One of the first gifts from my dad when I was a kid were 39 tiny conch shells.
In my late 40s I would learn that the couch plays a very important role in Hindu and Buddhist practices.
When a conch is blown, it makes an OM sound, believed to be the primal sound of creation, and from which other sounds emanate.
Of late I keep seeing similarities between the curvature of the conch and the fluidity of the drapes on the robes of Buddhist monks and nuns.
So I started reading up on the robes that had been on my mind for sometime.
At Boudha I was always entralled by the waves of maroon robes on monks & nuns as they circumambulated the Stupa.
But only today I learnt that in Buddha’s time, the robes were made from discarded rags found among trash. Monks would pick up rags, wash and dye them before stitching the pieces together to form a robe.
In “Buddha’s Robe” written 26 years ago, Noelle Oxenhandler says, “…the robe made from a discarded rag is the lotus that grows in mud.” ♥️
May tonight’s full moon on Buddha’s Enlightenment Day guide our mind to see the fullness within each being, so that we too may learn to turn the worthless to the priceless.🙏
This is the main entrance to the Boudha Stupa. Yesterday my friends at Street Dog Care posted this picture. Road repair works have begun.
I’ve stood at this entrance 8 times in my life.
Each time when I looked at the Stupa for the first time, I would feel tears welling at my heart and making their way up my eyes.
At the same time in the midst of the surrounding chaotic traffic & commercial activities, I would also experience a profound quiet that was unshakeable.
“You saw your mind,” my Taiwanese friend who lives at Boudha told me when I narrated my encounter to her.
She went on to elaborate that when the mind is unfettered by judgements or desires, it is clear and free.
So perhaps I had tears in my eyes because at the Stupa entrance I caught a glimpse of how my mind could have been were it not shackled onto fixed patterns of ignorance & pride.
These days I think I learn to suffer less because I try to watch my mind before thoughts become words and deeds.
While the well trodden path to Boudha Stupa is being repaired on this auspicious day of enlightenment, may I take this opportunity to wish my friends and all sentient beings divine guidance as they forge their own paths to liberation. 🌈🙏🐾
Yesterday the service staff in his early 50s was struggling with the cash register at the cafe I was having a meal. He might have found the multitude of payment methods these days rather overwhelming.
It didn’t help that the patron before me had left the transaction midway to make an urgent call outside. She said she would come & get her card later.
In between attending to her & handling my order, the older worker might have made an error while keying in the details. As a result he needed his colleague, a lady in her 30s to unlock the cash register for him to proceed.
When the younger staff appeared to rectify the mistake, the older staff was as apologetic as he was nervous. I also saw in the “rectifier’s” face some tension. Perhaps this was her break time. Or perhaps her elderly colleague had made the same mistake too often. And maybe she was shoring up her defense in anticipation of my complaint of poor service etc.
Before the tension escalated further, I offered what I think should be my most benevolent smile at the nervous pair, and said very deliberately, “Don’t worry. Take your time to sort this out. I have time.”
In hindsight, I realised simply saying, “I have time,” causes our facial features to light up. 😄🙏
As soon as my words left my mouth, the energy threatening to suffocate us in that tight little triangle around the cash register dissipated. The younger staff lost her frown as she smiled awkwardly back at me. I could feel the relief emanating from the older staff as he looked at me gratefully.
And in that moment I felt so rich, not because of having money, but because I had averted a potential conflict. My refusal to get irritated might even help restore some confidence in the man trying to navigate the digital maze at his age.
I love looking at the portrayal of Avalokithesvara seated in heavenly ease pose. And maybe some of that peaceful energy has rubbed off on me.
So on this new moon day, may I wish all my friends and sentient beings, the heavenly ease of Avalokithesvara in your daily encounters.
May we be at ease, so that others can be at ease too. 🙏🌈🐾
Away from classroom teaching and having my commitment to impart knowledge reduced to just twice a week at a tuition centre, I find myself growing quieter over the months.
Unless it’s life threatening, I’m learning to resist the compulsion to explain, to justify or to convince. After all, when it comes to issues that truly matter, words are just not enough.
That said, I did wonder if aging has made me anti-social, indifferent or worse still, turned me into a subaltern?
Apart from the increased silence, I’ve also started wearing the pearl trinkets I bought during my 30s. I had forgotten how pearls brighten up against black.
And each time someone smiles or says something nice at the sight of pearls around my neck, I’m reminded to heed the “Pearls of Wisdom.”
While growing silent and wearing faux pearls I also revisit my cache of oils, incense and perfumes.
Since my last trip to Nepal in 2019, I’ve been lighting palo santo wood to give thanks to the sun and to dedicate light to the living and the dead each morning.
Memories of my grandma dabbing scented oils on us surface regularly.
A few days ago I was rubbing Moroccan argan oil mixed with lavender & patchouli on a coconut shell necklace.
“It would be good to be a quiet old lady who also smells nice,” a voice in my head went.
Two days ago a former student and his wife took me out to lunch.
It was our first meet up in 2020. Unsure of how gathering rules might change in the coming new year, , they also took the opportunity to mark my birthday in 2021 in advance.
At that lunch I received a book gift from the husband, and a perfume gift from the wife.
The book was a copy of “Quiet” by Susan Cain.
Receiving “Quiet,” from my former student felt like I was given the permission to be quiet without the fear of withdrawing from life, or becoming forgotten.
From his wife, I received perfume from Korea that came in a bottle most exquisitely crafted.
Its hues, gold and crystal details immediately reminded me of Goddess Tara as envisioned by the artist who drew it for Street Dog Care in Nepal a few years back.
And I felt so honoured that the giver thought of me the moment she saw the lovely bottle that held the peony fragrance.
And thus my aspiration to grow into a quiet old lady who speaks words of wisdom when necessary while smelling good was facilitated at the lunch hosted by a young couple on 28th December, the eve of the full moon.
May we trust that our aspirations to be the best that we can be as age catches up will be graciously provided for through those who are born after us.