A Mountain Meditation
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 pane.
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 immediate pleasure but subequent pain), 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 Mara."
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.