Saturday, July 02, 2005

kwanyin (boddhisattva of compassion) in neon

i had written this on the night of arriving at Kieu Dam temple. we were to stay another night but our plans had to be changed. i hope to return there and spend a couple of days with the children there as well as the wonderful people who run the temple before i leave the country during this trip.

kwanyin in neon
Originally uploaded by equusignis.
20:53h 1 July, 2005. Chua Kieu Dam, Van Hanh Village. Vietnam

So I have wondering for a long time what it would be like to be at a monastery and here I am. Chua (temple) Kieu Dam is a temple/monastery about 70km to the east of Saigon on the way to Vung Tau. We arrived here about an hour ago. It is dark. The air is pungent and sweet in parts from the rain. The night is alive with life. Sounds of insects, birds and toads are a symphony beneath the unspoiled sky. The rain has lifted and there are bits of inky sky dotted with glittering stars upon the earth's ceiling. One of the benefits of being in a third world country, especially out of the city is the lack of light pollution.

Coming through the temple gates, the first thing I saw was a glimpse of the altar hall. It was lit inside and what I saw was very beautiful. The setting of the foliage grounds was a little like being on a forest path and serendipitously finding a thing of wonder behind a wall of trees. I have yet to go inside that building. That is to be saved for the early morning chant. I understand that begins at four AM. When I asked what time I ought to get up for that, I was told that I would hear the summoning bells and drums. Quyen tells me it is not something to be missed if you have never experienced it before. Surely I will not miss it.

The quarters I've been given are spartan and serene. It is a cottage about four meters wide and 10 meters long divided into two rooms. At the front room there is an altar for prayer and meditation, in the back room there is a sleeping platform (no mattress here, a wooden deck topped with a straw mat and a blanket) and cubicle where the toilet is and also a back door. There is no glazing here. In this humidity the doors are shuttered and the windows have scroll ironwork with outside storm shutters. The only thing between you and the mosquitoes is a gossamer veil dropped down and tucked under at the edges of the straw mat. The floor is tile and swept incredibly clean. This is one thing one notices in the details of daily life here. Even in the poorest of houses, the floors are always kept as clean as possible and shoes stay outside. If you don't walk barefoot inside then you have a strictly indoors pair of slippers. It is an important detail, especially on hot days there is nothing quite so pleasant as a cool tile floor to relax on - forget the chair or the couch.

I joked with Ivy and Quyen earlier that if you didn't know you were at a temple, the grounds, the buildings and layout of this place has the feel of a tropical resort. I will leave it to the pictures to tell that part of the story. It has settled down here and I think most are asleep. The only sounds outside are the crickets and the occasional toad. If I close my eyes, I could be in a tent in the middle of the tropical forest. 10.82 latitude north and 106.2 longitude. This is the place where sunlight rests.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

the place where sunlight rests

Sunset on the Perfume river

the place where sunlight rests

it is the place where dew rests
in the too warm morning.

ten degrees latitude north
but far enough south for
painted clouds to convene.

it is the place of legends where
the celestial and earthbound

congregate against counsel.
heaven hungers the sensual
flesh desires tranquility.

where sunlight rests
is the dusk and dawn

of human experience.
just short of paradise
distanced enough away
from sweat and toil,
the body's tears,
the heart's aches.

warm summer rain

this afternoon we were blessed with a brief set of showers, cooling off the city streets of saigon. with each day passed running around the city, parts of it start to become familiar. on some of the streets, there are still strong residual feels of the french colonial history. it is strange to realize that this city located in southeast asia shares the layout and city planning of a place like paris. there are some good remnants from those days like long tree lined boulevards and gigantic roundabouts.

i have to say that the experience of saigon traffic still mesmerizes me. i've decided the best description i can think of is brownian motion. yes, it may sound a little strange but it is pretty accurate.

today, i had an interesting encounter with a little boy named Lam while out at breakfast. he is just a little kid trying to help support his family. the thing is he is only eight years old. one can't help but be touched on different levels after sitting there talking to him. it makes you reconsider things. once you understand something, it is impossible to turn away.

For Alexander Calder
by Erin Lambert

We are more ourselves than earthbound, mobile birds, sculpted shadows.
I had an orange bike once I had a cold and then a life around my someday
circus, glass bells. With wire, I found means to quit electricity, speak softly
to a row of cucumbers, but my distaste for office light remains as a series
of unfortunate hands cramped over keys. For I used my own to rescue
buildings, to demonstrate in red with human touch how one's presence is
a series of connections all at once — gone, like a spark — drawn through air.

bodhi leaves

bodhi leaves
Originally uploaded by equusignis.
Poem by Czeslaw Milosz

Love means to learn to look at yourself

The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills -
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn`t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn't always understand.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

life in motion II

life in motion II
Originally uploaded by equusignis.
life in motion

sitting in a car moving through traffic in vietnam, especially saigon can be a zen experience.

there are lanes yet no one pays attention. there are no manners of making turns from a particular side of the road to another.

crossing the street for a pedestrian from the viewpoint of an outsider seems as perilous as walking across a freeway in the states. however, there is an organized chaos to it all. if one watches the traffic from above, it will look like water flowing down a stream in particles made of people, mopeds, cars and the occasional bus. but unlike water it doesn't all flow in one direction. it flows closer to the way ants flow. they go in all directions and seem to bump into each other, sometimes catastrophically but rarely do.

as someone riding in a car, your first instinct is to cringe but after a couple of deep breaths you can relax and just watch the motion. strangely enough, it occurs to you that everyone on the road has the same expectation that everyone will figure out a path to get where they are going without careening into one another. at first it might seem like inattention then later you realize that it is some sort of faith, or something like any case, there is a lesson there i think. it may not be obvious but there is definitely a lesson there.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

view from hotel, hanoi

view from hotel
Originally uploaded by equusignis.
view from the hotel. from sixteen floors up, the moped traffic is akin to an ant farm with thousands of little creatures moving about like water flowing around stationary objects