Thai Buddhism Outback Up North, part 4: Three Questions, Two Uncertainties, a Wish and a Promise…

Continued from here

Kwan Yin Fest near Chiang Dao, Thailand

Kwan Yin Fest near Chiang Dao, Thailand

So again I’m having doubts about my direction, after I’d convinced myself that the past lives and karmic retribution of Tibetan Buddhism, which I can’t support, are not an issue in the Theravada system. I guess I should get all Zen-like and mock Kung Fu-ish right about now with something wise and philosophical from my imaginary guru, like maybe: “Cricket, don’t worry about the details, or you’ll never be a good monk anyway. You have a path now, and the path will lead you where you are to go…”

Yeah, that sounds about right. There is no turning back from this path, this Buddhist path, however the details play out. My increasingly healthy meditation practice will be the proof and the foundation for that. So what if I occasionally flash back on the Playboy Playmate from December 1969? She was cute, it was cold, and I was young. I’ve still got a Suzi Quatro song stuck in there from 1978, too…

And so what if I look like a pile of lumber spilled from the Home Depot truck until I get ‘warmed up’ meditating? So what if it takes a backhoe to unlock and untangle me once I do? At least that backhoe won’t be necessary to back-fill the logic necessary to convince myself I’m happy when I’m really not, gorging myself with ‘stuff’ in an American society of consumeristic orgy (orgiastic consumerism?)…

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Hill Tribes

I’ll tell you something, Cricket, so listen up now and you listen up good: you can take all your Jaguar XKE’s and all your Corvette Stingrays and all your mid-engine Porsches and all your ’57 T-Birds, and you can shove them up your—driveway; better yet, shove them off the nearest cliff right into the ocean, for all I care, because if that’s all you’ve got in your life, then you’ve got nothing. But if you can sit in the same position for an hour without flinching a single muscle, then you’re on to something good…

In my new paradigm, it’s not so important what you do in this life, but important what you don’t do. If you’re a painter, then you can call it ‘negative space’, or if you like textiles, then you can call it ‘reverse applique’; either way you’re a sculptor taking a block of rock or wood and chiseling out what you don’t want and leaving what you do, to reveal the treasure within, previously unrevealed without the intervention of consciousness…

Or you can sit in meditation and experience the empty vessel of pure consciousness, form without content, pure potential, perfect in its incompleteness, just as the Buddha experienced it two thousand six hundred years ago and changed the world. And you just might clean some crap out of your head at the same time, all the pop songs and ad jingles and sad faces and lost races, all the memories you hold on to, just because you just can’t bear to throw anything away…

Kwan Yin (Kuan Im), Sino-Thai Bodhisattva

Kwan Yin (Kuan Im), Sino-Thai Bodhisattva

The false epiphany came while at my home temple in Mae Chan, Thailand, in the two-three day interval between the two recent but separate travel periods over the course of ten days. While checking my e-mail one morning, I noticed three transactions on my PayPal debit card that were not authorized by me, for a total of almost $800, so I was able to report the crime, but only because I had the ability to do so. As an ordained monk, I couldn’t even touch money, much less manipulate it, not to mention that many temples forbid the use of technology altogether. Ouch! Then it happened again, a week later, on a different card. Double ouch!!

So I guess that’s a reverse epiphany, indicating my deficiencies and inabilities, but it goes well with my Cartesian cartwheels, in which I supposedly ‘meditate, therefore I am,’ yeah, right. So I’m right back where I was in Mocoa, Colombia, in 1978, in search of yage, i.e. ayahuasca, and concerned about where I’d safely stash my passport while tripping my brains out. Well, they’ve solved that problem now, with dozens, if not hundreds, of guided trip centers in the Greater Amazon to do that for you…

But there is no ‘monk visa’ in Thailand that I know of (though Burma apparently has provisions for it). So I guess I missed my chance to be Lord of the Flies in the Upper Amazon, but there are many paths to fulfillment in Buddhism, and one will likely happen sooner or later. For now I am still a traveler, in transition from traveler cum marchante cum merchant to traveler cum peregrino cum pilgrim, i.e. I travel therefore I am, peragro ergo sum, with or without a cart, Descartes, for all the crap I accumulate along the way…

Yours truly,

Yours truly,

And that is also the epitome of monkishness, too, the Ph.D. of poverty, if you will, traveling tudong-style, cross-country with only a bowl and robes, smart-phone optional, living by your wits and the good graces of God, maybe someday somehow some way I will. But for now my main lesson in Thai school is how to duck and cover, bob and weave, evade and avoid—questions and answers. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, after all…

So, since I can’t really see a future as temple driver, I might just have to lay low for a while, then reappear in another guise. The true epiphany is the realization that everything–absolutely everything, Zeno–is a halfway point between objectives, with nothing ever truly settled or finished, and that is not to diminish individual efforts, but to enhance them, whether as monk, traveler, writer or teacher…

Non-agression is the Buddhist way. Primum non nocere. First do no harm, then try to fix the problem—or not. So now I look for a grad school, any grad school, in Buddhist studies, of course. The way I see it, there just may be a greater need for scholars than monks, or priests. Me, I can go either way. Yeah, maybe I should get all zen-like. There’s more than one way to save a planet…

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