TEMPUS MUTAT

People differ in awareness of Time.
Brazilian Indians have no word for tomorrow.

Time is the measure of things
moving through space.
Where there is nothing moving,
not even thoughts,
there is no awareness of Time.

When a dog sees you after a gap of years,
he does not remember you.
He re-cognises you immediately.

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GUIDE BOOK

“In Chiangmai
there are many shapeful chedis
in which nowhere can be seen.”

Is stillness something
or is it merely
what’s left over
when things
disappear?

How can things
which are ever-moving,
ever-changing,
not be?

Stillness is complete and perfect
when boundaries disappear.

Cattle do not feel
the farmyard gate
pressing against
their outward-going faces.

The goat
does not feel the rope
tugging like the endless past
at its throat.

The bird does not break
its wing
against the window pane.

The butterfly does not
struggle into immobility
in the tangles of the spider’s web.

The ear ceases to vibrate,
the skin to be the terminus
of an electric field.
The eye is not stabbed
by arrows of fire.

When the sea is
a millpond,
a mirror to the sky above,
a darkened window
to hazy depths below,
and the air is palpable
in its stillness,
where have the waves gone?

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RETURNING TO THE ROOT

The fretful Tiger in a rage
prowls the confines of his cage.
Do not feed him. Pass him by.
And, of himself, he’ll surely die.

The Gypsy, with her crystal ball,
promises to tell you all.
Do not cross her palm with gold.
Leave your future woes untold.

The wave that towers above the sea
and rubs its chin against the sky,
subsides where it will ever be.
(Not being born, how can it die?)

Delve into your heart divine
(discarding thoughts of yours and mine).
Permeate the stillness there
and of its Silence be aware.

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EXCUSES

In the pursuit of pleasure
(or the relief of pain),
they abuse their leisure
and then return to work again.

In the pool when the water is clear
a thousand activities appear;
a network of looking, seeing, willing;
of turning, diving, chasing, catching, killing.

Nowhere is there a place where one might hide
when everywhere is bright and clear inside.

A wind blows and the surface now confuses,
reflects the sky
and “I” and “My”
– opaque and deviant excuses;
a wind of words.

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UNDERTAKER

Saeng (Light) is forty two.
“When I was twenty five, I died.”
Four men in white with red caps
led him away along a gravel road.
On either side were sālās,
evidence of his good deeds.
At the end of the road were monks
and he gave alms to them.
The men in white said it was not yet his time
and he could go home.
He walked back alone
and the path was covered
with thorn needles.
He saw his body surrounded
by relatives dressed in white.
They had put his hands together
as a sign of respect for the Triple Gem.
They had bought a coffin
but were pleased
when they saw he was still alive.
He never told them his story,
“They would not understand it”.
He made an adhitthāna: *
“In future, I will do only good karma.”
He has been working
as an undertaker ever since.
“Since then I truly believe there is karma
and the result of karma.
If anyone cannot afford a funeral
or a coffin. I pay for it myself.”

The Thais say that twenty five
is a crucial age.
You can go either way.

* adhitthāna: resolution

(from BAMBOO LEAVES poetry in Thailand)

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PLUS ÇA CHANGE

The world still piles
storm on storm,
(though happiness remains the norm.)

The spider mind spins
thought on thought
(and in its own web still is caught.)

The Sun (still)
shines
in a bucket of water
(and doesn’t
get
wet).

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CUT INTO THE HUMAN WOOD

Cut into the human wood
chop; pare;
to find what is already there.
Will the knife reveal
what we have outgrown?
Or does the sculptor feel
along the veins and in the bone
the shape already in the stone
and gently, where the stone is brittle,
cut only not too much and not too little?

Or there again,
you might be just the wall,
my favourite picture on its hook;
behind (if I should ever look),
nothing at all.

Like sea
with sky reflected
deceiving me,
by birds rejected.

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