Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The trip is on

Today my mother in law called from illinois and informed that she would purchase the plane tickets for my wife and kids and it would happen in two weeks or so. I am relieved needless to say as it takes a load off my mind. Now it is a matter of psyching my mind up to face the upcoming journey back to the the land of Lincoln and beyond. It has been almost ten years since I was last in the States and I look forward to returning. I left San Francisco in 1995 for Japan where my family and I lived for three years before moving here from Japan. Japan was a good transition place for me after living in the US for 21 years of my life.

I was 25 years of age when I left Malaysia in 1973 with my first wife and son who was then 4 months old and on looking back I realize that I have traveled around the globe four times in my life so far. My first destination in the US in 1973 was Green Bay, Wisconsin and I lived in the Pecker country for eight years of my life where I worked as a boner or meat cutter for 3 years to get myself off the ground and what a vocation it was for one who has never seen snow in his life to be working at during those years. It was demeaning and dehumanizing to the mind and body but it was the most effective job for one who needed some form of character building having come from a culture that was not so well equipped to face the harsh reality of being in a red neck country like Green Bay. I slowly but gradually became a regular drunk and a peckerhead. Green Bay was one major lesson in life its ups and down and working in the packing houses was definitely a downer that created a man out of me. A few years down the road I was divorced and living like a bum on my own.

Ya Hey! Green Bay! Bart Starr and the Packers, chicken booyah and Old Style Beer.

I remember living out on a farm on Humboldt Road with my landlord Mr. Leon P Lodl a unique man in his own way. He educated me into becoming more of a gentleman instead of the mixed up Malaysian kid that I was. He taught me how to drink wine instead of guzzling down beer by the barrel and turned me on to Jazz and classical music. We used to drive up north to Iron Mountain, Michigan where Leon owned a church and was in the process of turning it into a ski lodge. On these trips I saw some of the most beautiful country especially during the fall seasons. I will never forget standing on top of one of the world's most tallest ski ramp and looking down at three different States and Canada when the leaves were changing colors, it was like a sea of colors all around me and I still remember telling Leon when he asked me if I could paint the view that only God can paint such colors.

Later I was talked into joining the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay where I spent five years of the best time of my life getting a degree in Fine Arts. Through the university program called the University Without Walls I was able to travel to England, South America and back to Malaysia. In a way travelling from one country to another has always been in my blood and I love it. I have been very fortunate for some reason to be able to move around and live in different parts of the world and I hope this will keep on happening till I am too old to do it anymore. For now I am looking forward to seeing the good old Mid West again, the corn fields and the sylos, the lazy summer months and the frigid cold winters. Asta Lavista Malaysia.

when it rains it pours

This evening upon returnig from picking up my son from his school, my wife was talked into letting my daughter drive our car to the house from the main road and my daughter who had never driven before slammed the car against a coconut tree when she failed to make the final corner towards our house. I was watering the plants when this happened and I heard the car coming down the road faster than it should and when I caught a glimpse of the car coming around the corner I told myself that my wife has finally flipped as she was not going to make the curve at that speed. Sure enough the car made straight for the coconut tree and I was too stunned to even move. The first thing that came to my mind was , there goes our plane fares to the US. I was counting on selling the car to pay for our trip to the States as this was the last item we have that would buy the fares for the four of us.

Then I saw my daughter scrambbling out of the driver's sit crying and followed by my wife from the rear sit, Iwas even more surprised and did not know if I should be angry or just let it go. I continued to water the plants and let things settle down a little before walking over to check the damage. My son was sitting in the front sit like he was not sure what was going on. A couple arrived on a motorcycle and after explaining what had happened I borrowed a hand phone and called my friends for help. We managed to pull the car out of a small ditch where the front tyres had sunk into and evaluated the damage. It was decide that repairs can be made without involving the insurance claims and thus save the premium from being raised.

I do not know if the damage caused by the accident would lower the sale value of the car or not but needless to say I felt like I am being taken through the ringer as one shit after another kept pelting me like the saying when it rains it pours. Oddly enough I did not feel too much anger over the whole incident and help came without too much trouble eventhough it was late in the evening. Being Muslims my friends told me that this was yet another test from the AlMighty. I am beginning to wonder if it will ever end or what else lies in store for us before the AlMighty decides that we had enough. I am greatful that my wife and children were not hurt in the accident.

Friday, April 22, 2005


When all else fails, when you are down and nothing seems to fit, it is time to change said the Prophet. He called it making a Hijrah or a move a relocation or as we in modern times would have it, it is time to move on. I am about to take my next leap of faith and at my age I am not as confident as I used to be but change has to happen for only by making a drastic change can I skip out of this mud hole that I am bogged in at present.

I am planning to move my whole family back to the United States where I hope it would be easy on my wife in her present condition. Hopefully being among those who speak her language and being with her close friends and her relatives she might suffer less. One of the main causes of her dementia is due to not being able to communicate her feelings as most of our friends here do not speak English, it must be a very lonely feeling for her. I am beginning to feel guilty for bringing her here from Japan where she was happy living and working among the Japanese. But I did not anticipate such a turn in her life here and I guess no one could for that matter as she was happy here before her problem started to materialize.

I have no regrets however, for the past six years we have lived here and enjoyed some good times especially the peaceful environment that the east Coast of the Malay Peninsular had to offer. It has not been a profitable place for me as an artist even though I was able to create some artwork but then this is not a place for artists. My children have grown to discover their father's country and culture and have done quite well in their primary education. All in all it is a good time to weigh anchor and set sail for the new horizon. What lies beyond who knows and what lies in store for us back in the US only God knows but change is inevitable.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Incomplete Life

"In the true teaching of Lord Buddha, Complete Enlightenment is made of incomplete enlightenments. This means that in the heart of your daily mindful actions, thoughts and speech, complete enlightenment is already there, you should not strive to look for Complete Enlightenment anywhere else."
Thich Nhat Hanh's Foreword to
Complete Enlightenment
By Cha'n Master Sheng yen

My life I have come to realized has always been a series of incompletes and during my college years I was constantly reminded this by my mentor and instructor the late Bill Prevetti of the UWGB Art faculty and my final diploma still carries one or two incompletes that has cost me my grade point average. I am not proud of myself for these weaknesses of character and till these days I still cannot seem to find myself to complete any project or undertakings to a successful completion. It is like a curse that has been haunting my life ever since I learned about it and so now that I am old and ugly enough to know better I am making it my practice to see to it that whatever I do I am making sure that it comes to a completion. Even if Complete Enlightenment is contained within every incomplete enlightenment of our daily life words, thoughts and deeds, it is still important that every once in a while, we try to touch this essence of Complete Enlightenment, even if it is merely at the Satori level.

The Buddha is said to have said that we are all enlightened beings we were enlightened before we were even conceived in our mother's womb. However we have forgotten how to remain being enlightened we have all of us succumbed to greed, hate and ignorance. In the process of being born and raised and in the process of leaping and hopping through this so called life we have accumulated these negative traits forgetting how it is to be charitable, compassionate and wise. Most of us rediscover these virtues not until it is too late that it matters anymore, when the damage is done and the die is cast. We then spend good deal of our end of days regretting and fretting over what we could, should or aught to have done and in the Buddhist arena of existence we return as cats and dogs instead of enlightened beings.

In the Judeo, Christian and Islamic sense of heaven and hell as our final reward we are given the option to repent and our Compassionate Maker is ever ready to forgive and forget if we genuinely are repentant. Our after life is decided based upon what we sow in this life and how much we regret having sewn bad seeds. We are constantly monitored by two angels recording our acts both good and bad and how much we remember our original nature in relation to our Creator or how grateful we are towards His benevolence. This is one of the virtues that Islam has in making us pray at least five times a day, that we remember and that throughout the day we can say thanks for what we receive and atone for our wrong doings. Having done this five times a day at least we stand less chances of repeating our bad habits or enlighten us of our moral virtues reminding us of our fragility and impermanence, that one day we all will have to face Him and answer our every words, thoughts and deed throughout or life.

Early this morning as I sat facing the rising sun as it appears over the horizon of the South China Sea I discovered my new Koan or Zikrullah "Inna Lillah Hi wa' inna lillah hi Ra ji'un". As the blazing sun pierced the center of my forehead in between my eyes I thought to myself that I was going to commit suicide of my thinking mind, the mind that constantly harassing me with its discourses, its ramblings, its lament and justifications, this mind that is buried in layers of ignorance. I envisioned the bright light burning in my forehead as I closed my eyes as burning away the nagging idiot while I chanted my new found Mantra which simply means, 'From Him I come to Him I return".

Does it work? Hell No! I am still here writing down these senseless thoughts justifying myself of every thoughts and action that I do or have done or intend to do. Trying to make sense out of non - sense, creating more waste out of accumulated garbage like there is no end to it. It is a Muslim practice to say this Koan or line every time you here of someone's death, like when you are told that so and so just passed away and you say 'from Him you came and to Him you return'. This helps us to remind ourselves of whom or where we originally came from and again how fragile and impermanent we are lest we forget. Being conscious of our final demise can be a sobering feeling knowing that it all boils down to being buried six feet underground, food for worms and bugs, it helps to bring us down to earth so to speak. If we are the least spiritually awaken we stop and smell the roses before the sense of smell is no more, or at least we check our ego that is constantly living the life Riley like there is no end to it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Bell Master

For those who have taken the time to read this ramblings thus far it may seems like I have nothing better to do with myself but to air out my dirty laundries for the world to see. You are not far from the truth and as a matter of fact I am confessing myself wholeheartedly for the sins I have committed and if by now you are still not turned off stick with me for you might still learn a thing or two from all these. I will not be able to divulge the whole truth as some of it may be too discriminating against me in the eyes of the law both in this life and in the hereafter or it might hurt those who were involved. I am walking on thin ice and safety warrants that I thread with care.

In the study of Zen Buddhism the Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh has made the greatest impact on my life. This small frail looking monk once appointed me the' Bell Master' as he called it while doing a retreat at Green Gulch Zen Community in Sausalito, California. He decided that since I liked to ring the bell so much often at the wrong times I should be given the task of ringing the bell every fifteen minutes while he was giving a class and when the bell is rung everyone was required to take a deep breath and clear their heads for one minute of silence.

It was during a ten day Vaipasana retreat and one day I decided that I was too tired to join the sitting meditation and decided to take a nap instead. In my sleep I had a dream and I dreamt that I was crouched in a corner among some rocks overlooking the whole Green Gulch valley facing the Pacific Ocean. It was as though I was hiding and as usual up to my mischief. I decided to give a loud yell or Kiai at the Universe and as I did so I watched to my horror as the hills around me started to shake and those at Muir Beach near the ocean started to crumble and fell into the sea. I became scared wondering what my practice leaders would do to me if they found out what I had done. Then I began to realize how stupid and paranoid I had become that I should worry about what these individuals would say or do when I could bring the hills down with one loud roar. I woke up from my dream immediately and went to the big bell hanging from the tree outside the meditation hall and started banging on it while about seventy to eighty people were sitting in deep meditation inside the hall. When I was done I went back to my room and lay down. After a while the Tanto or practice leader came and knocked on my door and peered into my room. "Are you all right?" was all he said and left me.

Later many of my fellow practice students came and told me that what I did had awakened them from their slumber as most of them were falling asleep at their seats. I was never punished for what I did except for the reprimand I got from the Vietnamese monk who made me the Bell Master. On one occasion I had the opportunity to meet him one on one for a Dharma talk and I asked him what I should do with my life. He told me to continue on being who I am and that I should consider about becoming a Buddhist monk. Having found out that I am from Malaysia he also asked me if I could help him make contact with the Vietnamese refugees or the 'Boat People' who were interned on the island off the Terengganu coast. I told him I would gladly do it as one of my sisters worked as a nurse there (This was sometime in1984-86). Incidentally the island called Pulau Bidong is visible from where I am living today and as a matter of fact as I am typing this on my lap-top I could see the island but for some trees blocking my view. Thus every time I walk to the beach or drive out of the road that leads to my present home I am reminded of my Zen Teacher the Vietnamese Monk,Thich Nhat Hanh.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Living the day

My wife is slowly drifting away from the normal day to day life of what she used to be like and I am concerned more than ever on how to cope with the future in being able to care for her. She has just been terminated from her job which she has great passion for after teaching ESL for more than twenty years in the US, Japan and now Malaysia. My wife has developed a form of dementia possibly alstzheimer's. She has yet to be officially diagnosed but I am almost positive this is what it is. Living among the Malays offcourse the possibilty of her being hexed or charmed by jealous co-workers is another possibllity but being western enducated I am skeptic about such ideas.
It is sad to watch someone who shares your life for the past thirteen years through thick and thin and having moved to three different countries in the process wasting away into la la land. But I have made the ptomise to late father-in law that I would care for her and this I intend to keep. This will become my main ingredient for my compost pile in my life. My two children are handling the situation amiarably as they come to grips with the fact that their mother is slowly loosing her marbles.Now I have to make some drastic changes in our lives to face the future and one of them is making the choice of where to live, here in Malaysia or relocate back to the US as my wife and children are American citizens.
My wife is originally from Colombia, Illinois, across the Missippi from ST.Louis but for some reason she has been very reluctant to return to her hometown. I have never been to Colombia but I Guese it is not much different from Green Bay, Wisconsin where I have lived for some eight years of my life. One of my option is to move the family to Colombia Ill. despite my wife's trepidations where hopefully her mother and friends can help us out with keeping her company at the very least. It is a tall order to ask of anyone these days as people are not as sympathetic or caring as they used to be, at least this is what I am finding out.Blame it on Globlization, the state of the economy, the millenium, the terrorist, blame it on anything but the fact is becoming apparent that when you are down you loose more than just your wealth.
So today after watering my compost piles I am sitting here blogging my thoughts hoping that somewhere out there a soul or two would shed some light upon my dark days here.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Composting for Life

We came into this world full of it and depart with even more, shit, that is. All through our lives we create and add more shit to our lives untill comes a time when we hardly know what to do with the load and as the American would say we find ourselves 'up shit creek without a paddle'. Well shit aint all that bad if we know what to do with it other than bury it for posterity and one of the most profitable use of shit is in composting.

When I was a child growing up in Penang, west Malaysia, I used to watch the Chinese Night Soil Carrier lug around buckets full of shit from the outhouses around my neighborhood and thought how disgusting it was. The smell the very thought of removing human waste itself was beyond my imagination untill I learned later in my life that the shit that was removed was later used to fertilize the vegitable garden which grew fat and healthy vegetables sold at the local market where my grandmother shopped. This is the ultimate in Zen scatology, the essence in recycling of waste materials.

This morning I was watering my compost piles made up of chicken and cow droppings. It is not as bad as the human manure to deal with but none the less the irony struck home all the same. Now that I am in need to find ways and means to generate some form of income to survive I have ended up with the project of selling shit! Yessir! Shit for sale, compost of highest quality available, guaranteed organic and well researched and ready for use. Such is life, when all else fails and before 'the shit hits the fence', it is inevitable that one can fall back one the most primal of commodities to barter with and it is readily available everywhere. In the process I am also helping out with the environment in the form of the ultimate in recycling.

Just as I am selling my mental waste that I am processing at this moment on to my blog, processing the compost materials behind my house is no more different. Who would buy this piece of garbage that I am writing? Perhaps just as I wonder who I could sell to my organic compost the idea of my writng this material would someday find an unlikely market. But it is all in making it happen, you either do it or you dont. If you do it chances are you have made an existensial difference in the world in one form or another and if you dont it all remains an idea and ideas have the tendency to disappear while manifesting one's thoughts into action can at least work out your sweat and set your mind at ease having the knowlege that you have yet made another effort for the day.

I spent two years living at Green Gulch Farm in Sausalito California where they grow acres and acres of organic produce that supplies most of the organic food stores and restaurants including the Greens Restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of the best lessons learned while on this job was making the compost piles from left over food and kitchen waste and gathering horse manure by lorry loads from nearby horse ranch. I enjoyed building the compost mounds layer upon layer everyday and watching the compost later in the year being buried in the ground where lettuces and potatoes are grown packed and delivered to the markets. It was a healing process for me to be in touch with the soil especially one that I had a hand in creating. It was more reflective as it was part of my Zen practice in mindfullness. Next to the sitting meditation of Zazen making compost was the most rewarding practice I had at Green Gulch.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Terengganu looking in looking out

Terengganu has a uniquely Malay cultural heritage that has now just about to become extinct due to the narrow mindedness of those who has the ability to influence change cultural or otherwise. These are the so called educated religious intellect and the so called Nationalist who dictates the rights and wrongs of society based upon their perception having been exposed to the Arabic universities in the Middle East wher the uncompromising dictates of the Muslim laws has become their tool of expression and authority. One of such cultural event that has been abolished due to its being in contradictory with the Muslim way is the 'Main Pantai', or the annual ‘Beach Party’ that is celebrated by the locals. For seven days the village folks from the nearby villages would gather along the beach pitching up makeshift huts and tents bringing with them all kinds of wares and food to buy and sell entertaining themselves with all kinds of cultural shows and leisure activities to while their time away. It was a major event in their lives after having worked throughout the year with very little form of entertainment to break the monotony of their daily existence.

Along with this event the art of shadow puppet shows has also become a victim of such similar censorship with the excuse that such activities is not in accordance with the Islamic ways. It is a tragedy of the human spirit where creative expression is being culled by to the collective few who has the authority and the ignorance to do so, all in the name of religion. No one can deny that there is no negative effect to such activities, however even soccer events have its negative effects if one were to look for the negativity in life. Today these cultural events are being replaced by a more government controlled through the media events such as ‘Sureheboh’, where the people are entertained by TV personalities and commercials. The big difference being that there is very little personal involvement of the masses other than as mere spectators. As such it is a wonder that today the Malays who once upon a time were rich with cultural heritage has become culturally depleted.

Tourism is a major money maker in Terengganu with her many island paradise and five star resorts located at every scenic location along the coast as well as the interior, it has become lucrative asset. Sadly enough the economic benefit of this industry does not benefit the majority of the population as most of these attractions caters to rich and visitors from out of state. The locals often has to settle for what is affordable to their means and most of the businesses that caters towards the tourist industry are owned and run by the Chinese who has the means to do so. The local folks end up becoming spectators to what is happening in their own backyard simply because it is beyond their means to be involved.

A friend of mine who used to run a five star resort located in Marang which is about 7 miles south of Kuala Terengganu related an incident when he visited Pulau Redang an island off the coast north of Kuala Terengganu. He was sitting and having a conversation with a Chinese owner of one of the resorts on the island when an elderly Malay man came by sweeping the area close to where they were having the chat. The Chinese owner in a harsh tone drove the Malay man to sweep somewhere else as it was bothering them. Latter my friend met up with the old man and struck up a conversation from which he learned that the Malay man was the owner of the piece of land on which the resort was located and that the Chinese had leased it out from him. Such situation has become more and more prevalent these days and more often than not the Malays would end up becoming the servant on his very own property or worse yet he would end up selling it to the Chinese.

The success of the Chinese in the tourism industry is mainly because of their connections to a ready market such as those tourists that comes from Singapore and Taiwan or even China. Like in about all their business enterprises the Chinese can never loose out as they more than often have an iron clad back up policy. The Chinese can run a business at a loss over a period of time but they will never sell out. Once they have gained a foot hold over a piece of property or business site they will never give it up and sooner or late they will turn around their losses into profits as the surrounding areas develop and their location becomes a strategic location. Until this day the Chinese has been operating their business through mutual support in the form of communal or business consortium a practice that has gone back since the day they landed in the country. They had clans and clubs whose purpose was and still is to help provide a sound financial back up for any business venture their fellow members intends to carry out as such they cannot loose in any venture.

Not so the Malays, the Malays are more of an opportunist and they will use and abuse relationships according to their immediate needs without any remorse or far sightedness. The Malays are prone to get rich quick scams more so than the Chinese as they have the tendency to want to see immediate profits in their ventures. The Malays also are less trusting towards one another when it comes to business dealings, most would trust a non-Malay much more than their own. It is a matter of act that the Malays will never surpass their counterparts the Chinese in business and this is mostly due to the lack of experience and exposure but today more and more Malays are waking up from their slumber and taking stock of their eroding assets. Thanks to the never ending support of the government in its commitment to aid the Malays with their economic woes, the Malays are getting a betting chance at facing the ever increasing encroachment of the Chinese business engine.

The government aids alone will not help to better the Malay lot in business more has to be done with making attitude adjustments towards their ethics and sense of business values especially in relationship towards their potential customers and business partners. It is not their honesty per se that is in question but when to and not to be honest is the problem. Loyalty and integrity in business dealings is another aspect of the Malay personality that has to be modified to create a stronger unity in the Malay business community. The Malays are a caring and giving community when it comes to religious dealing such as in times of death or weddings but when it comes to aiding someone in their financial dealings, greed, hate and delusions take a major role. As one of my neighbors once told me, it is in the nature of the Malays that they like to see their neighbors worse off than they are to have a sense of success and well being.

With the exception of the relatively few who have shed their old garb and adopted the
modern more proactive and less dependant attitude the Malays as a whole has a very long road ahead of them to play catch up with the Chinese in taking charge of the economics of their lives. Sadly enough even the successful one ends up living lavishly succumbing to bigger homes and fancy cars, hanging out with the big boys and having more than one wife. Is it all wrong? No, it is not wrong to want and be able to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor on the personal level, but at the community or national level it a waste of human endeavor as the success story is not shared by the many, it does not benefit the whole, not the family, the community nor the whole. The gap between the haves and the have not among the Malays is ever increasing and what is more aggravating is the fact the fact that the Malays like to show off their wealth and success, like building a castle in the middle of a rice field.

The ambition of a Chinese business man is to build a business empire spanning the globe, The ambition of the Malay entrepreneur is to be awarded the status of a Datuk or better yet a Tan Sri, to drive a Mercedes and Insha’Allah to have four wives not necessarily in that order.

It is no intention of mine to cut down the Malays in their business practice or in anyway at all however I write my observations just as an analyst who has stood outside of the fence and looking into what has become and what was of the community I grew up with. I write with the similar concern one has for the future of this community and that of my own family. Whatever is not accurate or wrong is my own personal errors and what is right and worth dwelling upon is Allah’s. A good percentage of what I write comes from remarks and observations made by my fellow Malays, my friends and foes alike. Debate with me what is debatable and correct me where I am wrong at the very least I will know that there are those of you who are awakened out there.

Furthermore I do not write to frown upon the Chinese and their ways of doing things, they have earned their rights just as anyone else and they have earned their success through thick and thin. My respect for the Chinese is no more or less than my respect for the Malays. It is the beauty of this nation that being a multi-racial country we have means to compare and contrast to adopt and adept successful means from one another in our efforts to better our lives and the standard of living for the nation as a whole. This is after all just another rambling of the Cheeseburger Buddha so do not take it too seriously.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Who is Sitting? (Zazen)

Who is Sitting? (Zazen)

I discovered Zen Practice while I was living in Green Bay, Wisconsin and attending the UW-Green Bay taking up Fine Arts studies. The book that most influenced me at the time and drew me into Zen Buddhism was “The Way of Zen” by Alan Watts. Later I was introduced to the works of Robert Aiken (SP?) and Gary Zukav among others. I have always considered myself a born Buddhist and later converted to Islam at the age of twelve and so these books spoke to me with greater meaning when I reflect upon the days while I was growing up in Penang where I had to study Buddhism at the Mahindrama Buddhist Temple one of the oldest if not the oldest Hinayana Buddhist Temple in Malaysia. My uncle who adopted and raised me at that time was a Buddhist and thus I was made sure to attend the Pali classes and memorize the Pali chants every weekend.

I was raised at home in Sungai Pinang, Penang among my Malay relatives who were all of them Muslims and this made it awkward for me even when I was child to have to sneak off to the Temple to study Buddhism and every Friday to join my cousins at the Mosque or learn to read the Koran. Every so often at school my fellow Malay students would call me a Kafir or an infidel and I would hang out with the Chinese and Hidus to avoid being accused. I had to deal with religious prejudice at a very early stage in my life so much so that today it does not bother me what others think of my faith.

Zen Buddhism, especially its Japanese version has a very strong attraction for me because of its down- to-earth-ness and its simple method of discipline. Minus all the temple rituals Zen presented with a common sense approach to tackling life at its basic day to day level to its esoteric concept. Ever since I was exposed to the Japanese culture while in secondary school through Samurai movies I felt an affinity with everything Japanese. Never in my wildest dream did I imagine that one day I would end up living in Japan for three years. However it was at the San Francisco Zen Center in Green Gulch that I really got to know Zen Buddhism up close and personal. I lived and practiced at the Green Dragon Zen Community for almost two years of my life and my take on life was forever changed since then.

I have written in more detail of my life in Green Gulch Zen Community in my journal section of my Gallery Web-site which is still in the making for the last two years. And so I am not going it beyond just letting it be known that I was there and having been there it has given me new insights into my life. In relation to it my life today is much more complex or to put in plain English much more confused. Here I am back in a predominantly Muslim community and raising my two children in the Islamic way a lot of personal beliefs and perceptions that I have comes into question. Again and again Buddhism and Islam takes a collision course and I am trying to circumnavigate my field of consciousness and not to be distracted by the influences of those around me. My goal is to let the two come together in a merging of differences, to reconcile to become a collective psyche rather than a split personality.

There are those of us whose life has taken a detour somewhere along the way and the road we have stumbled on to is the one less traveled, we have been sidetracked and for some odd reason forced to venture into new territories that others are spared. Mine was to travel in search of my true nature, my collective consciousness, my destiny and my soul. I am faced with questions and choices along the way and guided by an inner voice speaking to me and urging me on so that I do not succumb to settling for and easy way out. I have found it harder and harder to accept ready made answers or follow dictums carved in stones, I have to chew hard before I can swallow and more often than not I would end up spitting out or regurgitating thoughts and ideas offered me by words of wisdom handed down through the ages.

I had a vivid dream once where I woke up from the dream scribbling the word eclectic on a piece of paper a word that someone was shouting at me in my dream. “You are an Eclectic!”. I did not know what the word meant or even how to spell it at the time and so I wrote Ekletik so that I did not forget it before I fell back to sleep. I learned of the word the next morning from my host Angelo De Benedetto at whose studio in Central City Colorado I was a guest student this was in 1980 and I was on my trip through the Southwestern States of the US. You have the tendency to collect the best of all possibilities presented to you in life Angelo explained to me as he showed me from a book called the “Book of Secrets” where Eclecticism was at one time a school of thoughts in ancient Greece.

Today after twenty odd years since I dreamt of being called an eclectic I am still
wandering through life picking and choosing what is best for me even though sometimes I feel like I have made more wrong choices that right ones. As a Zen student this would have simply be dismissed as a wrong view because there is no choice to be made, no chooser and no-thing to choose from it is all simply is. My understanding of Zen mind is that it is like the taking of one breath at a time and the next and the next, whatever arises in the mind has no affect to the breathing unless entertained by the one who breathe. Whatever choices or changes taken is the act of will of the one breathing but the breathing continues on regardless of the outcome. Nothing happens when the one who breath disregards or simply observe with bare attention at whatever arises in the mind no thoughts or consciousness and hence no choices or changes is manifested. But the Breather is a like a sponge that sucks up every single thought and images that arises in the mind, the one who breath has the need to justify its existence in relation to the external, the one who breathe has the need to rationalize and be in control of whatever the mind projects.

This is attachment, this is clinging this is the desire to identify and be identified
with the projections of the whole of humanity the collective consciousness. We criticize, we admire , we judge and we honor, we are by nature reactive beings we cannot help it but reach out and touch that which we project or is projected before our mind's eye. We ask questions, we swear upon our dearly departed's grave, we justify oh, yes we need to justify and we stereotype, we are envious and often greedy and we are proud and aloof before those our subordinates, but there a part of us more compassionate than God Himself or more caring than Mother Theresa, we are all of these and more. We are so cluttered in our mind so full in our consciousness that we have a difficult time in recognizing who we are. We identify ourselves with our success and our failures, our strength and weaknesses, we either become self centered our egos puffed up or we turn into a defeatist succumbing to the dictates of events and societal whims. Where goes our Original Nature our Center of Primordial Being our God given Spark of Life, our Soul?

How often do we ask ourselves these questions or do we even take the matter into
consideration in our daily lives? The greater number of us is so busy striving to gain the world loosing our souls in the process with the impeccable reasoning that we will regain our souls when we have enough of what this life can offer and more than often by which time we discover that it is too late. Somewhere along our busy-ness we have accumulated more than we need and buried our souls deep underneath it all. Somewhere along the road we have lost our sense of innocence and awe, our childhood sense of curiosity and adventure, our sense of compassion and understanding, we adopted a doggy dog attitude of screw you and more for me. Our God given intelligence disappears to be replaced by ignorance, our charitable nature becomes a blurry vision of the past to be replaced by greed and when our quest for success fails we loose hope and faith to be replaced by anger and despair.

Who are we? The Ancient have asked this question and the contemporary have about exhausted their inkwell writing about it, delved into it and shouted it out at the masses to awaken, to remain awaken and to become one with our Souls for there is no greater quest in our human life than this. To enlighten ourselves is not a Buddhist idea alone it is a universal concept taught by just about every Beliefs and Religion, we are enlightened beings only we have shrouded our enlightenment with the ignorance of accumulating through greed, hate and delusion instead of through charity, compassion and wisdom.

"What you intend is what you become. If you intend to take as much from life and others as you can, if your thoughts are of taking instead of giving, you create a reality that reflects your intentions. You draw to yourself souls of like frequency, and together you create a taking reality…You see the people around you as personalities who take, rather than personalities who give. You do not trust them, and they do not trust you."

The Seat of the Soul - Gary Zukav.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Terengganu Oh ! Terengganu

I came to this State in 1962 and I was 12 years of age then and when I arrived here I was quite taken by the fact that it was lined with miles and miles of beautiful beaches on one side of the highway and rice fields on the other. This is no more true toady as most of the beaches are crowded by resorts and shalets and the beach itself littered with garbage while on the other side of the road is lined with newly constructed homes some right smack in the middle of what used to be rice fields.

The weather was a little cooler back then too with trees lining up both side of the roads and especially along the beaches there were more trees like the casuarina and the coconut trees but today most of the casuarinas have either fallen into the ocean or chopped down to make way for construction. It is not that I am anti development or progress by any means but it is still sad to see the changes taking place over the years and not for the better at least not for the environment. Where there were once numerous species of birds inhabiting the rice fields and coastal areas today one has to travel all the way into the interior to find any kind of exotic bird or fish for that matter. The turtle species has suffered the most over the years from over harvesting of the eggs for local consumption and from disturbances of their hunting grounds. However today efforts are being aggressively taken to remedy the situation by the State as well as Federal government, (I hope). Fish, the primary source of food and was at one time cheap and available in abundance is today at times more expensive than the big cities like Kuala Lumpur due to export. The fisherment makes better income by sellng their catch to buyers from Singapore and the west coast than selling them locally. The locals today has to make do with not so fresh a catch imported from Thailand.

Terngganu Darul Iman, the Land of Faith where Islam is the predominant religion so much so that you can hear the call to prayer from five different mosques and suraus at any given time. Even most of the Chinese here do not eat pork and they speak Malay as fluently as the Malays with the typical Terengganu Dialect. The people here are almost fanatical when it comes to their religion but not everyone here are hung up on it. Terenggnau a year ago was governed by the opposition or PAS party after the defeat of governing party or the Barisan National (National Alliance) during the 1998 election. I was impressed by the audacity by which the people of Terenggnau rallied together and voted out the federal government afte some 25 odd years of political shanagans. However the repurcussion came swiftly as the the then Prime Minister Tun Mahathir laid down boom on the people of the State of Terenggnau. He first deprived them of the Petroleum Royalties which crippled the state budget and then followed by one cut back after another untill Terenggnau became a Pariah State.

Fortunately today the running of the State government is back in the hands of the Barisan National and after a year of being under the care of the present prime Minister Terenggnau is beginning to awaken from her long dark slumber. Her Menteri Besar or chief minister is a radical western educated action oriented individual and it is with hope that in the next few years would see that this state will surpass all other states in the country in terms of the best place to raise a family.

Terenggnau is located on the east coast of the Malay peninsular along the South China Sea. She has some of the most pristine beaches and a handful of Islands where diving spots are available. Terengganu also has an abundance of wild tropical forest where those who like to explore the rainforest can have a field day. The food is realtively cheap and the people are still realtively hospitable, so if you are looking for a place to spend your next vacation this might be a place for you. I am sure you can gather alot more information of the state from the tourist department via the net if you are trully intrested.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Rebound

There is only so much testing that a man can take I told my friend Rafi yesterday and God is testing me to the max so much so that I flipped while praying the evening prayer. I had finished praying and was in the effort of making my besieging or to put it plainly asking God to lend me a hand like I always do at the end of every prayer and suddenly out of nowhere a par of me just shouted out ... AAHH Enough of This, ... I am begging, and it seems to get worse by the day! I was shocked at the outburst myself as it came out of me so spontaneously. From somewhere deep within me I harbor so much anger and frustration at life that if I were to be alone in this lkife today I would have joined Osama Ben Ladin or just blow myself up or good measure. I mean at present life sucks!

The former Prime minister of Malaysia, once asked what makes a terrorist , he is looking at one except that I am a little too late in my age to be carrying out suicide bombings and so I take my 'Jihad on the Blog!'. I had mentioned earlier that the purpose of my having this blog site is to act as a cartharsis to vent out all my anger and frustrations while at the same time share what is the best of my creative works, after all it is called a rambling of the Cheeseburger Buddha and ramblings it is.

The Telekom called yesterday and gave me a warning that my phone would be cut off unless I pay and this was after I had payed half of what I owed them a week ago. I should saved that money and let them sweat it out of me but I thought I was doing half the right thing. It took them 3 months to install my phone line after I moved into my present house. Their lame excuse when I finally confronted their service men at their ofice here was that they could not locate the house! A phone company that brags about its services and how much profit it makes every end of the fiscal year swears to me that they could not locate the house!

Now I am unable to make the payment for two months and their bounty hunters are ringging my phone with threats of depriving me of the necessity for communiction. So all you good people who calls on me every so often to find out if I am alive or dead please forgive me if I do not call back, this I just a temporary set back untill the next Tsunami hits.

Yes God is testing me and the Buddha would have said that it is my Karmic consequences playing itself out. At my age I am still haggling about life exposing myself to the world of my shortcomings and rationalyizing myself of every mess that I have created in the effort to justify my existance fully acknowledging Lao Tzu's wise words that "A man who justifies does not convince, not even to himself."