Saturday, 16 April 2016

Ingyinbin Journal: "Tiny Irregular Crumbly Chunks"

John, a meditator from New Zealand, spends extended periods in Ingyinbin each year, the home of the revered Webu Sayadaw and with his friend Ashin Mandala. This winter, he has decided to keep a journal, which he has kindly offered to share with us. His journal alternates between observation and poetry, between meditation practice and commentary about Burmese Buddhist society, from his learnings and his questions. The full collection of his musings can be found here.

17 January

Sitting alone in the early morning, shutters closed due to the chill, I no longer hear the solitary pink-robed nun whose early chanting near the Mahamuni statue usually reverberates in the hut.

I sit with the breath flattening, as if it has lost its volume, only a thin intermittence half free of the body. More attention is given to the area of contact between the breath and the upper lip, something which until now I have given less attention because I have been intent on distinguishing (distracted by) the visual nimitta - usually for me a bright if rather broad light - and anyway the sensations that are felt on the upper lip and those that well unbidden within and through the entire body are quite distinct. In turn, the awareness of the breath becomes sharpened and clearer, until it reaches a stage where it breaks up almost into tiny irregular crumbly chunks.

Now too with the more deliberate focus at that place, the sensation fines to a needlepoint or roughens to one or two grains of dust. Outside someone is sweeping, short brusque strokes, pausing intermittently, resuming:
Endless brush strokes
sweeping through the mind,
settled on namarupa.
Sitting further, I become aware that the body is composed of innumerable, so many, individual flecks that appear insubstantial, unfixed; and while I remain aware of the body as a whole neither are these flickerings simply the same ones recurring.
1000 points
sweeping mind and body,
settled in namarupa.
On our evening walk through Ingyinbin village, again we are greeted with unguarded warmth by the local people, again the girls are just leaving the weaving factory. Looking back after them, I notice the dust clouds stirred up by the returning oxcarts and motorcycles: sunlight and fine dust particles hopelessly enmesh and the lightness of one and the heaviness of the other holds them together in suspension.
Rust-coloured, the late sun
bound in the dust of returning carts; gathered at their gates,
children dash towards us, smiling.
The following morning rain falls. Dust that last night wouldn’t settle will do so now for at least a day or two. Aum Pyee worries that the remaining unharvested rice will be ruined should the rain continue into a second day. Looking at the ground, I see particles of dust coagulate as they become absorbed into large misshapen droplets.
Cheerless hours, old Bhante-ji departed,
three young puppies with their motherscattered. Nearby the hut, a notched bamboo pole
extended, the elderly woman snares
thin uppermost branches, stripping
the tree of its small, plum-like fruits.

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