We are in Malaysia, in Penang and then Kuala Lumpur.
I discuss verses From the Teo te Ching, Chapter 1, by Lao tsu:
“Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.
Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.”
These verses describe something encountered by meditators in all traditions: if you sit in stillness, the mind gains a kind of clarity — normal life involves desire, connected to emotions, that cloud perception. Lao tsu’s verses are obscure — but, in stillness, there is understanding.
We hike through the jungle in Penang toward Monkey Beach.
Meditators refer to the “monkey mind.” In its natural state, the mind is active, like a monkey swinging through the trees. Those who meditate encounter their mind. The mind is not naturally calm. Thoughts, emotions, sensations arise. Humans are caught by this.
The mind is like a glass of muddy water — if left still, the mud settles and the water becomes clear and you can see through it. Insight is possible.
We come to Monkey Beach, Penang National Park. It is hot — but we wanted to see this place.
The next day, we take the bus to Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia.
We eat at a restaurant with Rool, a Malaysian guy we met in Istanbul.
Karen and I stand with Rool and Alicia, his daughter.
Malaysia is a foodie paradise — a place where one can encounter Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisine. It is natural to want to eat delicious food and to be with friends.
Rool wants us to eat special herbs and a hot sauce made from durians (a smelly but delicious fruit)
The Petronus Twin Towers are an important landmark.
Later, we visit the “Chinatown” section — where there are Indian and Chinese temples.
This Indian temple is dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva (and his family). You might think of the various Hindu deities as like parts of yourself — gods are shaped by people’s needs and the Hindu gods have aspects that mirror those of human families.
When you meditate, thoughts of your family, friends, and the people around you come up — stories come up — memories. When a memory arises, take note of it and return your awareness to your breath.
Shiva’s wife, Parvati
Their son, Ganesha
There are many stories about Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha, and other family members. Once Shiva barged in on Parvati and they quarreled (she wanted her own space). He stormed out and, in his anger, cut off Ganesha’s head. He recognized his error and replaced the head with one from an elephant, an animal that happened to be passing by.
This seems like a strange story — but you should hear the stories I encounter during family therapy sessions! People have all kinds of problems — money, sex, anger, loneliness, ego, and trivial problems that grow into real crises. Children are damaged by marital conflict. Then they grow up and repeat the process.
Hindus do not regard Ganesha as damaged — his elephant head works very well and Ganesha grants requests for good fortune regarding business. He is not handicapped in any way.
When meditating, take note of the thought that emerges and then return your awareness to your breath (or other focus of awareness).
Your family has shaped the mental habits that govern your thoughts — through meditation, you become aware of your mental habits. Awareness is a start.
Ganesha was shaped by childhood events — but is loved and honored.
Accept yourself as you are. There is healing in this.
A Chinese temple, dedicated to Guan Yu, God of War
Guan Yu is not honored for military victories but for honesty, virtue, proper behavior, support for education. Guan Yu lived during the Three Kingdom period (he was captured and executed in 220). Stories of his moral qualities and righteousness led to his becoming deified over time so that he was worshipped as early as the Sui Dynesty (581-618).
All gods change over time. The Hebrew God in the Old Testiment was ruthless, egotistical, petty, cruel, jealous. These days, God is nebulous — but Christians think of God as human.
[There are some complex issues here — my wife tells me that God is not human and I remind her of Jesus]
Christianity has a “three-in-one” God. Muslims have One God — but there is a tendency to focus attention on various attributes so that the different elements inside the human mind are taken into consideration. Complex, isn’t it?
Religions are like water — they take the shape of their container. Religion is shaped by its society — it provides a way of thinking about the things that go on inside the mind.
If you wish, you can read about Confuscianism, Taoism, or Buddhism, but no matter how much you read, you will not understand it unless you get beyond the surface manifestations and encounter the mystery.
Mystery and manifestations — Lao tsu gives you a hint: darkness, emptiness, non-doing, stillness. Sitting in stillness – that is the beginning.