Showing posts with label Mice and Men. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mice and Men. Show all posts

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Meaning of Life

"The Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is....42!"                               
Douglas Adams,  Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

In the late 1970,s the BBC aired a radio program called Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It was as wacky and eccentric as could be, but also sprinkled with little pearls of wisdom along with truths that were presented in often very humorous ways.

The search for an answer to the 'meaning of life' is a serious business, but if we take ourselves too seriously whilst engaged in it then we are likely to miss one of the central and most crucial points.

The joy and humour that often seems to accompany those who have 'recognized their true nature' is like a perfume that radiates from them.  It arises spontaneously with their realization. Those who have passed through such a crucial juncture in their experience are almost invariably faced with the profound humour inherent in the 'truth'.

Isn't it just so ironic that we can spend our entire life as 'such and such' doing 'so and so', deeply involved in the little life drama surrounding that 'person' we call ourself.  Yet at the end of the day, all of it is utterly meaningless!

There never was a time when we were 'somebody' and yet we have always 'existed'.

'42' is as perfectly apt as any other answer  to the eternal question as to the 'meaning of life'.

Life simply is, in and of itself.

This realization is the basis of peace and joy...

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men
Books by the Writer

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Footholds in Life

Tree clinging to a rock
Living on the Edge

It felt like a particularly long weekend. Not because of it being an extended one, but because he felt alone.

Alone, was something he understood only too well when  living in a big city. During the week he was working, his mind was preoccupied and busy, but when the weekend came... Where could he go? He felt 'unconnected'. What could he do, if the things that interested most people, just did not interest him?

What was it about being in a place, teeming with millions of other 'beings' and yet feeling utterly isolated, useless and alone?

This was a feeling that had visited him often when he was in that place.

Not only had it visited him on every occasion when he had stayed there for a while, but there had been many times when he had tried to run away from it. He would force himself to stay a while and then dash off like a frightened rabbit back into the folds of mad, vibrant, chaotic life in old 'Mother India'.
That had become his place of refuge. A place where anything and everything seemed possible. A place where he felt constantly, the 'grit' of life in his teeth. The place where 'life' challenged him at every turn and where it was totally and without boundaries, 'in his face'.

There was something about 'getting his hands dirty' that made him feel like he was alive. He used to wonder, 'is there anyone else out there, who feels like this too?'

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men
Books by the Writer

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Bridge of the Heart

holding hands

Around the time of my eighteenth birthday i was living in a small hut in a tropical forest in the north of Queensland, Australia. At that time, i had taken it into my head that i needed to 'find myself'.  So i had retired to a small patch of forest just outside the country town of Kuranda, intent on leading a life of meditation and contemplation.

My partner had remained in the town of Cairns.  We generally only met when i came down from the tableland to do a little shopping and take care of some chores from time to time. However, when my birthday arrived he asked me to come down especially, so we could have a meal together and perhaps meet with a few friends to mark the occasion.

Calvin was always very outgoing and made friends easily, and although we had only moved to Queensland a few months previously, he had already gathered a fairly large circle of friends and acquaintances around himself.  I, on the other hand, was much more reticent and besides, my self imposed isolation, at that time, was not very conducive to making new friends.

Therefore, being in a somewhat subdued frame of mind, i was happy to meet with him and a few of his closer acquaintances, but not interested in any sort of large gathering.  However things did not quite turn out as i might have envisioned.

When ever Calvin planned anything, he would get caught up in the spirit of it and soon it would take on much larger proportions and when evening rolled in that day, word had got out that there would be a party on the beach and everyone should bring a little something to eat.  What ever i lacked for in terms of sociability in my younger years, he more than made up for and when he decided on something, it usually came together in a much grander way than i would have imagined.

That evening a large group of us gathered on the brilliant white sands of Half Moon Beach. It just happened to be a full moon and the whole landscape was transformed into a silvery white world. Evanescent waves, shimmering with moonlight, lapped the shores. It was a gorgeous evening. We all sat around sharing our food, talking and laughing.

There would have been about forty people present, of which i knew only a handful. However the atmosphere was light and relaxed and everyone seemed to be having a good time. After the dinner was over, Calvin decided to give a little speech in honor of my birthday and he cracked a few jokes and had everyone laughing and gathered around. Then he turned and asked me to make a wish, something that could be shared with everyone present. I will never know why, but i suddenly had the inspiration that we should all join hands and chant the sacred letter 'om'.

No one objected, so we all took the hand of whoever was next to us and soon we had linked ourselves into a circle and  begun to chant.  At first it was quite faltering and forty voices were all at different pitches, some even a bit dissonant, but as the moments passed, there came a natural adjustment and the tone of our combined chanting began to balance itself and become  harmonious and more and more powerful.

Then something quite extraordinary and unexpected happened.  It was as though our combined forty hearts and voices became completely attuned to one another, as though the people standing there in the circle had become a single, breathing unit. Everybody felt it. As if we were one voice we suddenly stopped singing without anyone having given a sign, and we all stood there enfolded in a most magical blanket of warmth and light. It was something quite tangible...

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Ungainly Dance of Life

Mouse Frog

'Life is a tale, told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing...' Shakespeare.

'Life is a theatre of the absurd.' Shakespeare.

'It used to be the 'theatre of the absurd', now it is so ridiculous
we don't even have a name for it." KVS

I had taken down these quotes one day during a breakfast with KVS at Arunachala, they rather appealed to me, so i filed them away for a rainy day...

I don't remember what bought them up, but i knew they would come in handy, and sure enough, here in the middle of a suburban wilderness of concrete, mortar and speeding motor cars, they reappear on my screen with a vibrancy all their own.

Life is indeed a 'theater of the absurd'...

Read More in Masters, Mice and Men
Books by the Writer

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Ransoming Lives

'Limit yourself to just a few activities and undertake them with all diligence.'

Chadral Rinpoche.

One of the 'activities' that Chadral Rinpoche
undertook with 'all diligence' was and remains the annual fish release in the sacred Indian river, the Ganges, at the point where it finally flows out into the Bay of Bengal and the wide open sea.

He began this project in the 1960,s with little more than an old wooden canoe, a few bucket loads of fish and a couple of helpers. Today, the work is carried on principally, by His wife, Sangyum Karmala and various sponsors and volunteers and is now a large operation involving many helpers, a number of boats and many truck loads of fish which are purchased from the fish farms in and around Kolkata and then released with prayers and auspicious mantras into the milky waters of the great 'Mother Ganga'.

During the 1990,s i used to wonder about the little black pouch that Rinpoche always wore around his waist, He guarded this pouch very carefully as it was stuffed full of various denominations of Indian and Nepal rupee notes which devotees had offered for the purchase and release of fish. He was thoroughly scrupulous about the offerings which came in. Each was assigned to its own purse which denoted a particular cause, but somehow the funds for the 'fish release' were always very abundant.

However this wasn't always the case. When Rinpoche began this project He was only newly arrived as a refugee from Tibet and extremely poor. In those days He was establishing the very first Buddhist Meditation Three Year Retreat Center in India, and as they could not afford to hire many workers, He rolled up his sleeves and took up a shovel, carrying and laboring on the repair work site with everyone else.

Funds were very scarce. One time the monastery caretaker walked into Rinpoche's room with tears in his eyes. He had just discovered that Rinpoche had sold a lovely piece of precious brocade, one of very few items that they had managed to bring with them from Tibet. With these funds He had bought a dial up phone so that He could call Kolkata and order fish and keep tabs on the process for the annual end of year release!

The caretaker was in a state of utter misery a good deal of the time in those days, wondering how on earth they would all be able to eat and carry on the general business of very simple living, but Rinpoche was never concerned and always waved him away with words of solace, telling him that all would be well.

I know that Rinpoche would have given the clothes off his own back in order to keep on releasing fish into the Ganges. In fact He ordered Lolu, the caretaker, to sell some of His scant possessions in order to do just this, on more than one occasion.

I used to watch Rinpoche's hand picked group leave from Salbari every year for this great event, with tears in my eyes, wondering if i would ever have enough merit to be allowed to go with them and help. They all stayed at the house of a Marwari Hindu who had taken a 'shine' to Rinpoche's 'project'.  And Rinpoche, ever mindful and sensitive of others, was always careful never to take more people with Him than was absolutely necessary for the task at hand. He did this so as not to over step or impose upon the of kindness of a generous donor.

One year, however, i decided to take matters into my own hands. I had been up in the Darjeeling hills and had come to know that Rinpoche had arrived in Salbari from Nepal and was already on His way to Kolkata. I did not want to ask for permission and risk being sent back to my hut, so i just packed a few things, went down the hill and caught the night train, turning up on the banks of the Ganges the following morning just as they were all arriving to begin the 'release'...

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Chadral Rinpoche

Kyabje Chadral Rinpoche
Chadral Rinpoche
It is not easy to know where to start when trying to describe someone like Chadral Rinpoche.   Imagine a Master, 98 years of age.  98 years of life experience!  He is like a living, walking, breathing encyclopaedia of knowledge. 

His areas of expertise cover fields from astrology and medicine right through to such mundane things as construction and masonry. 

In his younger years, he walked the length and breadth of Tibet in the days well before Chinese occupation and he did so in the simplest possible way, with little more than a flimsy tent, a pot for boiling water, a few bricks of tea, dried cheese and tsampa (barley flour). 

All I can really do is bow down in wonder and recall some of the multitudes of memories that come to mind and that so beautifully reflect the many facets of this amazing being. 

One morning Rinpoche, me and Rinpoche's daughter Tara Deva, were strolling about inside his temple compound at Salbari near Siliguri in West Bengal.  Rinpoche was stretching his legs and looking over some small construction jobs that were going on, when he suddenly turned to the gate and strode out towards the main road mentioning, almost as an afterthought, in his deep, booming voice that we would go and purchase such and such building materials from the market.

We had no time to grab a bag, or any money, nothing.  
When Rinpoche got an idea, he would just act on it spontaneously in that very moment.  Everything would happen around him in this way and could be very stressful for those of us who were attending him at any given time. One had to be constantly prepared for any possible eventuality!

Friday, 2 September 2011


Dogs sleeping in the shape of a heart
Two Dogs Sleeping on Ladenla Road, Darjeeling

We sit together in the happy glow of friendship.
We are all just passing by

Like  motes of dust dancing in the golden bright,

Our friendship glitters in the evening light,

Effulgent moments,  reflective hours,

Amid  cool and leafy bowers,

Let us sing the song of friendship

With hearts unfettered and un contained

For friendship is surely one of life's greatest gifts,

In the silence,  in the unspoken,  it uplifts...

Two old men walking together arm in arm

Read more in 
Tibetan Tales and other True Stories

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Traveller Be My Friend

"Traveller, be my friend.
Tomorrow our path will be long and we may become exhausted.
Let us walk together.
Let our path be one..." 


New Era Community. Helena Roerich

In the summer of 1988 i visited the valley of Kulu, in Himachal Pradesh in Northern India. During that visit, i had the good fortune to stay very near the compound where the Russian painter and mystic Nicolas Roerich and his wife Helena lived for many years.

At that time, the Roerich's old servants were still living in the compound as care takers, and although the doors were open to the public for a few hours a day, there were long periods when no one was around, and it was possible to stroll through the lovely grounds or just sit somewhere and gaze out over the verdant Kulu valley.

By a stroke of good fortune i met a couple on my very first visit.  These two people, one an American and the other a fellow kiwi like myself, happened to be strolling down the lane arm in arm just as i was coming out from the estate, and as westerners were not often seen in this quiet nook of the Kulu Valley, we naturally stopped and began to talk. 

They had rented a house right near this estate for the summer months, both intending to write and have some quiet time in this lovely part of the valley.  When they realized that i was hoping to do something similar they immediately offered me the small furnished flat on the first floor of this building, which, at that time was not in use.

It turned out to be a perfect arrangement.  Having them both nearby meant we could often share golden evenings on their veranda in comfortable companionship.  It would have been very problematic and possibly dangerous for me to try to stay in this area, as a woman alone, at that time.

Kulu is a fascinating old valley, and Nagar, where the Roerichs' estate is situated is nestled on the hillside a few kilometers south of Manali overlooking the valley with the blue thread of the bubbling Beas River winding it way  down the centre of it all.  

It is a magical location, with sweeping views up and down the valley and vistas of snow capped peaks all along.  The air is redolent with the scent of cedar pine and incense. Dominating  this village is an old castle that has now been turned into a heritage Hotel. However in its hey day this was the princely center of the valley and the seat where the local presiding Deities for the whole area are said to reside...

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men
Books by the Writer

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Wonders of Life

Christ like Figure in the Clouds
Christlike figure in the Clouds

Back in the 1980,s i got a phone call from a friend who told me he had something very special to show me, and could he come by my place?.  I quickly consented to this and waited for him eagerly, wondering what on earth he could have to show me.
Soon afterwards he appeared and produced a copy of the above picture.  It seems that he had been given a copy by one of his music students and, at that time, the story was that the photo was taken from the window of an plane during an electrical storm.  There seem to have been numerous versions on this theme going about over the years.  However according to a write-in made at the link below, which you may like to read, the above photo was taken in someones back yard during a storm...

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men
Books by the Writer

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Visitor
Yesterday morning as i was on my way home, a friend stopped me in the street and asked me to go with him to meet a young Brahman man living nearby.

It was a stiflingly hot morning, the sun blazing directly above our heads.  However,  armed with umbrellas and caps we made our way along the dusty streets chattering, laughing and catching up on  snippets of news as we walked along.

When we arrived at Nochur's house, we found it abuzz with activity.  Family members and students were engaged in various preparations here and there and word was, they would be making a trip away later that day.

My friend Bhasiji, a well known visitor in this place, strode into the house without ceremony and bade me follow him up the stairs to a lovely, bright room on the top floor of this newly built home.
At the entrance we met Nochur, his hair an unruly black confusion that had grown rather longer in the months since i had last met him. With a bright smile he carelessly pushed it aside and bade us welcome.

He was clothed in a simple long white dhoti, the traditional dress of Brahmin priests in the south of India.  His forehead was splashed with vibuti, (sacred ash that is placed on the forehead of practicing Saivite Hindus) and  cuncum, (red vermillian paste).  It appeared that we had come just as he was finishing up his morning puja.

We were warmly greeted and urged to sit, all in the simplest and most unaffected fashion, while he continued pottering about with his ritual offering bowls and oil lamps.

The windows in this room are large and to north they had been thrown open to give an unobstructed view of the Hill, Arunachala.  This is one of India's sacred 'lingams'.  There are five spread out in different locations around the country, each one representing one of the elements.  Arunachala represents the element of 'fire'.

We settled ourselves down on a rug and gazed out at this majestic view.  Arunachala rises steeply from the  plains that surround it and forms a very striking pillar of ancient rock.
Suddenly Nochur turned around. The manner in which he did this particularly caught our attention.  He looked at us for a moment without saying anything. There was a bright sparkle in his eyes and an animated and radiant expression on his face. In that moment it looked as though he were suspended in time and space, framed by the majestic spire of the Hill, his right hand raised and the first finger pointing over his back towards it.    'Yesterday, i had a most unexpected visitor!' he said with quiet intensity...

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men
Books by the Writer

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

We Never Know
We Never Know...

There has been a power cut since 7 pm last night.  It is now 9 am in the morning.  The generator for the mobile tower over in the village is humming away. Barely audible, amidst the wailing calls of the birds that come here at this monsoon season from Bhutan.

The mournful sound of their calls has an oddly poignant edge and drowns out the chirps and delicate melodies of the local bird life.
It is interesting that they turn up here in this little patch of
forest near Darjeeling, year after year. Many families from Bhutan are established along this ridge and within this patch of forest with its few remaining giant Utish trees, dripping with orchids and ferns. 

A little further up the road the forest changes markedly as huge, old Norfolk pines rise up in long, straight lines. Nothing could contrast more with the semi tropical forests, that surrounds the old Temple than these towering, pine giants.  The Norfolks are remnants of British rule and were planted during the days when they came to these hills to enjoy the views and the cool temperatures during hot summer months.

When i first moved to this small Gompa, which had been offered to my teacher in the 1970's, the caretaker was one of Chadral Rinpoche's old Bhutanese students.  He had left Bhutan some years before to settle here in these forested hills, bringing with him his two sons, both of whom were ordained as Buddhist monks.

Pala, as we call him, was a wonderful caretaker. He had a green thumb and the gardens around the compound were always a mass of blooms. He was never idle, and seemed always
to be busy fixing or making something.
The two sons visited regularly, but were often busy visiting local villages to perform rituals and pujas for local families...

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men
Books by Lyse Lauren