Saturday, April 28, 2007


The second of the 10 Buddhist Perfections is virtue, in Pali language it is known as "sila parami". The word virtue always had a rather uptight connotation to me and I prefer the term “proper conduct”. I like to use this term because it goes beyond the stiffness of virtue and avoids the politically charged arena of ‘morality’. Proper conduct seems to fit better, as if it were a friend walking beside me or a useful bottle of mosquito repellant in my pocket. No one really has to know what I have in my pocket. It’s my quiet tranquilizer, that thin sheet of sila I carry in my pocket.

There are times, especially here in Laos, when it would be very easy to abandon my principles for a little immediate gratification. There are plenty of people who earn their living in less than virtuous way. Beyond the big “P” and the big “D” (whatever they may stand for), there are, again, more subtle ways that proper conduct is demonstrated. Walking down the street on a hot afternoon, an old woman is walking towards me on the same sidewalk. It is the only shady part of the street. I step out into the street so that she can continue walking in the shade. It’s a simple act of kindness, respect for elders and gentlemanly behaviour. It’s very easy to do. It’s called proper conduct. I find it quite enjoyable. People around me seem to agree.

Friday, April 27, 2007

So you sow...

Het dii, dai dii. Het sua, dai sua. – If you do good, good will come to you. If you do bad, bad will come to you.

The first of the 10 Buddhist Perfections or Paramis is generosity. Giving of oneself is manifested in many ways. Sometimes it is very obvious, giving alms to a monk, giving a donation to charity, spending time at a school for underprivileged children. Other times, generosity is more subtle; giving space to others in line, smiling at a stranger, giving someone the benefit of the doubt. These more subtle forms of Dãna parami (generosity) meld with the other 9 Perfections. To whichever category you like to assign your intent means very little, so long as you practice selflessness with each moment.

When a person is generous, many other people will find fault. They will say ‘Don’t give them money; it only encourages them to beg’. They will say, ‘why are you so nice to her when you know she is just using you’. They will find fault in just about every kind act you do. But they will not tell you to do the opposite. They will not say ‘you should spit on a beggar and be mean to them’. They will not tell you this because they know it is wrong. People know, deep inside, that generosity is a virtue. They also know how easy it is to get away with being selfish (or so they think). They do it often. And they wonder why they are so unhappy, so poor, so sick, so lonely.

One day, maybe, I will be a rabbit ready to roast myself. In the meantime… Het dii dai dii. Het sua dai sua.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hunting Big Game

There is small game and there is large game. There is a different approach to hunting one versus the other. If you are hunting small game, go out into the forest and rush the bushes, flushing out the small game. If you are hunting big game, go out into the forest and wait for it to come to you.

I am hunting big game.

Kwáam sa ngup. Peace.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Handkerchief

Some times I get a little too verbose. Yesterday’s post is a good example. It wasn’t until late yesterday that I remembered what made me write all that soul-touching stuff. It was a handkerchief. A handkerchief I never got around to mentioning in the post.

This particular handkerchief once belonged to my ex-wife’s grandfather. I had never met the man (he had passed away a couple years before I met his granddaughter) but I know he was a good man. I know this because of the things people say about him and by the way his descendents and friends carry themselves. Jim was a proper southern gentleman whose memory is still mentioned with respect. Occasionally, I think of him when I pull out that handkerchief.

Washing it out in the sink the other day, I though “Why do I keep this thing?” It’s ripped – I don’t like using ripped things because I think it is a sign of disrespect towards oneself – and truly the handkerchief should be retired. But I don’t toss it out. I continue to use it because it caught a lot of snot from a good man and maybe some of his good nature is infused in its fibres. Even it the item is void of any residual energy, it helps to remind me to be a good man… albeit a little worn out in places, but still good to wipe a tear or two.

By the way, I carry a handkerchief because it’s a gentlemanly thing to do. Also, I carry it to wipe my brow – my head gets so hot sometimes my hair long ago decided it wasn’t needed and left for cooler climes (such as the shower drain). I do not use a handkerchief to blow my nose; I use a tissue for that. So, if I offer you my handkerchief, you can be assured it is clean and snot-free.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Touching Souls

When I was young – younger – I worked on a production for Arthur Giron’s play titled Becoming Memories. It’s a story of lessons learned and how they are passed from generation to generation. At that age, my mind was expanding at an incredible rate and I often thought of the meaning of life, death and all that stuff in-between. During one particular rehersal, seeped in the ambiance of the production, I had constructed a mantra which has stayed with me ever since. The saying I have repeated in my head thousands of times over the years is, “My soul will live until the end of the souls which I have touched.”

I like this little prayer of mine. I like to take the “souls which I have touched” part and consider how that may pan out. Each person I encounter – each soul – is touched by me. I, who am very imperfect, touch dozens of people each day. How long the reactions to my decisions last coincides with the intent I put behind the task. The amount of energy I put into loving, hating, envying, paying, ignoring, idolizing, humiliating, emulating, teaching, helping, kissing, fucking, screwing, loving – oooh, I already mentioned loving, didn’t I? – caring for someone, is going to dictate how long those impressions will last. To the end of their soul, I suppose..

How long does you soul last? Double back, and you see the mantra reads ‘until the end of the souls which you have touched.” So this means, if I touch a soul, that will influence how they deal with other souls, who will in turn touch other souls. Taking a wild guess, and I’m probably wrong, the average person interacts at some level with a dozen or two people each day. That’s a lot of soul-touching and those impressions are going to last for a very long time.

I think it’s a great amount of responsibilty we have to realize we have an impact on this world – this world of souls – that will last for eternity. When I consider some of the bad behaviour I’ve seen in this world, I think many of us forego this responsibility we have. We may be able to recite a golden rule, but do we live it? In some cases, yes. In other cases no.

There are people all around the globe who recognize this reponsibilty. They are people who practice kindness. They are people who practice honesty and sincerity and equality. They are people from all walks of life – soldiers, monks, merchants, carpenters, musicians, students. And, yes, they are as imperfect as all of us. In fact they are exactly the same. They are people who have accepted the idea that they have a very long-lasting influence on their neighbor, world, universe.

I do not think there is a limit to how many people can play in this game. In fact, I think there is room for every single person. Not only that, I think it would be ok to include dogs, and cats, and rats and pigs and bunny rabitts and… and donkeys, even if they do have to show up in court to defend a braying issue with the irrate neighbor. There is plenty of room for us all. Yet we have to remember we have a responsibility to touch each soul in a way with which we can be content… even if it might last for eternity.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


“He take all my money!” she explains. “He fucking my friend. He tell me to go away. He no want me any more. Two years together, now, no good.” She is heartbroken, I can see that. She is frightened – she does not want to go back to being a working girl. I try to help her. I tell her to be patient. I tell her to find people who can help her stay out of the business. Around us, people only see a falang trying to pick up a whore. Perception is everything in this world.

Far away… “I can just head back to XYZ Company.” He is confident in his delusion. “Yeah, no one can operate as many things as me.” the lies, the self-aggrandizement is endless. He has not worked in months. Not even the most desperate of employers would touch him in this state. But he thinks they are all just waiting for his call. Perception is everything in this world.

I’m going to make this happen. I try to convince myself that my plans are not all that far fetched. I take a persistent approach. I fail. I try again. I get drunk and hung-over and recover. I tell myself again and again, the only failure is the failure to try. I am trying. Perception is everything in this world.