Awoke dazed, weak and queasy. Brushed the stomach acid from my tooth enamel and stumbled squinting into the sunlit streets. I managed to make it to the tea shop for my early morning meeting with a frail framed monk draped in a maroon robe that hung crumbled from his bony, bare shoulder. He sat deliberately studying a text on the 89 minds scrawled in the elegant squiggle of the Burmese alphabet. I sat and apologized for my tardiness with the visceral alibi that I was up all night being sick. Undeterred he launches in:
Yes, yes, yes, life is suffering
Everything is made of four elements: earth, fire, water, and air
This tea cup is earth made with fire
All the same, everything all the same
You. You are water made to more with air. All the same. You here, this cup, that man, that women. All the same. What is ice?
Then I don’t know
Fire. Water and fire. Ice has latent heat. Touch it and it burns you. Not like fire burn but cold burn. Mind feels differently. You feel cold. See, water but also fire. All the same.
You see that women?
See the fat one? Maybe she is your wife. You wake up everyday and think she’s fat. No, this is not right mind. You think she’s fat. Marriage happiness is everyday you say beautiful! Then… beautiful.
Woman, man, you, him, all the same!
That’s why I’m a Buddhist. Universal truth. Fire is hot. Ice cold. You have five senses. Truth. Buddhism is of the mind. It’s knowing your mind. Human mind. All minds. This is Truth!
So which is it? Is it that the ‘fire is hot’ an absolute Truth or that the mind only thinks its hot? Is it also truth if you feel it’s cold?
All the same. Cold. Hot. All the same mind. All the same. Your mid is not one, but many. Many minds. See in my book 89 different minds. See. You are here now. Happy. But I say something and maybe you are angry. Anger, greed, sad, all of these minds arise. In meditation you see them come up. Sit. And they go back down.
Yes, through mindfulness you can the different minds. See them in true form and when they come up later you can say: ‘Aha, anger.’ You can watch it as it goes down. You can step back from it and watch it.
Yes! You can see the 89 minds. See them. Be mindful. Watch them go down.
You, you have a good mind. I can see in your eyes. They are clear. Some people you can see their faces. Ugly. Ugly mind. Bad deeds in last life. Come back ugly.
So you are saying all pretty people have good souls? Good from their past life?
No. Not about beauty but clear face. Clear face, eyes. Clear mind. Last life you did good. Reborn higher. Like the five elements, same, reborn, same. The tea cup lower but still same.
When you sit up or stand up you think it is all you. Ha! You breathe everyday but you forget. When you move it is also the other elements moving too. Helping you. You are the same as the air. All elements are the same. Everything moves together. One being together. You are not strong. Ha! Your muscles are nothing if you don’t know that air holds you up. I’m an old man. Weak body but strong mind.
He stopped to pester the waiter boy to fetch him a betel nut quid from a nearby cart and promptly jammed it into the back of his mouth. His teeth sparse crooked shards jutting from blood red gums stained the same stained the same dark brick color of his robe. Between a mouthful of betel juice and saliva he leaned forward to spit rust red splatter next to the match stick table and continue:
Why do you live?
Why do you live?!
To love and work for justice for all beings
No, no.. why do you live?
To be mindful??
No, no. Why?
I don’t know
You’re doing it right now and you still don’t know?
I guess not
What are you doing? Right now. You do it everyday. You’re doing it right now and you don’t even know. Why do you live?!
Right now…uh…Sitting? Talking? …..Breathing??
Yes! You breath air. What else?
No, you can go many days without sleep, but no air, no water. You go flat. You lay out and your mind stops. You can’t live, huh? You go flat. You need air, water, and ….?
Yes! Food. These elements all the time. You don’t have them and your heart stops…you go flat.
Without your heart the mind can still live but you don’t have these three things and your mind stops too.
Yes, like a coma
Yes. Air, water, and food. This is why we live
Meditation. Mindfulness show us this. You sit. You listen. Air, water, and food. That’s all you need. With meditation you can slow these. You don’t need much. Too much is not good fo you. Too much drink, too much food. Not good. You only need enough to live.
The Middle Path
Yes! Good. Some drink liquor and think they are happy. Think they are big and strong but wake up the next morning and suffer. Want more. You eat a lot and your stomach is full but soon you want more. Always wanting. You buy a nice shirt then want a nice house to hang it in, then big car to drive to your house. You drive around and see more shirts on other people. You say you want and it never stops. Always wanting.
Yeah, like an addiction
Yes! Always wanting. You become monk. No things and you don’t want. Then you are happy
How long have you been a monk?
And before that?
A banker. Much money. Much wanting. Traveled to many places, England, Australia, to learn more. Much money. Much wanting
Why did you leave it all to become a monk?
Because I’m getting old and need to prepare for death. You can’t take money to your next life so I need to let go. Get ready to die.
Many die in Myanmar before ready. This military government does not know how to take care of country. They are soldiers. They only know how to shoot. This is why Myanmar people love Aung San Suu Kyi. She knows the people.
What are politics like here?
Politics? We do not have politics. You have politics in USA. This person says, that person says. Here we only have people who want life. Basic human rights. Democracy. Not politics, but life.
After getting lost in 3 hours of conversation I made a merit donation to him and he blessed me with a pure consciousness and to be free from anxiety and fear. He took me by the arm and walked me to the corner and said in a kind voice:
Today. Many words. All you need to know is MINDFULNESS. Be mindful and be happy.