Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Being without the car is a pain in the butt and what is more frustraing is the fact that alot has to be done in view of my upcoming shows. I was dropped off at the Penang Library this mornig by my cousin Ahmad Kalam and and by noon i had manged to install all my works for the continuing one man show here. I had my smaller prints and water colors set up a few eeeks ago here but last Sunday i had to borrow them for a dya for the Little Penang Street Market event where fortunately i managed to sell four pieces to my Art gallery owner friend Lee Kai who owns the Alpha Utara Gallery here in Penang. With the four pieces sold I felt a great relief as my next month budget is met with, rent and car payment at least taken care of. I have tried to minimize my basic needs as much as possible although i am still not good at saving where food is concern especially for my children. I remember my mother's advice one day when she told me that is is alright to spend money on food if you can afford it eat well.
yes my car is still at the mercy of the Chinese mechanics and the insurence adjusters, I am suffering while they are wheeling and dealing on how much they can make out off my miseries. Damn them! Dont ever become a victim of an accident in this country or you will suffer to no end while the vultures pick you to pieces. This is my way of letting off some steam because i am not looking forward to the prospect of having to walk from here at Scotland road all the way to the closest bust stand which is most probably at Dato' Kramat Road somewhere. I could call my cousin Md.Kalam to come and pick me up but i hate to be such a burden on him all the time even though he has never said no...I am tired.
It was a pleasant surprise yesterday when my daughter gave me a book on Sufi Healing by Shaykh Hakim Moinuddin Chishti a book she told me a friend of mine had given her for me to read. My friend is a very relifious man who wears the white garb of pious Muslim and his forehead idicates that he has been doing alot of praying from the calouses. He is far from an extremeist and carries on a good converstaion especially on Islam, I enjoy listening to his lecttures and i have learned alot of new lessons while kept reminded some of those that i have already knew. It is indeen strange that such well learned and enthusiastic characters just pops out of the blue and become one's guide for the moment of need. Here is something that I thought I'd share with those who are still taking peeks at my ramblings from the book which I am now reading.
" The Philos of Sufism is best summed in the words of the final Khutbah (sermon) of Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti a month before he passed away...

Love all and hate none.
Mere talk of peace will avail you naught.
Mere talk of God and religion will not take you far.
Bring out all of the latent powers of you being
and reveal the full m,agnificience
of your immortal self.
Be surcharged with peace and joy.
And scatter them wherever you are
and wherever you go.
Be a blazing fire of truth,
Be a beautious blossom of love
And be a soothing balm of peace. With your spiritual light,
dispel the darkness of ignorance;
dissolve the clouds of discord and war
and spread goodwill, peace and harmony among the people.
Never seek any help charity or favors
from anybody except God.
Never go to the courts of Kings, but never refuse to bless and help and bless the needy and the poor,
the widow and the orphan, if they come to your door.
This is your mission, to serve the people...
Carry it out dutifully and courageously,
so that I, as your Pir-o-Murshid,
may not be ashamed of any shortcomings on your part
before the Almighty God and our holy predecessors
in the Sufi order
on the day of Judgement.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On Knowledge

The Great Hadrat Abd al-Qadir al-jilani,may Allah protect his secrets, had this to say about man and his quest for truth;

"Man cannot attain the truth unless he is pure because his worldly attributes will not leave him untill the essence is manifested in him. This true sincerity. His ignorance will only leave him when he receives the knowledge of divine essence. One cannot this with educattion, only the Lord of Truth without intermediaries can teach it. When the Lord MostHigh is Himself the Teacher He gives one the knowledge from Himself... The man who knows must be aware that the child of the spirit which is born in the heart is the meaning of true humanity; that is the true human being. He should educate the child of the heart, teaching unity being constantly aware of unity - leaving this world of matter and of multiplicity, seeking the spiritual world of mysteries, where there is none other than the Essence of The Devine Truth."

When I first embark upon my journey in seeking for answers for myself of things that had been gnawing at my brains I was living in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I worked for three years as a boner or meat cutter in packing houses in Green bay and Milwaukee. It was one one of the the most toughest and at the same ttime dehumanizing job i had ever done. yet I survived for three years untill I realized that I was becoming like the very cattle whose meat i was butchering to make for hamburgers which ends up in supermarkets and burgerstands. I was so affected by my work that i ended up with a devorce and consequently lost the custody of my son. I succumbed to my animal passion like I was the devil incarnate, drunk or stoned everyday after work and womanizing every chance I got, I had no concience or fear of man or God. I know today what it is like to become like a mindless beast holding nothing as sacred and everything as fair game to satisfy my desires as I have taken that road.
My saving Grace came in the form of my devorce as well as my next door neighbor who talked me into quitting the meat cutting industry and take up schooling. According to him I had what it takes to become a student and so left with a broken home and a desperate need to find a remedy for my predicament I took up on his offer and entered the academic life at the University of Wisconsin, at Green bay. I took to schooling like fish to water and I was good at it except for one or two subbects which I failed or had an incomplete simply because I did not like the professors, otherwise i still graduated with a Cum Laude. It was during those years of putting myself through the University that I learned to take charge of my life and got into the more spritual side of my being which had laid dormant eversince I left Malaysia. I was introduced to spitual writings and thinking by my professors and friends and found the beauty in Zen Buddhism as my practice in life then even if i was a Muslim by birth.
Art was my tool of expression and when I was accepted to do my own self design degree through what was then called 'The University Without Walls' offered by the University of Madison, Wisconsin I embarked upon my journey of self discovery. Trhough this program I travelled to many countries and parts of the United States doing my courses for various classes every semester. My travels took me to England and later Germany, Colombia and Equador in South America, to the three South western Staes of New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado while living out of the trunk of an old Chevy Impala and my llast semester was spent in Malaysia where I was able to attend the 'Gawai Hantu' of the Ibans in Sarawak. Throughout my entire trips which often lasted two to three months I kept my mind occupied with books on Religion and philosophy. J.Krishnamurti and Paramahamsa Yogananda, Alan watts and Ram Dass, G.I. Guirdjief and Oespenski, D.T. Suzuki and Trungpa Rinpoche, Carlos Castaneda and various others whos writings and teachings inspired my thirsty way seeking mind. I absorbed knowledge and put them to the test every chance i had.
By the time I graduated from the University I had gathered to myself more than just academic knowledge, I had awakened from my sleep and placed myself on a more arduous journey of self discovery. I continued what I had started in school and kept an on going journal of my encounters, my thoughts and what I had come to understand from them and this I have been doing till this date. It is my hope even as with this blogg that my simple effort of accumulating my experiences in the form of journals, drawings and writngs would become useful for those who have the same inclination to do somthing simmilar to what i have done in their persuit of knowledge. My effort is for those who are on the road towards self discovery towards coming to an understanding of who or what they are. my effort is for those who feel lost as to which way to head on after they have found the knowledge they seek and are looking for what else to look forward to in their progress towards their devinity.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Knowledge and Wisdom

Having spent a decade or two of your life scampering for knowledge for the sake of your status and comfortable niche in your society you should be ready to take on just about anything that life has to throw at you. You have earned the rites of passage to becoming a well rounded educated perhaps intellectually well equipped to be a productive member of society. Everything they taught you in schools, in colleges and at the Universities you have understood and implanted into your memory bank, knowledge is at the tip of your thinking mind. Depending on your strength or choice of subjects that you favor you make the choice to persue this and become a master in the field albeit History, Science, Econimics or Politics etc. You are then set for your career, to put all that you have accumulated accademically and through whatever experiences that came with it you are set to embark upon your adult life armed with knowledge and limited experience to get you by.
You are confronted by the questions that arises every corner and every turn you make, every attempt and every decision you have to make and every person and every environment you are confronted with. You accounter them and you move on as there is little else there is that you can do in this life but to just move on no matter what right or wrong decission that you have made. We all have a goal in life know it or not we all have to live so long as we breath this air that we take in and out,like it or not and then some of us make great decissions to accomplish greater goals and some just don even realize their goals even if they had any other than just to stay alive and take care of those in their charge. Which is you? What is your role? What is your Goal? What is your scam or your scheme in this so called life that we all live.

These are the questions that man has been wrestling with since the day someone asked him a silly thing like who the Hell Are You? Who am I? What am I? Where am I, how far or how near am I? This to most of us humans with our God given Human Minds (Humind), is our next phase of knowledge, a journey of looking into who we really are, not just as a Malay or a Chinese or an Indian or a Malaysian, not Just as Piyadasa or Will Chamberlain or Geroge Bush or or Mahatma Gandhi. Who are you in the scheme of things in this whole complex nature of this so called planetary system, this Creation, who are you or what are you? *If I ask you to point out to me where you are really are located at where would you point? Your chest, your heart? Is the finger pointing is it not you? The point of this whole "Rambling of the Cheeseburger Buddha" is to answer this question of who am I? Why am I here in the first place like a watcher of an epic saga of a deteriorating planet coming to pieces at its seams from its microcosmic atomical structures to its cosmic univesal nature and what can I do about it?

They are running the Olympic torch to China and it has been a rough run for most of the part and what can the only man who can put on hold in all these do? The Dalai Lama should take a lesson or two from the late Mahatma Gandhi, perhaps fast himself to death if all these crap dont come to an end. What do the Chinese want with a country like Tibet, is there oil? MInerals worth exploring into or is it purely a matter of mass egotistical adventure of domination of one Nation over another as a show of Power? China can have Tibet in more productive way than she can ever imagine if the Dalai Lama were allowed to return and run the country, put it back on its former glory as a Buddhist Vajrayana center for the whole world. What has Chine to offer otherwise that can outclass the Tibetan Buddhist Attraction in terms of Religious or tourist attraction? Why are we humans so wrapped up into self agrandizement and domination over others the moment we are endowed with a sense of power. Perhaps one of the answers is the fact that only us humans are involved in Arms Sales for the annihilation of our fellow man. The latest the most sophisticated the most precisive of weapons are being produced every mintue of every day every where on this planet because Arms is the most lucrative business next only to drugs in this life and times of our evolution as homosapiens. We are the mocrobes the will eventually eat eachother out of existance if the planet still holds together. Do You Care??
Who are You? In this scheme of things?

Millions of lives will be lost in the near future when food shortages hits the streets and the climatically caused disasters carry on to spin out of control due to our insatiable demands for more and better and faster mode of heading towards our self destruction. Nations will eventually turn upon one another for reasons even the Gods would cry with laughters because it has become too rediculous to do anything else about wars that are fought in their names or wars that are fought because of beliefs and faiths or an 'Ism'. Man the wisest of all God's creatures cannot forgive and forget his own brothers and sisters for thie lack of understanding or their weaknesses and yet ckaims himself to be the Caliphs on this planet, God's warden to care for His creation, the Bodhisatvas of compassion and Infinite Wisdom serving to eliviate human sorrows and suffrings in this Dhama Ending Age, this End of Days this Kali Yuga where the dark clouds od chaos and Anarchy is looming upon the horizon for us all.

If one look up at the sky on a stary night one would come to realize someday that if God were to award a bright shiny star for each and every one of us, there would be more than enough stars to go around, Thy Lord has created things in abundance. But we are too ignorant to see, to imagine to envision this simple 'Law of Abundance', that just about every Religion or ancient thoughts and Philosophies has handed us down. We are sucked into our self serving, our petty vested intrests and our tribalistice, my race is the greatest race on earth, my bloodline is the purest, my ancestors could walk on water, my religion is the only religion that will deliver, I want what is yours but leave my shit alone, kind of attitude; we are nailed to the floor by our ignorance! This is the final end our knowledge based human development and our children and their childre's children will inherit this at its worse as the negative energies it generates over time will become so fermanted that it will cause an internal combustion or explode!

Ignorance is the third or our human illnesses after Greed and Hate or in any given order for that matter. Knowledge alone without the spiritual development of the heart and soul of man is not going to see us through the next millennia or perhaps even the next century. A man who can only think with his head is like an outstanding robot activated by a computer, he has no feeling for Right Compassion or Right Understanding, Truth and Love. He can only understand the meaning of the word but the word is not the thing itself and the thing itself eludes a man without a God given heart and soul. A man whose heart and souls is set upon seeking the answers to the questions Asked earlier, Who am I? What am I?... will arrive at the Right Understanding of his role as a man, a Great Being created from the Essence of the Lord of Creation, whose duty it is to serve his fellow creatures such that they thrive in Peace on this Earth.
Wisdom is the property of the Heart.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hate has many Ugly Faces

The strife and struggles that is presently plaguing the various parts of the world, causing untold miseries among the people of these countries and states is the result of the second of human illnesses inherent in man, that is Hate. Anger, jealousy, envy, power, control all these and many more issues related to it is the result of man dealing with this illness. The Koranic/Biblical story tells us of the fatal conflict between the two brothers Cane and Abel that led to the death of one even in the dawn of man's history. Till this day the Jewish, Christian and Muslim conflict is still ravaging the societies all over the world pitching man against his fellow man all in the name of the One God.
Hate is something that only belongs to human beings in this physical realm of existance, it is only man that known to kill out of anger and hatred and it is only man that has the need to create special forces in dealing with the negative influences of hate. Police and Millitary forces are the ultimate manifestation of this tragedy. The hatred bred through tribal or racial groups is one of the

most violent of all hatred and it is ugly in nature as it blinds man into worse than beasts in their need to destroy their counterpart through whatever means at their disposal, all in the name of their tribe, their race, their religious beliefs.

In a country like Malaysia hatred can rear its head at any given moment under any given pretext as there is so much avenue for hatred to manifest itself this country being a multi-racial country. There is always and will always be a fine line between each ethnic group that makes up this nation that draws the line of racial toleration and this line is fragile whcih can be broken at any given moment through some misinterpretation or misconception or miscommunication or purely through ignorance. It is never easy for a nation to have a solidarity or one voice one vision when the people are made up different nationalities and each catering strongly to their personal colors and creed despite all that is done to create a more untited collective mindset. It is short of a miracle that this country has not busted at its seems for the last fifty years through racial conflicts. The May 13th. incident was the only case that almost brought the nation to its knees fortunately it was thwarted by those were in power at the time.

Right and wrong a sickness of the mind gotta keep the balance.

Today Malaysia is going through a political change and it is enlightening to see that there is not an evidence of racial conflict worth mentioning in the news other than the normal petty bickering of the loosers and those who fell short in geeting what they had expected to, mostly politicians at their politics. The country is still set on course and the PM shaken a bit as he is is still in the helms of the ship. If this smooth sailing can be maintain by the present government there might still be another fifty years of peace ahead for us to look forward to relatively speaking. The key to our destruction as a nation is racial hatred or interracial conflicts, if this can be overcome and the people can be made to understand the significance of a collective united spirit with regradless of racial or religious backgrounds than we can become a nation to be respected by the rest of the world. Malaysia is truely Asia in its representation as a country and a nation but to attain to this status we Malaysians have to educate ourselves, our wives and children, our neighbors and friends to think as one to believe as One and to act as One.
We have to understand the very nature of hate, of the consequences it carries and how we need to overcome this illness that is inherent within all of us. The Koraan tells us Muslims to practice Patience in the event of hate arising and the Buddha tought us to meditate on the same. Tolerance is the key towards achieving and understanding between us and the xperience of having lived alongside eachother for the last fifty years aught to have instilled in all of us the facts of life as we Malaysians should see ourselves and be able to declare ourselves truly who we are even before those from our so called Mother countries, like China and India or Indonesia. To these we are Malaysians first, our children and their children will honor no other country except Malaysia as their original home, (tempat tumpah darah), I am not a Chinese nor am i an Indian or an Indonesian or Sri Lankan, nop, I am a true Malaysian born and bred, loyal to my King and Country. But it does not mean I will not make any socila or political comment or contribution if and the when the need is called for as i am a member of this society governed by a democratical principle, hence when i sense an injustcie in the making i will not lay dormant and accept it without a fight.
This is a tall glass to offer and tough act to follow by a long shot as there elements within and without this nation that has intrests in its well being or its demise and as such there will always be those who will do everything within their power to cause a disruption among the racial groups if peace is not of interest ot their scheme of things. It against these demons of hate that every nation has to be constantly in virgil of, for they are on this very plane just to cause the disunification of man and his downfall. Albeit in the most clandestine manner or by means of an all out war these anti-peace and self agrandizing, self serving minds are the curse of every nation and to be rooted out whenever and whereever they are spotted. Hate has many faces and all of them are ugly but the more dangerous are those that are hidden behind the scenes in the form of good samaritans and pious pontiates, as wolves in sheepskins. They are the sowers of bad blood and the poison that can infect the blood of this nation with hatred.
Through understanding greed and hate we can learn how to avoid the pitfalls that we are liable to face and this is accomplshed through the understanding of the nature of the third of our human illness; Delussions or ignorance, or the lack of understanding or the having no desire to learn to understand. The human mind is inherently lazy when it comes to thinking about or making any effort towards undersanding these negative traits that has haunted us through out our human history. Why are we possesed by the demons such as Hatred and Greed so much so that we are willing to take another's life in order to satify our own desires? It akes alot of time and effort to crack the the nut and expose the content and an average man does not give too much hoot about such a matter or that it is not his forte to dwell upon in this life. Let the wise-men take care of it and let them make the decisions, that's what we pay them for.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What Do The People Want?

Peace, Social and Economic independance, a mental and physically healthy society and perhaps foremost to some the freedom of faith, perhaps this and a few etras to make life a little more exciting. Most are satisfied with what they have already acquired in life if they attained to be sixty an a grandchild or two to play with [provided all the above mentioned criteria are met with to a sutainable degree. For those who are striving for more than what is their need knows that their ego has a need to feed albeit power or status, fame or fortune beyond the ordinary. Whatever the glory maybe that an average man seeks to fulfill in his life he knows that the journey towards this goel may involve the stepping upon other's toes, challenging the existing foundations and principle or destroying a few established icons. Thus the persuit of happiness becomes a gold rush for many as more is better and there is no line anymore to differentiate between what is Greed and what is basic need.
When greed walks in Compassion and charity walks out, wisdom disperse to the winds and corruption enters the scene. Judgements becomes blurred by ignorance of what really is and what is not that should or not have been done. This is what haunts most elected officials if not just in this country but just about the whole world where elections are held and the people vote their leaders. However in this day and age where just about every Tom Dick and Harry owns a PC and has a Blog or two to express his or her feelings, it has become more of a challenge for anyone to get by selling water by the river. The Information age has come and there is little or no place to hide for those who had depended upon ignorance of the masses to feed their insatiable egos. Transparancy has taken a whole new look whereby what happens behind closed doors are no more a secret than what happens in the market place sooner or later and the message reaches the masses at such a speed that even the dayak in the rainforest will know of the falsehood or the truth of any given event taken place in the capital.
Just like everything else even with the advanced levels of communication at this day and age there those who can and will manipulate whatever is out there to just so long as it serves their short term purpose of being the richest and most powerful. Most of us are trapped within this vicious circle whether we know it or not admit to it or not, but given the opportunity we most of us succumb to this weakness of human nature. One wife not enough we need to have three of four, one car not enough we need a few parked in the garage so to keep upthe good image, one house not enough we just got to have a few scattered here and there for convenience sake and to house the extra wives and kids. We have got to have something to leave behind us for our children and their childrens' children and that takes alot of doing on top of what we have to deal with our daily needs. So we sell our souls to the devils and hope for glory in this life and the hereafter as we have fulfilled our God given intentions to society and our fellow creatures: at what cost?
Greed is what draws the line between us and the lower creatures that god has created, for only man can kill out of greed. Not being able to share one's wealth with those who are in dire need is a form of greed and accumulating walth till there is no more room to accumulate is yet a nother form of greed, to refuse to become involve in solving the nation's need for eradicating hunger and poverty is another form of greed, and Corruption is the child of Greed. Many a mighty ruler has succumbed to the lures of this human weakness and tasted the blade of blade of Truth and Wisdom at the end of the day to fall poorer than paupers. Many a lesson has been taught about the ills of greed no matter how small the urge, but very few has touched human hearts as those practiced by Mahatma Gandhi in India. The little Hindu dressed in loin cloth, who brought the Brithish Empire to a grinding halt through self sacrifice and serving humanity. When a man becomes selfless he has no greed.
How can the leaders of today become selfless individuals servants of the people? No Way! The question every politicians these days ask is "What is in it for Me?" "How can I benifit from this venture?" "WhAT is my signature worth for this project?". These are the very individuals who had vow to serve the nation without fear or favorand with integrity and honesty, sworn before the King and country and before the holy scriptures, these are the elected ones who were sworn to lead the epole out of the darkness of their lives into the Peaceful coexistance of their fellow humans.As the Persian saying , "When the Salt turn bad, what else can we turn to?"
Perhaps the Dalai Lama Tenzin Giatso may be the last of the practicing personification of Wisdom beyond Wisdom, and the Infinite Compassion of the Bodhisatvas in these days and age that man can learn and emulate from, but His holiness is getting deeper and deeper sucked into the turbulance of political strife that is going on in Tibet. Man need role models, and George Bush is definitely not a very good one for compassion or wisdom, Dr. Mahathir is rapidly getting sinile in his approaches towards the political situation in this country and Pak Lah is teeter tottering on the popularity scale while Anwar Ibrahim is like a Tiger laying low taking its time to pounce when the time is right, who do we turn to? PAS Spiritual Leader in Kelantan, Nik Aziz has alot of spiriutal qualities and down to earth wisdom that has served the Kelantan people well but it is not a suit that can be worn by the rest of the country and the former oppositon leaders such as Lim Kit siang and Karpal Singh are veteran political heroes to most non-Malays but that is as far as their role model goes, the ruling goverment and its agencies has made very little effort to harness all these individuals efforts in the form of contributions towards the nation's growth. The few books and writings we find are those who had the power to write and publish for the nation to learn of their own personal contributinos, their biograpies, what it took them to reahc their present status in the management of this country.Just as children needs role models to map their growth man needs leaders who can become exemplary individuals to pave the way for the masses throught these looming catastropihc dark ages of the Kali Yuga or the Age of Decadence or as the Buddha said the Dharma Ending Age. Who is ther to lead? Who can we lay our trust on that will prepare not only this nation but the planet as a whole, to ride the next wave of change from this so called age of Information to whatever might lie ahead for our descendants to face.
With the decline in natural resources and food supply all over the world man will have a lot to reckon with in terms of his very survival if not his children and grand children. With the approach of climate changes that is affecting global weather trends and causing unheard of natural disasters all over the planet, man needs to contemplate alot sooner than later to completely cause for a change in his mindset as to the fundamental values of life that will sustain his very existance into the next Millenia if he makes it that far. Greed is only one of the causes of these and there are two more of the human illness that man has to come to terms with with perfect understanding and that is ,Hate and Delusions.
When is, enough is enough?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A trip to K.Tr.

I left for Kuala Terengganu on the 13th of April in answering my sister's call for help in dealing with her husband's condition fighting cancer. My brother in law is a gentle person all the time that i had known him rarely raised his voice and not much of a talker. He has also been skinny all his life and not that he does not eat but food dont have much effect on his physical nature. I have had a very close relationship with him and I consider it a privillage as he is not one who makes friends too easily although very much respected by all those who knows him for his serene and gentle nature.
Syed has cancer of the tounge or throat or in one of this general area and he has been through Kemo therapy in Kuala Lumpur. Now he is back in K.Tr. lost in his lonely world not being able to speak and having his meals through his nose. I could feel the frustration coming out of him and did my best not to intrude upon his negative emotions except by giving him a good body massage everyday which seemed to bring him back to life weel enough to work on his car engine. I felt that is only so much that i could do as my brother in law was not much of a talker even when he was well. So I jsut made my precence felt whenever I was in the house.
I spent alot of my time with my friend Mohd. Rafi who works a maritime police lance corporal. We spent alot of time just shooting the breeze and watching the kids watch TV while I did alot of sketching in my journal. I also visited the Hashim family in Pulau Duyung where I was taken for a special tour of the whole Heritage Club where the Mosoon Cup Sailing event takes place. Hashim is practically the caretaker of the whole facility whether he knows it or not. Hashim was born to sail the Trengganu waters and is an expert on traditional boat building and sailing. The problem with him is that he does not recognize his importance and so at barely two thousand Malaysian Ringgit which is hardly six hudred US dollars, this man is in charge of one of the biggest boat marina which annually holds the International Sailing Regata, the Monsoon Cup. One of the best model boat maker when it comes to the traditional Malay vassels, Hashim is a multitalented individual who had anyone in the Tourism industry been smart enough should have taken into confidence and offered him a good position with corespoding financial benifit. I know of few men I have met in my travels who is more dedicated and dilligent in what he does than my long time friend.
Hashim's older brother is Awi of Awi's Yellow House, a shanty river side shallets built exactly like in the old days of atap and stands high above the river. The toilets naturaly are just holes in the floor which makes it unique for city dwellers who had forgotten what it was like. Awi's Yellow house is well known among foreign travellers through the Lonely Planet travel guide and visitors to this hole are usually repeat customers who often stays for a longer period of time than an average tourist. This was where i met Sabastian the first time sometime in 03 0r 04, but had not seen him fours years till recently when he turned up at the Little Penang Street Market and we went for dinner after and we met with the accident.
I had the opportunity to visit the controversial Crystal Mosque too which Sabastian had mentioned as a waste of the natural environment that was destryed for the whole project to take place along the Trengganu River. The mosque itself was to me indeed and overzealous work of architectural design that utillizes too much ornate Islamic designs on its facades and too sterile for the location it is built on. Had the goverment built a small wooden Surau instead it would have been much better suited for all purposes and I am not saying because it would have been much cheaper but wood is the part and parcel of the natural beauty of the river not building blocks of concrete or crystal. I am apprehensive about the long term upkeeping cost of this expensive venture as much as it was meant well when it was constructed but it is indeed still a bloody waste of good money and the cost to the natural environment especially the Mangrove and nipah ecosystem along the river. Adjacent or connected along to the Mosque complex is another complex called the Taman Tamadun Islam, a bunch of minitature replicas of mosques and Islamic structures found all over the Muslim world are constructed to comemorate the splendours of the Muslim architectures and way of life. It is like an Islamic Museum and all they need to do toattract good tourist both local and foreign is to add a minigolf trail throughout the course of these miniature buildings. Why not have some fun while one stare in wonder at something someone else build somewhere else in some god forsaken time at god knows what an astronomical cost. Call it a Muslim fairyland but having listened to the locals over their teh kosong and roti telor, I felt the negative and ambivalent feeling exist towards the whole cheerful project, most i met and talked to had not been to the Mosque or the Taman Tamadun islam and most dont even know how to get there. Rumour has it that even Tuanku, the Sultan is not happy with the whole thing and thus the election of the Menteri Besar problem with the Palace. The man behind the whole show perhaps was Idris Jusoh the former mentri besar who is a highly charismatic individual with western education. Now he is no more a part of the Terengganu EXCO even for some odd reasons which is as good as nayone's guesse but his project is incomplete. I hope that the present Trengganu EXCO will make every attempt to complete the whole project without delay as it is not a cheap affair to just let go off regardless of whose fault or failures it is, it is still a symbol for the state and it is there to stay. Perhaps Allah has future use for such an ornate mosque even if for not there is no Friday Prayers allowed at the mosque. The people of this state are perhaps as predictable as the monsoon season, it always comes and with it rain and winds, after that there is life as usual making budu, cultivating the rice fields and going out to sea, more than this is too much for the braind to digest, it is for the politicians to deal with and the 'Crystal Mosque for now is a symbol of what can be a political error made over good intentions.
I am not a politcal commentator nor am I a social analyst but I am a mere artist who sat and tried to sketch the Crystal Mosque in seeking what is its hidden beauty and in doing so thoughs flahes in my mind about the pros and cons of building such a grand structure and the price those responsible had to pay for this venture, at least according to the news media, the coffee shop politicians and friends and relatives who lives here in Kuala Terengganu. To most it is short of a fiasco, a multi-million dollar fiasco that serves no benifit to the local fishermen and padi growers;it is also an insult to every educated Malay intelligence in the state.
The question is how do you turn this so called failure into a booming success? What needs to be done to salvage this dead zones without compromising their intended values as a religiuos as well as cultural heritage? An Islamic Muzium? Toolittle too late as these are cropping up at about every corner of the Mulim world and within this country itself. Islamic Architectural Institute for the Country? It would be a good way to help pay the cost of long term maintanence of the whole complex. Its surrounding environment and the closeness of the Terengganu Muzium would enhance the whole arae to become a hub for Islamic as well as Malay cultural and traditional education.
Well whatever! I am just tossing out what my mind has been regurgitaitng while i was sketching the Crystal Mosque as it does whenever i sketch something my thoughts will always run paralel to what i am doing with my hands but on a different topic with regard to the object. I am not here to protest or promote anything or anyone over what i feel, it is a personal feeling towards what is going on around me. I am against just blames for blames sake, I would rather find a viable solution to go along with every issue or problem so that it seizes to be an issue or a problem. When the peole elected a leader they assume one to be well endowed with right sense of understanding of what is needed and what is not and who is best to confide over this matters but the people themselves. Ask them! Talk to Them! Listen to Them! as just like a good carpenter who would measure three times before deciding to saw a piece of lumber so should the politicians before making any major decisions.
What's wrong with this scenario?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A banged up Job

On the 30th. of March while driving home with a friend from Argentina after dinner I had an accident on Kelawei Road. A Four Wheel drive rammed my car from behind causing me to smash into three cars ahead of me, such was the impact. I was thankful for my friend Sabastian and I that we escaped injuries especially for Sabastian because he was supposed to leave for Buenos Aires the next day. My car was a disaster front and back and is now at the auto body shop while the insurance claims are being processed. Both sabastian and I suspected that the driver of the 4Wheel drive was drunk and I noticed that so did the other drivers involved expressed the same feeling but because there was no policeman on site there was no way of taking any action on the matter. I got the feeling that my life meant little on the road and the guy who was in control over the whole event was actually the drugged or drunk pony tailed Chinaman in his company's $Wheel drive! So i just let it cool and let things takes its cause while i try to rationalize with Sabastian who being a young Argetinian it would be only a matter of wrong signals that would send him on the Jerk drunk or not like a pit bull on a chicken then all hell will cut loose and instead of just an accident we would have and incident too!
From this accident I learned the simple truth about how things works in this country if there is an accident and often then not there will be no traffic officer on hand but the whole incident will be handled by the autobody shop operators whose hound dogs will be there not five seconds after the accident. They will collect all the datas fromm everyone involved take down numbers and issue call cards on who to contact and so forth and all you have to do is turn up at the police station to make the report which is written by one of their staff for smooth flow of action to be taken. I also learn that except for Sabastian no one gave a damn if i was injured, the other drivers were more concerned of the fact that i had damaged their new cars.
Such Is, now I am back to taking busses to get places and my son has to walk to and from school and for how long God knows. The SOB who caused all these is home scot free as his vehicle being a tough machine sustained hardly any damage and ironically he was the first to have left the scene of the accident and no one could stop him! Had i been ten years younger i would have taken a good swing at him so that there will be a case and I would demand for him to be tested for alcohol or drugs but I am sick and tired of dealing with assholes like I used to. He was a Chinese and so was all the other drivers and every one else at the scene except for my friend and I. Getting physical would not had been the best cause of action at that moment, we were at the wrong place at the wrong time for it. So accept the damages and count your blessings and wait for the car to be fixed, such Is.
My sister in Kuala terengganu called this morning asking me to go there as my brother in law is not doing too good with his cancer bouts, he is giving up the fight and needs someone to talk to. So i will leave for the east Coast Friday night and hopefully my two kids here will have some peace from me being out of their hair. I too could use a break from Penang and the scene here at least an R&R from sketching the street hawkers and old buildings around the island. There will be a show at the Malay Artist Guild gallery next month and they have chosen street hawkers as their theme for the show and so i have been running around doing some sketching of these scenes all over the Georgetown area in the past few days, a blessing for not having the car in a way. At present i am having a solo show at the Penang State Library on Scotland Road. It consists of my monoprits and etchings mostly and a few water colors of the Flowerhorn Fish which i did a few years back. The show is the first for the Library as I was asked by the Director to start the art show programe which was new to the Library.
I keep on doing my oils at home sometime all through the night and when i can i would go to the USM Muzium Gallery and do my Acrylic and charcoal sketchings on the one hundred feet long drawing paper. All I have four exhibitions locations three of them solo exhibitions and one a group show all lined up through this next few months. And as i said I thank God for not being injured in the accident, otherwise god only knows how i can pull it all through. I want to give my best for the upcomig show at the Penang State Art Gallery which would bw the crowning success of my return to my hometown and then after that i hope to be able to sell some pieces at the Alpha Utara Gallery where most of the artworks get sold here. So for one who is unemployed I have got my job cut out for me and i am blessed with this burden for it keeps me from going kaka!

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Lotus of A Thousand Petals

While living and doing the Practice Period at the Zen Buddhist center at Green Gulch Green Dragon Temple I had developed a joy for dishwashing after every evening meal during the weekends when there would be some two to three hundred people at the Center. It came to a point that i was attatched to this job that i would go at it alone refusing any help in handling the dishwashing machine, the stacking and so forth. I was bald then alive and burning with energy too due to the very intensive practice that I was into, the Art of Zen meditation or Zazen (sitting Meditation),great vegetarian meals, great company of wise men and women from all over the United States and some from foreign countries, meeting of great minds.
Anyway, every weekends the 'outside public' is allowed into the center to share the monastic life and taste the monastic food, organically grown vegies and homemade bread, the famous Tassajara Bakery kind of bread. They came and the parkng lot was full all the time till there was no more room out there! Saints and Charlattans, Lyers and thieves, the wise and the fools they came to sample a taste of Shunryu Suzuki's Zem Mind and Beginner's mind.
I volunteered the dishes all the time withiout having to be persuaded becaus for some odd reason it was "The Practice place to be". That evening it was normal as any with the crowd loud and enjoying their dinner before they all head on back to 'The City' (san Francisco), across the Bridge. Everyone who came and handed me their dirty dishes had something nice to share, a big smile, a completely fake surprise at seeing me doing the dishes or to harrass me about falling asleep in the Zendo. I was dancing with the bowls stacking them into the circular bowl rack before delivering them into the washer and doing it without breaking my pace as I met the cheerful faces head on smile for smile.
As I laid down the last piece of whit heavy China bowl inot the center of the tray there floated before me a white thousand petaled Lotus Flower in the tray!! I looked up slowly from it and my eyes met with the large round eyes of my Tanto or practice instructor Paul Disco. He nod at me in Gasho and smiled whispering to my ear 'It does happen sometimes...' and slipped away in his black monk's robes. I slid the last rack of bowls into the washer and nothing was said between us on the matter.
The appearence of the flower was so real that it was more real than real and it caught my breath and i wanted to laugh and at the same time felt sad and wanted to cry if it was not for my Zen Instructor's prescence which made the experience just like drinking tea.
The Japanese calls it Satori or what i interprete as Mini-awakenings and this kind of experience is not uncommon when one does intesive meditative practice especially in a large group where one does not feel threatened or insecure when little miracles takes one on a alternate state of conciousness even for a split second or the span of a lightning's flash. The fact that your teacher was there to witness the event whether he was aware of it or not was in itself an auspicious moment for me, I had someone else as a witness someone whose reactions was so simple and ordinary that this miracle vanished into memory lane just like it never happened and i felt it was perfectly okay!
Those not fammiliar with Zen and Zazen, not well versed in Buddhist practices might have a little bit of trouble accepting such occurences as I claimed and that too is alright because it is not for everyone it is only for the minds of those that the conciousness of the event was connected to. Usually it is one on one however there has been known that a group as a whole can experience Satori at any given moment of their sitting meditation period or during a lecture when a line is said and it was 'The Line' that triggers a colletive conciousness response and transport the group into a whole different state of mind, usually one of peace and tranquility, the lightness of being, the floating on the air kind of feeling and the Love for eachother that recognizes no conditions a feeling of letting completely go of oneself into the whole (Hole!?).