Friday, August 30, 2013

Time to go Fishing

'Pa'Me' (pr. Mei)
It is time to take the Sampan out and lay the Nets across the receding tide to catch whatever is left of the fishes that used to frequent these waters around the Penanag Island on the Northwest coast of the Malay Peninsular in the Andaman Seas surrounded by the Burmese and Thai coastal lines in the North and the tip of the Northern Indonesian Island of Sumatra to the Southern end. These part of the seas used to be home to such huge varieties of marine life, but today is declining rapidly due to poor fishing practices and mismanagement of the environment and last but not least;  poor economics.
The Malays had mostly been fisherment on the Island, they mostly lived on coastal ares like Batu Uban, Gertak Sanggol, Telok Cempedaak, Teluk Bahang, Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringi till Tanjung To'Kong Area. Their livlihood was from fishing, they loved fishing and its way of life that had been the guiding line for theuir daily practices; that kept their sanity after Islam; their Religion. I grew up in the 59s-60s being born in 1949, before I was being moved to the East Coast of the Peninsular to live live with my immediate family; Terengganu. In my mind I can still feel the pristine beauty of the fishing villages as I visited them with friends and families and the beauty of the collective spirit of the villagers especially if there was wedding or a funeral. We know people by where they came from, 'orang Tajung Tokong', Tanjung Tokong boy, 'Orang Balik Pulau', Balik Pulau family, man, girl etc. Samseng Sungai Pinang, Sungai Pinang gang: today, this spirit in the  Penang Malays have almost vanished, and this is the first victim of Progress and Development right up to Globalization in this era of Information Technology. The Penang Malays are slowlly being deprived of their sense of identity and as an example, today for Friday prayer the mosque at Masjid Jamaek Sungai Pinang the mosque was half full or half empty and from what I have learned almost eighty percent of the congregation on Fridays were foreign workers like Indonesians, Bangladeshis and others. This is a serious indicator for those who are being aware of the effects of changes in the life of a society; its physical as well as spiritual; this is the 'Quality of Life', indicator. If your psychiatric wards are empty or your mental homes are not fully booked, there is no drug problems or one too many teenage pregnancy of or suicide cases, then your society is well balanced and healthy.otherwise it is time to look closer and act local when you make it global, the plans for the future is in the Now; it starts from the bottom on up, from the roots, the soil, the human soul, the spirit; that which is called Being, (human-being), or (being-human).

"If religon is a thing that money can buy, then the Rich would live and the poor would die...All my trials Lord, soon be over...Too late my brothers, too late, but never mind... All my trials Lord, soon be over.".
Peter Paul and Mary-or Joan Baez
I grew up when going to market at Kuantan Road, a short walk from where I was born was a treat and I looked foreword to these morning walks and exploration going to market with my grandmother. As a child I was blessed to be able to witness, smelled, and blown away with the amount of fish being sold at the market, not to mention other departments or meats and veggies. it was what fed my subconscious mind and today is expressed in my sketching. There were lots and varieties of fishes during the fifties and sixties so much so that a foot long Ikan Terubok cost hardly twenty cents and I had to practically drag it home. Today a kilo for fresh Ikan Terubuk can fetch you almost one hundred ringgit depending where it came from and one can hardly find this fich in the waters in and around the Island; ask any fisherman about this.Many such similar species are becoming scarce and expensive these days. A fellow kampung friend of mine who spent most of his life as a fisherman in Penang told me once that in order to make a good catch in these waters one has go at least six nautical miles away from the coast of the island. In another incident a childhood friend who was working at the Penang Aquarium in the seventies at Gelugor, Marive Village, told me that three of the huge tanks of large fishes were lost due to the contamination in the water and from then on they had to six nautical miles away from the island to collect sea water for the remaining tanks and that was years ago. The sea is a dumping ground for the Island as more and more structure are put up to fill the skyline. Hundreds upon thousands of home in all shapes and forms are being erected to not fulfill the needs of the residents but to make more money for the industries and their stake holders. Everyone in it has to have his share from the CM to the back hoe driver and the Bangladeshi laborer. Where do the Penang Malays fits in all these? While more and more are calling Penang their second or third homes, the Penang Malays will end up being the homeless in Penang.
I used to joke about how the Malays will keep building fishermen shacks over the water further and further out into the sea thile the Chinese will keep on building higher and higher till the is no more room up there. Their will come a time when the Penang Malays will either awaken to their desperate reality and act accordingly or they will become servants to Chinese or Indian bosses
 or even gardeners in their yards, it has already been taking place I am told. Penang Malays  and Penang Mamak Muslims are two different entities, the later are more self sufficient and their communities will survive the tides of change as the y are more unified and proactive in their actions towards securing a permanent niche in Penang. The Money Changers, the Jewelry stores, the Nasi Kandar Restaurants among other industries are mostly theirs. As a political entity they are moe stronger if numbers than the Malays overall and more active and voice their demands allot more so then the Malays.
Where is justice for the fishermen? It is out there six nautical miles off the coast of the Island where fishing is still a healthy trade and on good days one might make a good catch to cover the cost and have some extra left to subsist on with the rest of the family. The Penang Malays are resilient in some cases and they have been able to diversify and adopt to their present roles making a livelihood for themselves it trades that was not commonly part of their upbringing; they become more like the Chinese when trading. These new breed are growing in number and has evolved slowly into what will be the future generation of Penang Malays and it is these that needs to become a driving force to make sure that their fellow Penang Malays is not left out in the Andaman Sea or the Straits of Malacca. seeking a livelihood while the rest of the world moves into the planetary age. Rich Malays got to help the poor, smart ones help out with the dummies. Become more aware of where or why and when of their fellow Malays and find ways and means for them to better their lives, get involved, touch them in their lives by helping them make right decisions and point them to their ways. Become less self serving and act out of pure care and compassion, it is the Islam thing to do for your fellow Muslim; their survival depend on it! 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Being Present in Relationships

'Sunny' The Portuguese

Do not hark back to things that passed,
And for the future cherish not fond hopes:
The past was left behind by thee,
The future state has not yet come.
But who with vision clear can see,
The present which is here and now,
Such wise one would aspire to win'
What never can be lost nor shaken.
(From The Pali Canon.)

It is the relationship to others that we see ourselves like a mirror that reflects what is before it without any judgement or discrimination, however when there is taints and flaws and the mirror the reflections takes is not as pure and faultless. Constantly cleaning our own mirror of perception, impulses and consciousness will help towards getting a clearer image and impeccable response in our relationship to the rest of humanity. Reality reveals itself undistorted, our relationship to the the whole of humanity any any level or given moment in time becomes direct and simple leaving no traces of discord. I had a long discussion over the matter of Islam its purity in practice as well as the issues that is haunting the Muslims with regard to sectarian conflicts. The way that my friend at the fisherman's jetty, "the pondok' expressed to me about what it is being a Muslim, the rituals and the practices made a whole lot of sense as well as cleared up the airs over the matters that had been questions in my mind. Islam when one thoroughly comprehend the religion is a very practical as well simple to follow religion and it is not as cut and dry like what is being propounded byt the modern day Ullama's who dwells on right and wrong, good and bad with no in between. Islam is a Compassion and tolerant religion not the unforgiving dogmatic with a wrathful God at the head. 'Allah is oft forgiving anf Most Mmerciful and not waiting for you at the End of Days to judge and throw you into Hellfire; Allah gift to man is the freedom to choose one's own path in our return to Him.
The first of the five pillars of Islam is the 'Shahadah" or the profession of the 'Unity of the One 'God' and that The Prophet' Muhammad is his Messenger, the deliverer of this Truth. La,illa ha' illal lah! No God, only Allah! Allah is Muhammad's (pbuh) 'God'. The word Allah has become a controversial issue among the Muslims and Christians in Malaysia where the learned Muslims Malays stakes a complete claim over the name that non-MUslims are forbidden to use it in their worship of the 'Chriatian God' or use in the biblical texts of the Holy Bible when translated into Bahasa Malaysia. Ever sons of the earth worthy to call themselves Malay Muslims were up in arms to protest until the issue reached the highest court of law in the land; over one Word - the word that is suppose to symbolises Unity. I am not about to make any form of argument for or against the use of the word Allah for non-Muslims or that a non-Muslim's greeting of Assalamualaikum (Peace be with) in Arabic cannot be answered by a Muslim or that young Muslim ladies cannot take part in the beauty pageant among other issues cropping up one by one in our community, but I am concern over the fact that the religion is getting more and more extremist in nature and is being run by the clerics like it is their ways or no ways at all. Islam has slowly become stagnant and claustrophobic in its manifestation There is no room it seems for any discussion once a 'Mufti' let loose a Fatwa over this or that, and more often than not the fatwa or edict serves the sanctity of the clerics not the religion and worse yet it serves the political power that be.
It is hard enough to keep one's faith intact despite all the trials and travails of life and the inner communication one has with his Maker is sacred and a paramount act of a human right to existence. In all religious belief and faiths it is the desire of the follower to find solace in his Maker and to receive His Grace through His Forgiveness and Compassion. It is our human nature to lok to something for that we can become subservient and find refuge in throughout our lives especially ni our times of dire need. Take this away from us and we are left with what? There is a line one of the short verse of the Quran (Surah Al Kafirun - The disbelievers) that says "lakum di nukum wali adin.." = to you be your religion and to me my religion. We are in fact told to mind our own business when it comes to our worship of The Lord and let others be in their own ways. No man can gguarantee the rewards or punishment of any other person in the afterlife; only the Lord has this option. For even he who is pious and devoted in this life may find himself guilty in the eyes of the Lord for something he or she may commit in the very act of being pious. he may become overly judgemental, o he may feel like a spiritual idol among his followers, or he may become so rigid in his believe that he suffocates others with dogmatism: no man is perfect and each man is personally answerable for himself.
The perfect man (Al Insan Kamil) said the Buddha is one who has attained to liberation from this cycle of Life, Death and Rebirth. To me the perfect man like the Buddha, the Prophet of Allah and many others who have lived their lives exemplary are a rare specie and they appear once in every lifetime to lead the masses towards this sense of Liberation from the bonds of  human existence in our material egoic dominated world. As mahatma Ghandi is said to have said, the Way to God is many, the end is one. It is not the end that that justifies the ways but the opposite is true. How we live and love how we serve, how we understand and so forth is our worship of god is our motive towards becoming a perfect man in the eyes of the Divine not so much is how we bow or prostrate ourselves before Him; this we do with every breath we take with or without our consciousness in this moment to moment of existence; God is in Me.. He is my Essence, I dwell in Him.
I serve my Lord by serving His Creation in all its Forms and Glory and for as long as I am breathing in and out every moment of my life I surrenders my will to His Will and His Will shall be done (with no effort -effortlessly). There is not a movement of mine that is without His ssanction and no thought of mine escapes His Knowledge, the rest is just details I call, Living. Jesus taught us the Way of Love, The Buddha taught us of Compassion and Muhammad taught us the Din of Allah. (The Rreligion of Allah). It is entirely up to us to find the truth in these teachings through ardent study and practice and not become followers of dogmatic gurus and clerics, and fanatics. We can pick the Lotus without getting our fingers wet. and the perfection of the beauty of the lotus is the result of it having grown out of the muddy waters; we are growing out of the muddy waters we call life.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Yada! Yada!...The fine art of Begging.

Action speaks greater than words.

There are days and there are days when it all comes to pieces but true to your nature you ramble on just because... I am back at having to find 2K for my daughter's College fees which is as always due pretty soon, more begging around to be done, got to get that Buddha Bowl out and knock on some doors, Such Is! But hey, its life, it is what makes living more challenging and meaningful, the important thing is to keep on trying and never say die. So I sent out a few distress calls like to my son the pilot, my brother Lee Khai and my cousin Zack who this morning came through with 1K, Alhamdullilah. Now just need to to seek one more K and end of that story.
Accepting your lot in life especially when you are on the receiving end is never easy but it is an enlightening experience which humbles your ego and i used to have an over inflated one in my younger days. Today I reach out to my friends and family with faith in mind that i too have always been a giver sometimes to a fault. Frowned upon, yes, shame and lowered self esteem yes, but one has to do what needs to be done when all else fail; my daughter will finish her schooling one way or another and this is her lesson too. If this blogging itself had been paying as promised by Google Adsense I would have had it solved at least part of deal but Google chooses to advertise on my blog free of charge accusing me of cheating or something like that, how? don't ask me. If my art works on show and at various shop  were selling I would be ok but...If I am younger and am able to hold as good a position as I used as a Safety Officer, yeah, that too would help, but...I am over the age limit for gainful employment so i help out at my cousins catering business when needed to keep me alive and less frowned upon by my peers.
My mother at one time in my teenage life warned me of becoming an artist in not so subtle a way. She switched of the light while I was deep in paint and glue while doing a collage in the wee morning hours slamming her door shut and went to bed leaving me in the dark with tears popping out of my eyes. I gave up art yes, I did, for the next ten years of my life only to take it up again while living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the United States.
I sold the first oil painting to a friend, it was of an old Chinese Junk and then I did a real close up of a patch of undergrowth with dead leaves and sticks and small flowers, it was sold to an African friend who took it with him bach to Nairobi, Africa and the rest was history. I put myself through five years of art school in Green bay, Wis. Graduated with a cumLauda in Bachelor of fine arts, Had several shows in and around the state and I did not do too bad. But I always had a side job because for some reason I was never good at selling my works, I ended up giving them away as gifts to my friends. Perhaps it is meant to be that I will never be rich like my twin brother but it is not that I am unhappy in my life just because I ramble on about it or that i am jealous of others who made it financially in this life but I just wish that sometimes I get what I am worth in my creativity. I am addicted to creating artworks just as i am to cigarettes and i am good at it, no two ways about it, but my pride as an artist often times is the block to my selling my products. My eldest brother once told me that people do not appreciate the things they get for nothing; make them pay for it. I should have taken his advice seriously.
Just got a text from the pilot in Dubai and he has sent 1500 through Western Union, so I am up ahead of five hundred which will go for my daughter's rent and allowances, Alhamdullilah. The Lord said, "Ask and ye shall be given," so I ask and the Buddha's bowl is never empty when you swallow your pride and bury your ego for there are charitable hearts out there in your times of dire need; but you must have a charitable heart as a prerequisite.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Penang Art Society Dinner

The Tara Dancers

Last evening I did my five minutes worth of story telling in front of an audience at the China House 'Cantin' this was my first performance of my "Live Blogging" which I hope i can keep on doing into the future and with a little more time allotted. I enjoyed myself as the audience were fully receptive towards all the performances, it was an encouraging experience. Felt good being able to share my tales with strangers and at the same time give my Blog and Web page a boost. I am sure one or two person in the audience might find it interesting enough to take a glance into my writing.
The evening before, on Saturday it was dinner at the E&O Hotel given by the Penang Art Society and I was a guest of my brother Lee who reserved a table for his family and colleagues as he always did in the past. I am deeply moved and honored by this man and his charitable Christian heart and he has been a saviour where my children financial needs are concern. In return I can only give what i can afford in the forms or my artworks of which he has more than he really needs and among his collection are some of the best artworks produced here in Penang as well as abroad.. Lee Khai is a lawyer however his heart is buried into artworks and he has keen sense of taste when it comes to artworks. His dedication and devotion towards the Fine Arts movement in Penang is exemplary and he is well respected by all the artists for his opinion of their works. Lee is a committee member of the Penang State Art Gallery and a well known patron of the arts in Penang. He reads voraciously as you find books stacked all over his house next to artworks and he is a Bible Scholar devoted to the in depth knowledge and practice of the Way of Christ as much as if not more so than my study of the Buddha's Way. In spite of his wealth and fame Lee is one of the most humble down to earth man when among his friends and I for one am deeply honored to be among them, however I'd hate to be on the opposite side of the fence facing him in the court of law!; I love this man more so than my own brothers and I pray that God preserve our friendship for good.
Also invited at the table was a fellow Malay Artist who is excellent in rendering photo realism of the tropical rain forest on canvass; to me he is one of the best at it in Penang and perhaps in the country and he is still young. Shapparel is not a Penang born but have been living on the island ever since his university days at USM. He loves the jungle and every so often took into the forest to gain his inspirations. Of late he has been able to move away from painting rivers and forests into a more color oriented expressionistic forms in style. He has a good sense of colors and breaking away from his normal style it seems is working out good for him.
There were mostly Chinese artists at the dinner and quite a few I know of and most I rather not have to. Mr. Chor Hong Fatt was the only gentleman who greeted me genuinely as a fellow artist with warmth and openness, a few others avoided even looking at me or acknowledge my presence; these I take with a grain of salt. And I find at my age that it don't really matter anymore one way or the other, sincere and genuine respect is earned not bought or given; I have earned my rites of passage in being who I am.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Clash of Religions - 2

OMG! How they have grown!

What is going to happen to Messir, (Egypt) was the main topic of conversation at one of my nieces engagement ceremony and everyone sitting around the table had their opinion and concerns. Yesterday being Friday the Imam was in tears when he spoke of the fate of Muslims in the troubled countries of the Middle east like Syria and Egypt and I was moved. Yes indeed it is a worrying and sad situation that is being faced by those embroiled in the power struggles and the collateral damages that has caused untold misery among the inhabitants of the affected countries. What indeed is happening to our fellow human beings that life has become the price of a bullet or a bash in the head, where even the houses of the Lord is no more a refuge from being slaughtered by your fellow men. Whatever the reasons it is beyond redemption and the end just does not justify the means by a long shot.
 It is irrelevant if you are a Muslim or not but the fact that so much pain and suffering is being extolled upon mankind by his fellow man is just too extreme to be ignored by humanity and what good is the United NNations in these situations, a collective body that is suppose to police the nations of the world in times of dire need? This is becoming the nadir of human existence where the values of human life is no better than the price of a bullet and the victims are innocent bystanders whose only care about life is that they can raise their children in peace and harmony. The world has started to spin out of control and is gathering its momentum with every new episodes of violence and destruction all in the name of power to rule, to dominate to exploit; mankind is getting sicker by the day that we need a remedy and need it yesterday.
Where do we turn in these times of darkness and how have we abandoned sanity in choosing the way of ignorance and pain? Is God taking a nap? Or is this His way of religious cleansing? Humanity has become oblivious or so it seems to the turmoils that is railroading human consciousness into oblivion replacing it with such wanton disregard for the quality of being human. Cruelty and brutality is the norm whenever there is a need for a change and the laws of Manu, the laws of the Torah Zabur and Engel, the laws of the the Quran is as good as defunct and only the laws of beast is being put into action; an eye for ten pairs of eyes. Blood flows down the drains of despair and gloom while the machines of war skyrockets in production and booming in business. Where dear Lord, where o where will it all leads on to.
Even as I am typing this entry into my Blog I am over hearing a sermon from a neighboring cubicle on the facts of Shia' and how the very intention of Shia' is to destroy Islam from its roots; a total wipe out of Islam as taught by the the Prophet of Allah. I wonder at the same time what would the Shia' Imams would be accusing of the Sunnis and will it ever find an end to this feud that started off with the struggle for power after the death of the Prophet; who shall lead Islam. It used to be and perhaps still is that the Jews were the accursed race out to destroy Islam from the face of the earth at all cost, but now it seems the opposing sectarian beliefs between two main sects in Islam between Sunni and Shia' is becoming an even more critical cause for the rift and disintegration of the Muslim world. it is finding its way into Malaysia. Can there ever be a dialogue between these two sects where common sense would prevail over dogmatism? Can there ever be a reconciliation between the two such that Muslims can look at one another and not becomes unhinged by dogmatism and extremism. Why have Muslims become so rigid and unforgiving of one another's belief towards the One God; just as they should towards the Jews vice versa. What do we hope to win at the end of the day? Heaven for me and not you simple because you are wrong in your perceptions even if you are an exemplary individual as a human being?
You are the follower of the teachings of Moses, and I am a follower of the teachings of Jesus, while he is a follower of the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad and all these three prophets professes the same same One God but no, it is not good enough, you have to obey the teachings of My Prophet, He was impeccable in his teachings says the Jews and the Christians and the Muslims. We have yet to listen to what the Buddhists and the Hindus has to say about how right their beliefs and faith is. The fact that beliefs and faith is influenced by the Race, Culture and the Environment has ceased to be a justification as to why one is a Hindu or a Muslim, a Taoist or a Christian. No doubt that rain falls equally as water all over this planet but what grows from the rain soaked fertile grounds is being determined by the nature of the earth where the rain had fallen; it is Nature's law. In the desert area a different kind of vegetation would flourish compared to the tropical rain forest environment and the areas where there is mostly snow and cold the vegetation differs from that which would exist in the coastal areas of stretches of continents. God is like a shower that just pours over all forms of life and what transpires out of this showers is subjected to the human spirit that has evolved through ccenturies of human evolution. From the cave dwellers to the cro magnon to the neanderthals to the hunters and gatherers of the Nile valley, to the constructions of the pyramids and to the erection of the Great wall; we have evolved into who we are influenced each and everyone by his surroundings, his fellow man, his social gatherings his own friends and relatives. It is more than naive to assume that we can make everyone on this planet adhere to our own faith and belief systems. Religion not unlike music is food for the souls and each souls has its taste for religion just as in like music. Just as music is a matter of personal taste and so is religion is a matter of personal choice catering to the well being of one's soul.
God scattered mankind in every form of creed and racial denomination such that we will come together in Him and not otherwise find ourselves at logger head as to who is closer to Him is his faith or belief. Many  wars have been fought and untold myriads of lives have been lost simply because "my God is greater than yours." This is one of the three illnesses that man suffers from as i have often mentioned in my ramblings; Ignorance. The failure to understand, the refusal to thoroughly investigate and scrutinize our human frailties and flaws the result of our mind and egoic domination in dealing with our fellow man. Right Understanding is the first of the Buddha's Eightfold Path, Ways towards the liberation of the human spirit from the bondage of Ignorance: Who am I?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Clash of Religions - 1

When I was working for H&H Ship Services in San Francisco. 1990 -91/

Made my second trip to KL in the last two weeks to visit my auntie who is in the hospital, she is 83 and the last of my mother's siblings who had raised me as a chikl. As I held her her shrivelled up hand I felt the connection we had while i was growing up in her care. I was also moved to feel the impermanence of existence, how all will come to an end sooner or later and I envisioned myself in her state wondering if i would be cared for by my loved ones the same as she is being cared for by her children and grandchildren. To live to a ripe old age of 83 in these days and age is an added bonus and to be constantly cared for by your loved ones in your sick bed is an even greater boon anyone could ask for; I feel sad whenever I think of my wife who passed away in a nursing home in Waterloo, Illinois without her loved ones at her side.
We al have to go through our karmic consequences and blessings in one form or another and most of us are not even conscious of the fact that what we are going through as we live our lives day to day , moment to moment, that it is all  a continuity of a long thread that began from beginning -less times till this very moment and are tied up to, interwoven with and a part of the net of life in this universe. We live day to day in utter ignorance of our connectivity to the whole and that 3ach and everyone of us are responsible for the creating of our planet's evolution. We live day to day oblivious to the fact that every bit of our words, thoughts and deeds affects the outcome of what our collective existence in some small way no matter how insignificant it may be. For so long as we are here, breathing the air and occupying the space yelling and screaming and enjoying ourselves we are making a difference in the cosmos.
Due to our lack of understanding of our dependant co-origination, our connectivity with the rest of humanity and the whole of creation, we have become estranged from our sense of belonging, we have become self centered, self serving and self dominated beings incapable of true Love and Compassion. It will always be the world out there and the 'me' in here and it is always a matter of 'my' survival and I will take care 'El Numero Uno'. It will always be 'my life, my country, my religion, mine! And all the rest is just extras, grist for the mill, food and fodder for my consumption,;my survival. It is said that, because of our ignorance of who we truly are we will constantly have vexations or problems in our lives until the day we die and even then most religious belief will tell you that being dead does not mean the end of your trials and tribulations, but as  a matter of fact it could only be the beginning. Islam is one of those religions that insist upon one measure of life and death is interdependent, if you are God fearing and a virtuous being in this life, in your after life your chances of ending up in heaven is much better than the man who rob and kill; no escape. Buddhist however believe Karma and karmic consequences and the retribution or rewards are being reaped in this lifetime and many lifetimes before or after until one's Karmic evolution has attained to 'Liberation' or Enlightenment, free from anymore karmic influences, one has stepped out of this cycle of life and earth and rebirth oncwe and for all like the Buddhas of the past did. One of the merits or marks of a Buddha is the ability to recount one's past and future lives, to be able to see the long connecting thread of one's existence from the day one came into existence till the day one is absorbed back into the 'whole' of existence itself once more. Only one's consciousness prevails through all these transmigration from one existence into another and for so long as this consciousness has a slight sense of attachment to what is erroneously thought of as life, it is still in the realm of birth, death and rebirth.
Physical death does not constitute a stepping out of this 'cosmic cycle' or entering liberation, it is merely a transition of form from one that has ran its course into one that will re-enter into a whole new cycle albeit in the higher or lower realm of forms of existence and as you sowed, so shall you reap is the guiding rule. In the Judeo, Christian and Muslim faith, the afterlife is where you are judged and executed according to one's merits and virtues or one's transgressions while being alive on this earth. Heaven and hell is our final destination and the All Mighty God is our final Judge who will either accept us into His bosom or throw us into His hell fire to be recycled or purified. Hence Muslims, Christians and even Jews have a great sense of fear of the afterlife and God's retribution so much so that they are willing to go all out to make sure that God's Words are not taken in vain while we are alive. Ironically, it is this fear and ignorance that has created so much suffering and conflicts among man leading to our self destruction in the forms of wars and brutalities. Mankind is trapped in his ignorance of his truee nature; he is blinded by what lies in the future and haunted by his past rarely does he live his life frees from these by being in the moment, here and now.
Selfless Love and Compassion is becoming a rare commodity even among the God fearing and man has become attached to his thought generated existence so much so that he is capable of becoming more insidious than his fellow creatures in his effort to ensure the survival of himself and his religious groups. Man has become intolerant and inconsiderate when judging others not of their denominations, creed or faith so much so that death is the only answer. Todayy sectarian wars and conflicts is a common occurrence even among man of same religious faith where wanton killing and brutality has ravaged religious houses and all in the name of the One God. Man himself has become intolerant and unforgiving than God accusing and executing his fellow man for the least of offences against God and religion. Compared to the Spanish inquisition era, modern man has become more vindictive and callous when it comes religious offences and misunderstandings. Man's God given so called 'free will' is of no consequence when it comes to religious issues especially in Islam and harsh justice is the norm in most Muslim countries. Religious leaders has claim their rights to judge beyond mercy of those who transgress the religion leaving behind a trail of doubts and lack of skillful means in dealing with religious issues in a more tolerant and compassionate manner. Religious vanguards and self proclaimed groups has risen to take upon themselves in propagating 'right faith and beliefs systems', right ways and non negotiable unforgiving resolutions where faith is concern each with its own agendas to promote.
Where is all these leading us towards only time can tell, time and the potential awakening of man from his dark and unconscious sleep of ignorance can resolve. If mankind fail to climb out of this pit of ignorance that we are being sucked into the chances are we will not survive as an enlightened specie but rot in a cesspool of decadence and despair and God (or Gods) will moan their loss for the winner is Satan as in the Judeo, Christian and Muskm faith and for the Buddhist and Hindus, Mara will reign supreme over the sons of Adam as we will create hell on earth. Science and materialism will be the order ofr the day and man will become no better the robots in the service of the dark forces. The divine flame that is inherent in all man will be extinguished and the soul will be forfeited to the dark side that has made the covenant between God and Satan; there will be no more prophets nor will there be God's grand miracles to save the day except through the hearts of man of true wisdom and compassion can we be led out of this darkness.
Death is just a lapse in time and life a span is ephemeral  but that which lies beyond is eternity. So it is believed by the religions of the book and Buddhism in its own way too emphasizes the eternal karmic evolution of the consciousness until it is resolved to become liberated. In essence man now matter where or what his origin has to somehow sometime sooner than later awaken to his potential to become free from this mind driven bondage of his so called existence, It is his solemn duty to awaken to his true nature and enlighten those whose life has been totally engulfed by the bleakness of ignorance, greed and hate. It is only in this human form can man find his way out of the quagmire that he is in; man is the only specie that can save humanity or perish along with the rest of sentient beings if not the planet itself. It is up to the religious leaders to lead in a more universal manner with impeccable collective understanding in dealing with man's faith in this modern day and age and not resort to archaic and rigid understanding of his religion so as not to be able to be 'Oft Forgiving and Most Compassionate' just as God would want him to be. Love and Compassion are the two keys to paradise guided by Wisdom and Intuition. In the hands of a true believer these virtues can unlock the doors that will liberate man from his own self generated bondage of pain and suffering.             

Friday, August 16, 2013

How we forget sometimes how we got where we are after those years of growing up among those who cared for us.

My duaghter growing up in Sendai, Japan.

Marissa with her Mom (top pic) and with a sister who came to visit us every now and then, cna't remember her name.

She was a powerhouse full of energy.

Visiting the 'Yochien' Principal and his family at the Mukaiyama Kindergarten.

With Peter and Eli at our back yard on Second Avenue in San Francisco.

In the basement of our Second Ave Apartment with Eli.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

From Random Sketches

I felt like a fool after opening my mouth to give my two cents worth of 'Art Appreciation to a group Art Judges selecting the winners for the "Heritage Art Competition" which which took place at the MGTF - USM. I should have restrained myself and practice just 'Bare Attention', which would have been more fruitful a practice. But i had to jump in like I always do feet first and letting my emotions fly to prove my point. Among those present were highly qualified 'Otais' and a few Art teachers and professors like Prof. Fauzan of USM and Lawrence Loh. Needles to say I put my foot into my mouth in front of great art teachers. 

But i am glad in a way that i made a fool of myself every now and then and especially in the wrong moment and time, this is when I make my 'self' heard where and when it matters. I was able to apologise to Lawrence but the others I find no need to worry anymore how or what they felt about my silly outburst on something i finally have come to embrace as my personality; I am an artist.

If it all sounds like more justifications over my ignorance or the inability to keep to my practice, yes it is and I am humbled by the experience but at the same time felt a deeper insight into who I am among my peers as an artist in the is City of Georgetown., Penang.

I see myself as who I am in the mirror every morning and i am happy that i have been allotted another year added to my life as my birth date passed by a few days ago. I am about to talk the downward slope of the bridge of my life, I have reached the summit of my path and the rest is a gradually drift towards the culmination of the entire trip I have taken thus far in trying to piece together who I am amidst life as it its.

My journey is one of taking a look at the world from within with as much awareness and enthusiasm as i possibly could like tomorrow may never come. Each and every action I manifest for better or for worse, I fully accept as is with not room for doubts or judgement, with no attachment or revulsion, with not a concept of these notions of action. I act and my action is me.

I I sweep the corridors of my mind clearing away the dust and dirt, the cobwebs and molds that has accumulated over time; thus I am.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The next phase has presented itself...

With the passing of the month of Ramadan life continues on with its daily routine of trying to keep looking busy while not doing much. Feeling guilt ridden is not the best of feelings to have but in practice, it is one of the most potent points to take off from when you are on the road to find out all you need to know about who you are or what and where you are at. The fasting month of Ramadan stirred up allot of feelings and emotions from deep within, but this year round i was more relaxed in handling these as i was also doing my own meditative, self reflective practice which seems to have become now my ingrained habit. Letting go was one of the aspects of this practice while I was fasting and dealing with not having money to take care of the daily needs. However it all seems to fall together without any traumatic incident as I gave up my expectations and simply just accept whatever that came my way, and what came my way seemed more than I could ask for. Asked for i did just so i can say i was not too proud to ask, but i got no help from anyone not my family nor my friends and I was able to chalk one down for my ego. Help came in the form of charitable acts from my relatives and friends who made sure that i was never too short of food to break my fast with.
Now I feel a whole lot lighter in being as i made it through the month of Ramadan cleaning my house of all the cobwebs of wanting and needing. I also feel more freedom from having to answer to one too many people who have their own ideas about who or what i should be, I think a whole lot less of what others think of me. I am on my own journey to find out and am back on the road after a brief stop at a roadside attraction, a slight deviation from my intended route. I feel somewhatt liberated emotionally and psychologically after having done a complete month long of fasting and observing as best i could all the taboos that goes along with it. Still on looking back, I could have done better... well Mekah can wait till I am good and ready..."make me a good person Lord, but not just yet."
One of the most precious gifts i got for my Birthday was a book I Picked off the shelve of China House Restaurant where my daughter was working when she came back for a week to spend the Ramadan with me. The book is entitled "The heart os Buddhist Meditation by the Reverend Nyanaponika Thera. It is a gift from the Universal mind for one who has been knocking and questing for answers for many years on the subject of Meditation ans Liberation. It basically teaches about 'Right Mindfulness" or Satipathana as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. The book is not new but it appears to me in the right moment in time of my practice in self - realization and annihilation which is the primary concern of my journey. As it is said. " What is to be mastered, transformed and transcended, has first to be known and understood."
I have been backsliding in the past few months from my regular intensive meditative practices letting my mind to be influenced by the hahankerings of my daily existence; my wants and my needs, my doubts and my regrets.I have been dwelling in a quagmire of remorse and helplessness, blaming the world for my shortcomings as i have done ever so often in the past. I neglected my faith in my practice, I have not been sincere in facing my failures; I have succumbed to my old habitual self; my egoic nature. The fasting month had helped me to break through this predicament to an extent and now with this new 'Bible', my new text to study. i am finding my way through towards my ultimate goal which is Liberation itself. To be free from the fetters of ignorance and suffering from the deluded state of mind that is threatening to rob me of all my previous accomplishments and sink me deep into the ocean of Samsaric Existence. I have made too deep a commitment and paid too heavy a price in my past towards being able to come thus far with my understanding of who I am; I may not have reached anywhere near the exact answer but i sure am not going to give up in fear and futility my lifelong quest.

"Bare Attention heightens the susceptibility and refines the sensitivity of the human mind; Clear Comprehension guides as well as strengthens  the actively shaping and creative energies. Bare Attention makes for the growth, preservation and refinement of intuition- that indispensable source of inspiration and regeneration of the world of action and rational thought. Clear Comprehension works for making the mind a perfect instrument for its hard task of harmonious development and final liberation. It trains one, at the same time, for selfless work in the service of suffering humanity, by bestowing the keen eye of wisdom and the sure hand of skillfulness which are as necessary for that service as a warm heart..."
                                       Concluding remarks on the two modes of practice, (Bare Attention/ Clear Comprehension). "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation." by Nyanaponika Thera.

In the latest religious development in Malaysia which has caused an uproar among Muslims in the country is the incident that happened in Johor where a resort Manager had allowed a group of Buddhists to perform their prayers at the resort Surau (Mini-Mosque). This event is a very thought provoking incident which will have a great impact upon the inter-religious relationship in the country. The already frail relationship caused by previous incidents whereby Malaysian Muslims claims that Islam has been insulted by individuals in one form or another is now facing a new phenomena which can turn nasty if not properly defused. Again and again religious issues will surface in this multi -religious country and it is imperative that the religious departments will have to look into the matters with clarity and sensitivity, not to blow out of proportion what transpires. Some issues are deliberately caused to create animosity among believers while others are human errors that can be forgiven and forgot. I sincerely hope that we Malaysians no matter what our faith may be will someday arrive at being more tolerant and accommodating towards eachothers' faith.
In looking for faults and blames there is never a shortage but in creating a harmonious example of coexistence there is a dire need for understanding and Right Understanding is the first of the Buddha's , Eightfold Path towards Liberation. As is happening in Miyamar and Thailand, I pray that Islam and Buddhism will not end up at loggerhead over an innocent oversight. As the saying goes, 'To err is human, to forgive, Divine. Let us hope Muslims in this country will manifest a sense of forgiveness much more so than the sense of retribution. Allah is oft-forgiving and Most Merciful, why are we Muslims lacking in this fundamental truth about Islam. The culprit if there is to be one is the man who made it public (on Youtube) his discovery of the so called wrong doing, this is sensationalism that will be the cause of most of our grief into the future. Once let loose on the Internet nothing is sacred and everything becomes easy target for those who seek to benefit from such incidents; a molehill becomes a mountain.
In all my years of making it my study in life of comparative religion I have tried to piece together the benefit of one religious doctrine upon another, each giving support and strength to another. I tried to avoid laying judgements upon one religious belief over another but try to find the common thread that holds it all as in one net. Man is at the mercy of chaos when religions collide with each other and it is our duty as those who seek the divine truth in religions to uphold the ssanctity of all religions regardless of our faith; man needs religions to keep his sanity intact.

"Those who have come at different times to the world to enlighten humanity and to awaken souls from their sleep of ignorance, have come from one and the same source. And although they are different souls there is but one spirit in them and thus all that they have given to humanity is the same in essence. By studying the scriptures deeply and with sympathy, not only intellectually, one will find in Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, in all these religions which have been followed by millions for ages, that in spite of having different outer forms, they all have one and the same inner sense. The inner teachings of Buddha are the same as the teachings of Krishna, although their followers may deny it. And so will the others; each one will say that the faith of the other is different from his own. This separation has always existed and still exists. It can only be removed by the understanding of the essence that is to be found in all religions...
We do not know under what guise a person preserves his religion. It may be hidden somewhere in his heart; perhaps it does not show outwardly. No doubt, if no one were able to express his religious sentiment there would be no communication possible, and that is why it is very necessary in society that we should communicate our deepest religious sentiments."   Hazrat Inayat Khan

"Buddhism does not deny that there are in the universe planes of existence and levels of consciousness which in some ways may be superior to our terrestrial world and to average human consciousness. To deny this would indeed be provincial in this age of space travel. Bertrand Russell rightly says: "It is improbable that the universe contains nothing better than ourselves."

                                                                                                 Nyanaponika Thera   

Monday, August 05, 2013

The Elegant Beggar and Christ said, "Ask!..."

A health Message for Dummies

I am back to minor aggravations such as not being able to enter directly on to my Blog page to write, so i had to go about it by uploading from my sketches and then get to write; weird! I thought I had it worked out or my friend David Carlson did a few entries back but the demon of vexations is back to haunt me. What is going on with my life? Well i am making attempts to apply for a visas to the United States and it is proving to be not an easy task and the more i get into it the less easier it gets. Perhaps my mind is at last giving in to not being as sharp as it used to be when it comes to the computer, oh well, live and let live.
Got an email from my niece in New York and from what I can deduce it looks like she wants me to practically be her restaurant manager if can find my way there. I am not so sure I am up to it as a matter of fact especially when it comes to dealing with cash registers and banks. But then again I will never know if i am up to it unless i try and what can go wrong? Yeah like having a nervous breakdown when you cannot figure out the credit card machine or getting  sparking ticket for every trip to the produce market after buying the wrong stuff, it has happened before.Yes i have a weird defeatist attitude most of my life and i cannot seem to shake it off even now that i keep saying to myself "I don't mind what happens," in my life.
Anyway i am still figuring out how to get my visas application online worked out and what with the fasting and being absolutely broke, what with not being totally happy with the fact that my eldest son decided that i should be the last to learn that he is married; yes life is a bitch but you just to get on with it cause what else can you do? No matter how hard you try to detach yourself from it, life will still have its hold on you for so long as you breath in and out. Looking on the bright side, while making my search for all possibilities like addresses in the States, I came upon my close friend Jerry Sule of the Sule Family in Green Bay ,Wisconsin and we chatted on Face book, he can't wait get together after all these years. I can look up one or two more long lost friends while I am at it. I might even try to have an art show here and there if i can pull it off, but if only i can get this visa application doing. What a pain these days to travel the paper chase alone will drive you nuts Nope, not like the good old days when you just have to show your passport and walla!
So back to basics, it is all a test, a test to see your endurance, it is what has been keeping you going over the years, like you thrive under pressure, so why not now? Old age? Crap! That is just a lame excuse, just got to figure out one step at a time, one hurdle at a time and start to untangle the tangle, start making sense out of all non-sense. it takes time and will power no doubt but what else is there to do? If i had been giving up at every stumbling block that i came upon i would not have the life that i had the past sixty odd years, so let me take this thing from top to bottom and see where it takes me; I could end up in Green Bay than New York.Not that I am overly excited about going anywhere anymore at this stage in my life anyway, so why make it a cancer case. Right now i got more or less one week to go fasting and then figure out where the money is going to come from to stay afloat in the meantime.

There is an element of insanity hidden within all of us, just how much are you willing to let it show ?
Perhaps if there is any regret I might have in the course of my life it is the fact that I turned down from becoming an unscrupulously  passionate money maker and instead chose to honor my so called God given talent as an artist. I could have been a very wealthy man right now if i had pursued the hard earning money making trait in my nature but as I said sometime ago somewhere in this blog, i would also most probably be dead or a total jerk with money. In a way having taken the more spiritual route and kept true to being creative all this while had kept me from sinking into a quagmire of decadent of which i am positive I would have succumbed to. I am not so good with having allot of money.
So i opted to being in the lower income bracket not expecting to be at the lowest most of the time but still being an artist i have come to realize if less than being a prostitute and often times it is a pain to keep reminding myself this. So i experimented with what the lat Alan Watts once called the 'Elegant beggar' persona as an artist. Living like in the old days benefiting from  good hearted patrons of the arts, those who are sympathetic towards artists who are in need due to their inability to make it in this dog-eat dog world. Persons who sees the genuine artist behind the struggle, those who can afford to give with faith and trust and less of judgement and condemnation. I think i am a fool to have this idealism in my head as i am beginning to find out. You cannot depend on anyone or anything for that matter but your own will to survive and in God's will to make it happen. So i am ending this experiment with immediate effect by turning away from asking for charity. I quit being an elegant beggar. I will stop asking or hoping for, Christ was not all correct when he said Ask and ye shall be given, or He should have added depending on who you ask from and what you can give in return.
At my age it don't really matter one way or the other anymore. I have survived sixty odd years and will live on perhaps a few more by God's grace and through it all i have experimented my life with every aspect of so called living. I have as the song goes, "squandered all my resistance for a pocket full of marbles... such are promises" ('The Boxer" by Simon and Garfunkle). Will i be singing this song in New York in the next few months? It would be poetic..

"Without a clear. institutionalized framework for funding. even the discretionary grants from the then Culture, Arts and Tourism Ministry, which held the portfolio for the arts for a time, eventually began to diminish...People often say ,you must be doing this because you really love it.," muses Kukathas."And yes I do. But shouldn't mean i(I) shouldn't be getting paid for it...People can only sacrifice so much; for things to grow..."
 Malaysian Actor and Director ..Jo Kukathas.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

At long last my number one son has tied his knots, Alhamdullillah!! praise be to Allah! Now I have a daughter in law! About time! My blog has been getting to be a little bit on the boring side of late and this new twist in my life should spice it up a little. Out of the blue just got a call from the Pilot, "hey Dad! Guess what? I am married! Huh!? it means i got  daughter in law now? Thar is correct old, man! What happened? When? How? Oh it don't matter, so long as you are happy, I am, Congratulations son! I hope you both live to the ripe old age happily ever after. Now get working on making me a Grandpa, I am behind everyone else in my family, everyone is a Dato' except me!
Want to know how i married your mother? Maybe you should ask her first, see if you have outdone your father is style. The very same house i am living in now is where i got married to your Mom and we had what they called it back then as a 'shotgun wedding'. Your mom was converted to Islam then and her name was Nazrah binti Abdullah and that is why we called you Nazri. So by birth, you were born a Muslim, oh don't worry about it now, no one cares or gives hoot unless you do. Funny how life turns out, my two children here who were born in San Francisco and raised in Japan are now Muslims in life and practice; does that makes them any better or worse? Naah! It is all in how they live their lives just as you have done so thus far. Then there is the son who is growing into another fine young man in Switzerland whose life is even more exciting if not challenging and how he has dealt with it and is still dealing with it is building his own character and it does not make him better or worse off than any of his three siblings; I have four children and each and everyone is my pride and joy.
 There is here in Malaysia an ongoing issue with the law with religious conversions, who has the right, father or mother and so forth, it would be an interesting case study if they ever ask me what i think. Well i will let the law take its course and not meddle into something that can turn ugly if one is not cautious as there these days allot of wannabe religious gurus and masters who has their own personal agendas to act out all in the name of their religions; I hate to lock horns with these, but if i must so mote it be. God is on my side, He is on your (their) side and God actually has no Religion, come to think of it, only man does. Man worships His form and without some kind of form man cannot recognize God, just as they cannot the Buddha's teachings without his image, the Divine in him. This is why man feels like he has the need to protect God in His form, whatever that maybe as most men cannot grasp God the Formless, He who is beyond even the concept of the word beyond; man is not equipped to handle the emptiness of Being in God. man has yet to arrive at the understanding of the emptiness of being in himself much less in God and so we have all the God related conflicts, my God is,The God; for this I am will to die in defence of my God.
This has been the best if not most fulfilling fasting month i have had thus far in my sixty odd years of my life. it is so simply because i have at last learned to accept a much of what benefit it has to offer to my spiritual growth within and without; I feel it more so than i have ever had. Perhaps it is just another illusory existence that the mind has orchestrated for my benefit, perhaps i am still groping in spiritual darkness while believing that I am becoming more religious and that i am more acceptable to my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters; makes life a little more tolerable in a Muslim dominated country. The modern day attitude of Muslims in this country is sadly enough, "either you are with us or against us."

Do You really Want to know?!
Long ago when i returned to this country looking for possible business contacts the saying was and perhaps still is among the Malay Muslims, 'What is in it for me?" I remember just about every character i tried to set up a project with was demanding to know this even before i can complete my presentations. The arrogance and the downright condescending attitude they greeted me with made me want to puke in front of them in their offices and these were my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. Today very few of them have made it and most I found out are just back to square one still looking for business contacts from abroad while eating roti canai from roadside stalls.
So what is my point in all these? All i can surmise is that, shit happens, then you die! You can spend all your life justifying your existence or you can live your life without having to justify to anyone why you exist, the way you do. There is no right or wrong way about it, there is only being in the moment albeit right or wrong. Your choices are what makes you who you are and who you are is not necessarily who you really want to be, to be who you are you have to stop making choices, stop justifying, stop taking sides and pointing fingers, you will know who you really are when you stop being who you think you are and become ...Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Taoist, JJewish; labelling yourself if you have to, or simply Be, moment to moment with no attachment to any form, ideas or philosophy.