From any room on the thirteenth floor of this hotel you can look right
across the rambling city of Chiang Mai with it's smoky urban sprawl and
golden temple spires, across the maze of roads and alleyways that teem
with a million lives, right across the evening haze to the pale blue
skyline of wandering mountains framed like a watercolour in your window
Beyond this silhouette is Myanmar, a border of dark forest. In the
strangely arcane light of evening the mountains above Chiang Mai
resemble a huge dark moon rising over the rim of earth, their slow
crescent curve the blue-grey bulk of a silent close-by planet.
All the sounds of the evening city merge into a roar like a great
swollen river and you sit at your window and watch everything flow by
and all the pageantry of life. In the hotel courtyard a flag moves
slowly in the breeze and now the memory of a Zen koan comes is it
the wind that moves, the flag that moves, or the mind that moves? Today
up on the flanks of those far-off mountains I walked along a leafy trail
where sutras etched in grey river stones reminded us to wake up from our
long sleep and search for Truth.
"What does this mean?" I asked a Thai couple who also paused to reflect
on the unfamiliar lettering. "He who watches over his mind shall escape
the snares of Mara and Illusion." And this one? "O seeker of the Way,
find the freedom beyond all suffering." Why do these things always send
a shiver down to the soul? You know the answer because all your life has
been nothing but a search for freedom and all these signposts and echoes
of Reality thrill you.
So here you are half a planet away from your home, sitting on a slab of
stone in the warm afternoon sun with these epiphanies rolling about
inside your head. My brown cap shades my eyes. A good place to meditate,
obey the grey stone and watch the mind. I recall an image from long ago,
the mind likened to a buffalo that wants to eat the rice plants (sense
objects that give pleasure), the one who knows and watches as the owner
of the buffalo. The buffalo is allowed to roam free, but you watch over
the buffalo and shout when it comes too close to the rice plants
if it is stubborn and will not obey you, you hit it and send it away
with your stick. "He who watches over his mind will escape the snares of
When the mind is drawn by desire to things of the world you watch it,
knowing that these attachments will not make you happy you turn
the mind away with your practice of meditation. Eventually, through
training, the buffalo mind stays away from the rice plants and you
become tranquil and undisturbed by this enchanting and changing world.
I always hear
Inside my soul's heart-garden.
- Sri Chinmoy.
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