than "Wild Buffalo," & having nothing more erotic to look at than my own skinny body & the occasional grungy village woman nursing snotty-nosed baby.
(12:25) It appears that baby jink bird #2 finally cashed in what few chips it had last night. No sign of it at all today. It made the fatal mistake of moving farther & farther away from the cave & nearer & nearer to the lower waterfall, where there is a lot of nocturnal animal traffic. Oh, well. Life requires death. If I help them they die, & if I don't help them they die. So, from now on I should neither help them nor not help them. "Helping" & "not helping" are illusory conceptions of mind. Supposedly.
7-28 (08:11) Today's meal (collected in Kuzeit) consisted of rice, boiled bamboo shoots, peanuts, stir-fried bamboo shoots, corn, bamboo shoot fritters, green mystery glop, bamboo shoots cooked into a cakey mass, & a few boiled chick peas. Selectively targeted on the peanuts & corn. Shouldn't complain about the food.
My robes are embarrassingly red now, red enough to be a borderline Vinaya offence. I always ask for brown & usually get red. Struggling against the juggernaut of mindless Burmese tradition. Shouldn't complain about robes & mindless Burmese tradition.
(16:23) I remember long ago figuring that I ought to be entered upon the Holy Life by the age of 30, to be well under way by the age of 33, & to have everything I want to attain in this life attained by the age of 37 (as the world might end then, or I might at least die). I jumped the gun w/ regard to entering the Holy Life & became a monk at 27. As to whether or not I was well under way at 33, that is difficult to say, as "well under way" is a rather ambiguous term. And now I am 37, & have I attained all that I think I ought to attain? Not hardly! I can't even say w/ any degree of certainty that I am "well under way" now. I have made progress over the past 10 years, tho, or so it seems.
Despite my practice, despite my philosophical beliefs, despite reading the TBGL again & again, I am still swimming thru a dualistic, pluralistic, perceptual sea of Saṁsāra. Caught myself today telling a digger wasp, "Some of you guys are good, & some of you guys are bad!" (Have been having problems today w/ one digger wasp in particular.) (Plus ants.) All of you guys are illusory conceptions of mind. Neither good nor bad, nor both nor neither. (I'm starting to get dizzy from blowing ants off this mat.)
7-29 (19:32) The predominant theme of my stay here last year was bemused & rather pained dismay, over my own existence & over the existence of the world in general (i.e., over existence in general). I had thought that this year would be a continuation of last year's theme, w/ possibly a culmination in some sort of despair-induced mental breakdown/catharsis/breakthrough. But, events usually don't turn out as expected, & did not in this case. My attitude is quite different this year—more apathetic & lazy, it seems, w/ less enthusiasm for Dhamma practice, but also w/ more equanimity & less pain. Apathy seems pretty similar to equanimity. More metaphysical this year & less ethical. The predominant theme of this year might be called a sense of utter & absolute futility. (Vanity of vanities, sayeth the bhikkhu.) Everything, usually even Dhamma, seems futile, pointless, & hopeless. Even nonexistence may not be an escape from universal futility & absurdity, as nonexistence & existence are ultimately the same—or so say the sages. The baby bird business of a few days ago was a material manifestation of what has usually been more abstract. I don't know what to do other than just keep blindly stumbling along in the hope that someday it will be possible for me to stop. But, a bhikkhu shouldn't hope. Ah, well, maybe this year is an improvement over last year—a sense of futility is more neutral & rather less painful than dismay. Don't quite remember what the themes were for my 1st 2 stays here, & can't begin to guess what the theme will be for next year. If there is a next year. Ultimately it doesn't matter. Or so it seems.
Not satisfied w/ the above paragraph—appears too exaggerated & melodramatic, & thus not completely truthful. Not really lying, tho. Hard to explain. The actual situation is not so intense, more diluted down w/ id-generated bullshit.
7-30 (11:45) New moon of Wazo—I was dripping w/ sweat about an hour ago because it was sunny & hot, but now I'm cool as a cucumber salad because it's pouring down big rain. The waterfall, which was just big enough to take a shower under a little while ago, is now roaring mightily. Cain the baby jink bird apparently flew away this morning, as I haven't seen or heard it up there today. The parents have been making loud, squabbling jink bird lovey dovey lately & yesterday start[ed] working on the nest over by the waterfall, so there may be another batch of babies on the way. I guess they have to breed several times a year in order to compensate for the effect of the babies killing each other.
(18:44) Cool as a cucumber salad at noon, hot & sweaty at 18:30, the latter partly due to the exertion involved in keeping vampire flies off me down at the pond. The baby jink bird is still in the neighborhood; heard it up in a tree near the lower waterfall peeping for food.
(21:25) Last sit: spent about an hour fantasizing about being king of England during medieval times & wooing, marrying, & of course deflowering a duke's beautiful daughter. By the time the story got to the morning after the wedding night I was very aroused, yet somehow managed to avoid breaking my No Handling When It's Turgid rule, not to mention saṅghādhisesa #1. Warned myself a few times before arousal reached fever-pitch level, but I had too much momentum already & the warnings were unheeded. It is a minor miracle that unlike the other adult animals in this canyon I do not have a mate. The animal id is fighting tooth & claw for survival & obviously has no intention to simply surrender; so I seem to have 2 options: 1) let the superego surrender, give up my moral ideals, & live the rest of my life as a sexually active failure, or 2) continue to be, for an indefinite length of time, at war w/ myself. Neither option is conducive to peace of mind. Peace of mind is evidently not an option; intelligence & instinct, Hume's Philosophy & Nature, spirit & flesh, are too much at variance.
I am an ape.
7-31 (05:45) Realized just after dawn that I forgot to do the 10-second uposatha ceremony yesterday, thus earning for myself a dukkata offence. Failing to say, 3 times, "ajja me uposatho" on the day of the new moon is a Vinaya offence, whereas imagining passionate sex acts while feverishly groping at oneself is not. Peculiar.
(12:39) Last sit: actually included a few minutes of relatively deep 4th gear, intermixed w/ sexual thoughts, metaphysical thoughts, thoughts of Ken Wilbur shaving his head in order to look wiser & thus sell more books, etc. Over the past few days there have been a number of brief, lucid intervals of mystic mindfulness. A few nights ago I actually experienced a few twitches of piti.
Straining my eyes to see Nothingness until finally my eyes are ruined & I succeed. Ha.
8-1 (11:36) Return of sweltering hot weather after several days of semi-comfort. Too hot to sit up & meditate w/o becoming drenched w/ sweat, so I lie on my back & fan myself. Sweat-soaked almsrounds seem to be a thing of the past now, tho.
(14:24) Attempts at meditation after lunch have been yet another exercise in futility—too hot, & "meditation" is continually interrupted for sweat-wiping & flailing at goddam little black bees that love hot weather & entering human nostrils. (They're almost impossible to hit w/ the sweatrag, as the only time they stop their hyperactive zigzag flying is when they are up my nose, or occasionally in my ear. At least there's not a plague of them this year like there was last year; last year I boiled w/ rage at them.)
(21:42) Continually finding myself indulging in deluded dualisms. Like early today saying to a baby frog, "You're good! And nice! And I like you!" Or, later this evening, "It's cooling down. That's good." Or, around the same time, "I like Pwingah better than Kuzeit. The food is better, & the girls are prettier. (Women in Kuzeit are more likely to go braless, tho. Don't know why.)" Or, just a little while ago, "Continually finding myself indulging in deluded dualisms." Seems like the only way to stop "setting up what one likes against what one dislikes," i.e. preferring one opposite to the other, would be to be very mindful all the time. For me that would involve a radical personality change.
8-2 (15:15) Cool air early this morning contributed to meditation w/ many clear, quiet, lucid moments. Mostly 2nd & 4th gear. Occasionally, briefly, abiding in Emptiness, kind of. All day since then I have repeatedly felt spontaneous inclinations toward mindfulness. Then, last sit: probably more than 50%, possibly much more than 50% clear 3rd gear, just sitting & not thinking, w/ a quiet, quiet mind. Many dream images spontaneously arose, including twice the image of black particles swirling about turbulently as tho in water being poured into a water bottle. Definitely some of the best meditation I've had in a long time. The mind is calming down of its own accord, as it started doing back around 4-24. Seemingly beyond my control, & I don't know how long it will last.
Wisdom is mindfulness.
3rd gear seemed relatively easy during that last sit. Maybe I ought to practice it more. Watching the top hole in the termite mound.
More fascination today w/ the graceful little beauty of Pwingah village. I feel almost as tho I've got a schoolboy crush on the girl. My liking for cute little girls is almost as bad as my liking for cute big ones. She offered rice & an onion fritter this morning. How can anyone believe that humans are not instinct-ridden animals? I certainly am one, if I can truly be said to exist at all.
"Instinct-ridden animal," tho, is an illusory conception of mind.
8-3 (04:15) Last night relatively peaceful, meditative mind continued; the sit after the last one described was well over 50% actual meditation, methinks, but I did not get very deep because I was continually struggling to keep a certain tune by Cheap Trick out of my mind. At least the struggling itself could be called meditative effort. The next sit after that was still besieged by Cheap Trick & started bogging down due to tiredness, so I cut it short & went to sleep at around 22:00. Woke up very early this morning to find meditative mind still pretty much intact, w/ the tune by Cheap Trick forgotten (woke up w/ a fragment of a song by Bad Company playing instead); meditation started w/o much difficulty—& then a truly perverse part of my mind began trying to remember the Cheap Trick tune in order to get it stuck again. Last night's meditation was hampered by efforts to forget a song, & this morning's was hampered by efforts to not try to remember it. Continually saying to myself, "No! No!"; like trying not to have an orgasm. At one point I became so angry w/ myself that I slapped myself hard in the face 4 times, then said to myself, "I am an idiot!" then, more angrily, "You stupid piece of shit!!" (a term of abuse generally reserved for pesky insects). There is definitely a part of my mind that does not want to become enlightened, & would much rather be passionately screwing an attractive female, often. My mind is at war w/ itself. But, on the dimly bright side, I have succeeded so far in not remembering the song again. It wouldn't be difficult to remember, as I know some of the lyrics. Efforts to stop trying to remember it even while writing this.
(11:52) During the last sit before almsround I finally failed to not remember the song, & music has been playing in my mind pretty much all day since then—not just Cheap Trick, but also many minutes of theme music from a spaghetti western (Fist Full of Dollars, I think), plus other odds & ends. Almost no sitting meditation after almsround so far due to heat & sweat. I've got to find a cooler place to live than this.
This morning it was very apparent that my "spirit" is not yet ripe for enlightenment. I've already been picked, so to speak, but I've got to sit on top of the refrigerator for a while, maybe a long while, before I will be ready to be consumed. One of the best ways to ripen fruit quickly is to put it near fruit that is already ripe, but I haven't had very much luck w/ regard to finding ripe fruit to put myself near. Seems like I've got to ripen on my own, somehow, w/o rotting first.
The TBGL has little effect on me now, not like one or 2 weeks ago. Not much seems to register now when I read it.
(16:02) Weather update: still too goddam hot to sit up & meditate w/o soaking in sweat. The music continues playing anyway. I am a hot, neurotic mess. Or maybe a hot, obsessive mess, but a hot mess to say the least. Overcast all day. Clouds blowing from west (not the monsoon direction) for many days. Very high humidity, lots of sweat, no rain. "Big rain here during the rainy season" they said. "Big rain."
8-4 (08:30) Blazing, blazing monsoon sun.
(17:27) My meditation has returned to the rocks from whence it came. 3rd gear, which seemed easy 2 days ago, today seems virtually impossible. Can't find the groove. Back to just sitting here w/ my eyes open & trying to be relatively calm. The problem is partly due to hot weather, partly due to nuisance-insects, & entirely due to my own mind.
Today is my 37th birthday according to the Buddhist calendar. 5th day of the waxing moon.
8-5 (11:08) Over the past few days I have spent many hours lying on my back fanning myself, trying to stew in as little sweat as possible, unmindfully. On the good old dimly bright side, however, it's not as miserable as it was during June & the end of May. The days are gradually getting shorter, & the sun is gradually moving back down to the southern hemisphere. The weather has to cool down eventually, rain or no rain. Life is Dukkha.
(13:28) Cheap Trick still plays much of the time. It's no longer a matter of trying not to remember it; it is now deeply entrenched. Just have to let it run its course, like a cold. It ought to be pretty much burned out by tomorrow. 4th gear seems to be the best defence against obsessive music, but 4th gear hasn't been working out today. Some success w/ 2nd today, tho.
(14:15) A few minutes ago I received my 6th wasp sting of the year, right on the cheek. I think it came from the same nest that attacked a guy 3 weeks ago; directly above the path, & practically unavoidable. The little bastard tried to sting me a 2nd time, but I managed to slap it to the ground, after which it flew away. Wasps everywhere. At least the big digger wasps that are riddling the ground w/ burrows haven't stung me yet.
8-6 (13:12) Ack, minor calamity—Mr. Po Khin from Yin Mah Bin, who afflicted me last year w/ his "pathological saddhā [excess of faith]" & who is described in detail in last year's journal, has returned to the area. Showed up w/ a local in tow while I was eating my meal, paid respects, & then, as was his custom last year, began silently staring at me, while I looked gloomily down at my bowl, silently wishing him to go away, & occasionally silently commanding him to go away. After maybe 25 minutes of staring on his part & sighing & head-shaking on my part he excused himself, paid respect 2 more times, & left. As he was leaving I very slightly hoped he would get stung & would thus be discouraged from coming back; but, he didn't get stung. If I didn't mind guys coming into the cave & silently staring at me for long periods of time he wouldn't be so bad, but we hermit types generally don't appreciate that sort of thing. He can be more of a nuisance than all of the insects in this cave put together, including the colony of tiny red ants that have taken up residence in my mat, w/ the possible exception of goddam little black bees. Choosing between good old Mr. Po Khin & goddam little black bees would be a tough choice.
(17:43) I have been here for 183 days this year. 82 more days until estimated date of departure. Not a good sign that I'm counting. 6 months since I've been inside a building. More than 6 months since I've worn shoes. More than 10 years since I've worn pants or a shirt.—No, that's wrong. More than 9 years. But I'm still a fool.
8-7 (13:26) Have been doing lots of disgusted bitching & moaning to myself about the weather lately, especially this morning, regardless of the fact that bitching & moaning are indicative of unwisdom. No rain, blazing sun, trickling sweat. The last significant precip was over a week ago, & the ground is baked dry. I could be living somewhere comfortable right now. Why do I do this shit to myself? Somebody please explain. Hatred for the world & for life this morning, while washing my almsbowl & stewing in sweat.
Avoid any sign/That is pleasant and connected with lust.
Develop a mind one-pointed/And well concentrated on the unpleasant.*
Living here is helpful in that respect.
(14:56) Shouldn't bitch too much, I guess—a coolish wind has started blowing from the south (monsoon direction), & my mind this afternoon has started spontaneously calming down & becoming more meditative again, despite my angry tirade against Burma this morning. The last sit contained a considerable amount of actual meditation, & I seemed to be entering a mild, 4th gearish trance state when the beeper went off. Space mind.
* Rāhula Sutta (Sn II.11)
8-8 (13:01) Musings while returning from almsround, & after: It is said that pure consciousness is undifferentiated & w/o boundaries. That which is undifferentiated & w/o boundaries is ultimately indistinguishable from nothingness, & thus pure consciousness is ultimately indistinguishable from nothingness & cannot w/ certainty be said to exist. "Although the One Mind is, it has no existence." And, as pure consciousness is Void, the Mahayanists & the Vedantists say that it is w/o qualities, w/o characteristics. But perception seems to arise from consciousness. How can perception be born from emptiness? If pure consciousness is w/o characteristics, then ability to give rise to perception is a characteristic which it does not have, & so perception cannot arise from consciousness. Thus it seems there are 2 alternatives: either perception arises from something other than consciousness, or else perception simply does not exist. The sages seem to prefer the 2nd alternative. So why, why do my perceptions seem so real? How can something that seems so real arise from what cannot give rise to anything? It appears to be an utter paradox & enigma. I suppose it has something to do w/ infinity, absoluteness, which a perceiving mind simply cannot grasp; perception, & thus Saṁsāra, are manifestations of non-infinity, of incompleteness. Is Saṁsāra a kind of semi-nothingness? I continue to be drawn to the concept ∞=0. Strange feelings can arise when one has one's eyes open in broad daylight & thinks, "There is nothing."
Meanwhile, fluffy white clouds continue to blow from the south, & my loins hum & tingle, occasionally inspiring me to think w/ some nostalgia about the anatomy of the human female. Philosophy vs. Nature.
8-9 (01:56) Suddenly, it's pissing down rain in the middle of the night, requiring me to get up & batten down the hatches. At least it finally started raining again.
(13:50) The tune by Cheap Trick continues to play much of the time, altho its force has weakened noticeably.
The rain last night did nothing to cool the world down; today is a little more uncomfortable than yesterday. I did get to take a cool shower under the waterfall today, tho. Yesterday it was dry.
Just now I had my first verified sighting of Daffy Duck birds. I've wondered for years what they look like. Drab little birds that I couldn't see very well, way up in the trees. They're the same ones that go "bo kaun."
(18:35) Mrs. Jink Bird has started sitting on her new nest over behind the waterfall. There will be no baby-saving operations this time, largely because any babies that fall from that nest will drop about 30 feet onto some rocks. Meanwhile, Cain the now adolescent jink bird remains in the neighborhood, insistently peeping for food.
8-10 (17:13) Strangely, for the past few days my walking meditation has been more successful than sitting meditation—altho today I haven't been doing much walking due to heat & sweat. This weather truly sucks. Sweat, sweat, sweat, every day sweat. So when is the rainy season going to start? The rain 2 nights ago was just a brief shower, & the waterfall is almost dry again. "Big rain here during the rainy season" they said. "Big rain." Everything is Dukkha.
I suppose I should clarify: Every individual thing is Dukkha. Everything taken as a whole is neither dukkha nor sukha. A non-pluralistic whole.
I suppose my craving for comfort is unwholesome.
I suppose the act of supposing is also unwholesome.
(18:53) Too many mosquitoes to stay outside the mosquito net, still too hot to meditate inside the mosquito net, so I write more musings: Size is purely relative—in order to know the size of a thing it must be compared w/ something else. For example, in order to know that object X has a size of 12.5 centimeters it must be compared w/ a more or less imaginary object called a "centimeter." But a comparison of 2 objects is a relation that exists only in the mind; it is purely imaginary. Thus size also is purely imaginary, & has no absolute reality. And thus the entire Universe has no size. Nothing has any real size. Absolute nothingness & absolute infinity can also be said to be sizeless because they have no boundaries.
"Infinite" literally means "endless." Thus 0̅ is infinite because it has no end. (Is ∞̅ zero because it has no beginning?) 0̅ & ∞̅ are both w/o beginning or end, & have no real size. The TBGL would say, "There are no 2 such things as nothing & everything." I wish I could demonstratively, convincingly prove that 0̅ & ∞̅ are the same, but so far I can't.
Too much thinking. "There is nothing."
8-11 (16:56) More Rinzai Zen practice lately. The koan is now "Why is Everything Nothing, & Nothing Everything?" Truly a koan. How could such a thing be answered. Only by silent meditation, I suppose. Luckily, semi-coolish weather today is contributing to a state of semi-coolish mind.
Frogs singing in the pond pretty much every night lately, but no frog eggs visible by day, & very few tadpoles. I think maybe Chris the androgynous turtle eats them. Turtles gotta eat too. Saw it yesterday evening apparently trying to eat a piece of chicken that I had thrown into the pond for it.
(22:11) Further results of contemplation/cogitation: Absolute nothingness (0̅) & absolute everythingness (∞̅) are both utterly inconceivable; they cannot be comprehended by a perceiving mind. Thus any identity or difference between them can only be inferred rationally—their identity or difference cannot be objectively proven. It may be possible thru profound mysticism to prove, subjectively at least, their identity, but as mysticism knows no differences any difference between them could not be directly known subjectively or indirectly known objectively. Or so it seems.
More lustful semi-fondling tonight, at the end of the last sit, while thinking about almost having sex w/ Carol A. when I was 16 years old.
8-12 (12:11) Cool, comfortable air at dawn, w/ 1st sit of the day being well over an hour of what I figure was more than 50% actual meditation. 2nd & 4th gears. 4th gear is the practice of Everything/Nothing. 2nd sit of the day, after lunch, was about 20 minutes of sleepy floundering, after which I gave up & lay down. Lying on my back resting, using the effort of fanning myself to stay awake.
8-13 (12:36) Big but, as usual, brief rain yesterday afternoon. Took the overland route to the village, as for the 1st time in many days the creek was too flooded for me to take the low route. Also, this morning was the 1st time in many days that I had serious interaction w/ vampire flies. Not a plague of them, but I managed to smash at least 2. I was perving in 19th century fashion this morning—due to the flood the village ladies came out of the village to offer food; they lifted their skirts as they waded thru the wet weeds & mud, allowing me to ogle their smooth, brown legs. A latter-day Leopold Bloom.
Spontaneous musings after lunch, before going down to wash my bowl: Intelligence evolved to aid & serve instinct. The 2 main instinctual goals of animals are personal survival & reproduction, & their intelligence, as a general rule, makes them better equipped & able to meet these goals. The human animal is no exception; even most of the most brilliant scientists & scholars use their brains to make a living & to attract a female w/ which to mate & produce offspring. But eventually in one's spiritual development intelligence revolts against instinct, & attempts a kind of "coup d'etat." It tries to destroy, or at least completely subjugate, its master, & thus render the mind completely free of animality, irrationality, foolishness. But, intelligent reason cannot be completely divorced from instinct. All reason, w/ the possible exception of pure abstractions that have no practical application, is based upon unreason, & instinct, & emotion. As Hume pointed out, even considering oneself to be the same person as was seen in the mirror the day before is more a matter of instinct & irrational habit than of rational thought. Even to open one's eyes & differentiate figure from ground w/ regard to any object of vision is to be in the grip of animal reflex, animal emotion, animal instinct, & irrational animal habit. And so intelligence can never really win the war against foolish bestiality. Either bestiality will win, & intelligence will continue to be its slave, or else the 2 antagonists will somehow annihilate each other, or somehow neutralize each other.* The 2nd alternative (i.e. nobody winning) seems preferable; after the id & its rebellious child/slave are destroyed, or rather transcended, all that will remain is Emptiness and/or Infinity.
(15:26) …and/or bare consciousness.
* or maybe one will kill itself & take the other along w/ it.
8-14 (13:44) Full moon of Wagaung—a mostly cloudy yet nevertheless uncomfortably hot day. There was a brief shower about half an hour ago, but it was hot even while it was raining. The humidity must be somewhere very near to 100%. I lie on my back fanning myself for hours. On the somewhat bright side, the foot that I bloodied on 7-20 has finally healed enough that it is dry & doesn't ooze goo any more. It was just a relatively minor scrape, but I made the mistake of leaving a frequently wet bandaid on it for 4 days.
Feelings of guilt after almsround today—exercised virtually no mindfulness while accepting food. Almsround is little more than an opportunity to get a meal & ogle girls. Even when not ogling I think things like, "Oh great, you dumped the glop right on top of the cake." Walked away silently apologizing for not being more worthy of their food. At least I remembered to generate mettā & bless them, afterwards.
Now it is raining again. The end of the hot season seems to be gradually drawing near.
8-15 (17:53) More compulsive anger & hatred directed at ants. Twice today I've gone into a rage over the little black bastards that are continually making highways on the walking meditation path, & occasionally invading my mat. My usual mode of attack is to keep kicking them off the path until they eventually get squished by my foot or fall into an ant lion pit. The little red ones that live over by the water drip are much easier to tolerate for some reason. They leave me alone, I leave them alone. My ant-induced rage is nothing compared to what it was a year ago in Maymyo. Last year was war. I am a fool.
Mr. Po Khin apparently has had mercy, & only visited me once this year. May he be well & happy.
(19:02) Even when not busily hating ants my meditation today has not been good, & wasn't good last night, either. All day I have been in a shallow, very perceptual (i.e. unmindful), & dreamy state of mind, as tho dreaming this day. Had some success this afternoon w/ 3rd gear, but ant anger pretty much wrecked my last sit. I continually wonder how much of my floundering is due to neurotic id-engineered subconscious sabotage. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." That may become Great Comforting Thought #4.
(22:00) I'm still counting down—73 more days & I'm out of here, supposedly. But what if I were a more serious & dedicated bhikkhu & lived in a place like this all the time? With no Rangoon library to look forward to. No cheese sandwiches at Moh Moh's house. Just harsh living conditions & a more or less unpleasant life until I die. I would probably make much more progress in Dhamma. It is something that should be considered.
8-16 (10:50) Aha, just as I thought—the "mild irregularity" that I've been experiencing for several days is being caused by yet another pinworm infestation. Spotted 1 or 2 trophy-sized wrigglers on my turd this morning. Tonight I dope myself up on strong Indian worm medicine. Probably everybody in this area, including my little beauty, has got intestines writhing w/ parasitic worms. Well, almost everybody. (Her hair looked very nice today, which I shouldn't have noticed.)
Last night I actually had to use a robe as a blanket to stay warm, & today (so far) is comfortably cool, w/ no sweat. Thick clouds covering the sky. Wet wind blowing down the creek this morning. Possibly the coolest day here since April.
(12:27) Well, the sun has come out, & the world is heating up again. Am starting to swelter again, as usual.
(14:59) Back to comfortably coolish, after a brief shower.
I've just made an uneasy truce w/ the ants—they've moved their nest down the path a ways, so now they make highways on only about half of it, the half that is away from me. Just hating vampire flies, goddam little black bees, & forest-wrecking humans is more than enough. I hate too much. Still, I don't plan on making very much effort to avoid stepping on the mindless little black bastards.
(15:39) It's heating up again. Yo-yo weather.
I'm still trying, occasionally, to reconcile the TBGL w/ the interpretation of "aggregates of mind" in my essay. According to the TBGL there is consciousness, which has no characteristics & "no existence," & there are illusory conceptions of mind; these more or less correspond to my conscious sensation & formative perception. The problem seems to lie in vedanā—if consciousness is Emptiness, unknowable & infinite, then vedanā as undifferentiated sensation would seem rather superfluous. It would seem at least as plausible to say that "formative perception" creates a differentiated mental image, not simply differentiating a pre-existing undifferentiated one. This interpretation would seem to be more in keeping w/ consciousness as a universal absolute w/ neither substance nor function, & also more in keeping w/ formative perception as kamma, which, at least to a very large degree, causes what one "senses." It should also be noted that saṅkhāra means "formation," "construction." I don't know. In a sense even consciousness is a mere philosophical construction; it can be said that from a samsaric point of view all that exists is formative perception (the World as Will and Idea), whereas from a "nibbanic" point of view (the point of view of conscious sensation) there is nothing that can be named. So, it may be that "consciousness" is no less superfluous than "sensation." I don't know. How formative perception forms its perceptions is a mystery. Does it really create the world, as kamma is said to do, or does it only differentiate, maybe choosing from amongst Infinity what to differentiate? I don't know. Is there even a difference between the two? There are no two such things as nibbanic point of view & samsaric point of view. There are no two. It's best just to meditate, & try not to think. "That thou mayest know all things, seek to know nothing." (St. John of the Cross)
(20:26) Rubbing myself w/ a piece of wood again tonight—the last sit broke down into very pornographic fantasizing about Marla C. I was sweet on her since 8th grade, & finally about 12 years later, I had her in my arms, & she was all dolled up & looking very pretty, & she said to me, "I am so horny tonight"…& I didn't go for it! (But I did in the fantasy 12 years after that.) I am such a strange creature, compelled by unavoidable destiny to become a celibate monk. She was mine that night, & I didn't go for it. Amazing.
8-17 (11:41) Pornographic but dry dreams last night—dreamed that I collected some free porn brochures from a display rack at an airline terminal or airline office, & then scrutinized them avidly & repeatedly. I was a bhikkhu in the dream, which I think is the case in less than half of my dreams, & I kept the brochures near my bed in my monastery dwelling. There were a number of other western bhikkhus in the dream, including one that was an Eskimo. Could this be another portentious dream concerning my planned trip to America next year? (see entry for 7-27) My lower, animal nature seems to consider the trip to America to be a great opportunity to launch a major counteroffensive against the forces of Superego, as was the case last time.
Meanwhile, today my groin area hums quietly w/ vital energy, calling out for attention. I am a monk/monkey.
All of the sesamum & maybe half the corn has been harvested, & now the villagers are starting to transplant rice seedlings into the paddy fields. One lazy farmer left his cut sesamum plants stacked up near the trail until they rotted in the rain, & then he just set them on fire & burned them up. Typical of Burma.
Cool & cloudy early this morning, hot & sunny later. I lie on my back & fan myself, trying to sweat as little as possible.
(16:43) Sweltering heat. At least days like this are becoming somewhat less frequent. Everything is Dukkha.
8-18 (15:45) Meditation has been completely shot so far today, & was all day yesterday also, partly because of hot weather, & partly because of an hours-long visit by some dayakas who came to wash my robes &, at my request, boil my stinky & half-destroyed shoulder bag, but I think mainly because of internal, psychological factors. My own mind is my greatest obstacle in life.
After one wash my upper robe is faded back to pink, altho the pink is not yet pastel, as was the case before it was dyed. On the other hand, the lower robe faded to an almost orangish color, which is an improvement over cranberry. I may return to civilization wearing a pastel pink robe after all. Oh, the shame of it all.
(16:49) I was sorely deceived—after repeated warnings of "big rain" here during the monsoon season I was expecting a hellacious 5-month-long rain storm. I even got a wool robe to help me endure the wet coldness of it. But since the monsoon started blowing 3 months ago I have been soaked w/ sweat many, many more times than I have been soaked w/ rain. They neglected to inform me that the "big rain" generally falls only during the last 2 months of the monsoon, & that until that time the weather is just an extension of the hot season. Bitch, bitch, moan, moan. Wanting things to be different than they are is Dukkha.
PLACE: God-forsaken hell-hole
DATE: 69 days til I'm out of here
8-19 (14:56) Practice has been almost dead for the past 3 days, not coincidentally ever since the last heat blast began. Walking meditation especially is pretty much out of the question until it gets dark & cools down. I suppose I could just be patient & put up w/ lots of sweat, but I'm fussy. Oh, well, some day the weather will actually cool down. Some day. Why, why do I do this shit to myself? Certainly not because I enjoy it.
Returning to my musings of 8-16, I don't think that formative perception, which even from a samsaric point of view* is just an illusory manifestation of consciousness (conscious sensation), can actually create anything. It would seem more correct to say that it "chooses from amongst Infinity what to differentiate." Also, it doesn't seem too implausible to say that vedanā as "an undifferentiated mental image" is another way of viewing pure, infinite consciousness. The Universe is an undifferentiated mental image? I think too much. No view is Right View, including the view that no view is Right View.
I paused during the writing of that last metaphysical paragraph to flail at tiny flies w/ intent to cause injury if not kill. They are the most recent insect infestation at this cave.
* but not the only samsaric point of view
PLACE: God-forsaken hell-hole
DATE: 68 days til I'm out of here
8-20 (15:32) The temperature feels like it's about 75°[F], but I am still sweating. Maximum humidity & zero wind. Ah, well, at least it's not as uncomfortable as yesterday. Too much bitching.
Started rereading Hume today. Might as well.
One of the few remaining digger wasps finally closed up its burrow on the walking path today, after stuffing horsefly after horsefly into it for well over a month. I think there may be 300 horseflies in that one hole, almost certainly much more than 100. Beneath the surface of the ground all around me are catacombs full of paralyzed crickets, horseflies, & spiders.
(19:22) Last sit: about 30 minutes of what was essentially non-meditation, pretty much just trying to sit still, which was finally interrupted by fanning, sweat-wiping, & lots of angry cursing about the weather. Was so angry I wanted to start crying, or beat the shit out of something, but didn't. Made myself feel a little better by reading the journal entry for the Bad Day of 6-15; today wasn't nearly as bad as that. But, today was the 1st day this year that I thought wistfully about how nice death would be. I don't see how it could be worse than putting up w/ this bullshit every day. Death would be a welcome relief. Or at least it would have been, shortly after that last sit. I've calmed down now, altho I'm still thoroughly fed up.
8-21 (00:50) It finally rains—in the middle of the night—requiring me to get up & batten down the hatches. Just a brief shower, I think.
(12:14) Last night & early this morning my meditation was completely & absolutely shot. I could hardly sit still for half an hour—"reeling in place." The last sit was not quite so bad, but still unworthy of the name "meditation." The problem is not so much hot weather as chronic frustration because the hot weather doesn't end. Last night while supposedly doing walking meditation I indulged in a long bout of ranting & raving & raging to myself against hot weather that doesn't end, & against simple villagers who didn't think to warn me that the monsoon season here is more miserably hot than the hot season. Felt continued pangs in my heart, tempting me to cry, & repeated urges to beat my head against something. I felt as tho I was at the verge of severe heat-induced depression or psychological breakdown. It is still a possibility, if the heat persists. I used to think I had a strong mind; that other people might crack under stress, but not me. But experiences over the past few years have shown me that my mind is not all that sturdy; in fact, now my mental constitution seems rather fragile. Just 4½ months of heat & sweat & I'm in a state of frantic exasperation. But even when the ranting & raving & raging reached their peak last night, or maybe especially when they reached their peak, I was aware of a quiet, still place in my mind that seemed to retain complete composure & equanimity, just observing silently & wisely, & making all the ranting & raving & raging seem superficial & mechanical, just the body & its brain running their natural courses. I have felt this superficiality & mechanicalness many times before, not only when angry, but also when experiencing intense lust. It occurred to me that all of my rage & exasperation was being generated by the id, "the devil," violently protesting against being deprived of sensual comfort & pleasure; whereas the highest height of my superego could endure any hardship w/ perfect patience, because the highest height of my superego is the Great Everything/Nothing, is the Primordial Consciousness "that is, yet has no existence," is Nibbāna, is Brahman, is "God." Not the creator of this world, tho—whatever created this world is evil. "In the beginning, the Devil created the heavens & the earth."
(21:44) The gods had pity on me today—not much rain last night & none today, but the weather was breezy & almost coolish. I've been in a pretty good mood today, which seems rather strange considering my self-inflicted dukkha last night, plus the fact that my meditation has gone almost completely kasplooey. I think last night's inward outburst may have served as a kind of quiet primal scream therapy, plus today was almost coolish, & I don't have very much desire to meditate anyway. Let it be so.
8-22 (14:13) I spend yet another afternoon lying on my back fanning myself. More monsoon sun. Not nearly as bad as June was, tho. The sun is gradually getting lower, & the days are gradually getting shorter.
(19:33) Still too hot to meditate comfortably here under the mosquito net, so I write…
"Everything is Dukkha." What exactly does that mean? Here is an unorthodox hypothesis: Everything, sabbe saṅkhārā, is perceptual formations, mental constructions, which are Saṁsāra. Dukkhā, on the other hand, is unease; it is not just some kind of passive unhappiness, but has a strong element of restlessness—at the very least, dukkha is restless dissatisfaction. This restless dissatisfaction is the goad that drives us thru life, thru Saṁsāra; it is the force that motivates our perceptual differentiation/construction of the samsaric world around us. But dukkha is not separate from the act of conception; it does not precede saṅkhāra, but is simultaneous w/ it, & is essentially the same. It may not be so much a case of everything being conducive to dukkha as it is a case of everything being made by dukkha & of dukkha—the samsaric world in which we live is a manifestation of a restless, dissatisfied mind. Nevertheless, it may also be true that everything is conducive to dukkha—dukkha is conducive to more dukkha—but it is easier for me to imagine that a blade of grass that I casually glance at was formed by the restless dissatisfaction of my mind than to imagine that it will cause me subsequent unease somehow.
8-23 (08:20) Dawn (pre-almsround) "meditation" today consisted mainly of fantasizing about being an invisible terrorist, w/ a tune by April Wine playing in the background. Pathetic.
More blazing monsoon sun today.
(11:21) Futility of futilities here in God-forsaken Hell-hole Canyon: the most futile thing imaginable is to hope for rain, as there is absolutely no guarantee that there will be any significant rain at all for the rest of the year, & even if it does rain there is no guarantee that it won't be sunny & blazing hot again w/in just a few hours. Abandon all hope ye who spend vassa here. To get one's hopes up is just to set oneself up for disgust & frustration. It doesn't matter. Let it do its worst. The only weather conditions that can be relied upon now are high humidity & the gradual cooling down of the weather as the cold season approaches. No hope—hope is foolish & futile.
(13:36) I realized today that I have done virtually no intensive practice since March. Endurance of everyday existence has become my practice.
The sky is mostly overcast now, w/ occasional rumblings of thunder in the distance.
Still chewing on the vedanā issue (see entry for 8-16)—From the relative, samsaric point of view consciousness & sensation are nothing more than theoretical abstractions, their place being fully occupied in the unenlightened mind by formative perception, Schopenhauer's Will & Idea. To know sensation as sensation, i.e. to perceive sensation, is simply to convert it into perception. On the other hand, from the supposed absolute, nibbanic point of view nothing, including consciousness & sensation, can be said to exist or not exist. So either way, elemental consciousness & elemental sensation cannot really be known to exist. Apparently beyond understanding. I really do think too much, a hopeless jñāṇa yogī.
A brief & relatively heavy rain began at around 14:00. The clouds came from the east for some reason.
(17:13) I stubbornly persist: "Conscious sensation" must be defined as "The Great Everything/Nothing Which Has No Characteristics," including the characteristic of being conscious & of being sensation. The conscious sensation of an individual being or individual mind, distinct from other conscious sensation, is an illusory conception. It seems very odd that sensation would be equated to Infinite Emptiness, but that is where my reasonings take me. It seems that "sensation" (vedanā) is a rather inaccurate & misleading term, if not wholly superfluous.
The sky is blue again, but it's too late to do any damage. The shower cooled the world down nicely, & my pores are taking the afternoon off.
(18:59) Saw monkeys in the canyon for the 1st time, about an hour ago. Crossing over above the lower falls, heading south. Seeing the monkeys made me happy.
8-24 (11:12) More rain last night, a few hours before dawn, flooding the creek & requiring me to take the overland route to the village for the 1st time in many days. Slipping & stumbling thru the mud in the blazing sun, covered w/ sweat & surrounded by vampire flies. Received several bites (the 1st in many days), & dealt out a few lethal, squishing blows. Vampire flies really do deserve death. Blazing sun almost all morning. Meditation still shot. I could be living in a house in the Temperate Zone diddling a devoted & reasonably attractive wife right now, but it seems that my superego, who is more or less in charge, considers floundering here in God-forsaken Hell-hole Canyon to be much better than that.
(13:10) Have noticed that I am more likely to talk to myself in a relatively loud, conversational tone when I am experiencing a time of relative stress, like this morning, for example.
(15:08) Blazing, blazing monsoon sun almost all day. I am in hell. I am in hell.
A person resistant to heat, tolerant of heat rather, could endure this weather pretty easily. The temperature really isn't all that high any more; it's just humid & windless. The Burmese villagers are probably quite comfortable on days like this. But my ancestors evolved to survive ice ages. I am a crybaby, a wimp, & a fool.
(16:54) Surprisingly heavy rain falling from an almost blue sky.
(18:42) Last sit: Sat for a little over an hour, most of which time was spent/wasted obsessively trying to remember the name of the star quarterback-sacker for the New York Giants 10 years ago. After the beeper went off I started walking back & forth, still racking my brains trying to remember it, seemingly unable to drop the issue, until I finally got it—Lawrence Tailor, or Taylor. I can't stand not being able to remember something that I know I would recognize if I heard the answer. On the other hand, it doesn't bother me that I don't remember any locker combination that I've ever had; I wouldn't recognize them even if I heard them. It's usually names, but not always. A few months ago it was a smell. (It's Taylor I think, not Tailor.)
8-25 (10:30) A strange thought which occurred to me while I was washing my bowl down at the pond: "The entire Universe is contained w/in a single point which has no dimensions."* This would be in accordance w/ the theory that Everything is Nothing, Infinity equals Zero. Any dimensionless point would have all infinity contained w/in it, supposedly. And any consciousness whatsoever, being equivalent to the Great Everything/Nothing, would be a dimensionless point containing all Infinity w/in it. It is perception which narrows the view. When formative perception "chooses from amongst Infinity what to differentiate" it chooses from amongst an Infinity that is right there all the time (figuratively speaking—really, there is no time). What people conceive to be sensation much more clearly resembles perception than real sensation. Real "sensation" is Absolute Infinity. Supposedly. If so, then what we perceive to be real here in Saṁsāra is ultimately no more real than anything else that can be conceived by man or god. For me to be sitting here on a bamboo mat in a cave in Burma is ultimately no more real, not the slightest iota more real methinks, than, say, for me to be standing on one leg atop the Great Pyramid of Cheops while Napoleon Bonaparte stabs me w/ a popsicle stick & sings at the top of his lungs in medieval Mandarin Chinese.
(14:44) It occurred to me last night that I am gradually becoming more & more psychologically unhealthy, or that I am gradually becoming more & more painfully aware of how psychologically unhealthy I have always been. Either way the result seems to be practically the same. Peace of mind seems to be a virtual impossibility.
* cf. entry for 8-10 (18:53)
8-26 (12:05) Nature update: Yesterday afternoon a chick was hatched to Mr. & Mrs. Jink Bird in their new nest over behind the waterfall. The proud parents have been flying up to the nest & making the "here, eat this" sound. Cain the young adult jink bird was seen in the neighborhood yesterday chirping for food, until one of the older birds chased it away. They're apparently fed up w/ the shiftless little bastard. Meanwhile, the paper wasp nests are still full of paper wasps, making walking meditation during the day a risky venture. The larva-stealing wasps apparently shut down their operations about a week ago, for unknown reasons. New digger wasps of the large, black-&-red variety are emerging from the ground & doing as their parents did not long ago, continuing the cycle. Very few if any tadpoles in the pond now, altho the turtle remains, along w/ lots & lots of crawdads. As for the weather, it started a new pattern a few days ago: mostly sunny during the day w/ brief rain in the evening and/or at night. Wind direction is very variable. Despite the sun the days are definitely cooling down; nowadays at dawn I usually wear an upper robe to stay warm, & this morning during almsround, at around 06:50, I stood in direct sunlight for several minutes wrapped up in my upper robe, & worked up only a very thin film of sweat. I'm sweating pretty good now, tho.
More frustrated self-lustful behavior today, while thinking about a pornographic dream I had a few nights ago. It was a rather futuristic dream, w/ very professional whores in possession of a scientifically engineered super aphrodisiac.
During the last sit, of what could hardly be called meditation, I was inspired to write another essay—it would be entitled "A Biological Interpretation of Buddhism," or, for a more general audience, "…of Dharma." It would be somewhat along the lines of the entry for 8-13, but on a broader scale. One of the purposes of it would be to explain why perception is necessarily delusion (saññā=moha). The purpose of perception & "reason" is not to understand reality or truth—it is to promote survival & reproduction. Understanding of ultimate truth would make us unfit for survival in this world—an evolutionary dead end. An evolutionary end, anyhow.
My meditation is still dead; I don't know why. Part of the reason is laziness, apathy, & lack of effort, but part of the reason is something else, more difficult to overcome. Or so it seems.
8-27 (12:20) Emergency nature update: This morning the little black very bitey ants that swarm on the trails sometimes invaded the canyon & the cave like army ants. They were all over the place; I wouldn't be surprised if there was more than a million of them. I was able to defend my mat against them w/o much difficulty, but then a few thousand of them crawled up the back wall of the cave & started attacking problem nest #1, causing wasps on red alert to fill the air, & thus causing me to retreat to a safe distance. There is still a black swarming mass of them in the cave. This is not good. Oh, well, at least they destroy wasp nests. A seemingly endless stream of them has been flowing into the cave for well over an hour. And as if that weren't bad enough, it's sweltering hot again today, w/ goddam little black bees & sweat, sweat, sweat.*
(15:54) Last night my philosophical reasonings, such as they are, threw me into a state of acute confoundment—1st it occurred to me that the TBGL-friendly interpretation of sensation as Void cleared up one problem I was having, namely: How can past kamma, which is formative perception, cause present sensation? It would seem to be a case of delusion causing reality. But if what we generally consider to be sensation is really just perception, then there is no problem—one kind of perception causes another kind of perception. Then I started wondering why there seem to be 2 levels of perception, a seemingly passive level (e.g. what I see when I simply open my eyes w/o focusing on anything in particular) & an active, obviously volitional level (what I focus upon). Then I considered the possibility that what we generally consider to be sensation is actually the perception of a higher being, of which we are a part—a "multidimensional entity," as some would call it, a "soul," as others would call it. (This notion of "soul" would not necessarily be in conflict w/ Buddhist philosophy, as "soul" is ultimately no more real than "person.") And if that is the case, then my essay ["Essay on the Aggregates of Mind"] would appear to be wrong—neither perception nor sensation would be ultimate truth, & Nibbāna would be completely off the scale. "Consciousness" could be reserved for Nibbāna, I suppose, but that would make the theory somewhat clumsy, & therefore less plausible to my thinking. Anyhow, each solution produced at least one more problem, until finally I found myself floundering in a quagmire of ideas, wrestling w/ an octopus, & feeling as tho I didn't know anything. So, I became disgusted & just gave up, despising myself for being an ape too stupid to understand its own mind. (18:29) I recalled to my mind the sage advice given by the Aṭṭhakavagga, which I revere but, in accordance w/ human nature, generally ignore: a bhikkhu should have no philosophy, no view at all. So I figured, now is a good opportunity—everything's all broken down, so I might as well leave it, stop trying to figure it out, & just meditate, & so I did. And surprisingly, amazingly, I was able to actually meditate for the 1st time in several days—shallow, slightly dreamy 3rd/4th gear, resulting directly from disgusted lack of desire to think. Not only could I meditate, but I sat for about an hour & 45 minutes, which may be the longest uninterrupted sit I have done in years; I would have sat longer, but ankle pain was becoming a serious distraction. I sat & walked until almost midnight, w/ spontaneous mindfulness the likes of which I cannot conjure up by force of will. I was able to meditate early this morning also, & went for almsround w/ unusual peace of mind, but the situation has deteriorated due to relapse into my usual ways of thinking, plus sweltering heat (which persists at dusk) & swarming ants. I've even spent some time trying to straighten out my philosophy today (the hopeless jñāṇa yogī strikes again), but I haven't tried very hard. It seems strange that I don't know exactly what sensation is. Here is a good rule of thumb: Anything other than formative perception is utterly unknowable to an unenlightened mind. If I want to know what sensation is, I should practice properly & become enlightened. And as for my obsessive philosophizing this year, it may be better to work on the biological stuff & leave the metaphysics to grossly unenlightened college professors. I need to write less, anyhow. At this rate I'll run out of journal before it's time to go.
(22:38) Still fanning myself, trying in vain to cool down. Tonight may be the hottest night since the beginning of vassa. God-forsaken hell-hole.
* Well, maybe writing "sweat" 3 times was an exaggeration. I'm not extremely sweaty. I guess it's only sweltering warm.
8-28 (11:13) The nightly rain & cool mornings stopped 2 days ago, & today is yet another muggy, stifling, sweaty, uncomfortably hot day. I hate. The air is so humid that fanning myself is almost useless. Vassa here in GFHH Canyon is ideal for those who enjoy misery. Well, better lie back down again.
(15:32) Virtually no practice today since dawn, other than just horizontal endurance of heat.
(18:18) The weather cooled down suddenly at about 16:30, due to rain upwind, so I sat up & semi-meditated. It may seem to any non-me reader of this journal that I bitch & curse about the weather way too much in it. This is of course true, but the purpose of this journal is mainly to represent what goes on in my mind & to give a fair representation of what my life is like—& bitching & cursing about the weather goes on in my mind rather frequently, & I must write about it repeatedly in order to fairly represent the weather affliction that has been a major part of my life in recent months. The coolish breeze that is blowing now feels very pleasant. A bhikkhu shouldn't enjoy it, tho. Shouldn't bitch about bad weather, either. Shouldn't do a lot of things that I do every day. Shouldn't be me.
8-29 (12:07) First day of Tawthalin. Vassa is half over. I seemed to be almost completely unable to meditate this morning. Very sleepy but also very restless mind. Could hardly sit for half an hour. On the bright side, today, so far, is overcast, slightly sprinkly, & very comfortable—the 1st comfortable day in about 2 weeks. Also, 1st sit after lunch was somewhat improved; actually concentrated a little, & sat for a full hour. Last thought before the beeper went off: "Everybody creature zalone (i.e., စလုံး)"--semiconscious dream gibberish. Still sleepy. (Maybe it's spelled ဆလုံး; it means "all.")
8-30 (18:35) 2 cloudy, almost coolish days in a row, w/ very little sweat. Relative comfort seems like luxury (altho I'm itchy w/ insect bites & seem to have a small thorn in my foot)—yesterday I felt as tho a heavy burden had been lifted from my back, but of course it could be replaced any day. The mind seems calmer & clearer, & even during everyday business. So it's tempting to conclude that I ought to live somewhere cool, as it is conducive to clarity of mind & better meditation. But, I spent vassa last year in Maymyo, which is much cooler than here, & I seemed to get very little benefit from it; my mental states were if anything more unwholesome than this year, & I probably killed more insects, too. Strangely, despite the oppressive heat & consequent lack of intensive formal practice I seem to be making real progress in Dhamma this year. Maybe it's just random and/or temporary mind fluctuations, or maybe all the misery has to be counterbalanced by something positive—no pain, no gain, or whatever. Anyhow, it causes me to seriously consider the very sobering thoughts I recorded on 8-15 (22:00). Maybe I should live somewhere really cold, so I can benefit from cold-induced misery instead of heat-induced. That way at least my body & my stuff wouldn't become foul w/ sweat & grease. Fewer insects, too.
Last night the civet came into the cave, hunting rats maybe, & came w/in a few feet of me while I was trying to get to sleep. The night was dark, plus my eyes were closed, so I didn't see it, but I heard it, & this morning its tracks were all over the place.
The wasps at problem nest #1 stubbornly remain, even tho all their eggs, larvae, & pupae were wiped out in the ant invasion the other day. But the ant colony I was having problems w/ 2 weeks ago has moved out. Their eggs, larvae, & pupae apparently also got wiped out during the invasion. Life is such.
8-31 (22:32) Contemplating Reality seems to necessitate contemplating paradox. Reality contains infinity w/in it, & whenever there are notions of infinity paradox can always be found lurking nearby. Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I like paradox; in fact I seem to thrive on it.
Compulsive (or at least habitual) philosophizing continues, but most of it nowadays pertains to "A Biological Interpretation of Dhamma," & is being written down on a separate sheet of paper. A rough draft of an outline has already been written, which is continually being revised. It may turn out well, if I actually write it. I think the trickiest part will be describing sensation plausibly in biological terms while at the same time assuming it to be Infinite Emptiness, and Nibbāna.
9-1 (19:13) Saṅkhāradukkha—I wear my lower robe about an hour a day, only when going for almsround, & wear my upper robe only a few minutes per day, only when I'm at the village, & so both of them stay relatively clean, but they become stinky anyway! Took the extreme measure of boiling my lower robe today, plus the sweatrag & a few other cloth articles; figured the upper robe didn't need it (didn't want it to fade to paler pink, either), but after good ol' U Bala took his big aluminum pot back home I took a whiff of the upper robe, & sure enough, it stinks. The humidity is so high all the time that bacteria or mildew or whatever multiply in the robes even when they're not particularly dirty. If it would cool down enough that I would actually need to cover myself when I sleep at night, & cool down enough that I could wear the upper robe during the day w/out sweating, my body heat would keep them dry, & the stink problem would be much reduced. But even tho the weather is relatively coolish & comfortable nowadays, it's still much too warm to wear very many clothes, or to completely stop sweating. Tomorrow I wash pink, stinky upper robe; but washing just reduces the stink, it doesn't make it completely go away. On the other hand, the thick wool outer robe still smells fine—because I never wear the thing. (While wondering what kind of kamma would cause me to stink against my will I remembered that I was too lazy to clean my hamsters' cages very often when I was a kid, thus requiring them to live in dirt & stink against their will. Does kamma really work that way? Does my own mind create stinky pink robes or this sweaty, greasy, hairy, white ape body? Ultimately, it's all an illusion, I think. "There is nothing.")
(21:48) Suddenly it is just pissing down rain. Lots of bright lightning & loud thunder. Batten down the hatches.
9-2 (12:14) "Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so." --Shakespeare
"Nothing either is or isn't but thinking makes it so." --Paññobhāsa
"The mind is its own place, and can make a heaven of hell, or a hell of heaven." --Milton
"The mind is its own place, and can make a hell of heaven, or a hell of hell." —Paññobhāsa
Already infested w/ pinworms again, & I have no more worm medicine. Not a whole lot of hygiene in these parts. People scratch their ass & then scrape sticky rice into my bowl w/ black-rimmed fingernails.
Almsround to Kuzeit usually takes about an hour & 10 minutes, round trip, but today it took an hour & 50, w/ most of the extra time spent trying to get past the flooded slough. Wasn't particularly happy w/ the situation, & radiated very little mettā to my dāyikās in the village. Lots of steep, slippery mud, w/ some sweat & vampire flies thrown in. Also, it seems to be a mysterious natural law that the harder it is to reach the village, the less appetizing the food is that I receive there. Today lots of bamboo shoots, mushrooms, & gourd. Ate about a third of a bellyfull before my appetite disappeared & I gave up.
(16:31) A plague of little flies today (many of which I have killed),* & also hot weather. I'm growing to hate this place. Fanning, fanning, fanning, wiping of sweat. Approximately 55 more days & I'm out of this fucking hell-hole. (←statement indicative of unwisdom)
(22:12) Oh, I've just been in a bad mood, caused by a pile of little dukkhas that accumulated over the course of the day. It doesn't matter. Nothing matters.
* well, some of which, anyhow
9-3 (15:12) Last thoughts before the beeper went off: "Practice is largely a matter of rubbing one's nose in one's own defilements." I was imagining I was admonishing a certain friend; the 2nd-to-last thoughts were something like, "You are a proud man; and that is indicative that your Dhamma practice is not yet very strong. The more one examines oneself the more blindness, weakness, & foolishness one sees." Cf. Hume: "…the observation of human blindness & weakness is the result of all philosophy…"
(16:02) Slight emotional rebound today—not exactly in a good mood, but not exactly in a bad one, either. Today has been relatively non-unpleasant—meditation slightly improved,¹ easy to get to the village this morning,² good food,³ less insect dukkha than yesterday (so far),⁴ & almost slightly coolish weather.⁵ Was feeling rather "spiritual" after almsround today; felt as tho there is a very deep & relatively wise & powerful aspect of "myself" that is causing things to happen, & if I would just stop struggling against my environment & relax, things would run a lot more smoothly. Maybe so. I can't be sure.
"I can't seem to face up to the facts;/I'm tense and nervous and I can't relax." --David Byrne
Notes to the above text: 1. Meditation has improved up to "bad," which is better than yesterday's "horrible." This is this. Did have some lucid, profound moments today after lunch, tho. 2. The mud & water at the slough were only slightly above the ankle today; yesterday it was waist deep. Shouldn't compare days. 3. Had a small feast today—among other things I got 1½ custard apples, 2 pieces of sugared toast, a goodly-sized wad of noodles, & a little plastic bag of fish paste (ngapi). Shouldn't enjoy my food. 4. No fly plague today for some reason, altho I have permanently grounded 1 or 2*, plus at least 1 goddam little black bee, & undoubtedly squished some ants while sweeping them off the path w/ my foot (they're making a comeback). Killing insects, even ones that don't bite, is becoming almost habitual lately, which of course is not good. At least I don't go out hunting them, & don't believe they are able to feel pain or fear. 5. Weather is relatively coolish today, but it's still too hot to wear clothes** w/o sweating, & still too hot to cover myself when I sleep at night. Consequently my freshly washed robes stay slightly damp & will probably start stinking again soon. A bhikkhu should be indifferent to comfort, and, I suppose, to flies crawling on him.
* or maybe 3 ** especially an upper robe
9-4 (04:32) Just had a dream in which I experienced a mental breakdown, apparently caused by heat & sweat, but it wasn't here. The dream was very dreamy & the details shifted a lot. At one point I seemed to be on a space ship, & was so incapacitated that I hardly knew what I was doing. Leonard Nimoy/Mr. Spock came into my room, said he also hates having to go back to his room every day to wash the sweat off himself, & then adjusted my VCR for me so I could watch scantily-clad oriental dancing girls on TV. Japanese, I think. I remember feeling a little shame & humiliation for being the only one who cracked up.
(12:55) I wrote too soon yesterday—last night was cool enough for me to cover myself when I slept, altho it wasn't necessary. More rain last night. I think the hot season is pretty much over (but see journal entry for 5-6 (14:48)—I can be very wrong). We may hypothesize that the hot season unofficially ended on 8-29. Almost luxuriously comfortable today, except for lots of flies, something in my mat that bites me at night & causes me to itch all day long (I've looked for bedbugs & have found none; maybe it's some kind of mites), & lots of tiny, tiny yellowish ants that have thoroughly infested my mat w/in the past 24 hours—oh well, maybe they'll eat whatever is biting me. Raining again.
Another dead baby jink bird floating in the pond this morning. Very high infant mortality rate among jink birds.
9-5 (12:23) Don't know why I like cool, damp, bright grey weather so much; my favorite kind, I think. My faculties seem to be at their best in such conditions. Aberdeen weather.
This morning while returning from almsround & enjoying the cool greyness it occurred to me that altho my philosophy is Buddhist, more or less, my attitude regarding "the holy life" seems more like that of a medieval Christian hermit, w/ my determined self-affliction & chronic sense of "sin" & unworthiness (& growing despair of ever becoming perfect). The Christians praise such an attitude, or at least they used to. Maybe it's a universal thing, more a matter of human psychology than of any particular philosophy. "Why do you call me good? There is none good except God." But, I certainly am no saint, & don't try very hard to become one. I'm like a lazy, half-hearted medieval Christian hermit.
All the jink bird chicks (at least 2) died, I think. The nest appears to have been abandoned. The male jink bird is doing lots of singing today.
(16:28) More monkeys. Light brown ones, moving around in the trees at the south edge of the canyon. Reddish brown.
9-6 (15:08) Yesterday I experienced many relatively clear, quiet, lucid moments during meditation, mainly while practicing a kind of feeble, shakey 3rd gear—some brightish patches amid the thick, dark clouds of deluded perception. Today has been pretty much just floundering, however. I just sit & more or less try to remain calm (occasionally stopping to knock a fly off of me—still too warm to stay under the mosquito net during the day, or too warm for it today, anyhow), making very little effort to practice any kind of formal meditation technique. Lots & lots of thinking. Lots & lots of rubbish. Very hard for me to differentiate between formal practice & everyday life. They seem to be pretty much the same. I ought to try a lot harder, but I've got a serious lack of motivation. Apathetically wasting time.
Up until recently the 2 main themes of vol.II of this journal were bitching about the weather & compulsively philosophizing, but the miserable sweltering heat & the urge to philosophize have largely abated; so now there doesn't seem to be very much to write about. May be just as well. Still thinking about the new essay, tho. Will probably make a 2nd draft of the outline w/in a few days.
Less than a week after boiling my shoulder bag it has started to stink again. Lots of little flies today.
9-8 (01:47) Lots of long, complicated dreams nowanights. Couldn't begin to do justice to the one I just had. Virtually unwritable. Jupiter is blazing brightly, just north of Hyades. Makes Aldebaran look dim by comparison. Dumb stuff to write about.
(15:56) Am in a dreamy, semi-conscious state of mind today; can't seem to concentrate deeply on anything. So naturally meditation still stinks. The weather has been mostly sunny today, but not very hot, partly due to lower humidity than usual, I think. Almost like late March. I think I figured out why the larva-stealing wasps shut down their operations a few weeks ago: the paper wasps aren't making new babies; they're just looking after what few older ones are left, & are apparently getting ready to move out. Meanwhile, some kind of black mud-dauber wasp has started making little mud cylinders on a flat rock that I put my stuff on, about a foot from my head when I lie down. No problem there tho, methinx; mud-dauber wasps is OK. Shallow-minded, semi-conscious days like this seem pretty much like a waste of time.
(20:19) Amazing—Moh Moh just showed up for a visit, bearing a whole case of wild buffalo. Probably shouldn't drink the 4 cans I've got now, as I have to write letters & meet visitors, including an English person, tomorrow. 20 more cans in store. Jeez. May the gods be merciful & not make it too hot tomorrow.
9-10 (11:13) Spent all day yesterday entertaining guests, including Mr. Adam Clark, writing short, hasty letters, & fanning myself. The weather changed 2 days ago & went back to blazing sun, sweltering heat, & sweat. Still, my practice has not been much disrupted—because there has not been much practice to be disrupted. It's too late in the year for the weather to be anywhere near full blast, but it is definitely not comfortable. I have simply got to find a colder place to live than this. On the brighter side, the maximum humidity yesterday caused some pretty good rain to fall from an almost blue sky during the afternoon, so the waterfall was flowing enough for me to take a shower after all the company left. And this morning I enjoyed the rare luxury of eating peanut butter, cheese, potato chip, & fermented fish paste sandwiches (all ingredients on the same sandwich, not 4 different ones—the combination isn't bad at all). Ate mostly Moh Moh's food today; hardly touched the standard Kuzeit fare of rice & glop.
(16:24) The weather today has been truly miserable. Another afternoon spent flat on my back fanning myself & waiting for the dammit world to cool down again. Heat, maximum humidity, & zero wind. Gawd I hate this.
Moh Moh left a little while ago, along w/ Mr. Clark. He probably would have stayed longer, but he bashed his foot up & figured he'd better ride the elephant back w/ Moh Moh. Sent Hume, Milton, & Mu Soeng Sunim back w/ her.
(18:23) It's still too hot. I hate the universe on days like this. Whatever created this world is evil.
DATE: (no date in Hell)
9-11 (13:42) The paper wasps are starting to clear out. The big nest nearest to problem nest #2 has been almost completely abandoned. Only a skeleton crew remains.
Have been experiencing lots of dukkha over the past few days, ranging from vague unease (like early this morning) to violent disgust (like yesterday afternoon & today after lunch). One of the main causes, of course, is the unexpected & Totally Unwanted return of hot weather & flowing sweat (today so far hasn't been quite so bad as yesterday was, but the sun is out now, & it's heating up pretty fast); but there are other reasons, e.g. visitors & hasty letter writing for 2 days, plus a skin problem—I've got a big zit on my left cheek that has turned into an oozing open sore, & I've got possibly the worst case of herpes that I've had in years (a memento from D____). Also, there seems to be a little nervousness resulting from my plan to drink most if not all of my 7 cans of Wild Buff tonight, to stay up all night, & maybe even actually meditate. Like a party. Cave party. But the number one reason for my recent dukkha is nervous irritability, w/ accompanying shot concentration. If the world is a creation of our own mind, as some philosophers say, then I seem to be a masochistic fool. Why would I create this?
After lunch hatred of the weather led to hatred of the world, which led to hatred of the creator of the world—"God"—& I cursed Him/It roundly. I really cursed Him. Living in this hole for the past few months has taught me to hate existence & whatever is the cause of existence, assuming that there is a cause. Neem Karoli Baba may have been an arahant, & he said we should love God. But why should we love such a being? That seems to be a very good question. Hatred actually seems more appropriate. Even if "God" turns out to be the same as Nibbāna I don't see why we should love it.The Bible says we should love God in order to avoid punishment & to receive reward, but that would seem to be nothing more than bootlicking out of selfish desire for gain. Somebody please explain. Anyhow, this afternoon when the thought "Dear God please have mercy upon me a sinner" would spontaneously arise in my mind, as it sometimes does, it would immediately be squelched by the memory of very recently cursing the very being I was praying to. Satan is the Creator. Good thing I'm a Buddhist.
Not a cloud in the sky now. Everything is Dukkha.
It now occurs to me that maybe we should love "God" despite His/Its seeming diabolicalness, or at least criminal negligence, simply because love is more conducive to peace of mind than hate. Ultimately it doesn't matter.
(16:56) Just noticed that my lower robe is starting to stink again, undoubtedly due to the flowing sweat of the past few days. God-forsaken hell-hole. 46 days & I'm out of here, if I'm lucky enough.
9-12 (01:01) So, I tried to make peace w/ God, just in case He exists, somewhat as follows: "I freely acknowledge that hatred of anyone or anything is wrong (unskillful). So I freely acknowledge that hatred of God is wrong (unskillful). And so I freely acknowledge that I should not hate God in the future. So please help me to stop hating You. I beseech you to please appear to me less worthy of hate. Have mercy."—all of this after my mind & body had cooled down somewhat. Then around 20:00 it actually got cool enough that I had to wear my upper robe to stay warm, which seemed like a good sign. But then around 22:00 it heated up so much that I had to take the robe off, stop "meditating," get out from under the mosquito net, & start fanning myself, as the sweat had started to flow again. It cooled back down at around 23:00 & then heated back up again at midnight. I don't have a fever; I don't think it's just me. So I lay down in disgust to try to get some sleep, if possible, but it was too hot, so I got up & out of the mosquito net & fanned myself, bitching & swearing. Now it's cooling down again. So much for my requests. Misery.
(09:02) Sweating at 06:40; & today was the 1st sweat-drenched, drippy almsround in many weeks. Had to rinse the sweat out of my freshly washed upper robe in the pond upon returning to my hell-hole. The hot weather just doesn't fucking end. I am in Hell. U Thein Maung showed up yesterday & actually tried to talk me into spending vassa here next year also. Ha! There's no way in Hell. Death would be far, far preferable.
The metaphysical purpose for my life this year seems to be Endurance of Misery, same as last year. Hopefully next year won't be the hat trick.
(15:03) Green bee eater birds have been attacking the paper wasp nests at the south end of the cave. They've been snatching wasps right off the nests. Couldn't have done that 2 weeks ago; not many wasps left now.
9-13 (00:19) Suddenly there is a truly violent downpour in progress. 1st heavy rain in over a week. Maybe the heaviest rain so far this year. Batten down the hatches. Let there be coolness.
(09:00) The rain last night was definitely by far the heaviest rain so far this year. Practically all the sand around the pond got washed away, leaving no place to dig a hole to fetch drinking water. Will have to rely on the cave drip for a while, & if that gets too slow I may have to start drinking brown pond water. A large chunk of cave wall over by the waterfall collapsed during the night, resulting in a large mound of rubble near the shower spot; & about 20 minutes ago while I was eating my meal another big chunk fell off the front of the cave & crashed into the pond below w/ a loud "Boom!" causing my heart to leap into my mouth (thus getting particles of chewed food all over it), & causing me to exclaim "Jesus!" During the downpour a bunch of logs chopped by villagers & left to rot washed down the waterfall & washed up against the new boulder at the exit of the pond, thus damming the pond again, & causing my latrine to be flooded & completely destroyed. Will have to fix it somehow if I don't want to crap at random on the hillside from now on. The dam broke, luckily, but some of the logs are still there. Almsround was not easy, of course. The creek is a raging torrent today, so I took the long, muddy upper route w/ vampire fly flail/sweatrag in one hand & broken umbrella in the other (today is the 1st day I've had to take the umbrella since May, I think). Luckily, the good ladies of Kuzeit met me on this side of the slough, as I had hoped they would—the slough is a bastard to get past when it's flooded. Returned from almsround wet w/ rainwater (despite the umbrella I had to wade thru lots of wet bushes) & also wet w/ sweat (as usual). It's still drizzling off & on. Don't get to wash the stinky lower robe today—would have to wear it wet for 3 days before my body heat would dry it out.
(18:59) I'd like to get in one more month of more or less intensive practice before I leave; I'd been kind of planning on starting it tomorrow, which would be convenient because tomorrow I start a new page in the sleep log. But, I think I'd better postpone for 10 more days, partly because my meditation is still hopelessly, utterly shot. Meditation today has almost been reeling in place—pretty much just trying to sit still & keep my eyes closed, w/ my mind going all over the place. Very nervous, shallow mind, which I seriously suspect to be mainly due to id-generated subconscious resistance to enlightenment, which would seem to be neurosis. The other reason for postponing is that I'd better give the weather 10 more days to cool down. Even after the biggest rainstorm of the year today was a bit sweaty & uncomfortable. So tomorrow could easily be just as miserable as yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that. Can't postpone for more than 10 days, tho, or I won't have a month left before I flee this place. How could I have known that the rainy season here would be like this? More uncomfortably hot than the hot season, not to mention twice as long.
I wrote on 7-29 that this year's theme is futility. Actually, the word "hopelessness" would fit it better. Oh, well, a bhikkhu shouldn't hope.
9-14 (10:52) I refrain from writing a journal entry today because it would be too goddam depressing.
9-15 (14:09) Blazing sun and sweat yesterday morning had me feeling as tho serious depression were finally overtaking me. All the requisite conditions were there: nervous mind, shot meditation, & prolonged unpleasant living conditions. My mind was in pain; I just wanted to curl up into a ball & die. More angry abuse directed at the weather (personified as Mr. Weather—"Fuck you Mr. Weather!"), & also at the supposed creator of this universe. I felt like this year was possibly the most miserable year of my life, just month after month of seemingly endless & pointless suffering. I thought I should never, ever come back here, & was even considering leaving as soon as vassa is over (which is still a possibility). But then in the afternoon it cooled down & became comfortable, & I took a very pleasant shower under the waterfall, washing the grease & dried sweat from my body; & then my mood greatly improved, became cheerful even, & everything seemed alright, more or less. I might come back here next year after all (but certainly won't spend vassa here!!). So it's not really serious depression; once the weather finally cools down everything should be OK, more or less. It's just chronic irritation.
More big rain last night, just an hour or two before dawn; not as big as the one 3 nights ago—a little sand has been redeposited near the pond. Almsround today: mud, vampire flies, sweat. More rain today; in fact the world cooled down enough for me to wear my upper robe at midday. May actually have to unfold the wool robe tonight. Looks like maybe the hot season has finally, finally ended—the "big rain here during the rainy season" that I was warned about so many times seems finally to have arrived, a few months later than I expected. Now maybe my cooked brain can cool down. Maybe. Don't hope for anything.
NE last night: occurred during a dream in which I performed an autoerotic act requiring a very limber spine. Have had dreams like that before. Also have very vague memories of a long dream last night involving women & a large airport. Why do I dream about airports?
(19:49) Whenever I start wishing that I had a loving & beautiful woman, or that I could "hang out" w/ my old buddies like I used to, or that I could walk into a bookstore & buy whatever I wanted, or, in short, whenever I start wishing for anything that savors of disrobing & becoming a layman again, all I have to do is examine myself & my motives, & it is clear that it is always my lower nature that wishes for it—my lower nature wishing to throw off restraint & indulge itself. My higher nature is quite content for me to be a bhikkhu, & to live a life of clarity, profundity, & restraint of kamma; but my higher nature is often obscured, or diluted, by/with animal mind & foolishness.
Desire for happiness is foolish. Desire for anything is foolish.
9-16 (13:16) Have been sleeping much more than usual lately, averaging about 7 hours per night over the past 4 nights. The easiest explanation seems to be that herpes virus swarming thru my system generally causes me to require more sleep. Don't know why. Have got a humdinger of a case of it now. Worst in years. It's always gotta be something.
(17:53) Ah, relative comfort. Very little sweat today during almsround, & none after. Needed & much appreciated. My brain seems to be cooling down also; last sit actually contained some real meditation, quiet 2nd gear once or twice briefly verging into 4th. Several minutes of it, but still mostly rubbish. Meditative practice has been derailed for months.
9-17 (19:14) Lost interest in working on the outline to "A Biological Interpretation of Dharma" around the same time that Moh Moh showed up. Today began spending lots of time thinking of a different writing project, one that I planned before coming here but have neglected since then--The Fool's Progress, by John Bhikkhu. Seem to have spent most of my meditation time this afternoon working out the details of The Fool's Progress, & thereby retarding this fool's progress.
Lots of little flies today, at least one of which I converted into ant lion feed. Accidentally on purpose smashed lots of little ants, too.
Have been wondering what consequences, if any, will result from my cursing of my supposed creator. Hard to pray now. Oh, well, praying is not a particularly Buddhist practice anyway. Feel a strange hollow feeling in my guts after having done it. Superstition seems to be a more likely cause for it than eternal damnation. But, can't prove anything.
I write too much.
9-18 (13:30) An absolutely hellacious downpour last night. Absolutely hellacious. More hellacious than the one 6 nights ago. Actually thought I might die—the whole cave seemed to be vibrating, w/ an occasional loud crash or boom in the darkness. Just about everything got wet; the world is covered w/ wet, sandy muck. The latrine was demolished again; one of the boards over the top of it was washed away in the flood. The creek was really raging this morning, & more than 12 hours after the heavy rain stopped the waterfall is still going at a light roar. I think it may safely be assumed that the hot season is over. Still haven't had to unfold the wool robe yet, tho. Would be nice if my mat had time to dry out before the next deluge.
Chris, androgynous turtle of mystery, was evidently washed away during the flood 6 nights ago. Haven't seen it since before then. Good luck to it.
9-19 (13:35) More warfare last night against ants—trying to keep them from swarming in my immediate vicinity. I am in conflict w/ my world, including my own body, including large portions of my own mind. I need a wise teacher to guide me, by force if necessary.
The sun has come out, & the world is heating up again. Wispy white clouds moving slowly from the north. Go away Sun.
(20:15) My mind still rebels against meditation; can't say exactly why. Have been doing lots of fantasizing lately, & have noticed that my fantasies usually involve making lots & lots of kamma, usually akusala kamma. Have also been talking out loud to myself a lot lately, which I think began during the Stressful Time of a week or so ago. On the brighter side of things, it didn't get too warm today, & it's not pissing down rain now, & my mat is almost dry. Also, the water in the pond is clear & pretty now, & I have a hoard of 5 cans of Wild Buff I can drink tonight. Hoo-wee! Let the party begin!
(23:55) My mind is still stuck in a state of severely perceptual samsaric shallowness.* Also sleepiness. What to do. As reverend teacher Mrs. Eddy would say, it is much easier to cure oneself of cancer than it is to cure oneself of foolishness & delusion ("sin").
* cf. entry for 9-8-(15:56)
PLACE: 2nd at horse race
DATE: sweet fruit of palm tree
9-20 (18:07) Truly luxurious weather today. Washed my moderately stinky lower robe, & it even almost dried. Meditation also slightly improved today—at least there were occasional lucid moments today. Possibly the result of all the Wild Buff last night (resulting in only 2½ hours sleep) kicking me out of a rut—it has happened before. Overall state of mind today also slightly improved; less dreamy, more in control. But, the breathing problem has flared up today—seems almost certain to be a neurotic symptom. Herpes is finally starting to clear up.
9-21 (12:28) Lots of sun today, but not very hot yet. Still more or less comfortable in the shade.
Noticed today that I have forgotten to generate mettā during almsround for many days—w/ the exception of spontaneous mettā for my favorites, including my graceful little beauty (who offered rice & peanuts today, if I remember correctly). Surprisingly, a new favorite has appeared in Kuzeit; she started offering food about 2 weeks ago. Big, bright eyes; & quite curvaceous, which is rare among Burmese girls; & also quite married, as she always has a small baby strapped to her back. That would account for her delicious-looking chestiness. Am feeling the 1st significant lustfulness today in many days. Me want woman. Me want smell good woman.
Started reading the TBGL again 2 nights ago—trying to reawaken some kind of profundity in my mind. Also, am still thinking about The Fool's Progress (in the Similitude of a Dream), & have even written a few paragraphs. I'm afraid it may come out to more than 200 pages if I ever write the whole thing.
This week's musical obsession: a song/tune that starts, "When I break down in the middle & lose my head / No one can understand a word that I say," by the Alan Parsons Project. I had the tape when I was a kid.
(21:27) Sunny almost all day, but not very hot. Not even very warm. That's a good sign. I've had enough heat & sweat for one year, maybe two. But speaking of good signs, a bhikkhu should transcend the duality of good & not good, & should "develop the signless."
Oh, I am a fool. I somewhat regret having written about my new favorite female in Kuzeit--but, such writing does fairly represent what goes thru my mind sometimes. I fully realize that a Burmese village girl would probably bore me to death after the honeymoon was over anyway. But there could hardly be a honeymoon—partly because my favorite in Pwingah is only about 12 years old, & my favorite in Kuzeit is already married, & has a poopy, squirty little baby.
9-23 (18:42) Well, tomorrow I supposedly start 30 days of More or Less Intensive Practice. The autumnal equinox is past, & after 2 days of sun today was cloudy & sprinkly; summer is officially over, & think the weather can be relied upon now to be unsweltery enough for practice w/o flowing sweat & misery. On the other hand, my concentration is still pretty much on the rocks, Alan Parsons Project is still playing obsessively in my head, I'm still affected by the herpes virus, and am still abnormally sleepy. Maybe things will work out—who knows, maybe I'll even have "successful practice" this year as I had hoped. But, I'm not exactly fired up w/ enthusiasm & motivation. Don't want to try very hard for anything really. There will be no opening ceremony tonight. Maybe just a humble prayer to nobody in particular.
Have been doing lots of writing over the past 2 days, but not in the journal—just finished Chapter One of The Fool's Progress. I think it turned out pretty well, altho it might be rubbish w/o my realizing it. No more chapters while I'm here (unless a brainstorm takes over my writing hand); wanted to get it done before MOLIP starts. May wind up w/ 30 or more chapters, if I actually finish the thing. I actually kind of enjoyed writing the 1st chapter; not as much labor pain involved as in writing serious philosophy.
An unverified sighting of the turtle today—maybe it didn't wash away, but is being more secretive because the water is clear now. Jink bird mating season is apparently long over, & now they are apparently molting.
9-24 (13:58) Verified turtle sightings today—Chris abides. Endless & seemingly pointless warfare against ants continues.* While on the subject of animals, I might as well mention that I enjoyed some more akusala ogling of the bright-eyed, curvaceous new beauty of Kuzeit this morning. Big, bright smile, sweet, laughing voice, bare midriff, large, braless breasts straining against thin cotton blouse. Looking at her is much more pleasant than eating Kuzeit food nowadays—I pick thru all the rice & wild mushrooms trying to find something appetizing, & eventually give up. Anyhow, to restrain myself, "guard my sense doors," & not look at girls would be a very simple thing to do, & the only proper thing to do according to Dhamma, especially since now I'm supposed to be doing intensive practice; but it seems very difficult, almost painful, not to look. I am a very frustrated animal. Frustrated & floundering, due largely (if not entirely) to motivational problems. I know what I need to do, but I don't want to do it. "Deliver me from my sins, O Lord…but not yet."
(20:12) First day of "Intensive Practice": ant war; plague of little flies caused by relatively hot weather (several of which I killed before it cooled down enough for me to hide under the mosquito/fly net); frustrated lustful thoughts (plus some frustrated lustful behavior which need not be described here); frazzled nerves; and very little enthusiasm for serious practice. Virtually no real meditation today. I don't want to do intensive practice. I don't want to do much of anything really, except maybe sleep, or get high, or indulge in unfrustrated lustful behavior. But the last 2 are against the rules, & the 1st isn't a very good idea either. Why has the inescapable hand of Destiny led me to this (silly) existence? Futility of futilities, all is crap.
* Well if it's endless it would have to continue, wouldn't it.
9-25 (16:17) Ha! I actually meditated just now! Over an hour of what I figure was around 60-70% real meditation. How did I do it? By going back to the ABC's & hammering away at 1st/2nd gear, w/ lots of labelling. Still, it's a good sign, if there are such things as good signs. Again & again I blindly beat my head against a wall w/ an open door right next to me; like a fly beating itself against the closed part of a half-open window. Maybe I really can do some intensive practice this month. Time is running out.
It occurred to me last night & also today that in order for anything to exist for more than a trillionth of a second it must have a stable energy pattern, as I have written before, & thus "I" am a more or less stable energy pattern, the problem being that my energy pattern is too stable—I resist change, & do not allow miracles.
9-26 (15:51) "Meditation" last night: struggling to stay awake until at least 22:00. Early this morning: struggling to stay awake, period. Today after lunch (so far): Some improvement, but no sit approaching anything near ⅓ actual meditation. More ant war, more flailing at flies. When my meditation goes well my life becomes so much more peaceful and bearable; but lately it just hasn't been working out that way.
Weather update: the prevailing pattern for the past several days has been sunny but not very hot days w/ even a little wind occasionally, then clouding up in the evening w/ thunder & slight sprinkles, then clearing up again & becoming starry at night, & then usually getting cloudy again before dawn, which burns off by mid to late morning. Rain in the hills, w/ flooded creek, but no significant rain here in more than a week. Some rain would be nice. No longer necessary to hunker behind the umbrella when I eat lunch, even on sunny mornings, as the morning sun stays behind the trees at the southern edge of the canyon now. Still not cool enough to require unfolding the wool robe.
(20:24) Meditation tonight: hardly more than just reeling in place & trying to stay awake. Last sit was aborted after about half an hour. I give up. I can't meditate! Why? Why can't I meditate? It's not a complicated thing to do. My mind rebels against it. Gawd. I can't meditate. I've got a brain problem. Hyperactive frontal lobes, or something. I don't know what to do. I need help, and/or a miracle. Somebody out there please help me. My brain just won't calm down, except maybe by falling asleep. I must follow Dhamma yet seemingly can't follow Dhamma. I am badly in need of aid, or something. I am badly in need of something. What to do.
9-27 (13:04) New moon of Tawthalin; tomorrow is the 1st day of Thatinchut, which literally means "release from practice." 30 days & I'm out of this hole (& into a different one).
The ant war saw a major battle today—after washing my bowl & shaving my head I came back into the cave & found the enemy ants swarming all over the place. So, I angrily* swept dozens of them off the path w/ my feet (probably squishing most of them), & then took a heavy chunk of wood & started smashing the crack in the sandstone where the nest is. I pretty much demolished their nest site; now maybe they'll move away. Far, far away. Hundreds & hundreds & hundreds of little black ants came boiling out of the crack. Anger & exertion plus the hottest day since the misery of two weeks ago combined to soak me in sweat, & I find myself lying on my back fanning myself again. Fuck you Mr. Weather.
Last night was a time of acute frustration, not only because of inability to meditate, but also sexual frustration. Used the "desperate last resort" wake-up method described on 4-25 last night & also this morning w/ mixed motives. Lately I've been semiseriously considering an option that I rarely if ever thought of in the past: namely, becoming a crooked monk & committing saṅghādisesa offenses w/o confessing them. There are certainly lots of monks like that out there. Spanking the puppy now & then would be a great reliever of tension. But, becoming more crooked than I already am would be failure, as would dropping out of the Saṅgha.
(14:16) Ants, flies, mosquitoes, heat, sweat, anger, hate, dead meditation, floundering practice, dukkha, dukkha, dukkha. I don't see how death could be worse than this. An absolute plague of little flies today.
(18:44) Well, the weather cooled down, more or less, and the sweat has almost completely stopped flowing; it's too dark for flies now, too dark to see the ants, & I'm under the mosquito net; the anger & hate have subsided, & my meditation is bound to improve sooner or later; nevertheless, I still think nonexistence would be preferable to this pointless exertion called "Life." Desire for existence is a blind, irrational animal instinct. But, the TBGL says, "there are no two such things as existence and nonexistence." Difficult to understand.
* and compulsively
9-28 (14:19) First significant (but not hellacious) rain in 10 days today, shortly before noon. Overcast now, & almost cucumberly cool.
(16:58) Last sit: approximately ⅓ actual meditation—same method as on 9-25, & best meditation since then, I think. Lots of innocent, non-obscene fantasizing about Lori H. back in junior high. Bombarded w/ memories. So many girls were sweet on me in school, and I behaved like a bashful, bumbling idiot & had very few girlfriends. Evidence that I was destined to be a monk. A monk that can't meditate worth a tinker's cuss most of the time. Strange.
(19:12) Lat sit: I estimate at least ½ actual meditation. Last thought before the beeper went off: "Maybe if we soaked them in milk for an hour or two…" (remembering some rock-hard cookies my roommate made in college). A few more brief fantasy thoughts about Lori H. (who is now 37, & probably married, w/ children, & overweight.)
9-29 (14:05) Every sit so far today has been roughly 50% successful mindfulness meditation, maybe more. During the last sit there were even a few brief, weak twinges of piti. Still going w/ 1st/2nd gear. Meditation seems to get deeper & better if I don't focus too narrowly on the breath, but keep a big picture, so to speak, & let the attention lightly rest on the breath; it was while doing this that the semitwinges of piti occurred. Memories of childhood in south Aberdeen are continually, spontaneously popping into my mind while sitting, mainly of the neighborhood, not of people, Lori H. & a few others excepted. Strange that 3 nights ago meditation seemed virtually impossible, while today it seems almost easy—very possible, anyhow. Don't understand myself well enough to explain why, altho persistent effort does seem to be a contributing factor.
A weird dream last night: human wasps were preying on people & were trying to start a huge nest in a warehouse, which was to contain many, many thousands of eggs. I figured out that insecticide, or rather "arachnicide," would kill them; so a test run was done in which spider spray was put into some fried fish & given to one of the human wasps at meal time, & shortly after eating it he melted into a puddle of brownish liquid. Before the big attempt to kill all of them occurred I woke up. The dream was not only inspired by the wasp nests in this cave—the recent ant war & resultant wistful yearnings for a can of Raid were undoubtedly also major influences. (By the way, my offensive against the ants was a partial success—they're still in the cave, but they've moved their HQ a little farther from the mat.) The dream also involved some furry pigs that looked almost as big as elephants. I waste ink.
(22:17) Māna doesn't simply mean conceit; it means something more like egoity, egoism, self-regard. I think I may translate it as "self-regard" from now on.
And develop the signless, and cast out the latent tendency for self-regard.
Then by the full understanding of self-regard you will live your life at peace.
9-30 (13:51) Meditation is still running at about 50%, more or less, which for me is quite good. This morning before almsround I had about 15 minutes to kill, so I decided to recross my legs & try a little 4th gear—& was profoundly blessed. Successful 4th gear is truly sublime. Just sitting there empty. A few minutes of that every now & then make all the dukkhas of the bhikkhu life seem worthwhile. This morning I felt as tho I do have some "root of merit" that allows me to experience such states, even if rarely; & I felt as tho maybe there is a point, a good reason, to/for my floundering & frustration. But, it's just feelings. Also, this morning I saw 2 of my main (superstitious) auspicious signs: a bird feather lying in my path, & a snake (a little greyish one swimming in the water above the cave). But a bhikkhu should "develop the signless"—signs & significance are delusion. 4th gear is signless. Half-heartedly wish I could always be like that.
It's odd that just a few weeks ago this place was hell, but today it seems very nice. Partly because today the weather is grey, coolish, & showery (I'm actually wearing an upper robe during the afternoon today), & partly because (mainly because) my mind has finally cooled down somewhat. Mental states are all-important.
Remember—try to see the entire breath when doing anapana! See it clearly & uninterruptedly. Don't forget!
10-1 (14:22) Rain much of yesterday, pretty much all night, & all day today so far; sometimes heavy & sometimes light, but continuous. Left for almsround this morning in a downpour, w/ the waterfall going at medium roar. Made it about a quarter of the way to the village when a farmer in a field hut offered me enough food for a meal, so I accepted it & turned back. (Accepted the food w/ no upper robe on & w/ my washrag on my head—completely forgot the washrag was there.) Had to lift my lower robe up around my hips & wade thru butt-deep water to get past the pond & back to the cave. Then while I stood there contemplating the water everywhere (including inside the cave) a brigade of about 25-30 young ladies from Kuzeit arrived & waded thru the waist-deep water desirous of offering food. Didn't really need the food, but appreciated the opportunity to "check out" wet girls inside the cave. It is a strange feeling to know that I am loved by so many young women (none of whom I am allowed to touch).
Finally, finally unfolded the wool robe, & even actually wore it last night.
Meditation yesterday afternoon started to dissipate, & gradually degenerated into little more than just trying to stay awake. Woke up around 01:00 & sat for over an hour, but it was mainly just sleepy, dreamy free association that wasn't very different from being asleep. Meditation so far today hasn't been much better. The mind is getting more restless again; the pissing rain & roaring, mist-producing waterfall may have something to do w/ it. Still, it's better than sweltering heat. Aberdeen weather.
(16:05) An interesting meditative exercise: try to observe falling rain w/o perceiving motion. Try to sense anything that seemingly moves or changes w/o perceiving change. There is only Now.
(18:49) Last sit: Shazam—maybe 80% (at least 75%) real meditation. Probably the best I've done in months. Mostly anapana, w/ lots of mindfulness of hearing roar of waterfall, plus lots of noted & labelled miscellaneous. The mind seemed relatively very alert; but it seemed a little difficult to stay alert when doing anapana, as mind generally stops paying close attention to phenomena that are constant or continually repeat themselves. I write "wumpus" for no reason.
10-2 (14:15) Well, after my great victory over the ants a few days ago the cave has become infested w/ a new kind that is worse than the others were. Swarming everywhere (well, that's a bit of an exaggeration)—I continually interrupt my shakey efforts at meditation to pick ants off myself. Finally a few minutes ago I had had it, & got up & attacked w/ intent to kill, & wiped out many, a few dozen anyhow. I'm thoroughly fed up w/ the little bastards. If it's not one thing it's another. I suppose a saint or sage would simply let ants crawl all over him, not to mention all over his stuff.
The object ceases when the subject is quieted. —Seng-Ts'an
I'm too fussy. The ants don't even bite.
10-3 (14:45) Woke up this morning feeling unrefreshed & feeling slightly unwell. More semi-nightmarish dreams, including at least one in which I was a violent political terrorist (have had a number of those this year). Tried to meditate, gave up after about half an hour, went back to sleep, & stayed there until almost time to leave for almsround. Am feeling healthy now, altho meditation is still very shakey (at best).
Stars last night & sun today after 3 days of overcast & precip. The wet parts of my mat almost dried out today.
The civet evidently took a dump about 6 feet in front of my mat last night. Fascinating.
(16:39) Last sit: a little more than an hour of maybe 25% real meditation, maybe more. Hard to say. Best so far today. Meditation is possible, but I have motivational problems, plus neurotic resistance. Existence is a neurotic symptom. "There is nothing."
10-4 (06:18) A violent but fortunately brief downpour right around the crack of dawn. Almsround may be a bit of a challenge today.
(13:36)…Nope, piece of pie. Easy as cake.
More weird dreams. A fragment: Apparently returned from an observer cruise & wanted to get my stuff out of storage. Saw my old buddy Marvin A. who showed me a very small room, pointed to a far corner of it, & said I used to keep it there, but it wasn't there this time. Somehow I came to know that my stuff was stored at 1000 Coolidge Rd. in Aberdeen, where I lived as a kid, so I went there w/ a friend that I cannot now identify & possibly did not even during the dream. I discovered that the house was occupied by a gang of criminal biker types. After I started collecting my stuff the leader of the gang told me I should give all the stuff to them. I said I'd give them some, but not all, whereupon he told me that I had no choice, & that they were going to keep all of it. He had no hair on his head at all; in fact his scalp looked like a bare skull. I took an axe out of my collection of things & started hitting him over the head w/ the blunt back edge of the axe head. I didn't hit him as hard as I could, as I didn't want to smash his skull in, but I was trying to hurt him. However, my blows had no effect on him, & he told me so himself. After hitting him harder to no effect I told him I should turn the axe around & hit him with the sharp edge, but he showed complete unconcern. Then he called to the gang & told them to assemble at the front of the house & prepare to "get" me. I moved thru the living room & saw a telephone, so I quickly dialed 911. The top part of the receiver was broken, but the phone worked anyway. A woman answered at the other end & I asked her to send police to 1000 Coolidge Rd. immediately as there was an emergency. She asked me my name, & I said "David Reynolds." Shortly thereafter police broke into the back of the house, & during the commotion I was able to get away. I found my old '73 Chevy Luv pickup parked across the road in the McCulloughs' driveway. When I got inside I found that the dashboard & instrument panel were almost completely missing. All I noticed was the knob for the windshield wipers, plus a jerry-rigged toggle switch that turned on the headlights. I don't remember if the steering wheel was there, but I was able to drive it somehow, so I did. I vaguely remember something about 3 robes in the dream, so I wasn't a 100% layman.
Another fragment: Steve C. had a daughter that he said was 2 years old, but she looked & acted 5 or 6. He said he hadn't named her yet. Dark, murky dreams.
Had little choice but to wash my upper robe today, as it had acquired a peculiar smell like rancid smoked salmon. Will probably have to wear it wet tonight in order to get it to dry out. I wonder if the icky smell of it has been causing my unpeaceful sleep lately—have been using it as a blanket.
(22:28) Best sit today: around mid-afternoon sat for a little over an hour w/ maybe ⅓ of it relatively good 3rd gear, much of the rest of the hour being occupied w/ dumb, non-pornographic fantasizing about being invisible. Part of my mind simply does not want to meditate, & continually fights against it. I've been a monk for ¼ of my life & still am usually a layman in my dreams. I am an animal.
10-6 (00:52) I crash a little before 19:00, seeking relief from sleepy reeling in place & shot meditation in general. I wake up around 22:30, try for an hour to meditate, & fail. Then I get up & walk back & forth contemplating the hopelessness of my "spiritual practice," sometimes w/ "Animal Magnetism" by Scorpions more-or-less obsessively playing in the back of my mind. Contemplating subtle urges to return to a life of relatively unrestrained animality. I look up at the stars & a brightly shining Jupiter & think, "Death will be a relief…I hope. I hope there will be some relief."
On the dimly bright side, the food is better nowadays. Bamboo shoot season is pretty much over, forest mushrooms are on the wane, & fresh vegetables are being harvested from the fields now, including onions & tomatoes. Easier to indulge in sensual pleasure at mealtime now. I also seem to be gaining a little weight.
The stars & Jupiter have all gone away, & the sky is overcast again. Rain earlier today—had to batten down the hatches at around 11:00.
In my only remembered dream so far tonight I was seemingly a complete layman, & was somehow propelling myself down a street by waving my hands in the air. (That is, by moving them back & forth in karate-chop fashion)
(14:14) Last sit: Ha, my ability to meditate is unpredictable from one day to the next. Just sat for a little over an hour w/ maybe ½ to ⅔ of it being actual meditation—relatively quiet 1st/2nd gear.* The mind has seemed unusually peaceful today after lunch. Don't know why; maybe due in part to very comfortable weather—sunny, but coolish in the shade, w/ a slight breeze. Wind from north (cold season direction).
More dreaming last night: completely erotic behavior w/ Dana G., yet, surprisingly, the dream somehow remained a dry one; also, in the same dream, a giant gorilla looking like it came from a very cheap Japanese monster movie knocking over trees & attacking what seemed to be the city of Seattle. I was in plain sight of the fake-looking giant gorilla, as I couldn't quickly find a hiding place; this caused me some concern, but I apparently was too small to be worth its while, & it didn't come after me.
* Forgot to mention that much of the remainder of the time was spent fantasizing about being a world famous rock & roll star, which is typical.
10-7 (06:13) More dream fragments: actually being a monk & standing at one side of a large cafeteria discussing Ajahn Ṭ w/ an American nun; being very much a layman & having a date w/ a gorgeous Texan stripper named Sterling (who gave me her phone # many years ago—in the dream there was an old hulk of a black limo looking like a modified falcon or valiant up on blocks in front of her 2nd-storey apartment—also in the dream she seemed completely unwilling to say the word "no," yet the dream remained a dry one); being a semi-monk & walking thru a large, possibly Japanese, train station wearing an unbuttoned trenchcoat over my robes (it seemed to be allowable so long as the coat wasn't buttoned); hanging out w/ some friends by a small river & floating in the water in the Hatha Yoga fish position.
(13:18) It's just one goddam ant infestation after another—now the teeny tiny ones are back in the mat. Many have been killed today, accidentally on purpose. I'm too compulsively fussy about certain kinds of insects, including swarmy ants. The robber fly perched beside me is okay tho.
(20:37) For more than 24 hours I've been wavering at the borderline between ability/inability to meditate. I crash early 3 nights in a row.
10-8 (18:09) Heat & sweat have been making a comeback over the past few days. Sweating now at dusk. I must never spend another "rainy season" here, ever. Ever. Somebody please remind me if I forget.
10-9 (15:27) Last night's most memorable dream: I don't remember if I was a bhikkhu or a layman or both or neither; it seemed like I was just "me"—anyhow, I was on a day hike on a forest trail, apparently in America, when I came upon an abandoned cabin, w/ the front door open. So I went inside & naturally started looking for pornography, & before long I found a porno magazine called "Gex" under a bed in the back room. I started looking at the pictures, which were too surreal & abstract-looking to be very erotic, & then a group of people came into the front room. I hastily shoved the Gex magazine back under the bed & tried to look innocent. The people were mostly some kind of forest rangers, who had come from a larger building behind the cabin that I originally hadn't noticed. There was one young woman in the group, but for some reason I didn't pay much attention to her. They said they were going to go up the trail, but I was just on a day hike & didn't have time to go the whole way, plus I wanted them to leave me alone so I could look at Gex magazine again, so I didn't want to go w/ them. Then an older fellow in the group suggested that we play checkers or chess or something. I looked out the window & saw that it was already dark outside, so I said I'd better be getting back; but then I noticed that the time was only 14:00, plus there was a full moon out, so I said I was willing to play him a game of chess. But he apparently preferred checkers & lost interest when I suggested chess, so we wound up not playing anything. Then I went back into the back room & saw a young Burmese-looking monk lying on a bed & feverishly playing w/ himself. I looked at him w/ disapproval for a while, but he was so excitedly absorbed in what he was doing (what he was yanking on) that he seemed completely oblivious to my presence. However, he apparently didn't commit a saṅghādīsesa offence, & shortly thereafter approached me & sincerely warned me about the dangers of "puppy-spanking" (altho he didn't call it that). Finally everybody left, so I eagerly went to ogle Gex magazine again, but before I started the dream ended. An example of superego & id in dream conflict. I was thinking about hiking, chess, & pornography yesterday, so that could account for their presence in the dream. I've been relatively unlustful in my waking hours nowadays, but my dreams seem pretty lustful. I do vaguely remember a nonsexual dream last night, which involved my old buddy Dr. Jeffrey, & me wearing a strange tank-top-like garment w/ strings of flowers over my shoulders that looked ridiculous. Well, it seemed like a nonsexual dream.
10-10 (12:53) Weather update: The prevailing weather pattern for about the past 5 days, since the last rain, has been Clear Sky, w/ starry, coolish nights (but not coolish enough last night for me to unfold the wool robe), & sunny days that are uncomfortably hottish in the afternoon. This morning I walked to & from the village in hot sunlight & returned to the cave covered w/ sweat, just like the bad old days. Today is the hottest day in about 3 weeks. Better lie down & fan myself for a while.
(19:20) Still too hot to stay under the mosquito net w/o sweating. Fortunately there are few mosquitoes nowanights. Sky clouded up at dusk.
…there are no two such things as existence and nonexistence…My koan.
10-11 (12:10) Continual anger during almsround for the past few days, partly because bananas are very much in season*, & partly because the big end-of-vassa holiday is coming up—& too many people are trying to put too much food into my bowl. In addition to bananas, lots of holiday food—pork & big pancakes. About half of the contents of my bowl today consisted of bananas, pancakes, & pork. (Ate 3 little pieces of pork liver, & the rest of the meat went to the forest animals, along w/ most of the gooey, oily pancakes & some of the bananas.) The 1st person in the line wanted to put a pancake & 3 bananas into the bowl; I allowed him to put in only one, & then the very next person tried to put in a pancake & 2 bananas. As I worked my way down the line I was continually shaking my head, said "shit" under my breath a number of times (hopefully nobody who heard it knew what it meant—it means "8" in Burmese), & did lots & lots of scowling. Long before I made it to the end of the line my bowl was completely stuffed, but still people were cheating & trying to put in extra food, trying to delicately balance their pancake on top of the heap. After reaching the end of the line it took about 30lb. of pressure to get the bowl lid down onto the bowl. They don't seem to realize that 50-60 people can't each put a double handful of food into one bowl that holds only a little over a gallon. It's just hopeless. The only way to make it to the end of the line (w/o simply letting lots of food overflow onto the ground) is to take charge & direct the entire operation, repeatedly forbidding people to put in as much food as they want. Very little mettā generated today.
A long, complicated dream last night, a condensation of which follows: I was a monk in the dream & went to visit my good friend Vesārajja, but before I got to his place I found that he had acquired the habit of riding around on a big 750cc motorcycle, & was doing so. It was like a racing bike, w/ low handlebars, & he leaned far forwards on his belly when riding it. He gave me a ride on it to the house of Greg K. (formerly U Dh.), who was living in an old house in Rangoon w/ 2 women, a younger blonde & an older brunette. The brunette was apparently either a teacher or student at Rangoon University; & for a short time during the dream she was wearing nothing but a white shirt that came down to about the bottom of her bottom. I noticed that just below the lower edge of the shirt a little bit of pubic hair was visible, which caused me to stop looking, as it is a dukkata offence for a monk to lustfully ogle a woman's groin area. At around this time I noticed that all I had on was my lower robe, & I had to search thru the house for my other 2 robes. Vesārajja had simply dropped me off at the house & had gone off on some other business; & shortly after arriving I told Greg that I was neurotic, & asked him whose motorcycle V. was riding. He said it belonged to V.'s "enemy." Greg had a number of old books lying around, none of which looked very interesting. I asked him if I could look at his Bible, but he wouldn't give it to me. Anyhow, after a series of very vaguely remembered events it was time for me to go, so I went out into the driveway. While I was there a man, possibly one of V.'s enemies, came out of the house & assaulted me; but I was able to beat him up, so I did. Then another man w/ lighter hair came out who was evidently a martial artist, & he started kicking me around pretty well; but finally I was able to punch him a few times in the face, & after that it was pretty easy to beat him up, so I did. Shortly after I beat up the 2nd guy the dream ended.
(17:22) Nervousness, irritability, seeming inability to meditate.
* It's not that I don't like bananas—they're just too big. They fill up the bowl too fast.
10-12 (05:45) Ajja me pavāranā (×3). Today is the end of vassa, my 10th, & I am now a full-fledged Thera. Amazing.
Situation update: Meditation yesterday re-degenerated until last night it was hardly more than just struggling to stay awake. Pleasurably indulged in desperate last-resort self-arousal (cf. 4-25), which actually works (wakes one up), in a blameworthy sort of way. The herpes outbreak that I got over a month ago never completely went away & appears to be flaring up again. Probably the worst case of herpes I've ever had, & probably psychosomatically induced. On the other hand, Chris the pond turtle apparently did completely go away; haven't seen it since before the rains over a week ago. Maybe it rode the lower falls down to the creek. (Swim upstream, Chris—downstream is villages & fishnets.) And, last & possibly least, stinky robe season seems to be pretty much over. Less heat, less sweat, lower humidity.
(13:26) More, more blazing sun & sweat. Humidity seems to be rising again. I lie down & fan myself.
10-13 (06:01) Again: I can't meditate! Gawd. Very frustrating.
The nights & mornings are getting warmer & warmer. Not necessary to cover myself last night.
(14:43) Last night I dreamed that wise instructors were teaching me & some other people how to pick up a certain kind of object from the ground. The objects were like the peradams of Mount Analog, as they obviously had some spiritual significance, but they looked like cake donut holes. There were plenty of them around, but the value was not in them—it was in the way they were picked up. They had to be picked up w/ smoothness & grace of motion, & w/ clarity & calmness of mind; they had to be picked up nonchalantly (←not sure how to spell that). Had another dream that involved borrowing lots of books, a bus ride, a woman becoming angry w/ me for almost no reason at all, &, I think, my father. Judging from my dreams it appears that my subconscious mind mainly yearns for sex, books, & travel*, w/ wisdom getting an honorable mention at best.
(18:14) Fanning myself seems to have no effect; it doesn't cool me down. Gawd what lousy weather—sweltering. Plus I can't meditate worth a shit.
* and maybe violence
10-14 (12:33) Had another dream last night in which I hung out w/ an unusually calm Dr. Jeffrey. Went on a number of small adventures & discussed a little philosophy. At one point I asked him if he had previously known that I was neurotic; he said yes, it was obvious because I often have "goose pimples."*
Did plenty of angry bitching & cursing this morning while soaking in sweat & fanning myself at 08:00. How could I have known that the weather would be like this. "Big rain here during the rainy season," they said. "Big rain." Blazing sun for over a week.
(15:16) Sweltering, sweltering heat. I hate this place & just want to go home. But, I have no home to go to. (Actually, the heat's not so bad so long as I don't sit cross-legged or move around. It's just very humid.)
Have been talking out loud to myself a lot lately.
(16:10) A brief shower, followed by relative comfort. Relief.
(17:08) Well, the sky clouded up very fast, & the shower has become a mighty downpour. No pain, no rain. Batten down the hatches.
* Forgot to also mention: at one point I said my mind was like a pressure cooker, whereupon he emphatically replied, "It is a pressure cooker!" (10-17-18:41)
10-15 (08:40) Slipped in the mud this morning & put another dent into my bowl (but, strangely, remained silent while doing it). A clay bowl would never survive w/ me.
The breathing problem became rather severe yesterday, which seems odd, as my meditation is not going well. My meditative concentration nowadays is vestigial, like the pelvis of a whale.
(13:39) The breathing problem continues today, & also the sweating problem. Yesterday's relief was very temporary. This weather sucks.
(18:18) Too hot to stay under the mosquito net at dusk. Too many mosquitoes not to stay under the mosquito net at dusk. Dukkha.
10-16 (12:17) Yet another dream about calm Dr. Jeffrey. Among other things he voluntarily mowed Tim T.'s lawn. (It was a big lawn, too—in the dream Tim had a handsome estate, w/ a big grey stone house.) If I remember correctly, in all 3 dreams I've had about him lately I've wanted to know if he forgave me for the very critical letter I wrote to him last year; but, again if I remember correctly, in all 3 dreams he wouldn't tell me. However, his calmness plus his willingness to associate w/ me would seem to indicate that he did forgive me, at least in the dreams.
Very noticeable change in mental state this morning—less nervous, less irritable, & slightly more mindful; meditation still stinks tho, so far.
A pleasant, mettāful, & slightly mindful almsround this morning in Kuzeit. Bowl not stuffed, good food. Lots of noodles nowadays.
The rice plants in the paddies near Kuzeit are beginning to fructify.
(18:28) A little bit of more or less spontaneous philosophizing during my last feeble attempt at meditation: If the entire Universe is contained w/in a single point which has no dimensions, as hypothesized on 8-25, then every "entity" in the Universe would be like a Leibnizian monad w/ all the monads superimposed one atop the other. I have considered this before; the novelty today was the realization that if the hypothesis is true, then I am in the immediate presence of Gotama Buddha all the time. Not only in his presence, but touching, even blended together, always. That thought is comforting in a way. Also in the immediate presence of Neem Karoli Baba (who would know my every thought), Joseph Stalin, Kenneth Dalmer, & absolutely everything else. There is no real distance between anything & anything. And also, "There is nothing."
I write too much nonsense. Breathing problem is less today.
(20:11) More emergency self-arousal. I need help.
10-17 (13:18) A little more rain today, more ant war, more lustfulness. In addition to the standard musical obsessions (e.g. "Rock the Casbah") I've spent way too much time today thinking about what life would be like if oral sex were allowed to bhikkhus (w/ young females).
Last night I did some earnest praying to any superior beings that might be superimposed upon my monad. Asked for a sign to indicate that someone is willing & able to help: a red flower to be given to me at almsround today. The closest I got was a little can of strawberry drink. I'd call that 5 or 10% success.
(18:31) Another miserable, sweaty, sweltering dusk. The hot weather just doesn't end, & the wool robe is useless. Furthermore, the mind continues to rebel against meditation. Crap. (20:36) Too much bitching & moaning. I'm a crybaby. Things could be a lot worse. Now it's not hot.
10-18 (02:05) Meditation seems to be somewhere very near to rock bottom tonight. Can hardly sit still—reeling in place. I wish I had a book to read, and/or some dope to smoke. The universe is a manifestation of Dukkha.
(14:36) Evidently last night a relatively large mammal came into the cave while I was asleep. This morning found a number of tracks like the one above [drawn in the upper margin of the notebook] going from north to south thru the cave; came w/in about 6 feet of me. Look like dog tracks but are considerably larger than the average Burmese dog track. What was it? Hog badger? Large nocturnal dog? I dunno.*
(16:44) Weather today cloudy & coolish. Very slight chill in the air.
More, more lustfulness today, more lustful behavior.
Saw 2 girls up on the hill spying on me today while I was wearing the rains robe/miniskirt; there's a very good chance that they saw what I'm made of, so to speak. I don't mind.
(20:03) "There are no two such things as existence and nonexistence." There is no such escape as nonexistence. There's no way out. "All is futile." Even transcendence?
* Probably just dog, I think. (10-25 (15:18))
10-20 (12:14) Many vivid dreams nowanights, including a foolishly wished-for wet one last night in which I got into some seriously steamy behavior w/ a young (caucasian) woman that I had never met before, after, if I remember correctly, starting to play a game of Monopoly w/ her. Started to wake up right before the climax of the dream, & didn't enjoy it very much. More selected fragments from last night: 1) I am in a large, 5-storey meditation center/monastery building and am riding a small scooter-board-type apparatus thru a hallway where nuns have spread out their laundry on the floor to dry. Their bras in particular catch my attention. (Yesterday I briefly remembered some bras hanging up to dry at a place where I stayed last cold season.) 2) I am walking outside w/ a young bhikkhu, & he asks me how much it would cost to buy a ticket* to hear an airplane propeller as the airplane takes off. I somehow perceive that he intends it to be a kind of spiritual practice, so I tell him it would be better to go see autopsies performed at the Mandalay hospital. He says he'd very much like to do that. (More dreaming about airports) 3) An elderly doctor introduces me to a blind "woman" who is actually no more than a blindfolded head w/ no body & no lower jaw, but who nevertheless is alive & can speak. (Probably influenced by the flower-bedecked skull on a stick) 4) I converse w/ a very grave U Dhammarakkhita as I stand on the ground & he rests in the lower branches of a tree. Among other things we discuss recycling & lumber left over after monastery buildings have been built, & the conversation is interrupted when I see a large grey animal running up the trail into the distance. (Was thinking about him yesterday, & the animal part was undoubtedly inspired by all the animal tracks in the sand I've seen recently.)
This morning while heading up the trail to go for almsround I spontaneously experienced some relatively very clear mindfulness which made my usual mental state (even during this month's supposedly intensive practice) seem like a semi-conscious stupor. It passed rather quickly, & I have long since returned to my usual dreamy, semi-conscious state.
Weather today (so far): Coolish, cloudy, showery,** comfortable. I foolishly prefer comfort to discomfort. Or, foolishly differentiate between the two.
* how much a ticket would cost—my English be not so well.
** Too bad "showery" doesn't start w/ a C.
PLACE: where I am (unfortunately)
10-21 (13:19) Well, my "meditation" seems to have hit rock bottom, again. Can hardly sit still, can hardly keep my eyes closed. Actual meditation is essentially 0%. About the best I can do is keep my eyes open, rest my gaze upon a more-or-less circular patch of green, & just try to keep my mind as relaxed as possible, which isn't very. I can't help but think that my problem is neurotic, subconscious self-sabotage, along w/ a naturally very nervous brain. This month's MOLIP isn't turning out very well at all—definitely much more L than M*. I wish I had a book to read. I wish I could get high. Monks shouldn't wish.
* more less & less more
10-22 (20:34) The waterfall has been flowing continuously for more than a month now, sometimes roaring, sometimes trickling & splattering like right now. But I noticed recently that I usually don't hear it; or rather, I hear it but I don't notice that I'm hearing it. Seems strange that I actually don't hear something so noisy as that. Semiconscious.
While I'm on the subject of the waterfall I might as well add that one of the best things about spending the monsoon season here is bathing under it. The allowable pleasures for a bhikkhu are eating, sleeping, & bathing.
10-23 (13:22) Well, my month of (More or) Less Intensive Practice, such as it was, is finished today. During the month there was almost nothing that I would call "deep meditation," & most of the time very little of what I would even call "meditation"—mostly just wandering & floundering. Today also my inability to meditate seems to be pretty much total. I wonder if this rubbish will continue for the rest of my life. O Wise Teacher, where are you? U Paṇḍita (who I do not consider to be a particularly wise teacher) would say that my problem is just laziness, combined w/ brain damage due to "drug addiction." Laziness certainly is a factor; I am generally reluctant to push myself as hard as I can, but that is partly because there have been many times when my mind was so nervous, unresponsive, & unmeditative that pushing myself as hard as I could was still futile, merely causing more frustration & more dukkha. I don't know what to do, other than just keep floundering away at it, taking advantage of the occasions when the mind is clear enough (& non-perceptual enough) to meditate properly. At least I'm staying out of trouble, more or less. But, "futility of futilities, all is futile."
10-24 (11:08) Slightly coldish at dawn this morning, altho not coldish enough to require unfolding the wool robe. Clouds blowing from north. The villagers apparently consider the rainy season to be over—saw a farmer this morning by the creek harrowing a field all the way down to the water's edge. No more floods expected.
Enjoyed a refreshing 7½ hours' sleep last night. Might as well.
(12:03) Difficult to sit for more than about half an hour at a stretch nowadays. Everything is Dukkha. (14:14) Inability to meditate is accompanied by a strange feeling of pressure inside my head, sort of like I've got a head cold, except w/o the snot & the nasal congestion. Don't know what the cause is. (19:17) Meditation has improved somewhat over the course of the day, but is certainly still nothing to write home about. At least now I can sit for a full hour w/o much difficulty & even get in a few moments of actual meditation now & then. Very little enthusiasm for practice. Seems like most of my enthusiasm nowadays occurs at meal time. Looking forward to leaving. Shouldn't look forward to anything, I suppose. Be Here Now, & all that.
10-25 (15:07) Am accomplishing virtually nothing nowadays; can't meditate worth half a damn, & there's really nothing else to do. Pretty much all I do is gradually grow older day by day. At least I'm staying out of trouble, more or less. Would be nice if I had a book to read.
(18:28) I overcome my indolence somewhat & return to work on the outline for "A Biological Interpretation of Dharma."
U Maung Cho very quietly came to see me today & found me talking to myself—badmouthing a village dog that comes & eats the food put out for the wild animals. Talking to myself is not a good habit. Maybe writing to myself isn't so good either.
10-26 (13:17) Still lots of long, complicated dreams at night, altho lately I've been promptly forgetting them. The only remembered fragment from last night: I become a ghost-like being & follow a woman thru a large plate glass window (w/o breaking it). After the woman passes thru she looks "ghostlier," but after I pass thru I look as tho I'm made of solid gold. Yesterday I was thinking about the old TV show "Kung Fu" & remembered the line, "They say a Shao Lin priest can walk thru walls." Also yesterday I had a dumb fantasy about being able to turn things into gold. Both of these seem to have influenced the dream. Just briefly thinking about something during the day can cause it to reappear at night in a dream.
The weather seems to have become reliably comfortable, so it's time for me to leave (ha). Took down the tarp mist barrier today, & also put away the big clay pot & buried a plastic water bottle in the sand for next year. Overcast & semi-coolish 2 days in a row. Just enough of a rain shower yesterday evening to make the waterfall big enough to bathe under this morning.
(19:44) Well, this is my last night here this year. So, what benefits have I obtained from the past 38 weeks of forest-dwelling? First, I have figured out that I am probably a hysterical neurotic. "The breathing problem" at least appears to be a neurotic symptom, & many of my meditation problems may be also. My animal nature rebels against "the Holy Life." It is rather humbling to know, & it indicates that I have even less control over & knowledge of my mind than I had thought. Oh well, it could be a lot worse—I'm not a raving psychotic, anyhow.
Second, there have been some changes in my theoretical metaphysics; for example, if sensation is not just another level of perception, then it is the utterly inconceivable Infinite Everything/Void, w/ perception not merely differentiating but "choosing from amongst Infinity what to differentiate." Another example is the peculiar notion that "the entire Universe is contained w/in a single point which has no dimensions." Thence comes the notion that every entity in the Universe is like a Leibnizian monad occupying the same point as every other entity/monad. A major difference between my monads & Leibniz's is that it seems as tho my monads could possibly interact, as ultimately there is nothing dividing them. Should eliminate the single point, & thus render the Universe pointless in more than one sense.
From a more practical point of view I have learned that I should never spend another rainy season here! It's just too damned miserably hot.
I've learned many other mundane things, like the big forest cat is really a civet, & the paper wasps get much more aggressive when the nests get big. Oh, & that baby jink birds are sociopathic.
I have obtained a koan to chew on: "There are no two such things as existence & nonexistence." May chew on it for the rest of my life w/o ever being able to swallow it.
But, it may be that the greatest benefits I have obtained here this year are unknown to me. Maybe some kind of incubation or ripening or some such. I don't know. I am a blind worm. (I resist the urge to add, "…living in God's rectum.")
10-27 (14:32) Precip all night, drizzle pretty much all morning, waterfall about 2 notches shy of light roar, creek slightly flooded. I go for my last forest almsround of the year slowly & carefully slipping & sliding over the muddy forest trail. As usual, the good ladies of Pwingah waded over to this side of the creek so I wouldn't have to cross & get wet. Easy to send mettā to them.
All packed up & ready to go; just waiting for the guys to show up who will help carry the stuff (& wade across the creek in front of me so I can see where the deep spots are).
(15:00) Time to go, & they're not here yet.
(10-28 (11:19) Sine Teh Monastery--Left the cave at 15:10 w/ "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" playing in my head, sincerely thanked, blessed, & said goodbye to all the beings there (except possibly for the bitey ones), & quickly discovered why nobody showed up—the creek was too flooded to cross. Big rain in the hills. Got to the slough & met 3 wet young women coming out of the forest, who volunteered to carry my stuff across the slough. The prettiest one, in addition to being wet, was obviously completely underwearless, & her blouse was apparently missing about half the buttons. I experienced a blast of animal pleasure watching her climb out of the slough dripping wet, "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" still playing in my mind. She was very embarrassed to be seen in her condition by the "great holy man" (me, supposedly), & covered the front of her semiblouse w/ a towel, & then followed about a hundred yards behind the rest of us on the way to Kuzeit. At the outskirts of the village I stopped to wrap up properly for public appearances, & she also stopped about a hundred yards back & hid behind a palm tree until I continued on my way. Her modesty is very commendable. Anyhow, in the village the other 2 wet ladies recruited some men to carry my stuff to Sine Teh. Looked like most of the women & children in Kuzeit turned out to watch us walk by. Had to take the long, muddy, slippery route to avoid the flood. Arrived here shortly before dark. Instead of listening to the waterfall & crickets, last night I spent the evening listening to music blasting over the monastery's loudspeaker.
Grey & drizzly again today. The next 16 miles of my trip (over the hills to Ya-G) may be very muddy & slippery.
It is strange—I miss the cave & want to go back. Despite all the dukkha I feel like I benefitted from staying there this year. In fact, like an insane idiot I'm even considering spending another rainy season there. Somebody please shoot me in the head.)
((18:22) Rain, rain, rain. The trip out of here is going to be hell.)
(10-30 (18:37) Kani Cemetery—Nope, it wasn't hell. Maybe just one of the milder levels of purgatory. Let this be my last statement.)