Tuesday, March 29, 2005


We all wear masks throughout our life, we dorn off and on these faces as the time and circumstances dictates us to do so. Would it not be more creative if we could wear our peaceful, friendly and caring masks that those who look at us will benifit from what we project.

I like to study human expressions and it matters to me how or what my first impression of a person is. A half a smile is better than none and alot more beautiful than a frown.

Monday, March 28, 2005

My car's radiator is leaking!

They say that bad things happens in threes one after another in one's life well I ralized now that on t0p of having to deal with th fact that I am heading for broke, and that my wife is suffering from a form of dementia and has probably been terminatd from her job and I need 2000RM to get her re-register under a spouse dependant visas, and the washing machine, a piece of high tech junk created by Samsung Industries is now out of service.

I am now venting my frustrations in the Blog just so the world can hear my rambling. Welcome to reality, this is what the Buddha meant when he said that there will be days like these, that life is indeed suffering. However He went on to say that suffering Is and that none who suffers. I wonder what He meant as went on to add Nirvana Is, none who attains it. Yes the old Hindu Prince cum mendicant monk some two thousand five or six hundred years ago saw into the reality of living in this Mayavic world, do you? Do you know what Maya is? Do you care to or are you comfortably numb with what you have got in your life.

One of the awakening lessons I learned last night when I read the Hadith of the Prophet of God (pbuh) on the subject of suffering or in facing hardships in this life that is, Allah is making sure that one is cleansed of his sins through pain and suffering in this allotted time so that when we are in the hereafter or come judgement day ther would be lesser work to be done in making th decision of where one belongs in H&H.

So depite all there is that has shaken my will to remain cool and calm I have vent out my anger and frustrations, spit it out into the Universe or the stars to see and as soon as I am done I will head on to the mechanic shop- where Azhar can pick on me all he wants while he is fixing the radiator. Turn every negative event in your life into positive or even creative episodes it could be worse, I could have been swept off with the rest of the coconuts when the Tsunami hit Penang Island, I was there busy sitting and sketching a Pinang tree not too far from the sea. See Ya!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

What's up right now in my life?

Today I had to visit the immigration office in Kuala Terengganu, this is something that I have been doing off and on for the past six odd years since I returned to Malaysia and eversince the US Embassy in KL informed me that as far as the Malaysian government is concern both my children are illegal aliens as their passorts were not stamped when they first entered the country. A oversight on behalf of the immigration officer at the Subang International Airport and it has caused me a constant nagging like a migraine that would not disappear.

I was at the office to renew my dughter's foreign student pass. There ar very few place that I wish I do not have to visit and one of them is th immgration department. The officers who have been handling my files were two bored gentlemen who gives one the impression that your prescence is an eyesore, a pain in their butts and you tell yourslf the feelings ar mutual but...

I made my first error when I did not register my children at birth with the Malaysian Embassy in Los Angeles when both my children wre born. This negligence has now surfaced to haunt me for the rest of my life as far as the Malaysian Home ministry is concerned. Sometimes I feel worse than an Indon or a Bangla in my effort to get my children rgistered for a PR status here. It has cost me alot of money and trips back and forth and paperworks, I hope when I die God will not make me fill up any forms.

Sometimes the arrogance by which the Malay government officers treat you can be very brutal, Malay men are never meant to serve others they were born to be served or at least this is the impression I get whenever I have any kinds of dealings with the government bureaucracy in this country. The women they sometimes behave like they are your sister in laws who has always hated your guts in the first place anyways. Perhaps it is my looks, I am easily taken for an Indian, or even a Bangla and the Malays whether they admit to themselves or not are biggots when it comes to dealings with these nationals.

No matter what the reason I find after being home for the past six years I have much less to respect the Malays for, being affluent and so called progressed has changed the Malays attitude from bad to worse. Do not take my words for it, experience it yourself and tell me if the Malays are still the most generous in their hospitality like they were once considered to be by foreigners. Malays today are out to make the bucks and screw everyone else, you are either with us or against us is the moto when the malay decides to do business, or it is who you know and not what you know that matters and when all else fails you will be quoted the hadiths or even the Quran if it helps to shut you up.

I have only one small apprhension towards this phenomena and that is it will one day blow up in their faces, when the well runs dry, when they have squanderd every God given bounties and rmain aloof and arrogant towards others, Allah will trip light fuse and like in many circumstancs in Penang and KL they will be the gardeners and housemaids in some Chinese or Indian homes ... heaven forbits.

The SF Journal 1986

Contd... When I was living in SF I was not married after being divorced from my first wife who then resided with my number one son in Berlin Germany. My son spent fifteen years of his life growing up in germany and on the inside of the cover of the journal was also stuck a letter he wrote to me while on a safari with his mother in Kenya. My son is now 32 years of age and is an Airline pilot for an American airline flying out of Detroit. What is so great about the letter? It was a letter written by a thirteen or fourteen year old to his father telling me of things he had done and yet to do but the beauty of the letter toady is the fact that both my son and I could today relfect upon where we have been since or what we have each become over the years as we barely see each other. Keeping some form of journal or diary about one's past has great merits I am slowly discovering as i picked randomly each journal and browsed through what was written when and why. I always advised student artists to keep an ongoing journal or scrap book of their works, their thoughts and aspirations, to make a collection of items that they feel has an impact or captured their attention at the moment in time.

Some of our human frailties are revealed over a period of time through the reflections of our past journals, what needed changes or call for improvement can be assesed and changes made to better oneself. The journals I have been keeping now numbers about sixty books in all and they contain every bit of information that come my way from bus tickets to cards telling me of a departed friend or family. They contained sketches and drawings spontaneously done on scene or randoms thoughts and ideas captured while in altered state of mind due to one form of drug or another. Every line was printed into the pages without fear or favor and with all the aggressive and creative passion of an artist, a father, a Yard Boss or a meat cutter, a rpoduce buyer or an art teacher, an environmentalist of a traveler, a struggling Muslim or a Zen master wanna be; I was at one time or another all of these.
I invite you to become a aprt of my journal with your comments and creative thoughts as I go along rambling my mind away, if nothing else I hope you enjoy reading what I am laying out for you, your questions and criticism is fully appreciated.

The 1986 SF Journal

To set off the momentum for my rambling let me first share with a quotation I discovered stuck to one of my journals dated 1986, a small book full of thoughts and ideas drawings and sketches, random musing of life and its dichotomis.

"I forsook intellectual understanding in favor of a knowledge that would be stronger than perception, strong enough to fill the time alloted to man ... to fill his short term on earth with an almost blissful waiting, a knowledge redeemed from oblivion ... year after year has gone by since I abandoned the findings of painstaking scientific research, restored now to my own, life joyless yet happy... And now that I wish to write it down, the unforgettable in the forgotten ... I start out with all the hope of the young and all the hopefullness of the old, wishing to gather in before it is too late the meaning of all that has happened and of all that is yet to happen"
- from the foreward of ...

The Spell by Herman Broch.

This journal from which I am starting off my ramblings was done while I was living in San Francisco and working as a Yard Boss for H&H Ships and Environmental Services located at China Basin and Third Street. The above article was found in one of the news papers in the Bay Area and stuck on the inside of the book cover, I always liked what it said as it echos my sentiments as to what or why I am exposing my life to the world. Within this small journal is contained the very essence of my thoughts and feelings and the artworks reflects my deepr emotions. It reveals even to me today how my mind has been on the same track pretty much over the years and it seems like I am still persuing the ultimate unkonwn and looking for answers that are not there. Trying to make sense out of non-sense, piecing together what broken pieces of mylife over the years moving like a rolling stone gathering little of whatever was able to stick on to my memory for better or for worse, this is the story of my life in the great City of san Francisco.

The Move

One evening while standng side by side at the cleaning table of the printmaking shop at the University of Wisconsi, Green bay, Mrs. Rosella Kelly an elderly lady said to me quietly, Sam I think it is time for you to leave. I was stunned for a moment and continued on to clean my copper plate getting it polished till it shone like golden mirror. She continued, you need to go and join my son who has just been ordained a Zen Priest at the Dai-Bosatsu Zen center in New York. My son, Dennis Hasa just been ordained a Zen Priest is going to open his own Zen Center and could use a help and you need help now, Sam go and stay with him. I will call him tonight and tell him you are coming.

That was that, my whole future was decide for me that evening by this Grandma while we were busy scrubbing our copper plates getting them ready for our etching project. I did not even ask her why or what for as deep within I knew the answers as well as she did. I knew that my time at the University was up and my time in Green Bay was coming to a close and I was being offered a way out of the mess I was in and and the change that I needed badly in my life then. I went home getting myself psyched up for the unknown that laid ahead, weighing all the options I had left for me if I had or had not. The final word came down to yes, I have to take on this offer and make my move out of the stagnated existance i was in. It was an offer that came out of the blue and at a time when I least expected and from someone who I had come to love like my own mother.
I started packing and it was not difficult as i never had much to begin with and i said my fair well to my friends and loved ones before the night was over and everone knew that Sam was leaving for New York! However that was not to be, Rossie called me late that evening to inform me that her son was going to San francisco instead and will open his 'Zen - Yoga Center' there. I am to go there if I wanted to join him and i was given an address on how to get in touch with him when I arrive in San Francisco. With one phone call my life was again set upon a different course, instead of the East Coast I was sent to the West Coast of the Unted Staes to start my life anew. It did not make too much difference for me East or West I could not tell the difference as to what the future held in either place and I knew no one that I could contact for that matter.
I left Green Bay after saying my godd byes to everyone including my mother -in- law and her brother whose life I had shared for as long as I had lived in this MidWestern Town and my friends at the University students services departments who were like my own family having cared for me in my times of need. My Proffessors and mentors, Clarry nelson Cole, Bill Prevetti, Mike Kazar and Bob Pum, The Registrar Mr. Ron Dewey, the Dean of Students Mr. Gary Olson and Bob Pritchard of the student services, Mr. Alan Hautamaki of the student councelling and most of all Barb Schmelling of the Bursar's office who had been my support in more than financial matters. I felt even then that I might not be seeing these people anymore once i left and I had spent eight years of my life living among them and many others in Green Bay. My landlord Mr. Leon Lodl of Humboldt Road, and the Sule family of Hickory Hill Drive, the Farrs of Duck Creek, these are people who had helped shape my life while living in Brown County, Green bay area. I think it was Mark Twain who said that, 'There are those who grief to see you leave and those who breath a sigh of relief." I had both these group of people.

I remember standing on the treshold of the San Francisco Airport and hesitating to step out. With my bagpack on my back and a large portfolio in one hand filled with my prints and drawings I had almost turned around back into the terminal when I bumped right into a bald headed Buddhist priest who had big stick in his hand and wore a white robe like a Chnese opera performer. We spontaneously bowed to each other apologizing and I watched him headed for a black Limo waiting outside. I asked his assistant an American who the priest was and he told me that the priest was Rev. Soen Sa Nim a Korean Zen master who would be giving a talk at the Empty Gate Zen Center in Berkely (first time i heard of Berkeley too), that evening. He gave me a phamplet about the event and I still kept it till this day in my sketch book!

"Zen is Understanding yourself", was the heading written on it.

On the flip side was an anecdote;

Coming empty- handed, going empty handed - that is human.
When you are born, where do you come from?
When you die, where do you go?
Life is like a floating cloud which appears.
Death is like a floating cloud which disappears.
The floating cloud itself originally does not exist.
Life and death, coming and going, are aslo like that.
But there is one thing which always reamins clear.
It is pure and clear, not depending on life and eath.

The chance stumbbling upon this Zen master from Korea at the San Francisco Airport terminal gate upon my arrival was of great significance, it was like a premonition of things rto come in my life and with the Zen Buddhist Way. My journey from then on became a Zen quest for the next decade as my life in San francisco was very much from then on intertwined with Zen practices. Although I never made it to the Empty Gate Zen Center or listened to Soen Sa Nim's spill on Zen, but i did find my way to the Berkeley Zen Center where I was refused lodging for the night ans instead was instructed to try 300 Page Street, the San Francisco Zen Center. Till this day I still remember the face of the man who turned me away without so much as lifting his face from the San Fracisco Chronicle News Paper he was reading. I was a colored guy just off the street and was of no significance to this gate keeper. He was bald headed and had thick glasses on and I later got to know him very well to his utter embarasment. Before i left the page Street Zen center i caught sight of the Zendo where a huge painting of the Bodhidharma hung and swore to myself that I would be back and later when I joined the Zen Center as a student as Green Gulch farm I returned and sat a seven day Sesshin in the same Zendo.

I met up with Dennis Kelly eventually after a few days of running around San francisco and spending whatever was left of my meagre pocket money. I was arranged to stay with his brother Patrick Kelly at one point, another interesting man who was also an artist. Later when I moved to Sausalito to be with Dennis I was put up at his friend's house on the hill of Sausalito overlooking the Marina. Sausalito was like a movie town where everything was just as perfect as it should be in shape and design, in sound and taste. It was where the rich and famous drop in every so often to pass the time seeing and being seen. It was where Alan Watts the Englishman Zen master had his house boat it was where the sound of seagulls fighting and speed boats racing, bicycles clicking and laughter filled the air, that was Sausalito.
Dennis and I eventually moved to Corte Madera where he rented two classrooms and together we converted it into a Zen-Yoga Center. Dennis called it Kazeon Zen-Yoga Center. It was located at 20, Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur, California. Denis Junpo Kelly became the Director or the Center where free classes were offered in Zen as well as Yoga practices every evening. Denis's Yoga was called Astanga Yoga where he had learned from the great Yoga Master Ayangar in India for three years. Physically Denis was tall and solid in form and with his bald head and thick glasses it would take Kenu Reeves to play his part if they make a movie of his life. Denis was as interesting and well rounded character as they come and he drove fancy cars and owns his own health store that I knew of among other things. But here was a man who turned his life around and decided to make good what was not so good in his past and I believe he succeeded.
One of the first thing I was asked while driving towards Green Gulch one day was "Bahari, What is the imperturbable Mind?" Out of the blue, Denis shouted this at me and I was stuck with this question eversince, this was my KOan, my Mondo, the fireball in my guts that has kept burning for and answer. I could not give him any reply and never did but my sketchbook was filled with this question.
" What is the imperturbable mind?
Its eleven fourteen,
The moon reflecting on the leaves,
The sound of night.
An empty Calistoga bottle,
I blow my nose.
Sleep dont come easy,
Perhaps I should do some Pranayama,
A little Zazen.
Its eleven Fifty nine, almost midnight!
What's an imperturbable mind?
The moon reflecting on the leaves,
The sound of an aeroplane,
An empty Calistoga bottle
and I blow my nose.

Denis took me up north once all the way to Oregon where he and I stayed at a cottage in the Oregon Redwood Forest. There I was drilled day in day out with his 'Guerilla Yoga' and Rinzai Zen sitting meditation. It was the most mind oppening experence for me and a privillage to be where I was as the place seemed like a millionaire's retreat with wine cellars and all. I spent my free time exploring the area and marveled at the cost of building such a place out in the middle of of nowhere. I never asked him nor did he tell whose house it was after the retreat I felt a very healthy respect for the man for he had class. Not only does he impressed one with having the drive but he also made you felt like nothing was impossible in this life if one is up to it.
I was not up to it at the time, I was not ready to give up my ego and my baggage that I had been lugging on y back from Green Bay or even further back in time as from Malaysia. I was still wrapped in anger and ignorance at the world that i had the impression had wronged me one way or another.
One day while showing me a Yoga posture Denis pulled my arm which was strecthed across my chest a little too hard and it gave me a sharp searing pain. The pain went off almost immediately and I thought nothing of it. Then after i was home and almost asleep i woke up with a sharp searing pain in my chest that made it impossible to breath. I panicked and struggled to breath thinking that I was having a stroke. I tried to scream for help but could not and at the same time knew that I was alone in the house which was shared with four others and it being a new year's eve no one was home but me. I struggled to breath but I felt like my rib cage would not move and tried as I may I felt like my chest was on fire! My body was half raised from the phuton I was sleepin on and I was hanging there in not being able to move up or down. I was desperate and crying to myself imagining all sorts fears, I was not ready to die, no one from my family knew where I was and so on. Then I was looking out the window and in the dim light I noticed a suirrel sitting on a pine branch and I tought to myself, Ya Allah, if this is death I accept it.
Band my face hit the wooden floor with a smack and I laid ther for God knows how long untill I started hearing a soft hissing sound like a whistle getting louder and louder as it got to my nose it felt like a small worm crawling into my nose and I realized that I was breathing! I tred to breath harder and again I was caught by this incredible pain in my chest that refused to allow me to breath and fear again attcked me! Then a small voice whispere in my mind, dont panic, let the breathing happen, let it breath dont try to help! I found my body slowly taking in air alittle at a time and as I was watching this happening I felt my body slowly lifting itself off the floor and turning to rest itself on my back. It took sometime before i was fully at rest on my back back but i could feel the pain lingering in my rib cage like the ribs were glued together and even the slightest effort at breathing sends sharp searing pains all through my chest cavity.
I spent the next month or so visiting the Marin County Hospital and the X-Ray photos showed that half my chest was filled with fluid. The doctor had to use a six inch long shrynch pierced through my back to draw out the fluid which looked like the color of urine when extracted. The doctor told me that I had torn ligaments in my ribcage and the fluid build up is like the fluid found when one has big cuts, it helps to protect the wound. I suffered hell in the form of pain that I could not describe and had to take V-codin to kill this pain laying down and getting up from my bed was a torture and I felt alone, angry and most of all afraid. I lost my faith in Denis and the practice and I aimed my anger and desperation at him.
It was the day when Eido Shimano Roshi arrived at Corte Madeira from New York to officiate the oppening of the Kanzeon Zen- Yoga Center and I sat outside the Zendo listening to them chanting inside. My head was spinning after taking one Codin too many and I stepped into the Zendo and grabbed the 'Junko Stick' from the stand turned around and brought it down on the Roshi's head stopping a fraction of an inch from his protecting hands. He whispered to me its OK, its OK. Denis shouted at me and I laid the stick back where I got it from and bowed to the Roshi and walked over to the side of the altar and laid down. The whole ceremony broke off and i was taken home with Denis laying it thick on me. My relationship with Denis Junpo Kelly came to an end that day and i was told later that Eido Shimano Roshi does not want me ever to be in Dai-Bosatsu Zen Center in New York. I told Denis to take me to Green Gulch Farm as I had nowhere else to go and that was how I came to be in Green Gulch! From the potential of being a Rinzai Zen student I became a Soto Zen adept instead.
Deep down I felt of no intention of causing any harm to the Roshi when i struck him but I did it out of shere frustration and pain and I did it through some unknown reason that till this day defies my own sense of justification. What would have happened to me if I had remained a loyal student to Denis and the Rinzai school today? Ha! Hard to imagine myself a full fleshed ordained Zen priest and Yoga instructor! I could have easily been one had i persisted but something and I believe the Muslim in me revolted against the idea as i today remain a Muslim. It is not that Zen Buddhism or Buddhism is good or bad but it was only meant to be a lesson for me to learn, an experience for me to understand first hand of who I am. Had the Roshi been true to his belief and practice had Junpo Kelly been awakened enough to gasp my insane action I would today msotprobably be just like him an ordained monk or even an Abbot somehwere. But it was just another nonsensical act of a deranged mind as it turned out to be simply because...perhaps i did not understand the Imperturbable Mind.
The sword of Manjushri cuts both ways through our ignorance and wisdom and when it was used to shatter the mind of the Roshi he was afraid more than awakened but he too knew i was not there to hurt him but just to wake him up from whatever dellusions he was into at that time of his life, (read the papers). My respect for Denis has not changed and will be forever indebted to him for his generousity and kindness and grateful for all that he has taught me and over the years on looking back I still could not find it in me to blame him for any wrong doing. I demostrated the imperturbability of my mind in front of a congregation of Zen wannabe students and it backfired on me such Is!
In 1992 Junpo Kando Denis Kelly went on to be a certified Zen Master in the Rinzai tradition and spent five years as Vice Abbot of the Dai-Bosatsu Zen Center in the Catskill Mountains, New York and currently serve as the Head teacher for the Green Tara Buddhist Community in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In 1999 he founded The Hollow Bones lay order for men and women a national Buddhist organization that offers meditation retreats around the United States. That's my man! I am still wondering what Rossie must have told him after he told her what had happened between us.

"Hollow Bones is pure Zen Understanding, practice and insight, stripped off its oriental cultural context profoundly deep, at the same time most practical and ordinary...
In this school of Zen (Rinzai Zen) you are invitewd and challenged to awaken now and there is a compassionate, but fierce insistance that you do so. Meditating, sitting quietly is not enough you must awaken. You must become free. You must answer the question. "Who are you?" from the depth of realization (direct experience) not speculation or faith."

An aproport statement taken from the Hollow Bones Code of Ethics and TEAR Council which addresses me personally...
" All people have the responsibility to investigate their own motivations and intentions, and to directly intervene with courage and integrity to do that which is consistent with their realization and insight through ethical reasoning. Intervening in our own internal reasoning process is necessary due to our human capacity for self deception and rationalization."

I have rediscovered Denis Junpo Kelly after twenty five years and from the picture in the webpage where I got these quotes Junpo Kelly loks like he has not changed much and still going strong.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Gate

Ramblings of the Cheese burger Buddha is an on going flow of thoughts and ideas that one man has traveled in the effort to live this span of time on this God given planet, it is the carthasis of my living the life of an Artist a father and as a caring and concientious citizen of the universe. This Buddha has been awakened after a long nap among the sleepers and now am ready to take on life with all its realities and Illusions!

This is my life, my search for the meaning of life and becoming one again with that which matters or that which has been creating matters ithroughout my journey in the land of Maya. I am sharing this piece of my incarnation with you whoever or whereever you are knowing me or not, I am hoping that my search will help you and yours and that you will share yours with me that I will learn a thing or two fom you.