Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The distant ship smokes on the horizon...

"I've become comfortably numb...",listening to Pink Floyd at 4;37 am at the Gallery at Kapitan Kling Mosque, drinking black coffee and smoking Sampoerna cigarettes. Hey you with your ear against the wall, can you hear me?...open your heart i'm coming home...", no, no drugs! My drug days were long gone, just feeling nostalgic and reminescing the good old days while a student at UWGB! What else can i do after listening to talks by J.Krishnamurti and Sai Baba on You Tube and figuring out what the hell I am doing here all alone at this wee hour of the morning. Would I rather be home struggling to fall asleep while swiping at mosquitoes every five seconds. "So...so you think you can tell heaven from hell blue skies from pale... can you tell the green fields, what cause the rain...do you think you can tell... your heroes were ghosts... How i wish , how i wish you were here......"

Number one son is flying over somewhere across Europe (found out he was in Germany) and the second is still MIA somewhere in Switzerland (still mad at the world and his illegit. dad) while the third is in Kuala Lumpur seeking to discover himself (if only he could see himself beyond the mirror!) while the fourth is sleeping at home by herself (after exhausted from reading 'Twillight") and tomorrow is school holiday for her,Chinese New Year. my wife is sitting somewhere in a nursing home in Illinois (Allah, protects her always), smiling her beautiful smiles at strangers and herself. "Shine on you crazy diamond...common you target for faraway laughter...you martyre and shine...", where am I and who is sitting?" No body knows where you are..how near or how far...shine on you crazy diamond...sail on the steel breeze... common you miner for truth and delusion... common you stranger you legend and shine... "

All of us who had at one time or another been exposed to the Pink Floyd phenomena can easily relate to these lyrics and when accompanied by the saxophone and electric guitar of Roger Water and his crew, these words became engraved into our psyche. Most of the lyrics were written like an abstract painting for the listeners to absorb and apprehend at their own levels of intellectual and mental sensitivities. Pink Floyd is still one of my major musical choice when it comes to Hard Rock and Bob Dylon is my individual all time favorite vocalist. Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits took center stage a while later. In my teen years I grew up exposed to the likes of Cannon Ball Alderly and Ramsey Lewis, Louis Amstrong and The Duke Ellington , these were later replaced by the likes of Grover Washington Jr. and Hubert Laws. Bob James and the likes, all Jazz for i grew up exposed to Jazz through my eldest brother had a collection of Jazz albums since i was in Form One at Sultan Sulaiman Secondary School in Kuala Terengganu.

The earliest vocalist that had a major impact on my musical taste was Harry Belfonte, Ray Charles, Trini Lopez, Elvis Presley, Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Marry and later The Beatles and Bob Dylon followed by The Bee Gees, Simon Garfunkle and Harry Chapin. Today I have no one singer that I can call my favorite and i am loosing touch with the who is who in the music business, I leave it up to my children to keep me informed especially my daughter who would keep me up to date while I am driving. It must be part of the aging process, but listening to the present day Hip Hop or Rap has very little affect on my taste except for a song or two every once in a while when the song sung is within the range of my descern, like the song 'Ghetto" by Akorn? For me Bob Dylon will remain as the genius of a song writer and vocalist, he was ahead of his time for he was rapping before the word Rap came into being.

They say that music is food for the soul but bad music makes me sick to the stomach and today there is an overload of bad music on the airwaves and it is beginning to become overpowering for the olfactory lobe. So these days unless i get good recordings of my old favorites I turn off music altogether, which is a sad thing for without music the soul hungers for some form of entertaiment to occupy itself with in the middle of the night when one is sitting alone and figuring out life in all its immensities and trivialities. Godd music in the background provides a backdrop for creative output as it serves to silence the mind from distracting thoughts which arises randomly to create a sidetrack from what one is working on.

"Spiritual ecstasy, however , is a totally different state, a state caused by the overflow of spiritual energy. Ordinarily, exterior influences- a beautifully recited poem, or the Quran chanted by a beautiful voice, or the excitement brought on by the ceremony of remembrance of the Sufis - and (real good music) may cause this spiritual elavation. This happens because at such moments the physical resistance of the being is obliterated. The will, the ability of the mind to choose and to decide, is overcome. When the powers of both the body and the mind are undermined, the ecstatic state is purely spiritual. To go along with that kind of experience is beneficial to one...
The sweet singing of the birds, the sighing of lovers, are among those exterior causes which move the spiritual energy. In this state of spiritual energy evil and ego have no share; the Devil operates within the dark realms of the doings of the ego and has no say in the illuminated realm of mercy."
The Secret Of Secrets
On Witnessing Divine Truth.
Hadrat Abdul - Qadir Al- Jilani. (May Allah sanctify his secret)

Monday, January 26, 2009

On Moaning and Groaning

Last Sunday went to a wedding across the channel in Butterworth, one of my cousin's children got married and it was a beautiful event held on a narrow street and taking over half the block of houses on both sides of the roads. What is positive is the fact that there were a Chinese house or two that was affected by the event which meant that these Chinese neighbors had to sacrifice their parking spaces and even entrances to their homes for the day and it being a Chinese New Year and all this was out of the ordinary. Such communal inter racial cooperation in times of need is a good index for racial harmony in this country. Later i saw the Chinese neighbors attending the wedding feast themseves and noted the close neoghborly rapport between host and guests and it was genuine and heart warming. This should be happening all over the country!
In the evening sat and had a drink with my cousin Rahim along the sea wall at Padang Kota Lama (The Esplanade). We discussed about what I learned at the wedding and Rahim set about putting his perspective over the racial issue. He said there three types of Chinese in this country, one those that will have nothing to do with the Malays, if not down right detest them, they will not learn or speak Malay and will hold their loyalty to being Chinese if not to China itself. Then there are those who will tolerate the Malays as friends in business especially, they need eachother to survive. Their relationship too is not genuinely true like you and I, most of the time it is pretense, just for show, can do without and then there are those whose relationship to the Malays are genuinely unquestionable. They speak Malay, eat like Malays and often enough think even like Malays, these are rare and few, found mostly along the East Coast especially in Terengganu and Kelantan.
There is no blame here for the Malays too have their categories of racial attitudes and apptitudes towards the Chinese, their preconceived ideas and hidden animosities. These are those who will not walk through a predominantly Chinese onclave or heaven's forbid enter a Chinese home! Then there are those who value the Chinese prescence in their midst as an unfortunate necessicity again in terms of business. Friendship hinges upon close business contacts and the need for trust in eachother abilitty to deliver. Once this has been established over the years there will develop an even closer ties which in the end will become almost unseperable in most cases. For inter racial relationships developed through sound business connections is one of the most secured relationship as it is based on immediate material need for survival.
Offcourse the Indians too have their three basic groups and simmilar idiosyncracies but what is most worrysome in most cases is the fact fact that there are constant influx of immigrants into the various racial groups from their native countries like China, India and for the Malays to some extent, Indonesia. These new faces and their inffluences are the ones that can affect the racial harmony among the local groups of races. These do not care if they speak or not the National Language or who or where their loyalty lies so long as their motives and intentions for being here are met with. The Chinese from China will hook on to local Chinese and often enough create a nationalistic impact on the locals giving the locals false hopes and promises of support and into the fate of thier status here in their own state. Those with money will provide financial backing to buy anything and everything making use of the locals as a front in carrying out their ventures. The same with the Indians and to some extent the Indonesians. Malaysia is the land of the opportunist and never short of opportunists who will sell their mothers to get what they want, this is our faults and weaknesses.

When taking the Island of Penang as an example sooner or late the Malays here will be squeezed out of the state to make way for the so called development that caters to the rich and those who have their strong foreign investors. Economically this is a great scenarion but if we care about Malaysia's long term racial harmony, this scenario is a blue print for disaster when it all saturates and fermentation sets in. The Batu Uban village is a great example, set amidst tall new high cost condos and government buildings the village is the epitomy of what is happening to the Penang Malays and their lot. Politically they have been cowed by the loss in the last general ellection of the Barisan to the Opposition parties, not that the UMNO led government of the past did much to priovide any security measures to counter the Malay loss of face and their homes and livlihood despite the fact that the Prime Minister was from this state. The excuse was simple, Penang was under the rule of the Gerakan Government conveniently working in tow with the Barisan Nasional and how did that benifit the Malays of Penang when Gerakan was predominantly a Chinese politcal entity. No matter how genuinely sincere they may be the Chinnese will never go all out to protect the Malays cause, Never! Wake up and smell the Belacan!
Thanks to the Gerakan Party of old however, that the piece of land located in what used to be called the Sungaig Pinang Kampung Selut (Sungai Pinang Road, Jelutong and River Road vincinity) area was developed with low cost houses for the original Malays who lived there. The land which belongs to the MPPP(The State Council) was given on lease to the residence for 100 years?? and the itme is fast approaching for the lease to end. What happens thirty years from now? Will the present government tear down all the existing Malay houses and build more flats and condos to house Who? More foreigners? For sure as hell Penangites are not producing babies at such a rate that it will overpopulate the state! Penang people are not that stupid as to have too many children in light of the way the economy is headed, not even if they try. So where is the population growth coming from?
These are few questions we need to address ourselves all of us Malays, Chinese and Indians and the rest that make up this country. It is a question of National Security that we all need to answer, where do our priority lies, not to mention our loyalties and our commitments.
Who Are We?? At the end of the day we will have to answer to our children one day when shit hits the fence and they find themselves squeezed beyond patience. At my age of sixty and looking back at the rapid demise of this island it is sad, it is not only the loss of environment and space but the decay of its society when it comes to racial and religious tolerance and understanding. Those living in denial on this island will one day have a rude awakening that no amount of political or religious doctoring can cure. And then it is all too late and all the profits made in the so callled economic and developmental programe is burned to the ground and the nation will be left licking its wounds from the fall-outs.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Reminder From The Ayatollah

" O you vile self of the writer, who made much pretence; do something about the dark days of your life and find a way out of the wretchedness. If you are really sincere and your heart agrees with your tounge and your inner intention is compatable with your outward appearence, why are you so heedless, your heart so blackened, and your lust so indomitable? Why dont you think about the journey of death, which is so full of perils? Your days are past, yet you have not given up your lust and desires. You have spent your days in satisfying lust and in neglect and mischief. The time of your death draws near, yet you are emeshed in your vicious deeds and entrapped in your indecent conduct. O Preacher who would not learn any lesson, you stand in the midst of a 'munafiqun' and the double face. Being one of them it is feared that you will be resurrected with two tounges of fire and two faces of fire, if you continue your present state."
From \; 40 Hadiths by Imam Ruhullah Al Musawi Al Khumayni

After a great amount of reflections upon what i wrote and how i felt and why i felt the way i did when i wrote my last entry, I deleted it. For those who may have stumble upon the entry might feel betrayed or cheated of might even feel like they have a glimpse of who or what i really am. It was too demoralizing and defeating and this i get from after reading chastising quotes from grat teachers and they hit me right at my core of being. Passion is for the Christ, I am a mere Cheeseburger Buddha and am entitled to making rash judgements of myself and retrack when I deem it too heavy to lay in on my soul. Enough self flogging and on to self enlightenment!

Lusts and desires are part and parcel of who i am, denying my weaknesses in these matters would not gain me anything nor would declaring them to be my strong points give me any comfort. I love life and I love being who I am, what I have done and where i have been and I refuse to deprive myself this feeelings about myself for i have earned the rights of passge to be who or where I am at. Right and wrong is still a sickness of my own and I will learn to deal with them as i progress along this path. I will celebrate at feasts and weddings and i will attend funerals just as happily for they both are equally important and none can hold on to me whether here in this world or in the hereafter without the consent of my Maker.

The problem I have with in getting to understand Islam is the fact that there is too much mention of hell and retributions as though my Lord is such a cruel and unforgiving God who sits and wait for me to return to him to answer why i kicked the stray cat in the butt ansd sent him flying down the stairs!! Ye i did it Lord, sorry, did i not say sorry to You immediately after? maybe i did not or maybe i did! Sorry! But hey i go through the garbage every chance i got at my cousin's restuarant to find fish heads and leftover chicken bones for another cat too and it is not even my cat! I dont know Lord, when I had my wife with me we had at times twenty five cats running all over the house and I was allergic to cats perhaps still am. I took care of them, fed them clean after their stinking crap and throwups! I hated it but i did it out of Love? For the cats or for my wife and kids? Damn sure not for myself!
You and me Lord we are going to have a long converstaion at the end of days wont we, and I would still be trying to justify myself for every 'wrong' turns I took in this life. I envy others who You have allowed so much fame and fortune and on top of that sent them to Mecca to visit You at Your home. It seems like they can never do any wrong right from the start, why is that so? Is this something to do with Karma? Incarnation? Evolution? But where does Islam stand on this matters i am still in the dark. Then there are those You allow to be holier than thou and get to rule the country in the process and swindle in the process at every chance presented to them and they too make it to mecca three or four times in their lifetime. Their slates wiped clean everytime they get there? They come back holier than the holies, donning the white skull and sprouting the long goaties strutting around like the messengers of Allah, preaching brimstone and fire turning and twisting human heads in the process to save their souls. What gives Lord?!

Why the carnage in Gaza not this recent few weeks but it seems for a hundred years now and still no end to it, and you call them your chosen ones, the Jews and they claim it for eternity but You condemn them in the next testament and they rebel against it. A condamned nation, Lord what have they got to loose? An the children of Palestine are throwing stones at them the reverse of David and Goliath who is David and Who is Goliath? What is Your point Lord? Please help to understand, let me see beyond political and territorial reasons let me have a glimpse of what spiritual impact this whole dehumanizing experience is suppose to have on my soul?!

Rumor has it from way back when that there is an even bigger stakes playing behind the scene, that Dajal is preparing for the final countdown of the Biblical proportion and that nations will split assunder taking sides and there will be a holocaust of a proportion that would make Nazi Germany look like a rumbble in the yard. These are mere rumors Lord based offcourse upon Your Scriptures and prophecies, heresays in the court of law. But why the drive to make man look worse than the animals, act more brutal and capable of horrendous acts unimginable compared to the beasts of the wild? Are we that bad Lord? Dont we deserve a little respite like you gave the Satan when he defied You? Why the need to play this charade of Halloween 13 or the Rape of Afganistan or the Congo Massacre Part 2, like Hollywood gone out of wack for blood and guts. Was Bosnia and Kosovo not enough? Did Attilla the Hun or Ghenghis Khan not proved their points, was Pol Pot not comparable to Hitler, what is the point You are trying to make for the love of You my Lord? That man is a self destructive entity not worthy of Your kingdom? Cant we get a little help? A shower of compassion in the right places in the right hearts even among enimies despite the poor state of global economy and environmental degredation. Cant you ease off abit and let it be, after all it is just a temporal existence for us and then face the big picture like You say, the choice H&H, heaven and hell.

I am not asking for a new messiah or a prophet nor am I saying that a major miracle is needed right about now, no Sir, all I am saying is that at least let me see a glimpse of Your hand in this mess in a more positive venture and if Dajal is playing his hand to bring the sons of Adam down on their knees and worship other than You at least give us a fighting chance of making it not an easy task for it. A sprinkle of wisdom here and there in the right minds and perhaps a charitable shower of good fortunes in the darkest heart of Africa so that they would stop raping and pillaging their own mothers. Is this too much to ask, is it t0o much to ask that the rich and the wealthy dig their hands into the pockets and share whatever they could their spare change so just to ease the burden and those in power have greater faith in humanity than just clinging on to their self agrandizement.
Dear Lord, Ya Allah!! Help Us!! Show Thyself that there is You in all these and it all makes sense from Your perspective, that it all has some form of meaning other than man screwing himself and his civilization up. I realize that You need an excuse to terminate our sojourn here on this planet at anytime into the future but please not like this not so predictably like You have no other option but to set us up against eachother's throats and claiming that we have become inhuman worse of than beasts and deserve to be irradicated. You are the Lord of Creation, Creativity is one of Your nature, none more creative than the Creator Himself! I can only ask and You have demanded of me that i ask of you and to never despair but ask, ask and you shall be given! I am asking Lord please intervene! Please put a stop to this madness this self mortification of the ignorant collective mind bent on self destruction. Enough is enough! I am not ignorant and refuse to succumb to be included among those considered to be so, I demand that there be a rehabilitation of the human spirit as a whole, a recharge of the postive energy in the Universe to promote for a more positive environment, a mass healing of the human spirit to see us through yet another millanium. This Dear Lord AlMighty! Dear Lord of the Universe and of Compassion. This I pray of You on behalf of those not under the influence of Dajal already. We ask for Peace!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Zen Mind Beginner's Mind

I could not walk a few yards without gasping for air when I arrived at Green Gulch with Denis Kelly and I had to convince the man in charge that I need to stay at the center for obvious reasons. The practice period instructor or Shuso then was a priest by the name of Paul Discoe and he was also the carpenter so I visited him at the carpenter shop and pleaded for my life to be allowed to stay at Green Gulch. I was still suffering from what my doctor called Plurosy or shortness of breath due to fluid built up around my lungs the result of an accident I had from a Yoga exercise. I was practically in tears by the time we were through and Paul out of compassion gave his permission for me to stay and recuperate. I had nowhere to go, my health was bad, broke and in total despair, I was at ground zero, my Dharma position.
I spent the next few weeks slowly recovering and getting to know the people around me, I sat the sitting meditaiton and found it helped the most as i slowly got to know my breath and getting to know my breath was the best healing process for what was my problem. Most of those who were there doing their practice period were also pretty new to the place I found out and were very sympathetic to my plight. The older students and residents however had their reservations and some openly let it be known, this was their Zen practice and understanding those who never got over their nurosis in the first place no matter how long they were exposed to Buddhism. I had to learn to take what they threw at me while I recovered my health. It did not take long before i was totally cured and Green Gulch became my home despite all the prejudices and negative perceptions I received from the ones who felt threatened by my precence. The more recently joined students became my allies and i found comfort in their company as i learned of who was who in the whole Green Gulch community.
When the Practice period was officially on the road it became very serious and full of energy with all the participants fully involved and committed to the practice. Pual Discoe was an excellent Zen Teacher who was there but was also most of the time invisible. Ed Brown's loose style and non-judgemental attitude kept the classes alive with open discussions about Zen Buddhism and everything else under the sun. In the fields where we worked under the tutelage of Wendy Johnson and Peter Rudnick Zen manifested physically. It was work with loving kindenss, work within as well as without, work for no other reason than the sheer joy of working alongside those whom you have come to love and respect. Strangers at one time now became members of a family and thus the meaning of a Sangha came into being.
It was the work practice that tied us together under well experienced instructors whose Zen practice was also in the making learning as they progressed as teachers. I enjoyed the talks I had with Blanch Hartman who was at a lost in trying to deal with my idiosyncrasies and my nurosis and my anger at life, she was the mother I never had and hope never have to after. One of the instructins she pointed out to me about my sitting was how I would hold a fist laid on top of my palm, she made me concious of this and asked me to change my mudra tot hat of the Universal mudra where the two thumb meet like holding an egg in your palm. This small and insignificant pointer made a great difference to me in my later life. Blanch who went on to become the Abbot of Zen Center later was someone I have great love and respect for in her relentless dedicaton towards Buddhism, but i gave her the run for her Buddha robes when I was her pupil. If anyone in my perception during my term at green Gulch who could attain towards enlightenment in this life through the Zen practice at Green Gulch it would have been this tough white haired motherly lady who could withstand all the trials and tribulations thrown at her in the course of her personal journey as an Amercan Buddhist.
Paul Discoe was the other indvidual back then the I had great respect for in his way of practicing Zen. Paul was what i envisioned Zen Master Bankei might have been like. He was called the Zen Bull not for his physical appearence alone but for his solid and no nonsense approach towards practice. Paul had the compassion of a true Bodhisatva, a compassion that cuts both ways, he can be nice and he can be a real pain if the situation demands it. Paul was a worker, he liked to make things happen, work was his practice, lectures and sermons were for the birds unless he was forced to do so. He had simple answers for most of the time when confronted with deep philosophical questions. I once aked him about smoking pot and practice and he laughed and told me its like drinking tea make no big deal about it and it will be no big deal. I enjoyed working with him as we put green Gulch back into shape after a short span of neglect when the Sangha was put on hold as everyone was in a state of mourning over Baker Roshi's fiasco.
A few months after my arrival at the Gulch I noticed how the older students especially the ladies ordained or otherwise walking like zombies in black robes and pissy moods. Then I attended saveral community meetings where the Baker Roshi's incident was tabled and felt sorry for the Sangha. But this was what prompted all the newer students to act under Paul Discoe's leadership together we decided to put the Gulch back on its track wiping clean all the past incidents that had been haunting the residents through pure work. Along with Peter and Wendy and Ed Brown's sense of humor, the practice period of 83-85 managed to awaken the Green Dragon from its slumber and despair. It was only later that members of the City Zen Center started to drift into the Gulch to join in the resurrection of its Sangha. By the time that our practice period was in full swing, by the time that (The Rev.) Terry Sutton could chant the heart Sutra in its entirety without looking at the book, by the time Mark Boydston could get use to sleeping in the gaitan like verybody else instead of out there in the fields, and by the time that the farm was producing at its maximum capacity again, the Baker Roshi incident almost ceased to exist in the minds of the new Sangha.
Work was never a shortage at the Gulch, there was the fields and the garden to grow, the tree linings to cut and trim, the preperation for the rainy seasons making sure that all drainage system were ok. Then there were the minds to be healed like mine and the others who came there for one reason of another and there were egos to pacify or when circumstances demands to be crushed. There were lessons to be learned all the time and one never misses rubbing against the neighbor's shoulders the wrong way creating a friction that needed to be patched up. There were old idols that needed to be destroyed and new ones that got erected but all in all the Green Dragon began to roar again the Buddha's Dharma and many came from far and near to listen and to enjoy the meals the walks and the sitting at the Gulch. I sat and talked with the former owner of the Green Gulch Farm Mr.George Wheelright one fine afternoon and in his words, "You (the Practice Group), have done a splendid job in turning this place around again, thank you."

I spent alot of my free time studying all i could about Buddhism and was very fortunate that the Library at the center had a great collection on the subject. I dived into all the Sutras and the different schools especially the Tibetan Lineage which was my favorite subject and put to practice what i read testing the waters and submerging myself into the depths of what it was to be a Zen Buddhist. At one of my Dokusan or talk with the teacher one on one, I told Ed Brown that it was not easy for me to bow to the Manjushri statue on the altar being a Muslim. Ed told me that if i believe I was bowing to a piece of wooden sculpture or to a devine being known as manjushri then I was in trouble, but if I had understood and accept that i was bowing to emptiness what was there to worry about? It was just a part of the ritual for joining the club. To look beyond the symbols and rituals one is free from all clingings to forms and emptiness.

The late Dainin Katagiri Roshi, who was the first abbot of the Minnesota Zen Center was one of those teachers who had an impact on my practice. Whenever he was around doing a Sesshin at the Gulch I would not fail to sit with him for a Dokusan. The Roshi at our last meeting took a hold of my hand and and looked straight into my face and said in his soft voice, "Always remember you original intention, your original motive, who you are and why are you here?"

The Vietnamese monk, Tich Naht Hann in his room told me one day when I viasited him to appologize for ringing the big bell while everyone else was sitting in meditation thus dirupting the peace.He said "Just keep being who you are, you may ring the bell at the wrong time but to many it was the right time! They needed to hear the bell to awaken, most were falling asleep anyway."

Suzuki Roshi the founder of the San Francisco Zen Community taught of Zen Mind being a beginner's Mind. I had abandoned my past when I arrived at the gate of the Green Dragon Zen Center. I was empty spiritually and emotionally and I had no idea what my furte held, thus my two years spent at Green Gulch was in a state of tabula rasa or an empty slate. Anything goes and nothing was out of the ordinary. I met and dealt with many from all walks of life, writers and artists, priests and farmers, bankers and lawyers and they all came to Green Gulch to find peace and solace from their daily lives. I played the clown and the companion, the strong and the retard, I was what they wanted to see, to touch to to taste, mine was the beginner's Mind, mine was Zen mind.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Alen Ginsberg Visit to Green Gulch

I am not great with dates and times so I will try to just guese that it was sometime in 1985 0r 86 that the late Alen Ginsberg visited Green Gulch Farm, Zen Center. Also present at this gathering of poets was Stephen Levine and a few other notaries of the American Poets movement at the time. I did not know who Alen Ginsberg was untill after the whole event and I did some research on his back ground at the library and asked my fellow Zen students about the man.
It was beautiful summer afternoon at green Gulch Zen Center and we had just completed a seven days Sesshin or sitting meditation and so everyone who had participated in the Sesshin were either burnt out, wiped out or walkng on cloud nine filled with elightened thoughts and feelings about the littlest things to the significance of cosmic orgasms. I was one of those and was still wrapped in my Zen priest robes which smelled and felt like it had been slept in for seven days. It was a set of robes handed down to me from one of my Zen instructors and friend Edward Espe Brown, or better known as Ed Brown among the Zen people of San Francisco. Ed had told me that it was his first robe at Tassajara, although a bit rough around the edges, it was still in pretty good condition. If robes could speak I often wondered, what amorous adventures it must have witnessed while in the service of Ed Brown before it came to me. I wore those robes with pride for I felt like a real Zen person when I sat in them, I felt protected and secured.
That was how I felt while I sat in my regular place in the Zendo amidst some two to three hundred faces that came from all over the West Coast of the United States to join in the gathering of Poets led by Alen Ginsberg. It was like the gathering of the Greatful Dead Concert of poetry.
As the show got on the way everyone with something to recite was letting it be heard and the audience was rapt in a poetic high, there poetry in the air and I was sitting Zazen like the seven days Sesshin was not enough while listening with my eyes shut. Then I felt a weird feeling at the oit of my belly like it was grumbbling or growling, I thought most probably I should have eaten earlier. I thought nothing of it only if I had to got to the toilet it would be next to impossible as the whole Zendo was filled with people shoulder to shoulder sitting and standing. Then whatever it was started to really worry me as it got worse and started to rise from my belly and like huge bubbles was threatening to escape through my mouth. I felt my neck and jaw muscles expanded and contracted and I had no control over it. Then too late, there was 'pop' in my ears, silence, the old 'Satori' kind of feeling, no sound from around me, I was in a void alone, been there before a few times and knew righ off something weird was about to transpire! My mought took over forming words and to my horror, it was Arabic! A'U'zubillah himina shaito'n nir ragim...Bissmilah...Hirrahman Nir'Rahim...I became the small boy I was in my village in Sungai Pinang Kampung Selut, I was reciting the first verse of the Koran, the Al-Fatihah among my childhood buddies, I was comfortable, I was happy! As the first few lines escaped from my mouth in this strnage alien deep throated vibrational tone somewhere a small part of my mind was screaming at me that, that was it, I had gone insane! Reciting out the Al-Fatihah in a Zen Buddhist meditation hall to some two to three hundred Americans who were mostly not even Buddhist, and a good number remnants of the Hippie Flower Power folks, I have taken the 'one step beyond! they would definitely ship me out of the center this time! "The Disrruptor!!"
When I came to a close of the recitation I opened my eyes and they were locked with those of Alen Ginsberg's and he smiled from the distance and shouted " My God, you have to do it did'nt you?" As a habit having been at the Gulch for so long i gave him a half bow and closed my eyes. The show was over and everyone took it as a cue to leave the Zendo. I followed the crowd out like a zombie, as seven days of sitting meditation if taken seriously can do that to your mind. Suddenly someone with pretty strong fingers grabbed my arm and pulled me close to his face and whispered in my ear, "Kulhu Allah U'Ahad, Allah Hu Samad..Lam Yaalid walam Yulad.." the whole 'surah ikhlas.' The verse on the declaration of the Oneness or Unity of Allah. When he was finished he grabbed my hand and shook it, "Hai, my name is Gabriel, I am from Hangary." I was staring into the face of long haired Hippie looking young man whose face reminded me of the pictures of Jesus Christ found hung in most Mid Western homes of the United States. I almost pissed in my robes.
As I stepped out of the Zendo another hand grabbed my arm, this time more gently and i turned into Bill Sterling's large friendly face. "Sam, I don't know what you said in there but it was the best poetry I think compared to the rest of them." Bill was in my opinion the ultimate skeptic when it comes to religious practice at Green Gulch, he was more of a coporate man whose wife happened to be one of the Abbots at Zen Center. Whenever I sat and talk with Bill it was more about what Malaysia was like or what did I think of the Green Bay Packer's loss to Tampa Bay. I never did meet Alen Ginsberg up close and personal after that and maybe for the better. And as for Gabriel the Hungarian, he hung around Green Gulch for a few days and i keep seeing from the distance doing Tai Chi sometimes or Yoga stretches out on the lawn but never sat and talk and then he just left without a word.
I have no rational explanation to my strange act on that day but to recite the Al Fatihah in the Green Dragon Zen Buddhist Meditaiton Hall must seem a little odd even for the most liberated of Muslims and I wonder what would have happened to me had I done the same in a Hindu Temple or a Chinese for that matter here in Penang! Worse yet what would happen if i were to chant the 'Maka Hanya Haramita Shingyo, or the Heart Sutra in the mosque in Sungai Pinang, my village home? I would most probably have to answer to saveral religious departments and a few 'fatwas' will be in order as far as where you can or cannot recite the first verse of the Holy Quran. However before that i would most probably be taken to Tanjung Rambutan for my head to be examined for any excessive religious fervor.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Highway 666 Re-Visited

Sometime in the winter of 1980 I had left the University at Green Bay, Wisconsin and headed for the South West States of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona driving my old Chcvy Impala 1965 which I had bought for two US Dollars from my girl friend then and she had got it from her grandma. I was not escaping from the cold Wisconsin winter but was on a school trip, a part of my course study program. I had been allowed to do an independant study for my Fine Arts Degree after having convinced four faculty members from various departments through a University of Wisconsin pioneer program called 'Univerwsity Without Walls' which allows for a student to come up with a design for his or her own degree. Applicants were required to write a propossal after having had acquired a 3.75 grade point average of 37 credits earned prior. I had qualified for this and wrote the propossal entitled "Art in Quest of The Universality". With this Bombastic title and tall spin of a yarn I applied for the chance to be a part of this pioneer program.
The propossal was deliberated by four faculty members and would upon reaching a decision call the candidate for an interview, I ws accepted without an interview! It was a pleasant surprise for me as i never did take school as seriously before then and to be accepted with such ease almost scared me. In my propossal I plainly told the fact that studio studies was become a bore to me and that I felt no challenge in hanging around painting studios and printmaking studios day in day out, I needed to live as an artist on the outside, in the streets away from the campus and its familliar surroundings. On informing me of the decision to allow me to do the program one of my professors jokingly said that the guys were more than happy to get rid of you Sam!! Yes I was no doubt not the best role model as a University student even in the fine arts program, my long hair and beard and my smelly old army kacket, my torn at the knees jeans and my two Guinness Stout and an order of cheese curds luch manu was not the ideal example to set for future students. But I was respected as an artist and no doubt about that, even the most red necked of professors took a wide curve away from my path when it came to Art in those days. I was eating, sleeping and shitting Art so much so that they had to offer me a vacation from myself just to make sure that I did not die in the printmaking shop from too much acid fume ihalation. When I had the first solo exhibition at the University Lawton Gallery and the first student to be allowed to do so in the university history, my mentor and Professor, the late William (Bill) Prevetti came up to me and whispered in my ear, 'Sam, all these guys can't hold water up to your works. There were many art fculty members at the openning of my show.
Actually my first trip out of the campus took me to England along with a group of students from other Arts department. It was a verymemorable journey which launched my future as an artist cum journalist. I started keeping my art journals eversince and called them back then my Eigth Ball Path, becaus I had found a bunch of stickers of the eighth ball (pool ball # 8) ad stuck them on the covers of my black hard cover sketchbooks off course i ran out of stickers after a while and the books continued in numbers. The England trip took place in 1979 and till today I am still drawing and sketching and keeping an on going journal of my life and works for whatever, God only knows. But this, call it ahobby, has kept me going as an artist year after year and I had managed to keep most of these journals no matter where my life had taken me. They travled with me from the US to Japan and now to Malaysia. They have become my refference of what i had done and claim to have done in my past life as an artist, a breadwinner, a father, a traveller, a seeker.
I most probably had written this episode in my life some thirty times already and told it thirty odd more times at one dinner table or another to entertain my friends or guests. But I also have another more legitimate excuse for writing this down and that is the fact that one day I'd like to see my life's adventure in a book form before i exit this life and embark upon the next phase of my journey into the unknown. So for those who have the patience and he determination to follow this blog at times mnotonous and boring as it is, bear with me for it will al come together at the end of the day and rest assured that when it does I will have creatred a masterpiece of what is My Art.

I was driving my Chevy with a faded picture of the Virgin Marry stuck to the dashboard along the 65 mile long road between Gallup and Durango on the border of New Mexico and Colorado on my way north to Denver. It was drizzling rain and the road was a straight two lane highway with nothing in sight on both sides of the road but pure darkness. I was driving through the Navajo Reservation on Highway 666. Yes they called it the Devil's Highway and has many a tall tale to tell just look it up on the internet! Off course i had no idea what an internet was back then and nor did i know of Highway 666 except for the number being notoriously linked to the Devil one way or another. Never thought of it while driving just determined to get to Denver in one piece.
I have done a great deal of night driving and had gotten used to it and even enjoyed it for obvious reasons. Its peaceful, quiet and meditative and it allows for me to do alot of thinking too and dreaming and singing out loud! Less traffic, cooler and you get the sense that you own the road along with just a few night warriors like yourself the truck drivers, the long distance travellers and people who are returning from one late party or another. I had covered many miles of the US Highways from north to south and east to west in my years of living there. I love driving along the American highways especially along country roads and long stretches of the South West highways just so long as the vehicle I was driving was in good condition and I had enough fuel to take me to my next destination.
Highway 666 was no different than most haighways in the South West and while driving this straight road with a roller coaster ride of up and down small hills it was normal for me even if it was past midnight and I was the only vehicle on the road. I saw the on coming lights of another vehicle after sometime and thought nothing of it as it kept appearing and disappering from sight. How ever as it got nearer I began to get an uneasy feeeling that something was not right. I became fully awake and checked to make sure that I was on the right side of the road and yes I was. The oncoming vehicle kept charging towards me in the darkness and except for the two bright lights I could not tell what make it was. Then it was too late, I realized to my horror that the vihicle bearing down on me was driving along the same lane as I was!! My mind reacted at the last minute before the head on collision, I swerved the Chevy so that the impact would be taken on the pasasenger's side of the car and in doing so the oncoming vehicle slammed the Chevy and set it spinning on the slippery wet road and it came to a rest facing the direction from which I was headed making a three hundred and sisxty degrees turnaround while I was holding on to my dear life. Thank God for tough old American cars!
I got out of the car immediately and checked the front lights, none broken, checked the engine on the hood and felt it still running, the worse is over! Then on looking up to see if the other vehicle was alright I found myself staring stupidly at two tail lights appearing and disappearing in the far distance. I swore all i could and got back into the car and continued on my journey. About ten miles from the scene of the accident I came upon an old man thumbing a ride on the side of the road. I could barely make him out but felt sorry for him standing there all alone in the wet night, I decided to stop and give him a ride. He tried as much as he could but could not get into the passenger side and i got out to find out what was the matter. I realized that the whole side of the car had been flatten from front to back like someone had scraped the side.
I let my hitchhiker into the front seat from the driver's side and he slid over to the passenger's side. I did not really knew what he looked like and nor was I interested after still recovering from the shock I had looking at the amount of damage the car had received. He asked me where I was headed for and I told him that I was on my way to Denver, Colorado. He said that I was crazy and that I could never make it, have i not been listening to the radio? I said no. Well it had been snowing big time up north he said. Oh well I will find somewhere and pull over and continue tomorrow I guese I assured him while we arrived in Durango. He got out thanked me and disappeared into one of the small streets of Durango, a cowboy town. As soon as he was out of sight I said screw it and headed out of the town north and before I got further than the outskirt of the town the car wheels were spinning but the car was not moving. I had driven right on top of thick snow thick enough to float the car. It took me almost half an hour to find my way bakc into Durango and not knowing where to go for help without getting myself shot in the process I decided to head back the way I came and keep heading sounth the Albuquerque, New Mexico where it was my only chance to get any help from as was fast running out of cash.
I never gave much thought to my experience on the Devil's Highway untill I saw the movie "Natural Born Killer" where at the beginnig scenes took place somewhere along this notorious highway and I started looking up for some more infos on this Road and found out that..

"In 1997, US666 was named as one of the 20 most dangerous highways in the US!"
"Highway 666 runs through Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah as well as the Tribal lands of the Navajo Nations and the Ute Mountains, Ute tribes. On 31st of May 2003, the Highway, known as the Devil's Highway 666, officially ceased to existand was replaceby Highway or US491. Within days of the announcement of this virtually every US666 sign had been stolen some for sale on eBay.'"

After all these years and looking back yet at the times when i was not thinking much and getting myself into all sorts of close calls I realized what a lucky dog i was to have escaped what could have been another mysterious death on a lonely highway called.. the Devil's Highway, perhaps it was the Virgin Mary sitting on the dashboard of the old Chevy Impala or perhaps it was just my lucky stars, or it could have been that I was just too stupid to get hurt. My journey to the South West states of New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado was filled with many such unexplainable close calls and weird events, nevertheless I consider myself very fortunate that i was able to do what most only dreamt of doing. I had slept in the car along roadsides and parks and I have slept in my tent in places even I would not dare repeat such simillar act of reckless stupidity but when i was on the road I did it did not matter death was the last thing on my mind and the only fear I had was running out of cash hence out of fuel or food. I was a lone Malaysian travelling through three states of the US South West and that gave me a sense of pride in what I was doing.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Meeting of Great Minds

I ask myself what is the meaning of life all the time and when i meet those who demands straight answers I look deep within to answer all the questions raised with regard to my personal beliefs and practices throughout my life. Right and Wrong I still maintain is like the Buddha said, is a sickness of my own mind and only fools offer opinions and suggestions to questions that have no answers worth noting. I had a great dinner last night with a few very energetic and creative individuals who are the movers and shakers of this Island that I have been born and raised into. Their involvement in the shaping of the future development of this Island is evidently very influential and carries weight where decision makings are concern. as I sat listening to the conversation from across the table I realized that I am witnessing the sources of thoughts and ideas from where the shape and policies made with regard to the future fate of Penang would come from. Development, progress what is good for the State what is relevant and what is not physically or culturally, environmentally or even spiritually those present at the dinner table were in no small way responsible in making the difference.
I felt privillaged to be a part of this small group of thinkers and planners and the fact that I was even entertained with my own perception and opinion over matters that might affect the shape of things to come for this island that I love was in itself an honnor. I was among the decision makers the real ones who mattered in their own small ways for these are the ones who really makes things happen, whose heart is in the right place when it comes to the welfare and welbeing of the State of Penang. Where am I? i was invited to my friend Lee's house to have dinner along with a few others who were also invited along for a pleasant evening.
As often enough by the end of the evening I was spinning my yarn and fish tales about my past life experiences in Alaska and the things i managed to get myself into without regard for my own safety and well being when I was living abroad. I am becoming the entertainer and making others laugh at dinner tables and I am happy that I could be of such service to my hosts as what is my life if i could not share it even if it sometimes seem a little far fetched to those listening. However as i have always maintained there is a whole lot more to my stories than i dare write or tell and I do not need to exagerate for what I relate at dinner tables are things that I have gone through, experienced and tasted for better or for worse. My life at the end of the day is an open book just as my journals are manifestations of most of these events, captured and recorded for posterity, this is my Art. I record my life just as i am doing it at this very moment of putting it all in this blog.
A day the had began with a slow and unproductive pace had ended with a delightful evening spent among creative thinkers. A lady who came all the way from Thailand and who also does relief works in Miyamar after the recent natural disaster the country had suffered and another from London who studiesat cambridge and now doing her Phd. in History. Then there was also Ku Salma a lady who is a local of Nyonya heritage and who knows about this island and its stories better than any i know.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Karim Bahari off to KL

Dropped off my son at the bus terminal in Sungei Nibong, he is on his way to Kuala Lumpur to spend sometime with his cousins there. His hair colored, his pants hanging delow his skinny butt and in his grungy black sweater, he reminded me of myself at that age only with me it was bell bottoms and rediculous looking high heels not to mention a couple of sexual encounters already in the bag. It is not easy to complain too much about my teen son's idiosyncrasies when I compare his to mine while i was at his age.
Karim just completed his secondary school education and is waiting for the SPM results and has two to three months to kill. So spending sometime in KL learning the ropes about living in the big city is what he needs as karim is a very introverted kind of guy who seldom leaves the house and can spend 24 hours of his time watching the movies on DVDs. He is not a bad kid in any very negative sense of doing drugs or being obnoxious but he is lazy pure and simple when it comes to accomplishing minor tasks such as picking up after himself, or doing his share of the house chores. He is worse than his sister when it comes to staring into the mirror! Karim is very narcisstic and practically worships himself in the mirror, and he would make a great model or a great gigolo if he's smart enough to handle the business!
I do not have high hopes for Karim's performance in his final SPM examination result but I am glad that he even made it to the exam room. Karim never touched his school books at home not unless i threatened to burn all his DVDs. He like technical drawings which is strange but just so much and i doubt that this would turn him into any future space travel technical designer. What does he really want or what does he even dream about? I asked him many times and the answer if it ever came out oh him would be to become a movie director! Another Mel Gibson! Clint Eastwood and James Cameron. I told him that it is a great ambition but he still had to get a good education bla! bla! Whatever it is I have a sneaky feeling that karim is more than he really is and only time will tell what it is that hismind is geared towards and fermenting upon. He is not and will not end up just another kid on th block, there is something growling inside the kid beneath that devil may care take it easy kind of attitude, it is deep and like a quiet storm it is brewing and when the eruption hits the surface heavens forgives for better or for worse. In the meantime i will have to collect his underwears and dirty cloaths for him and bite my tounge and hold back my temper from kicking his skinny butt from shere frusteration but...I love my son.

My son is now on his way for the first time to be on his own among peers and his elders, in a big city that will chew him up and spit him out into the Klang River if he is not careful. Good luck to him and may Allah protect him and show him the way towards achieving his goals. I have tried to share with him as much as i could in getting him to see life in a more positive and productive way and not waste time while in it. I who had not done any better can only show him what I have come to understand it to be in the course of my lifetime. I have experimented with my life in more ways than one and have taken risks and chances more than most, made mistakes and fell into disgrace more times than I care to remember but in the end on looking back I must say that my life aint too bad, it has been well lived with not too many regrets to dwell upon.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


What's a new year but the end of the old one and what's to be happy but not dwelling on the past negative experiences and honing upon what is positive that can be carried into the future. It is imperative that one reflect upon what had transpired in the past whole year on this date, upon what was the turning points in one's life and upon what was the lessons learned from the experiences one had. The people one has met and had the opportunity to learn a thing or two from, those who has accepted one as their friend in confidence and those who have spurn one as a charlattan or a natural born liar, those that had judged and those that had rewarded. Irregardless one has come to accept that life has to go on for one is still beathing and what's worse still writing this blog!

" A little nonsense now and then, is what the wisest men relish." Roald Dahl.??

The beginning of the year was as usual slow and a drag with the same old worries about what to do with my children and their future. In February of 2008 met with an American gentleman in his sixties who was from Aptos, California who had given me some hope about where my son could end up schooling if he decides to go to the US. But from then since there has been no more word from Gary. Then there was the election in the early part of the year the Barisan Natsional or coalition ruling party suffered a humbling loss which brought a few of the hard core in power position to their knees or ultimate eradication from the political scene. Welcoming some new ones mostly in the opposition camp does not gurantee anything as yet but it is in the hope burner.
I had a major auto accident which saw my small Kancil being sandwiched front and back and the fortunate thing was that my freind Sabastian from Brazil who was visiting me and I were not seriously injured. Sabastian was leaving for Brazil the next morning almost did not make it. My ca was the only victim among other five vehicles involved and I suffered the worse of the lot from all perspective legal as well as compensation. Again these are what is said to be part and parcel of life and as they say it in the States, 'Shit happens!"
The Solo Exhibition I had in August at the penang State Art Gallery, "Penang Heart and Soul" was a success as far as making money was concern and it helped to boost my moral as well. My trip to Java especially Bali and Jogjyakarta was the climax of my year for 2008 and all in all I should say I had a relatively good year. Accomplished what i set out to do and then some.
Getting in touch with my high flying son in Dubhai on a regular basis is one of the most blessed feeling I got on the emotional level and seeing my second son complete his secondary schooling is the other.
What lies ahead only Allah knows and to Him I surrender the future. I am now sitting after performing my subuh or morning prayer performed at the Masjid Kapitan Kling which is annexed to where I am and writng this entry, I have been here since three a.m. I have been given the keys to use the gallery whenever I wish to do my art and this too is His blessing. All I can say is Alhamdullilah! Thank you Lord for all the little favors granted despite my not being the best of Muslims.