Moongazing

Mariko Kinoshita, a Japanese artist, is highly culturally adaptable unlike many Japanese who still harbour suspicions about foreigners. This is to be expected when we consider that the whole country was closed to all foreign influence for a period of over 250 years between 1603 and 1868. 

But this work unashamedly evokes the very essence of Japan. Gazing at the moon through the pale fish of cherry blossom (sakura) is essential for the Japanese spirit. The kimono and white mask of a beautiful silent woman create the sense of mystery the world is so intrigued by.

In Japan, fully-grown adults can be seen weeping at the sight of sakura at its peak. We watch the national news several times a day to find the exact peak for particular locations and then rush to stand close and gaze by moonlight.  In fact, the first national forecast has been released today so people are already planning.

Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto is the moon god in the Shinto religion and in Japanese mythology.  This deity is male unlike in ancient myths of Greece or Rome, and its creator also male. Tsukuyomi was the second of the ‘three noble children’ born when Izangi-no-Mikoto, the god who created the first land of the Japanese archipelago.  It is said that he was born from Izangi’s right eye. After climbing a celestial ladder, Tsukuyomi lived in the heavens with his sister Amaterasu, the sun goddess, who also became his wife. Japanese myths are primitive and not limited by worldly classifications. The very origins of Japan are fantastical in a very eastern way which fascinates westerners.

I love Kinoshita’s painting and feel honoured to be helping this artist edge into the wide world. It is easy to see her unconscious heritage in the stillness and silent joy.

                                    Images courtesy of Mariko Kinoshita and Linden Thorp

 

An Audience with the Master IV: Valid Lit

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The Master has no need of the books which his personal assistant, a shaven-headed nun in the traditional pink robes with orange under-robe, follows his instructions to find for me from shelving behind us. Meanwhile, he asks further questions, the interpreter bowing after each thing he says and pausing in order to make sure he has the right sense of it before conveying it to me.

“And why do you want to meditate?”

“Why do you want to become enlightened?”

He raises his broad hand having uttered his questions, the palm demonstrating a warning, halting what he anticipates as my habitual response.

“Please answer the questions without personal details of your history or any excuses. Please speak plainly.”

He is firm, intent, polite, but refuses to entertain the insincerities of the ego, and certainly it is not possible that the intellect can reason and manipulate any answers to such immense questions. I forage for answers in deep snow at first dropping my head in order to focus, but as my fingers grasp what I think is an answer, the heat of my humanity melts the cold snow of reason, of this intellectual device of question and answer.

I want to say that I do not really know, or cannot explain, but that he and I both know that these are not accurate statements to justify why I have come to find him in this remote part of the world. My erroneous interpretation of modesty perhaps inhibits me, but then I raise my head and without saying the words “I DO know exactly why,” or “ I am getting closer to enlightenment,” I begin to tell him why, using words that I have never managed to find before now. My feelings of realization are stronger than ever before.

 

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His strong direct voice insists on mine being the same, so I speak out confidently, looking directly into his eyes as I touch the truth glowing in the centre of my heart and with it a threatening tide of the tears of sincerity.

In this process of clarifying exactly my answers to his needle-sharp questions, in putting aside the excuses, the machinations of mind, I finally focus exclusively on what is the most important thing in any human’s life. I realise that this exact moment in this exotic religious centre of excellence has been planned all my life, and that it is the putting aside of my will which has allowed it to happen. Without any doubt, unconditional faith does not concern the will in anyway.

“I need to meditate in order to get control of my clinging and arrogant mind.”

“I need to meditate to open wide the door of my heart.”

“To finally destroy the ego.”

“To eradicate my ignorance totally.”

At first, my words are strong, flaunted and open like huge blooms, but the death of the ego soon issues the sounds of the tears which hang there, like warm drops of moisture waiting to trickle down into the pith of the plant. He waits without effort whilst I search to express my view of enlightenment, looking deep inside into my energy, and knowing all manifestations of me without words.

“So far, I have cut with my bad karma whilst helping only a few. Now, as my ignorance begins to drop away, I can help many I hope. I can bring them with me to enlightenment with a good heart.”

 

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Timelessness fills this interaction between pupil and Master. It is as if I am in the presence of the Buddha, here and now where there are few scraps of recognizable modernity. ‘Here,’ a place where the human spirit shines brilliantly because it is cleansed of the fear and poisons which can be created by the misguided intellect, and ‘now,’ the intense reality of the moment where everything is still and there is also no fear so that the heart may easily open.

Master? The ego does not easily accept this kind of superiority, or it’s implied opposite of childlike subservience. We are taught not to easily accept the minds of others in the west, not to trust, always to question. Perhaps chronic doubt is our insurance against looking like fools. But if we can allow ourselves not to doubt, but instead to trust from the heart, then the heart is wise. It can listen instead of always wanting to do the talking like the head. The heart can obey and believe in others. The heart is quiet, strong and sure-footed on a tightrope.

For most of my life, like other reflectors on “life,” I have tried to imagine how humans would behave without the concepts of time and space. I am able to see now that this was a pointless quest for ‘here’ and ‘now,’ in this city pagoda, I am able to directly experience a way of being far beyond these ideas, remote to the pastime of speculation.

 

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This country is Myanmar, formerly Burma, which has always had a colossal tradition of Buddhist teachers and spiritual excellence. You had never heard of this place before. We had never heard of each other before we met by accident in a crowded London bar. I, searching for a café in the area, long-since closed down, and you, brought to me by the barman as someone who had known the area well for a lengthy period.

We met and talked and drank together, and then as the busy celebrations of Saturday evening started and we each had other people to meet, we walked out on to the high street to say goodbye. People around us encouraged us to kiss and through this we recognized the important passing presence of each other in our lives. It was this kiss which formed a bond devoid of words or compatibilities and which caused us to blend fleetingly to share the way together for a while. An honest, karmic kiss out of the blue is a certain way of recognizing a fellow traveller.

Then one day, we were shopping as modern people do, and whilst browsing in a bookshop you were moved to buy me a present secretly which you gave to me later. You could have known nothing of what would happen as a result of this.

It was a novel written by a native of Burma which described some of the spiritual traditions and magic of the country. I was delighted, having had an interest in this country for many years; I read it avidly and was enriched by its beautiful stories of natural lives. Then soon, and quite unexpectedly, I learned that an old friend had gone to work in Myanmar. He invited me to visit, which I thought was unrealistic at the time. Then almost immediately after this, I was invited myself to take up a post in Japan, a life-long dream. Rapidly, the decision to go to Myanmar and Japan was made, and my tickets were booked.

Of course, you and I had become close and it was difficult for you to accept that I would take up this incredible opportunity. Once the job contract was signed, the weeks rushed by and my departure was immanent. You separated yourself from me, trying to ignore what was going to happen. Then my sea-trunk was delivered form the luggage shop, which was to be sent ahead of me by sea.

I began thoughtfully to fill it with books and papers, shoes and winter clothing which I would not need for a few months as it would be the beginning of cherry blossom spring when I arrived. It was positioned in the sitting room on the fashionable floorboards, it silvery exterior and cheap ornate locks attracting the eye. I slowly emptied cupboards and drawers of my few belongings, and got ready to send them to the other side of the world, and you remained distant from this process.

 

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Then, with one week to go before my departure, I returned home to find small contributions on top of the trunk, and saw this as a sign that you were beginning to accept the reality. I smiled as they indicated at least a little trust, a little heap of hope placed there carefully by your strong hands. I tried to know your pain, and your methods of pain control.

As I sorted through my books I came across that novel which I had forgotten about. I touched its well-used corners and creased cover, opening it and reading the dedication which I had not read seriously before. Then, I lowered myself on to the edge of the silver trunk in bewilderment.

The author had written it whilst on his way from London to Kyoto, the city I was leaving and the one I was destined for, to lecture in English as I was to, whilst stopping off for a short holiday in his native Burma, as I was to. Your intuitive heart must have known that these events would happen, so you bought the book unwittingly to prepare me.

Our deep connections became suddenly so obvious, so patent. But you were only to be a guide briefly to send me on my way. You could never listen intently enough to have the kind of faith to join me.

 

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Images by Linden Thorp


‘An Audience with the Master’ has been published as a short story. It is creative non-fiction and it happened to the writer.

 

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Media Deluge!

 

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If we are sucked into the media vacuum, infiltrated by disturbing images of violence and corruption which become natural to us, then little by little we will not notice anything good, anything filled with light.

If we are only stimulated by death and demise, by materialistic mystery and gore, then how can we be aware of the real universe, the infinity and eternity we are each vital components of? The natural energy in the wild undisturbed places, flowing and pulsing, is the true nature of the planet, and it is our true nature too. These snapshots and effigies of terror we cram into our eyes, block our true nature as well as damaging the planet at many and various levels.

For the majority of us, in our relaxation time away from work and other responsibilities, we willingly fill ourselves with monsters and demons, with the filth and greed of urban life. Hungry ghosts are howling all around us, their suffering intense and, we say, unimaginable. But there is no question of using the imagination to stand in the shoes of others because we ourselves are deeply suffering beneath the veneer of respectability, the fragile semblance of convenience and fulfillment.

We too are howling in the pits of our spirits – a million suicides, thousands of torture methods, starvation and sensory deprivation, hounded and hided. When we have had enough, we flick away the sordid pictures of evil as someone else’s business, the concern of the powers that be. Then we swallow and get on with creating our own brand of it.

In a string of movies, articles and books widely available, even popular, we can find torture, abuse, greed and ignorance on a grand scale; lust and betrayal, and the fertilizing of more and more babies in the name of calming the irrepressible urges.

At each channel change, the mutating of deadly diseases and aliens which target us and fix us as fugitives from our own souls, our true nature, abound. We run in terror, always in the dark depending on fickle torchlight instead of our own light. We are bewildered and manipulated by others.

We are rats in a maze of fear entirely synthesized by the mind, so heavily drugged by our own picture shows that we cannot climb a nearby tree to see the exit.

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In just one session of viewing the flashing screen, I am tortured and I torture.

At one moment, the rack stretches me – my victim, until the tendons and ligaments snap. I hold hospital cardiologists at gunpoint because my son will die without a transplant and I am too poor to buy him a heart. I am a politician involved in outsourcing the killing of Moslems in Iraq to mercenaries, paying them billions of dollars to take them out of my hands.

At the next moment, I am a special squad policeman wading through the sewers every night, working through suicides and poisonous snakes, bag-snatchers who sell their merchandise for inflated prices so they can buy their cocaine fixes, the possessed who bite and speak in scrambled tongues, a dead baby found in the gutter and a living baby in the womb of my wife. Human life seems irreversibly doomed. It seems to be a living hell.

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The oblivion of orgasms, inebriation and lap dancers are what most people pursue, either openly or in secret. Erotic videos flood the internet which most of us instantly judge and dismiss, and yet we are those egocentric handsome guys masturbating while not losing eye-contact with the camera lens for a second except to see how enormous they have become. And we wait too for their moment of sticky heaven.

We are the circus acts of hard inflamed penises curling and thrusting into mouths and assorted orifices in tandem. We are the insatiable girl who writhes repeatedly on a rod-like penis for the camera, blatant, moaning, putting off the moment of explosion masterfully. We writhe. We are repeatedly renewed. We mistake love for lust, flooding with hormones we are told are healthy. All this, not just the respectable parts, is us. The world we see is an exact reflection of our minds.

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Each horror is a bubble constituting the massive wave of imbalance and artificiality. How can we not long for the end of this onslaught, this hell realm? How can we not long to know that our awareness has expanded to blot it all out, the veil of death has been lifted, and that our physical bodies are no longer needed.

That it is the present state of the human race. Only our emptiness and detachment will make it stop. Only letting our positive and undistorted light shine out into the invisible world will balance this visible world.

Our compassion and acceptance is the only subduing influence that we can bring to bear on this media deluge which constantly batters the shores of our true nature.

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images courtesy of megapixyl.com : licenses at lindenthorp@gmail.com

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