Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Still; Know who you are.( J.K.)

I was never a good student but i had a few great teachers who had helped to shape my thinking mind and often enough I absorbed their ways and methods without realizing it. I was a rebel in school and was also accused of being a dreamer; my mind was seldom where it was suppose to be. Chalks, erasers even thick books were thrown at me while in class in order to attract my attention; my gaze was often out of the windows when classes were in progress. Except for my math and science classes I did excellent in the others which managed to keep me afloat in school till i was in form five.
My experience with math classes since i was in the primary school which was at the Francis Light primary School in Georgetown, Penang was a horror story. There was a time when I was punished for every multiplication table i failed which included standing up, then failing the next i was made to lower my shorts which bare my bottom as in those days kids never had underwear on, then failing the next I was made to stand on the chair; then failing the next i was marched to the principal's office to be caned on my behind. Till this day I have hated my math teachers and maths became a form of mental torture. For years I carried the shame and hatred in me against those who inflicted the pain and shame that I had to bear.
The horror continued to haunt me into my secondary school education where my eldest brother was one of the teaching staff. It was during these years that i decided to stand up and say no; enough was enough. I told my secondary school math teacher one Mr. Andrew Heng that he was wasting my time and I his and asked to be excused from math classes. he agreed and allowed me to leave for the library during his classes. On the same day he asked me to take a walk with him to the beach near our school and gave me some sound advice about myself. One of the things he told me was that i had to slow down and not think too much like an adult.
When the LCE (Lower cert. of Education) came I walked out of the examination hall a soon as I completed writing my name on the test paper; I did the same when the SC (School Cert.) came two years later.I knew i was going against the grain jeopardizing my future even as I stood up from the table but i also felt a sense of freedom from something that i abhor; i hated being forced no matter by who and for this I had taken quite a few slaps on my face by a few well meant educators; on looking back i can still feel the stinks.

"Krishnamurti talks of two instruments available to the human being - the instrument of knowledge which enables him to gain mastery over technical skills, and intelligence which is born of observation and self-knowing.
Real education means that a human mind, your mind, not only is capable of being excellent in mathematics, geography and history, but also can never, under any circumstances, be drawn into the stream of society. Because that stream which we call living, is very corrupt, is immoral, is violent, is greedy. That stream is our culture."

I gave up the prospect of making it through life based on my educational criteria as soon as i left the secondary school with a Grade three Certificated which did not carry much weight as far as any further education was concern. I found myself working for a Helicopter company ( Bristow Helicopters based in Kuala Terengganu) as a radio operator.This was primarily because my English was good; it was then that my education in life began. I worked for the company for over two years and later went on to join the Oil Drilling Rig, The Discoverer 2 which was doing an exploration off the coast of Terengganu. I worked on board as a Rough Neck working right on the drilling platform; it was not a job for the faint hearted as one has to work on twelve hours shifts in the hot blazing sun out in the middle of the ocean. While on this job i got to meet Rough tough Americans from Texas mostly and i learned to stand up for myself despite their sizes and crude manners towards the locals.Being the only man who could understand English I watched with anger as they cursed and swore every filthy expression that came to their mouth towards the Malays who were mostly sons of fishermen with little education. I kept my silence until one day when i was confronted to do something against my will by the deck boss. It came down to we had a face off with an ax handle laying in between us on the floor. We both looked at it and then at each other; he was twice my size and I knew that had i made any move it would be my last possibly, but i stood my ground and told him simply that it was not that i refuse to climb to the top on the Derrick and start painting but its just that i would like to finish doing what i was doing first. It shocked him I could sense, that I could converse in English to him in a calm clear manner, he turned and walked away without a word; then I noticed that this was being watched by the whole crew on the platform as everyone stopped working expecting a fight.
From then on I was looked upon with a little more respect from both the Expats and the locals on the platform. The swearing and cursing became less whenever i was around, especially when I told the Americans that to call a Malay a 'Mother fucker' was like asking for a death wish.One of the Americans, a native American by decent became friendly with my and told me that i should quit the job as it was not paying what i deserved and that i should find my way to America some day; which I did. later in my life and spent 21 years of my life getting to know Americans in the US.
The picture above is of two of my teachers and mentors while i was struggling with my teen years. The gentleman standing was the late Artist Mr. Redza Piyadasa or Pia as he was known among frineds and the gentleman sitting beside me was Mr. Ong Them Loon my industrial arts and design teacher who left the teaching profession to join a timber company later in Kuala Lmpur; I barely remember visiting him once at his factory before i left for the US. Pia went on to become one of Malaysia's well known and respected or rejected contemporary Artist depending on who you talk to. Pia was a character all in his own right ; born of Sri Lankan or Ceylonese decent he carried his own chip on his shoulder just like the rest of us who felt the pressures of being a minority of the third kind in this country. Pia practically lived on black coffee and cigarettes; it was his trade mark that we at the School who knew him. He was a voracious reader and his mind was always on warp speed like you can feel his thoughts generating all the time like a machine.
Mr. ong helped or did most of the construction of these ply wood boxes and together i helped to sand them down and prepared them for the perfect finish that Pia painted on the later. The piece along with a few others ended up at the National Art Gallery in KL as Pia's first solo exhibition there. (?)  My last encounter with Pia was at his house in Subang Jaya (?).I had returned to the country while living in Japan sometime between 1995-98. He had asked me what i thought of his latest works which were Photo Etchings of older black and white pictures of local folks with colors added. I gave my honest opinion as he asked me to; I told him I liked his original works of the past better as those i saw were already done by art students in Japan. The next thing I knew I was being booted out of his house! It was out of sheer respect that i did not drop him with a punch at the gate to his home. For a man who had the tenacity to criticize others, Piyadasa could not swallow his own pill. I is no doubt he was a good artist in more ways than one respect and deserve the position he had attained in the contemporary art scene here in Malaysia but to those who were close to him Pia was also an enigma.

"The function of education, then, is to help you from childhood not to imitate anybody, but to be yourself all the time. And this is a most difficult thing to do: whether you are ugly or beautiful, whether you are envious or jealous, always to be what you are, but understand it. To be yourself is very difficult, because you think that what you are is ignoble, and that if you could only change what you are into something noble it would be marvellous; but that never happens. Whereas, if you look at what you actually are and understand it, then in that very understanding there is a transformation. So freedom lies, not in trying to become something different, nor in doing whatever you happen to feel like doing, nor in following the authority of tradition, of your parents, of your guru, but in understanding what you are from moment to moment.
You see, you are not educated for this; your education encourages you to become something or other - but that is not the understanding of yourself. Your `self' is a very complex thing; it is not merely the entity that goes to school, that quarrels, that plays games, that is afraid, but it is also something hidden, not obvious. It is made up, not only of all the thoughts that you think, but also of all the things that have been put into your mind by other people, by books, by the newspapers, by your leaders; and it is possible to understand all that only when you don't want to be somebody, when you don't imitate, when you don't follow - which means, really, when you are in revolt against the whole tradition of trying to become something. That is the only true revolution, leading to extraordinary freedom. To cultivate this freedom is the real function of education.

An intelligent mind is an inquiring mind, a mind that is watching, learning, studying. Which means what? That there is intelligence only when there is no fear, when you are willing to rebel, to go against the whole social structure in order to find out what God is, or to discover the truth of anything."
One of the positive act during my teen years was to join the 'Silat Seni Gayong' or the Malay Art of Self Defence and later became an instructor. My teacher was a very highly educated gentleman and was at the time the Head of the Religious department for the State of Terengganu. Under his tutelage and guidance I was fortunate enough to learn more about being a Muslim as well as being a man standing up for my rights.

 "So intelligence comes into being with the understanding of yourself; and you can understand yourself only in relation to the world of people, things and ideas. Intelligence is not something that you can acquire, like learning; it arises with great revolt, that is, when there is no fear - which means, really, when there is a sense of love. For when there is no fear, there is love."
                                                                        Excerpts from J. Krishnamurti

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Second Day Raya

The second day of Aidil Fitri has always been the open house for our family relatives and friends from far and near.The whole affair has been mostly sponsored by my cousin Salleh who runs the restaurant and catering buisness,; The Selara Wawasan.
I took it upon myself to make sure all the preparation as far as the premise was concern was taken  care of and these includes painting and general cleaning of the whole place.
Among those closest to me that were there were my sister and my cousin sister (sitting) and the younf lady standing on the right is one of my many nieces who is now  a dentist.
My daughter and her cousin.
What it looked like as the evening wore on; most of these folks you see are related to one another in one way or another.Keeping the family together is sickness and in health is of paramount importance to the Malays. In Islam it is crucial that bloodlines not be severed for any reason and as a matter of fact should be kept intact..
Here are relatives from my Sri Lankan side of the family who has been joining the event almost every year; they are Hindus by faith.
My elder sister and her cousin Sofiah
Happy faces young and old.
This is one lady you do not want to get on the wrong side with, we grew up together as children and she has got an attitude about her.
This young lady has had enough!
Zul and Mia my daughter's friends
Aci Nab and my sister enjoying the Satay
The only living auntie left in my family and she traveled from KL to be with us every year. (sits middle).This is the woman who raised me as a child.

Digging deeper into the past...

This is the man I owe my life to, my eldest brother 'Spike' as he was known among close friends. My brother brought life to the School where I spent my secondary education  at the Sultan Sulaiman Secondar School located on the East Coast of the State of Terengganu. He was well feared and respected by  most as he held no holds barred when it came to punishment. 
I ended up at Sultan Sulaiman Secondary school for my  secondary education sometime in 1962? It was not the best times of my life as i had my eldest brother as the disciplinary teacher as well as my English teacher. he was a dominating figure feared by all and this made me and my twin brother revenge targets. The above pics were of the school when I was a student there. The school is located right close to the South China Sea with its long sandy beaches.
I was fortunate as a teenager to have been taken under the wings of  men like  the late  Dato' Ariffin Zakaria who was at one time or another the District officer for several locations in the state off and on. As he loved hunting and fishing i was one of those who he would take along these adventurous trips. The picture above was taken on one of the islands off the Terengganu coast, possibly Pulau Yu where we had been hunting Rock Pidgeons. 
One of my art teacher at Sultan Sulaiman was Mr. Redza Piyadasa, he was  Pia to us before he was converted ti Islam by marriage. Here we were taking a break from working on his 'Boxes". Sitting in the middle was my math teacher Mr. Ong Them Loon, a man I had great love and respect for in those days. 
I was in the Boys Scout Troop while in school and the most unforgettable moments of  my days with the First Trengganu Boys Scout troop was being a part of the Ist. Malaysian Jamboree which was held in Teluk Bahang., Penang.
Here I met with scouts and girls scout from several other participating countries like Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand.
These were the highlights of my teenage years and iconsider myself more than blessed to have been able to be a part of many extraordinary activities that most teenagers of my time were not exposed to.  I have my eldest brother "Spike' to thank for as he made it all possible for me and my twin to taste life with a little more gusto.
Here I was entering the 'Sekayu Waterfalls' located in Hulu Terengganu, when it was first discovered back in the sixties. With my backpack and a few extra clothing My friend and entered the forest and spent the night there. It was a big mistake in my life as I later discovered that my whole face was swollen from mosquito bites and i ended up with four months of Malaria spent in the Penang General Hospital. Everytime I am remonded of the ordeal I can feel the bitter taste of Quinine pills in my mouth and how i would throw up yellow stuff immediately after I am forced to swallow the 8 or 10 different pills at a time.  
Even in the early years when everyone else were enjoying their own thing  I was more into sketching what I saw.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Ramazan is slipping by...

The fasting month of Ramazan this year is approaching its end in the next few days and AidilFitri will fall on Sunday and what a month it had been for this lost soul. It has been a trying month indeed as i am struggling with my financial lacking and at the same time dealing with the personal issues on the psychological level and not to mention the spiritual one. As alaways i kept my mind occupied by painting the house inside out which used up a whole lot of my energy and thus lessening my mind from wandering too much.
It helps to fast when I have my son and my elder sister here doing it along with my cousins but it does not stop me from flaking out a day or two when my mind simply could not handle it. Torturous as it is, there is no doubt in my mind that fasting the days away had its benefit; it is a great challenge to my ego if nothing else. It helps me to evaluatate myself how far or how near I have come in this process of self discovery;like what are my weaknesses are and what needs to be looked into where my relationship to others is concern.I realize that I am getting too old to be having my doubts about life especially my faith and so forth, however i still am on the road to find out; finding out it seems has no end to it; the more you discover about yourself the more you start to doubt or so it seems.
It seems like I am standing over the edge looking down an abyss of nothingness an emptiness that is not what I had expected; I am feeling like I am lost rather than discover my way. Oddly enough, I find myself still asking the same primary question; who am I? How or where do i fit into all these? How can i walk through this life without getting sucked into its dramas and consequences? Is my meditation practice helping any or am I totally misleading myself all along? Is it because i had forsaken wealth; that i chose not to pursue money; would it had made it any different if I had been as rich as my twin brother?
Another year is passing by according to the Muslim calendar and I am still not anywhere close to being at peace with life and life it seems is getting more and more of a turmoil all around me; wars, famine, earthquakes and social illnesses beyond control; will it ever happen this so called peace for humanity for me? perhaps not in my lifetime, does not look like it is but is there even a hope for the future? Perhaps God has all the answers already and at the end of days it will all come together like a plan; in the meantime keep your faith in getting to know who you are, why you are here in the first place.

"You have to find out what truth is, because that is what really matters - not whether you are rich or poor, or whether you are happily married and have children, for all these things come to an end; and there is always death. So, without any form of belief, you must have the vigour, the self-reliance, the initiative to find out for yourself what truth is, what God is. Belief will not free your mind; belief only corrupts, binds, darkens. The mind can be free only through its own vigour and self-reliance. "

Thus far in my life I seem to find that truths are often ugly whether it is about myself or those around me; it seems the closer i get to the truth about someone the more i see the ugliness inherent in that person. There lacks genuine sincerity it seems among my so called friends and acquaintences or is it me? Am I not the one manifesting these persons in my life; the back stabbers and the self servers of my circle of friends; those i have come to lay my trust upon. This fasting month I saw allot of truths in this matter as i sat in the middle of the night seiving through what waht was or what has been and sadly enough I find myself being short-changed or being taken for a ride by the very people i beleived in or took to be my trusted friends; this never happened before as often enough had chosen to seek the positive while meditating and ignore the negative aspects of my relationship with others; a mistake?
I am hard on myself, or so I was once told by a close friend at the Zen Practice Center; perhaps I am and start focusing my attention on all that has been taking place in my life through the affects of being a vicitm of others' taking advantage of me. Is it worth my time looking into some mad bugger's mind on how and why it affects me? The American saying is 'It's a dog eat dog' world we live in trust no one especially those who claims to have your welfare at heart; this old dog is getting tired of being bitten once too short, no more Mr. Nice Guy! I will remain civil and respectful if I am treated with the same , however if there is any stench of making me look bad feel sorry or undermine my being who I am than be prepared for a backlash. This goes to my relatives friends and foes alike; I have earned my rights of passage over the years and deserve better.

On this last few days of the ramazan let me make it clear that my faith, my belief and my way of living is not for anyone to question anymore. I have chosen my path, for better or worse it is mine and as I have said time and again I answer to my Maker and my Maker alone; so spare me any judgements or condemnation; if you cannot help again I say stand out of my way dont become another hurdle in my path.

"A man who really sees the truth of this, has no ideal, no example; he is not following anybody. For him there is no guru, no Mahatma, no heroic leader. He is constantly understanding what lies within himself and what he hears from others, whether it be from his father or mother, from a teacher, or from a person like myself who occasionally comes into his life."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

MEDITATION - J> Krishnamurti

Jiddu Krishnamurti: "Without meditation, there is no self-knowledge; without self-knowledge, there is no meditation. So, you must begin to know what you are. You cannot go far without beginning near, without understanding your daily process of thought, feeling , and action."

When I read, think or talk about meditation I feel like I am trying to teach others how or what meditation is of which I am not; I am simply reminding myself, bringing my thoughts and consciousness back into a meditative mode; the writing helps to do this for me.What is meditation? One can simply type in the subject and there are zillions of opinions and comments about it in the Nat and for free most of them; it is healthy come to think of it when there is so much effort put into promoting the subject of  - meditation..However , sadly enough there are far fewer number of people who take interest in the subject than those promoting; far less fewer.
I had my father to thank for introducing me to meditation at my early age and I was living in an environment that was ideal for taking on this practice: I was growing up in the East Coast where the South China sea met the rice fields of a place called Batu Burok. My house back then was located across the street from the Istana Badariah; the Trengganu Sultan's Palace number two.Directly behind my house seperated only by a water way was the rice field that stretched all the way to the foothills in the far distance. Today these are no more the same as development has replaced song birds and fresh water fishes with motor cycles and rubbish: and the Palace has become worse for design; gone are simplicity.
I used to spend allot of my time staring out across the South China Sea.;often daydreaming or letting my imagination take its flight of fancies and this was how i became acquainted with the act of meditating. I would let myself drift sometimes with the white clouds, sometimes with the gentle waves and I would find myself lost in a whole new world until it was time to return to the here and now; often enough because of a bug bite or one form of discomfort or another. I spent allot of time by myself while growing up and often at places that was solitary away from the general public; I was not much of a 'groupy'  kind of guy.
My favorite image that I would hold on to and that would manifest itself often enough in my life is the solitary flight of an eagle; a lone flyer hovering in circles while riding the wind. Whenever this image crops up in my consciousness in one form or another I feel free; still do. Hence in most of my drawings and sketches I would have a bird or two just hovering in the distant skies. My heart is always in flight scanning the horizons for any signs of life. It was from this habit that I must have grown into my meditative practice.

."To be free from the net of time is the important concern, not to think about the unknown, because you cannot think about the unknown. The answers to your prayers are of the known. To receive the unknown, the mind itself must become the unknown. The mind is the result of the thought process, the result of time, and this thought process must come to an end. The mind cannot think of that which is eternal, timeless; therefore, the mind must be free of time, the time process of the mind must be dissolved. Only when the mind is completely free from yesterday, and is therefore not using the present as a means to the future, is it capable of receiving the eternal..."

My meditation practice became more serious as i got older and especially after being introduced to books such as "The Master Key" by Frank Haarnel? and the a book on "Raja Yoga"; Yoga of the MInd.. later still i was exposed to the works of Alan Watts author and Zen Teacher whose book "The Way of Zen" I read for the first time while living in Green Bay, Wisconsin and which at one moment had me experienced a state of 'Satori' and the result of which I created the "Cheeseburger Buddha" character; this was sometime in 1979?.
It was during this time too that i discovered the works of Jedu Krishnamurti; I was working as a librarian at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay at the time.These men helped to mold  my mind to what it is today for better or worse.
Later still I was able to join the San Francisco Zen Community at Green Gulch Farm in Sausalito, Marin County, California where i embarked upon and intensive meditative practice in the Japanese 'Zazen" or sitting meditation tradition. For over tow years I dedicated my time towards exploring the workings of my mind; the rising and falling of thoughts, the clinging and craving of my senses; the deluded state of my being. There was a time when I felt like I was Superman while doing these 'Practice Periods' at the Zen Center. Mentally, physically and emotionally i was fully alert and awakened; I felt freedom! Time came and went but I was there in the moment living with my consciousness of my breath; in and out, in and out; all else was of no consequence.

"Therefore, our concern in meditation is to know oneself, not only superficially, but the whole content of the inner, hidden consciousness. Without knowing all that and being free of its conditioning, you cannot possibly go beyond the mind’s limits. That is why the thought process must cease, and for this cessation there must be knowledge of oneself. Therefore meditation is the beginning of wisdom, which is the understanding of one’s own mind and heart".
Source - Jiddu Krishnamurti Book "The Book of Life"

One simple fact I have come to realize is that my mind is like a magnet that attracts whatever it was that i had envisioned in my meditation all the elements that would manifest the vision into reality; the thoughts becomes manifested into the actuality. However time still had the final say in when this will happen and i had to learn = Patience.It all happens in time and all I had done was to set the ball rolling and my mind makes it happen in time and when it happens I would often be caught surprised of it myself; sometimes whispering for fear of being cocky; i made that happen or i wished it into being; i saw this before but where was it? This is meditation in action; the power to create and bring forth into manifestation one's thoughts and ideas.
However I have yet to taste the pure meditative state of mind as explained above by Krishnamurti; I am still stuck in this rut of the so called I, me and mine; I have yet to be able to let go of my ego!

Jiddu Krishnamurti: "When we are aware of ourselves, is not the whole movement of living a way of uncovering the “me,” the ego, the self? The self is a very complex process which can be uncovered only in relationship, in our daily activities, in the way we talk, the way we judge, calculate, the way we condemn others and ourselves. All that reveals the conditioned state of our own thinking, and is it not important to be aware of this whole process?" 


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Fasting Sadhu

The month of Ramadan has passed its half way mark of fifteen days and I am doing as my son said what I love best;painting! Only every year it has become my responsibility to paint the table legs for the restaurant. There about thirty of them and it is a chore that demands patience and purserverence  of which i am of late loosing much of mine. 
So i tried in my own way to create a routine whereby I can bring my mind to focus on something other than watching Dexter the serial killer  or the 'Wire' where the housing projects in the black neighborhoods are being overrun by drugs and murders. Doing a job wholeheartedly makes my time more well balanced between being relax and being present; although it is never good for my back.
This took place sometime at three in the morning and I started to paint soon after midnight. I keep telling myself it is a meditation practice; it helps to bring my mind into focus; Being in the Here and Now and i can tell when my mind wanders when I start making a mess with the paint spilling all around me.
I kept a watch upon this mind of mine as i work and soon begin to realize how tediously it goes about thinking from one situation, one experience in the recent past, one episode that is related to what came into focus to another; I could do very little to bring it to stop. Thus goes my meditation;simply watching my mind as I work and learning how every thought is linked to the next and to the next until i change my breath, or shift my attention to what is here and now; the painting; the breathing; the aches and pains in the shoulders and the head.
One of the more subtle forms of grip my mind has when it is exhausted  from all thoughts is the need to finish as quickly as possible the job at hand. Time becomes a factor and it would be alright for a while until a mess happens and again you realize that you are caught up in time which is of significance unless you are forced to do the job or paid by the hour!
There is a design in most of what we do if we chose to help make it so by being aware that there is design in the first place; the arrangement of the painted table legs or the whole picture itself when viewed together: it tells us a story. 
The Roshi or Rishi look at 4;30 in the morning...let the fasting begin!

Kuala Sungai Pinang -Balik Pulau.

I was wondering what to fill my time with on this day while at the 'Pondok' and edecided to take a drive to Balik Pulau which is about twenty to thirty minutes drive from Georgetown.
The Island of Penang is roughly about 47 miles in circumference and if you take a drive from any direction you will end up right back where you start.  But along the way the scenery would be different for as you drive away from the city area you get to enjoy the rustic life of the kampung folks, ie. if you drive viaq Bayan Lepas towards Balik Pulau and later to Teluk Bahang. But if you drive via Tanjung ToKong towards the Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringi areas you will enjoy alot more scenic Hotels and Beach areas. So which way to go?
I took the 'New Road' which takes me up across the hills to the other side . Saves time but not good on my little car which is like its owner slowly loosing power with age.I headed straight for the locatiino I had intended which was the Kual Sungai P9nang fishing village area..
The tide was high and this gave a different perspective than when I was there last. I like to stydy the reflections of the images in the water and also the shadows cast by the old shanties build to house the fishing gears and so forth.
It was a scorcher of a day and also time it seem for boats to return from the sea after the morning's catch. Hence every now and then a boat would slip by creating waves that would rock the structures all around me while i am doing my sketching.
I made the mistake of thinking that the  man was carrying his grandchild! Nope, that is his youngest from his second wife, like oops, sorry.
Except for birds and their ceaseless chirpings and an ocaisisonal  dof barking , it was peaceful.
Life like the river flows on  as the sound of  hammering and  what seems like washing comes out of the homes close by and I am lost in my own world of drawing and sketching..
I am happy to be able to share these sights and scenes with those who stumble upon my blog and I sincerely hope that they entertain my visitors in one way or another. Yes the is always life on the other side of the island flowing along like the river if you wish to know about it take a drive.
'The4 Kancil", my trustworthy mode of transportation ever since I bought it I have had threes major accidents and the last one is still evident by the rust on the front fender. I have driven it to and fro from Penang to Trengganu on the East Coast a journey of about 400 miles.