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kotmj

Gloriously off-topic

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Well Francisco Holzer is becoming one at a minimum. He already is one, even embodied. Can you imagine him freed from the constraints of the body and from having to keep the laws and expectations of behaviour set by society. Can you picture his soul? You think it's going to heaven?

 

Recently I met multiple times with a 60+ year-old woman who, even at that advanced age, has not grasped how to live. I think she was better when younger. Some people, I notice, become worse with age, while others become purer/nobler with age. You have to make sure your trajectory is upwards, not downwards.

 

This is a traditional mask used in Japanese theatre, called the Hannya mask. It is worn by the character representing a woman who became a demon because of negative emotions. Such masks date to the 16th century. I find it depicts the madness quite well. Most of us are not like this at our core. But some are. They have strong ill-will towards others; their minds are inflamed, out of control. You don't become like this overnight -- it's a gradual process of becoming more bitter, more sour, more antagonistic towards others, etc.

hannya-r.jpg

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Just back from Fraser's Hill. The place has the coolest hairpin bends.

 

It was meant to be a day trip, but various circumstances made me arrive late, so I stayed the night. Not too shabby for only RM110.

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One of the resort apartments there. Perched a little dangerously, but I'm scheming to spend the rest f my days here.

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You can't invent bends like these.

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I would only go up Wednesday or Thursday because every road there was meant for only one car-width. The roads only work with very sparse traffic. All pictures taken with the Canon EOS M with the EF-M 11-22.

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Nice cool weather throughout the year. Have to live without modern conveniences of an urbanite as I am under the impression that there are not many shops/restaurants there.  

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Yeah, about Genting temperature range. It's different though than living in a temperate climate (say in Europe) because it is very wet/humid. The wetness permeates everything and causes wood fittings to rot. Very little by way of services; I don't think Fraser's qualifies even as a village; maybe a hamlet. The nearest town is maybe 1.5 hours away in Raub, which barely qualifies as a town. It's not for those addicted to the sights and sounds of a market town (like KL).

 

The remarkable thing is that not one, not even one of the trees in that area is old. It was all once felled bare. The jungle is secondary, like almost all in the country. I wonder who it is that allows all the old growth, primary jungle to be completely logged like this. Not even one old tree left standing. All the trees are saplings, really, only a few decades old. More dismayed than surprised, since one cultivated teak tree of quite slender size goes for RM12K. No capitalist would allow an ancient tree worth RM50K to be unharvested.

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I was just reading up on the "I Ching", the book that forms the basis of Taoism. What a load of humbug. It's ridiculous. Anybody thinks I'm mistaken, let me know.

 

The other book that Taoists go by, the "Tao Te Ching" is profound. Even then, it is pretty lightweight, almost junk, compared to the gold standard of this arena of literature.

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There was a middle-aged lady, obviously from KL (they have this look), loitering on the road outside my apartment yesterday. Later, when I was down to retrieve something from my car, she approached me. "You are allowed to have a dog here?" she remarked. She is in her 60s, slim, with lipstick and very fair. She would have been very pretty when young.

 

I said something about how quite a few residents have dogs here. She insisted on knowing: Are you allowed to have dogs here? She was slightly irritating because I was down to get something from the car; defending my having a dog with a stranger loitering on the road is not something I an overjoyed to do.

 

I find older women to be quite unpleasant in general. There is no creature in urbanised places more nasty than them. Many end up becoming ghosts. This particular exemplar wasn't too bad -- I see an open face, not scrunched up, not frowning, so there is hope for her.

 

Are you Singaporean? she wanted to know. I like dogs, she said. My daughters have three Goldens. Is yours a Golden? etc. My daughters' Goldens look like lions, etc.

 

She said she "is supposed to live here now". Bought a unit in 1989, but did not live in it nor rent it out. Is this place safe? she wanted to know. I didn't know what aspect of safety she was concerned about. I am one of those people who have no problems walking alone on dark empty roads in insalubrious parts of KL. Never had a problem. Every place I am, in or out of the country, I am quite unconcerned about personal safety. She then made her question more precise: Any break-ins? Not that I have heard of, I said, but then I don't really care about these things, I told her. She found that most unexpected, someone who doesn't care about safety.

 

She went on to interview me. She is bringing her three daughters over to live here, and she is doing what security forces do before a visit by a US president -- scouring the place for threats and dangers, interviewing the residents to see which are the nutcases who might rape one of them, etc.

 

I think she could come to no conclusion about me. "I'm going out for lunch with your neighbour," she told me.

 

Then, just now, I was out with Max on the field of the apartment grounds. There was a young woman, tall and fair and gorgeous like a model with what appears to be either a small dog or a cat next to her. I waved Max over to stop bothering them.

 

I played with Max in a different part of the field when she walked past with her cat. The cat was following her like a dog would. Had a short talk with her about her cat; was very open and friendly. Must be the woman's daughter.

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I thought I would write some notes on how to meditate. It's very useful in day to day life; it's like a shelter you can escape to when conditions outside are ungenial; it also makes clear to you that you are not your thinking mind, nor your body; that the real you is quite separate from these two. It's very calming and rejuvenating to the mind, the way a cold shower on a hot day is for the body.

 

But some qualifications. Not everybody can do it. Second, while it can change your life, it is just one element of the "program"; on its own, it doesn't lead anywhere significant.

 

There are many meditation techniques; the most commonly used is called "watching the breath".

 

You sit on a soft but firm surface. A plush carpet on the floor is fine. (I sit on a Japanese futon.) You sit cross-legged, with your spine erect. Rest your arms on your legs, palms facing upwards.

 

Bring your entire attention to the area of your face. Now, observe your breathing without influencing it. Notice the start of the in-breath. Notice when you start breathing out. Notice the length of the in, then of the outbreath. Think of nothing else except your breath, each and every one breath. Let your breath preoccupy your attention.

 

Most people, when they start out, can watch their breath for maybe two minutes before they have to stop. They are assailed by all kinds of "hindrances". They find their attention wandering away from the breath. They find they cannot watch the breath without taking control of it, making breathing into a laborious manual process. They find the sitting posture mighty uncomfortable. They itch somewhere. They just can't do it any more I need to get up now this is so uncomfortable.

 

Persist. Do not get up. Return your attention to the breath. As you breathe in long, note to yourself: I breathe in long. If your breath is short, note to yourself: This is a short breath, look, it's reversing now.

 

You will feel all sorts of unpleasant sensations in your body. You feel the meal you had wreaking a small havoc in your digestive system. You feel a part of your spine aching. You feel your legs going numb. There is an itch on your scalp.

 

To counteract these, notice these sensations as you breathe in and as you breathe out. As you are breathing in, you take note of both your breathing and of the various sensation in your body. Once you have taken stock of all the bodily sensations, you move to the next stage. You tell yourself: I acknowledge these sensations, and I let them be. You are kind to these sensations, and you give them the space to exist. You release yourself from their influence. These are just sensations of the body, they are not you.

 

You never stop minutely observing the breath. Thoughts will come to distract you away from observing your breath. You may think of an encounter you had earlier. You may think of what you need to do once you get up from the mat. Once you become aware that you have lost your attention on the breath, smile inwardly to yourself, release the thoughts, and turn your attention once again to minutely observing the breath.

 

If you persist in practising this yoga daily, magic happens. One day, you will start noticing that thoughts originate as germs floating in the expanse of your mind. If you let these germs be -- if you ignore them -- they fade away. The thoughts -- of anger, or irritation, jealousy, etc. -- do not affect you unless you embrace them and let them possess you. You will find that your intelligence goes up: when you direct your attention to a matter, more of you is present. You will experience for yourself that the thinking mind is just another "organ", like an arm, and that it is something you should use, that it should take direction from you. But for most people, the mind has taken control of everything. It is like the tail which wags the dog, instead of the dog wagging the tail. By gently subjugating the mind to focus on nothing more complicated than the breath you are breathing, keeping it from wandering away, the real you gradually regains control of your mind, which many mistake for themselves. The dog wags the tail again.

 

One day, you may even see a very bright light and a revelation.

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Saw a herd of kerbaus yesterday.

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This is in Temoh, Perak nearby Kampar. I was there to visit a great monk, abbot of a monastery, without actually having much hope of being able to speak with him privately since great monks are like rockstars who have hordes of followers coming by the busloads.

 

Turns out I was the only visitor. Spent an hour with him trading ghost stories. He was very interested that I can see ghosts and wanted to know more. This is the parking lot of the 15-acre monastery.

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Unlike most monasteries or temples, there is not a single Buddha statue or a josstick to be found in all 15-acres of the place.

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I do not read the newspapers nor listen to the news on radio nor do I watch TV. But alas, despite these measure to insulate myself from the teeth gnashing (to the point of hysteria) of the general public, my father has seen it fit to whataapp me various political commentaries. Which people seem to hold in high regard because they were forwarded over a long chain. While I do not read them, I do glance at them before ignoring them.

 

What little I haveseen is of very poor quality. The people who wrote them are quite unsophisticated in their thinking. They also obviously have no clue how to regulate their minds, because it they did, they would never allow themselves to be so agitated over nothing. The wise person is a happy person; cool, calm, collected, contented, kind and generous. He is not one who allows himself to come close to mental derangement over the policies of a third party.

 

I have also briefly browsed through a political book at a bookstore. The title was provocative, so I thought, well, maybe finally a well-thought out commentary on the state of public policy. Instead, what I found was a glimpse into the putrid mind of a deranged person who curiously thinks himself quite smart. Smart enough to want his views known to the general public in book form. It's like MOP publishing a book about what he thinks of his various enemies.

 

There is nothing to this whole circus. Just many crazy people working themselves into a frenzy. If calmness and equanimity is what you seek, political activism or consuming anything related to politics is the way that leads you in the opposite direction.

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I was on the phone today with a Singaporean cloth distributor. She spoke to me in unvarnished, concentrated, totally authentic Singlish. I was trying to figure out what she was saying. I came away mildly unsettled with this particular form of English.

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I'm currently reading a piece of work of the Hindu faith, the famous "Bhagavad Gita" (lit. "The Song of God") as translated by Christopher Isherwood.

 

I rate its profundity on the level of the Tao Te Ching; it's some way off from the gold standard of spiritual works.

 

A passage resonated so strongly with me that I had to write this post. It's a view I've been trying to express for several months. This idea was the reason I went to see the great monk in Temoh.

 

Look at how the author of the Bhagavad Gita expresses it:

 

The evildoers

Turn not toward me:

These are deluded,

Sunk low among mortals.

Their judgement is lost

In the maze of Maya,

Until the heart

Is human no longer:

Changed within

To the heart of a devil.

 

I went to Temoh with two questions. I'll mention the second question first: I wanted to know what I can do for his community of monks. The first question had to do with people I meet who walk around like a human, are in a human body, but whose minds are not human. I told this monk that if you were to look into their heads, you will find that it contains the mind of a ghost. A hateful, angry, self-pitying ghost. I asked the monk what I can do to make these people realise the depths to which they have sunk.

 

I have thought of several ways I wanted to express this idea, but I thought they were all a little too spiritual for this forum. But since I am on this topic, let's get it done with.

 

Imagine a person on a hospital bed, dying. Let's look at what is going on in his head in his last minutes.

 

"The stupid doctor! Oh, that incompetent idiot! He raped me of my bank account balance, and now he murdered me. The damned durian seller. Always opening shop and selling durians. Durians are what caused me this bloody cancer. And now I am going to die! I don't know what beings will devour me when I die! How dark that world will be! I don't want to die! No, no, no, no..."

 

And now imagine a different person, also on a hospital bed. His final thoughts:

 

"This body is giving way, at last. It has been quite the old, worn shoe, these past few years. Held together with the stitches and mendings of man. I hope the doctor doesn't feel too distressed about how unresponsive this body has been to his efforts; he's a good man, I wish him joy. It has been a good time; now time to let go..."

 

I think what makes the difference between a ghost and a human are two factors: good will and generosity. A person who synthesizes more ill will than good will in his interactions with other beings will sink. A person who has taken more than he has given will sink. To rise, to have an uplifted mind, you need to generate good will in your interactions and be selfless and giving.

 

This sinking does not take place when you die. You sink at the moment of interaction/parsimony. When you make ill will and parsimony your habitual tendency, you will have sunk very low even when you are quite young. Then you come to see me, wanting to have clothes made, all I see is a ghost.

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I find it interesting that the Honkies are very lean with fair and clear skin. I didn't know such a population existed. In Brunei and Manila, everywhere I look I see obesity.

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I was casting around to see what the Honkies eat, and it doesn't seem any different from what the Malaysian Chinese eat. It's a pretty constipation-inducing diet they have.

 

Honkie habitation in Tung Chung. The building to the left houses a Food Republic food court which feeds many of those living in this area. Pretty similar fare to any food court in Malaysia.

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I'm in Haikou right now, and the people here eat very differently. Lots of vegetation. Meat is a garnishing. No problem with constipation here. Haikou street fare (not representative of their diet):

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Initial impressions of Sanya and Haikou: These buggers are more sophisticated and advanced in many aspects compared to Malaysians. I thought I would be visiting provincial backwaters, but these backwaters are extremely well developed even when compared to KL. In fact, the cities are built and planned better than KL.

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The last 24 hours have been mind blowing. I'm currently quite drunk from 25-year old Guangdong rice wine. My father and I visited our ancestral home in Wenchnang, Hainan Island. We are able trace our ancestry back 16 generations.

 

The highlight of the Tok family was a high official and judge from about 8 generations ago who resided in Wencahng. He was sent from Fujian. He had 7 wives. Today, there are about 150 people with the Tok surname in this village in Wenchang. He prepared a wooden tablet documenting 8 (or 7) generations before him; this is standard Chinese custom. Below, my Hainanese relative -- patriarch of the branch of the Tok family to which I belong -- discusses this ancestry with my father. That red wooden tablet is quite ancient.

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Courtyard of the Tok ancestral home. The building is 150-years old. This is not so much a house as a complex. There are about 10 rooms in this complex. They were laying out tables and preparing dinner for us.

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I found the members of this huge family (I counted 30 members) to be very well-balanced and cohesive. They have zero desire to be anywhere else than here. Something cataclysmic must have happened at about the time of my grandfather to cause him and many others from this village to get on small wooden boats outbound from Hainan. Most landed on the coast of Vietnam; two families made it to the east coast of Malaya.

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