Saturday, September 6, 2014

13 Days in the Life


     I heard the news today oh boy
     About a lucky man who made the grade… (—the Beatles)

     For most of the year 2000 I lived alone under a huge rock ledge called Wun Cha Ote-hmin, or "Belly Fall Cavern," at the northern boundary of Alaung Daw Kathapa National Park, in northwestern Burma. During that time I kept a journal, one of the main purposes of which was to give me something to refer to in later years, to help me determine to what extent, or whether or not, I was making progress in Dharma. The first of two volumes has already been published on the website nippapanca.org; the following is a "preview" of volume two, being the entries of the first 13 days of the rains retreat of that year.
     For some details on my rock ledge, or cavern, and its surrounding environment, one may refer to the Introduction to "Cave Journal," published on the website. Here I will just add a few details concerning some important characters in this part of the chronicle, a family of "jink birds" who had a nest almost directly above where I sat and slept under the ledge. The villagers called them "water crows"; and although they are about the same size and shape as crows, they aren't crows. Their plumage is a dark indigo blue, with silvery streaks on the head and neck, and the beak is rather smaller than a crow's beak, and if I remember correctly, it is bright orange. Their usual call was a shrill, metallic sound like "jink," hence my name for them; although the male especially (named Jinky) had a more varied repertoire, and would occasionally sit on a tree branch and quietly warble out strange music sounding like some kind of avant-garde jazz. 
     The birds live near water and hunt for small animals, such as frogs, near the water's edge—yet they do not seem well adapted to being predators, since their pheasant-like beak is apparently not designed to tear flesh. Watching them kill and try to eat a frog was a painful spectacle, as they would grab the frog by an arm or leg and beat it against the ground again and again until it was not only dead, but starting to fall apart. They would eat only the pieces that would come off in this way, and leave the rest. They are a very hard-beaked, ruthless kind of bird, and they made it easier to relate to the scientific theory that birds are actually a kind of dinosaur. More than once I felt gratitude that I was bigger than they were; otherwise they would no doubt have beaten me against the ground till I started falling apart. I've looked in a few bird books, but I still don't know what kind of bird they are. If any of you are knowledgeable regarding birds of tropical Asia and have an idea of what their official name is, please let me know.
     Reading this journal while typing it up for publication is sometimes humbling, as it reminds me of the relatively intense motivation for "intensive practice" that I used to have, but now have only vestiges of. On the other hand, I have clearly made some progress since those days. I am in much less of a state of friction with the surrounding Universe, and am calmer and (usually) happier. I suppose that is partly due, ironically, to the chronic dissatisfaction which used to drive me through life, driving me out into Asian forests to "wrestle with the devil in the wilderness." Practice has its results, like everything else does. Anyway, the rest is what I wrote under the wasp-infested ledge under the bird nest.  



PLACE: midway between everywhere
and nowhere
DATE: midway between always
and never

7-16 (13:21) Imasmi vihāre ima temāsa vassa 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 Sasāra. 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, the text of which I had written down in a little notebook] 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 Sasāra because we want to wallow & roll in Sasāra. 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 Sasāra, 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 Sasāra. 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.)


an old picture of an emaciated, ascetic me, 
after several months at Alaung Daw Kathapa







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