Thursday, August 16, 2007

On the 16th of August 1947, at Kasauli in the foothills of the Himalayas, Bhante (Urgyen Sangharakshita) ritually and actually went forth.

“There was only one way out. Religious societies, organizations, and groups, far from being a help to spiritual development were only a hindrance. However lofty the ideals with which they were founded, they had a natural tendency to degenerate, in the hands of selfish human beings, into instruments for the acquisition of money, position, power, and fame. Instead of trying any longer to work with them we would follow the example of the Buddha and sever at one stroke our connection with an incorrigible world. We would renounce the household life and go forth into the life of homelessness as wanderers in search of Truth. For the last few months we had only sat hesitantly on the shore of the vast ocean of the spiritual life. Now, casting aside all fear, we would plunge boldly in…

“Having made this resolution, we lost no time putting it into effect. With the help of a handful of gerua-mati, the reddish-brown earth used since time immemorial by Indian ascetics, we dyed our shirts and sarongs the traditional saffron of the world-renunciant. Suitcases and watches were sold, trousers, jackets, and shoes given away, identification papers destroyed. Apart from the robes that we were to wear we kept only a blanket each and our books and notebooks. As for the last three months hair and beard had been allowed to grow we did not need shaving tackle.”

“As we left Kasauli it was raining, but, as in the course of our descent we emerged from the clouds into the bright sunshine below, we saw arching the road, at intervals of a few dozen yards, not only single but double and triple rainbows. Every time we turned a bend we found more rainbows waiting for us. We passed through them as though through the multicoloured arcades of some celestial palace. Against the background of bright sunshine, jewel-like glittering raindrops, and hills of the freshest and most vivid green, this plethora of delicate seven-hued bows seemed like the epiphany of another world.” The Rainbow Road

In Homage to Basho

The High Road to Polop

Poems by Old Boot

The Hermit of Pema Dzong De


Whatever such a mind sees is a flower,Whatever such a mind dreams of is the moon.

The Records of a Travel-worn Satchel

To pay homage to ancestor Basho I undertook a poetry-writing walk, to Polop. I had seen the sign at the Barrier that read Polop por el Salt, and pointed our way. From the Barrier, our way passed through a small ravine and beneath strangely weathered limestone cliffs, before emerging out into an enormous high walled well hidden hanging valley; Guhyaloka. Here Sangharakshita had a Vihara, a simple Casa Blanca with a few yurts, huts and hermits. Por el Salt must be a corruption of something like por els Alt, so, perhaps Polop via the Mountain, or The High Road to Polop; it sounded old and mysterious, and as I discovered the way leads up across around and down a high and dangerous sacred mountain.

The three of us; myself, and my two amenable companions;
Notebook and Pen, set off without ceremony at 10:23. It was November. High in the Sierra de Aitana the autumn morning was cool and grey, but we soon warmed-up on the steep stony path, climbing up past the vihara shrine, through the airy young pines and out onto a rocky succulent encrusted shoulder. Here we took our constitutional darshan of the ancient god-rock guardians of the Secret Valley, the Phoenix and the Naga.

In a cool grove of Holm oaks, we met our old friend the dusty white road and together climbed the silent valley, padded past the silent retreat centre, and arrived at the simple shrine marking the spot where, three hundred and sixty nine days earlier, on the sixteenth of November 1999, Arthadarshin died.

After the flurry of preparation,
At last, I'm on my way.
First stop, Arthadarshin's stone.
Salutations; greetings; silence:

One of our early tantrics, Arthadarshin had been the social lubricant of our first vihara, an ever-flowing and untainted source of depth and delight. He was the rarest of friends - a soul mate. Arthadarshin understood you - in the twinkle of an eye. He wanted to start a vihara with me, he said, in Kalimpong - before getting one going in New Zealand. And then he died.

After his death, I lived occasionally in Zangdopalri. By far the most intense of all the Valley’s hermitages, Arthadarshin built this deceptively simple and airy wood and glass hermitage deep in the pines below Bhante’s vihara. It tells us much about him, his sylvan lodge. He planted trees. A Celt: ancient earth and woodland energies played within and around him. They played around his hermitage too. Once, from among the dry wispy grass, I saw the Green Man looking in at me, as I meditated. I smiled at him. He looked surprised, smiled back, then melted among the odd leaves and tufts of grass growing beneath the silver brown pines.

Although well nestled in it’s quiet elfin glade, Zangdopalri faced-off a merciless mirror for the mind - the Whale. A frozen wave of rock: several hundred feet of sheer confrontation, this limestone leviathan loomed so close, and huge, it swallowed whole one’s vision, from nadir to zenith. From Arthadarshin’s door there was nothing else to see, but that great cliff, with it’s many hidden faces. Stay in Zangdopalri long enough and you will see them. Dharmabhandu had lived there, pointed them out to me; Surya radiating his sunny benevolence, the golden faces of many gods and protectors, and ole man death. It took me a while to see the latter, and I was shocked when I finally saw what Dharmabhandu did; the empty sockets of a vast and crumbling skull: the whole cliff-the indifferent face of death.

And I wrote two poems.

Taking the stick,
Had he left it there?
Out of the red rug,
I beat white clouds:
The dust of his skin.

Leaning his stick against a pine,
A flake of silver-brown bark
Chipped off. Ohhh, I cried,
The world is not the same,
Since Arthadarshin died.

Standing that morning before his stone, I remembered his dark hair, his kind irresistible eyes, his mysteriously cadenced voice and the simple shocking naked fact of his death.

Striding out this autumn morning,
The passing of my soul friend's grave,
Reminds me how far there is to go,
And, how uncertain is the way.

It wasn’t really a grave. Arthadarshin, or at least his ash, still sat-on in the vihara shrine room; settling slowly in a large blue and white Spanish vase, coming to a full stop before the big brass image of the lotus-born guru - which used to be his.

It wasn’t really a grave – but it looked like one. A suitably rustic mosaic-encrusted stell stood amongst the rosemary and broom. Offerings; shells, coins, and semi-precious stones accumulating like memories. It’s a strange spot – just beyond the limits of our land. I often saw a daimonic thing there. Could clearly see the mark of death.

Above the retreat centre a short-cut curved up beneath the sharp white wall of Papa Chi and up on out to the valley’s spectacular southern rim. On the way round, I encountered a large new white boulder; it came up to my waist and had recently appeared in the gorse beside the slender path. Looking up towards Papa Chi’s distant white cliffs; a furrow, then a pine; snapped-off nearly three feet from the ground!

The view from the Whale is enough to make anyone pause. Out to the south, the great bulk of Puig Campana rose like a fairy tale castle besides the ever changing, blue, green, copper, silver, gold Mediterranean - receding into distant white haze.

The Bay of San Juan, white sands and tower blocks; a great billboard for pleasure - always makes one think: so much suffering hidden among so much gratification.

The inland plain, crumpled by small white hills dotted with drab splashes of olive and almond, proffered a different kind of thrill. The enormous skeleton of a long dead dinosaur, (or is it just a sleeping dragon), looking for all-the-world like a huge and extraordinarily beautiful rusticated wall of limestone, rising out of a dark green sea of pine.

Looking the other way, looking in, one could gaze down and out over our little piece of the secret valley. Directly opposite, a continuous cliff hundreds of feet high and more than a kilometre long held the valley’s northern rim; at it’s foot - our friend the dusty white road, below the road - the deep green valley of ash pine rosemary and holm.

Prakasha’s yurt and Arthadharshin’s hut were very well hidden. Bhante’s vihara and parts of the retreat centre peeked from amongst the trees. But Sagaravajra’s scree slope Turkmen yurt looked boldly out on the beautiful world like one of Prajnaparamita’s great unblinking eyes.

Above the retreat centre, the Phoenix stood sentinel at the top of the valley, where it opens up to the high serria, opens up to high serria skies, opens up in a wide-open bowl of wildflowers and grass flowers and butterflies: a bowl walled first with pine, then oak, scree and in autumn yellow clouds of mountain ash gild the valley’s high white rim.

Between looking out and looking in was looking up: up along Papa Chi’s gold-flecked fringe, up beyond to Sanxet’s high empty crags, and above all, up out into the vast azure abyss, where the unshackled sky opens out to emptiness.

Resting at the Whale's crest,
Goat bells ring above La Carrasca.
Out towards the western hills,
All is terrace and pine,
Except the limestone spine of the Castelletes,
Curving round to glimpse the sea.

From the Whale the narrow white goat track was rudimentary, but my mind was on other things…

‘Though I'm supposed to be a monk,
The truth is on my pilgrimage,
I'm wondering if I'll chance to meet,
A horny goat-herd to dally with…

Taking a faint track signalled by a red dot on a grey rock, I climbed steadily from La Carrasca’s goat corral to the highest point of the trail - 900 metres above the sea; dull and grey that overcast day.

Skirting the western ramparts of Sanxet, (one thousand one hundred and eight-five metres) the high road teetered above the valley of Sacarest, before dropping down to the Collado del Llam, the Pass of the Flame that divides this portion of the Sierra de Aitana, with enormous valleys east and west. Sanxet sometimes spelt Sanchet, and Sacarest, names given to peaks valleys and villas in this area, derive from words meaning saint and sacred. It seems we are not the first to search for goodness, truth and beauty amongst these otherworldly rocks?

At intervals, where the high road was in good order, one could see quite how old it was, and how important it once must have been. In older days, snow, scraped of the scree, was compacted in large cylindrical wells to form ice. On the backs of Asses, the Sacarest ice navigated this narrow path round the mountain and down to Polop. But many of the big flat stones, making-up the lip-like path, had fallen away. Ice and asses gone the trail was in a sorry state, maintained solely by goats and errant mountain boots.

Above the path, on the high scree slopes between Papa Chi and the peaks of Sanxet, the only green was a few holm oaks and the odd abandoned almond. Even the ferociously intrusive rosemary, introduced from Africa by the Moors, found not a foothold in this rocky waste.

A natural stone seat beneath twin oaks and I stopped for a pee and a break. Nearby was a conundrum. Someone, or something, had removed large stones from the bed of the rocky path, exposing a low-roofed cavern. It was strange. How did they know the cavern was there? Were they hunting a snake or a large lizard gone to ground? But who would do that, go to such lengths, way up here? The rocks of the path were very tightly wedged; it can't have been an easy job. Then I remembered the little pools of blood I had seen upon the track, and the huge rock recently rolled beside the path. It wasn't human; the blood, - dark and thick like chocolate or cranberry sauce.

Strange places mountains,
Stranger still the mountain folk.
Strange the stories that emanate from them,
Strange the thoughts the mountains make.

A stray wind blows,
I'd best get beyond,

A few moments later - a delightful trick of the eye. There, towering above the path, the massive walls of an English castle! Ah, but it’s only an unlikely outcrop of limestone and sandstone conglomerate.

Below Sacarest,
Limestone amalgam looms,
Like the walls of a Norman keep.

Investigating the keep, I found an old shepherd’s cave full of dust and soot, and another small white clean cave, perfect for sitting. Using it, Trisong Detsen and Dilgo Khyentze joined me in thought; I marvelled at their lineage and saw the soft white radiance of their compassion. Just sitting there, letting the mind meander, the body easing itself, I thought:

One shouldn't walk all the time,
Nor always talk or think.
Just let the body rest as it will,
The mind roam free,
It’s easy!
Once you’re awake.

The little white cave looked out across a small valley towards the great grey mountain; Puig Campana: a wizened scree-bearded king hunched over his burdensome throne. Perhaps he is Hades, transfixed - bewitched by the to him luminous shades writhing in Benidorm’s sticky black Styx.

Worn into the rock on the opposite side of the little valley, traces of another much older path set me thinking of the dharma:

An ancient path,
But visible,
To those who walk their own way,

Ah, the bliss:
Stillness in solitude.
Even the passing clouds
Dawdle today,
On Puig Campana.

Ash and pine,
On the naked rock.

Past the Keep the old ice path had fallen, and on a bit - a long section was missing; washed away in some remote mountain tempest. Undaunted the goat track clambered on, sauntered across the little valley, and leapt up onto the broad crest of the Pass of the Flame - prostrate before majestic Puig Campana.

A lump of stone facing Puig Campana, five hundred meters above, was the only excuse I needed to stop and admire. A cold wind strongly blew.

At the pass, a cold wind
Blowing in the pines,
Sounds like crowds,
Cheering Puig Campana.

Collado del Llam, the Pass of the Flame; a wide field of wild grass hung between Sanxet and Puig Campana ran off to huge valleys east and west. Ambling down the eastern valley, I turned, and saw on the horizon, in the very centre of the valley, in a precise pyramid of white rock, a perfectly circular cave blackened by fire: the flame of the pass?

Other flames of this high pass may have been the enormous apricot streaks on one of Sanxet’s peaks or the twilight flame of Apollo, who lights this way at the end of every day.

Squeezing between two young pines,
The path twisted like a snake.
So lovely, I cried out.

Oh, the delight to see,
This valley's mountain ash,
A Kings ransom in gold!

Time, with the help of the tiny Barranc de Gulapdar, had weathered this eastern valley to be even more spectacular than Guhyaloka’s, if not so spiritually inspiring. Great heights of rock and soaring orange-streaked cliffs rose to the north, while to the south even taller walls, hung with garlands of golden ash, rose in huge steps from invisible depths to be crowned by alpine meadows of pale jade, magical isles floating in the midst of the sky.

Down the track, on a lonely spur, the tumbled foundations of a once grand house gave the air an extra chill. But moments later an ancient oak lifted the gloom. The fire that striped this valley had spared that wonderful tree. Gathered around the old indomitable oak, a circle of young friends - oak, olive, almond and pine, heads bent together, listening keenly to the leaves of their hoary mentor.

And there was something else, something more. Something beyond the harmonious arrangements of rocks and trees made that grove so very attractive. At that spot many joyful meetings had taken place – so I seemed to know, between friends and lovers, and perhaps other meetings too, more serious, during times of war.

A robin flitted from limb to limb squeaking like the branches of a tree, rubbed together by the breeze. Filled with delight I entered the little grove - ducking under a low oak branch - my hands folded in salutation, chanting again and again: "May this place always be protected. May this place please protect all.”

Red-breasted protector,
Of this sacred grove,
Are you really just a Robin?
Or does a dakini dance in thee?

Lying in that happy place, my thoughts drifted to Arthadarshin's mother, and his brothers, visiting Guhyaloka that very day. I fancied I could feel a wave of sadness, a tide of longing.

Life is fleeting,
Beauty passing,
Longing, calling…
He'll be back.

Of shaggy Vajrachitta too, I thought. My other dead friend was our early Irish hermit; in his new life, he’d almost be ten – but where?

Just like that, the goat path ended, and a twin track motorable way charged off down the valley. Suddenly the spacious thoughts of the mountain, thoughts of impermanence, renunciation, resolve and hard cutting practice evaporated from my mind. Oh, may the roads be rolled back, and solitude and simplicity advance!

Off The Pass
Off the pass, a road appears!
And mountain thoughts slip from my mind,
Replaced by goatherd, blackbird and omelette.

For a while, the twin tracks tumbled down through wilds of rock and bramble, and then stumbled like a drunk, out into cultivation.

Olives, Almonds, Loquats and Figs
Orange lanterns,
On naked boughs:

By day you glow like lanterns,
But, tonight, who'll light my return,
From the cafe ensueno below?

Olives grew surprisingly high up the mountain. In circles around the trees, the black fruit lay untouched upon the ground. Thinking of the troubles of this terrestrial sphere, I wrote:

Black ungathered olives,
Fallen on the ochre earth,
Offerings to the one mother
We all owe our birth?

Lots of little birds delighted in the warm fragrant air, but whenever I got near they dashed to the protection of brambles and bushes. So sadly obvious, their terror of man; the bringer of death.

All the birds are calling,
But they flee and hide,
Let little men their big guns leave,
And surrender the countryside.

Down the road,
Beside beautiful olives,
Stone cottages,
And more beautiful still,
The ruins of stone cottages.

A wide-mouthed cave with a rock parapet was a night corral for mountain goats. I wrote:

Beneath the limestone cliff-face,
A toothy smile:
The shepherd’s shelter cave.

Today the sea is dove grey,
The immeasurable azure sky:
Completely cloud concealed.

A large ugly and abandoned house was plonked on a bulldozed shoulder of the hill. La Casa de Dios had tried to be a church, but failed. The tile crucifix was gone, its stain slowly fading from one of the dirty white walls. Christ may have passed-on but the graffitists had congregated. Celebrating their pagan mass, I wrote:

The House of God is Empty
The House of God is empty,

But Jul's been, and Lelo,
Isml and Matacra.
Esteve from Polop was here
On the 6th of the 12th '92,
And Mally came in '96,
Buffarollos Boti!

Down through the olives
Striding and strolling
Down through the olives,
Worldly thoughts assault my mind.
Like Benidorm when the surf is up.

om ratna mandala hum
I found a little something,
And hid it somewhere.
If you can keep a secret,
People simply adore you.

Can you hear the goat bells,
On the mountain side,
Or is your head so full of talk,
That the world, from you, does hide?

Can you spy the ancient rocks,
That guide the ancient way?
Peace is older,
And fresher than violence,
And will hold the day!

I was getting into the swing of writing, even giving some poems titles.

Semi-deserted House
A club of little birds in an ivy-vine tree,
Have helped themselves to late summer grapes.
While little wagtail sweeps the yard,
From within comes the complaints of a cat,
And the yawning of a dog,
Like an old man stretching.

It’s a wonderland:
The world.
Climber scrutinises the face of Cabal

Cabal is the curious name of a great thumb of rock, an offshoot of the mighty mountain, a perpendicular peninsula capped by the thick-walled ruins of some secluded hermitage or cabalistic castle. Several colourful climbers were testing their ropes.

Standing Here - Now Sitting
I've taken four hours,
Like four days,
Across down this magical mountain.

From the Pass
I can see both worlds.
Across to the eastern hills,
It’s all houses and hummocks.
Polop, La Nucia and Altea stand,
Sandcastles against the sea.

Back up the valley:
Only beauty and peace,
And thoughts of my death.

Dark clouds invaded from the north, their vast presence looming overhead like destiny. Mechanical sounds, distorted by distance, rumbled and rattled like long Tibetan trumpets.

Tibetan trumps are sounding,
Iron birds fill the air,
Church bell tolls its own decease,
What better signs are there?

From the Japanese
Darkly looming laden clouds,
Remind me of my raincoat:
Hanging on the yellow door.

Towering rock
Mountain path
Highest bliss

Neolithic house,
Beneath one

Yes, I found a neolithic house. It must be famous.

As the road ploughed down the skirt of Cabal, I spied a faint track leading up to a beautiful pinnacle-like out-crop of the mountain. I climbed up a bank, pushed through the rosemary and there it was; one of the strangest and most wonderful things I have ever beheld.

A splinter in the foot of Cabal, the thin outcrop tapered to a peak about forty feet tall. It was beautiful; tufts of broom, wizened rosemary bonsai and the odd succulent sprouted from cracks in the rough stone, shaped, naturally or otherwise, just like a giant menhir - the elongated egg-like monoliths worshiped by the continental ancients.

And underneath was a house! The menhir’s bottom was hollow, concave not convex. A low arch, a few steps and I sat beneath the pinnacle in a cave so comfortable it must have been made; yet, so natural one couldn’t see how they had done it. It was nearly twenty feet long and twelve wide – not high enough to stand. The pinnacle seemed to rest on nine or more feet, nine or more points around the bottom of the rock. Low arches connected the points; one was the door, the others were long air vents and elliptical window-like apertures. It was strangely space age, as if one were sitting in the cockpit of a rocket, and not the bolthole of a cave man. Or perhaps we should say cave boy – most neolithic’s were children who played more than they toiled and were dead well before forty. Despite the brevity of their lives, their culture spanned the world - producing wonders we still admire and mysteries we’ve yet to fathom.

Solar, lunar,
Planetary and stellar,
'Cave man' had them all,
In his short life's vast span.

Yes, where we use one, the adolescence neolithic’s were masters of four. But I was attracting attention.

Four Climbers Find Amusement
"What's he up to?"
Standing for ages,
Every few steps,
I write poems in a little book.

"It's weird!"
She gasps and giggles:
To write poems,
In the open air?

At last, Old Man Mountain stretched himself upon the plain, and walking freely; I entered orange and clover country. Among the trees, in a lumpy sea of lush green clover, a young Spanish farmer serenaded a circle women-gathering today’s oranges.

Half an hour later, I arrived, but not in Polop. The Kiosko Ensueno or Café of Dreams was a piece of Guhyaloka folk-law; one of the three or four nearest places where one could get extracurricular food, and the secret pleasure of being served - each a two or three hour trek from the Valley.

Sprawled beside the lazy black road just before the turning to Chirles, the Café of Dreams slumbered through yet another empty afternoon. I sat expectantly at a very reassuring table, but all that stirred were tiny motes of dust swimming free-style in the warm golden light. When the waiter eventually appeared, alas, he served only news of disaster: it was too late for omelette! Just coffee or coke at the Cafe of Dreams.

Here I am at Kiosko Ensueno
Amazed how cheap the Coke is,
In a green glass bottle too.
It’s the real thing at the Dream Cafe.

4 o’clock,
At the Cafe of Dreams.
Two black birds:
On bikes.

After my cola, I had to depart, as the sky grew ever darker.

Four fifteen and still on the Plain
The clouds will forbid
Even the stars from guiding me,
This tenth day of the dark moon.

Little cliff before Monte Ponoch
A large escarpment
A mini-grand canyon
And small pink flowers among young pines.

Brute Monte Ponoch;
Great shoulder
Against the world.

Chainsaw Motor Scooter
Chainsaw motor scooter,
Yapping dog water pump -
Get me back to the hills,

Monstrous Dark Cloud
Although it’s already five twenty-three,
I've only just entered,
The valley of Gulapdar.

Voices from the Far Rock Face
Now they cry yah-whooooooo.
But the black grey e monster above,
Warns caution.

Sticking firmly
To the ancient way,
Fear pity those who tread,
With silly or sore foot,
The scree slope of unguarded thought.

Oh, it sounds like they are having a time of it - the carefree climbers - attempting to cross that wide near vertical slope of scree, hanging so tenuously above those vicious rocks.

Guhyaloka sunset,
Spilling over the eastern rim.

I meet a woman from Chirles
I met a woman from Chirles.
We talked.
"What are you doing?"
"You are writing poems of that?!!"
Pointing behind her at the floral sunset,
Delight chasing wonder through her eyes.

She was Dutch fair and in a skirt – so lent a nice if fleeting shine to this old boot. Living out here, she liked to walk, and had been to the secret valley on the "lovely path" past La Carrasca. Then realising the time she exclaims, "But it’s a long way, it will be dark!"

Easy climbing,
This motored road.
But old boot don't betray me,
On the goat track ahead.

Crucial Occupation:
Through the mountains.

Signpost at Casa de Dios
A chain bars my way,
But I'm no coughing spewing car.
Mountain man,
Walking home by the goat track.
Ha! See, it even goes down hill a bit.

Eastern Valley
Ash country,
No fires please.

In the Dark
All people like to live together,
In a safe and separate home,
Strange, I find I'm most with others,
When I'm most alone.

It was dark by the time I reached the goat track, and I couldn't see to write. But I scratched on regardless as the words emerged from out of the musical night.

Even though it would soon be getting darker, I took a rest upon a smooth level wayside stone - every walker’s friend.

Mutual Causation
My bum warms
The smooth rock.
Smooth rock rests
My weary legs.

Grand House Lonely Ruin
A cool breeze soothes.
Looking up to the pass,
A rock outcrop
Like the hawk of Horus,
Hovering in the western sky.

Quick double-step on the twisting Path
Old boot,
Finds a rock,
In the gloom below.

With relief, I crested the Collado del Llam as a lively wind blew and the stars coolly cheered from the now clear but black moon-less sky.

Beret doffed
To the winds of the Pass,
Before they doffed it for me.

Top of the Pass, in the Dark.
How the wind blows!
My trousers flap,
Like prayer flags.

From the Pass of the Flame to La Carrasca was the toughest. Up and down, up and down over the treacherous ice path, hungry and sightless without moon torch or flame. But this old boot caressed the ancient way.

Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Old boot poet,
Passing on a night trek.

As usual, I saved the best for last. At smelly goat-haunted La Carrasca, rather than retrace my steps on the high path I’d come - above the Whale and down past the retreat centre, I took the low road that arched beneath the Whale’s back down to the Barrier with it’s sign that reads Polop por el Salt. But halfway down I changed my mind, came upon a disused path, a parting in the gorse, an old short-cut that drops to our valley directly beneath the Whale’s great apricot streaked southern cliff – known to the locals as The Golden Boy.

It was just the trace of a track, but more than enough to lose me in gorse and the still black night. All went tolerably well, ‘til, passing beneath the Whale, I pioneered a new hard-cutting abrupt skilful path. Descending to the lower spring in large unconventional moonwalk steps, crashing down the cliff-side, pushing out through the tangle of gorse. Stumbling free. The black air cold and fresh. The silence and stillness complete. Home at last.

Ten Hours After Setting Off
Bounding down a cliff of gorse,
In the pitch, I find the spring,
Taste the cool pure water –
Our valley’s secret.

An End – Almost
Collecting two eggs from El Morer, Bach on guitar wafting from upstairs; I marched up the valley, home, to the cool silent dark and empty vihara. After it all, I cooked myself a Spanish omelette; it came out perfect, better than any I could have purchased even in a dream cafe.

Ten thirty-three I’m in my bed.
Aching feet: hot water bottle.
Still in the grip of the muse.

The yellow door creaks in the wind
But I'm not too bothered to close it:
Old boot back from the big walk.

My eyes are droopy,
My back is sore:
Eleven hours - from door to door!

The door creaks and creaks again,
Wind gently rocks Bhante's chair.
But who's that tapping stones outside!
Is it you Banana Tree?

Yes, as I lay in the library, things went bump in the night. Perhaps the ghost of old man Basho, perhaps Arthadarshin saying hello. Or perhaps my muse bypassing my mind is sending me odes in a mystic morse code.

I must put down this pen!
And cross the pass,
To the all-night cafe of dreams.

But words kept on coming, and poems continued to appear, in the moonflower mind of this exhausted-but willing victim, of the mountain’s musical air.

Now the wind opens my door,
And a leaf begs to enter.
I'll get up to have a pee,
Look at the stars,
Turn out the lights,
Lay in the dark,
Listen to the wind:
Gossiping with the pines.

Unhand me fair pen,
Release me gentle muse,
Let this old boot rest.
Eleven thirty, exactly,
Twentieth of November
Two thousand and none.

Entering Polop on Foot
But in the dark, on the homeward path, I had dropped a cherished pen. And I hadn’t made it quite into Polop. So the next day I did it all again. I found my pen, and got to Polop, por els Alt and an omelette at the turning to Chirles.

Entering Polop on foot.
Old oak doors,
Guard older stone portals.

Baronia de Polop
Castle on the Sea
And, a still pure source.

In the narrow lanes of Polop,
The scent of Varanasi.

Climbing over the castle walls, I found in a midden, tiny fragments of fire coloured glass and a piece of pottery with Arabic script. Looking out across the plain, I was saddened to see it so degraded, by roads, the overzealous employment of bulldozers and other more toxic human spore. One of the driest places in Iberia, the environment has a merciless memory; the tracks of contraptions are traceable for decades together, and bigger earthworks bestow an ugly challenge upon eternity.

In the cool shade of the castle walls
On the edge of the eastern cliff,
I look down-a haughty chieftain,
On silly cars,
Bleating to and fro.

Across the Rio Guadalest
Towards Callosa d'En Sarria,
A dozen perfect pyramids;
Callous' upon plain’s hard-toiled palm.

Station Fourteen
Looking west, out to the mountains,
Afternoon sun lights orange on Cabal.
The Pass of the Flame is high and away,
And already this old boot is weary.

Te and Cana at La Ermita
I had Te and Cana at La Ermita
But was the only monk present that day.
"These Boots Were Made For Walking,”
Chimed from the flash tv,
Its time to step out on that road,
Before time steps on me.

I stepped out, but exhausted walked as in a dream. And of the return all that remains is a second visit to the Neolithic house, a gnarled old Carob clinging to life on the edge of a yawning abyss, and, across the abyss, a moment of Mediterranean timelessness. Among the grass tufted silver ruins of a grand villa fallen, his herd nodding or nibbling in the cool shade of deep-rooted Oaks, a young Goatherd resting atop his stone wall, arms around knees, innocent of himself, of his magic, of the perfection of the moment.

A second glance revealed the Neolithic house to be even more wondrous than I had thought. It wasn’t a giant pebble after all – it sat not upon ground but emerged from it, an outcrop of living rock. Thus, the cave was not dug beneath the tower of rock, but mined within it. It had been excavated right out to it’s circumference, creating those strange low elliptical windows all round, leaving just those nine or so foot-like posts connecting the living rock above and below.

Now, seven years on, as in a dream I’ve retraced my pilgrimage, on paper, and made good my homage to old man Basho. The verse is pretty much what I wrote as I walked. The prose came together in Kathmandu, out of the flotsam and jetsam of foundered poesy and glimpses of high-masted memories.

I set out to pay homage to ancestor Basho, but I wrote this up for Bhante, Urgyen Sangharakshita; as some small token of thanks to celebrate his birthday in 2007, and the sixtieth anniversary of his going forth.

“There was only one way out. Religious societies, organizations, and groups, far from being a help to spiritual development were only a hindrance. However lofty the ideals with which they were founded, they had a natural tendency to degenerate, in the hands of selfish human beings, into instruments for the acquisition of money, position, power, and fame. Instead of trying any longer to work with them we would follow the example of the Buddha and sever at one stroke our connection with an incorrigible world. We would renounce the household life and go forth into the life of homelessness as wanderers in search of Truth. For the last few months we had only sat hesitantly on the shore of the vast ocean of the spiritual life. Now, casting aside all fear, we would plunge boldly in…

“Having made this resolution, we lost no time putting it into effect. With the help of a handful of gerua-mati, the reddish-brown earth used since time immemorial by Indian ascetics, we dyed our shirts and sarongs the traditional saffron of the world-renunciant. Suitcases and watches were sold, trousers, jackets, and shoes given away, identification papers destroyed. Apart from the robes that we were to wear we kept only a blanket each and our books and notebooks. As for the last three months hair and beard had been allowed to grow we did not need shaving tackle.”

For two years, Bhante was Dharmapriya, a philosopher in the original sense. In the world but not of it, he wandered freely from temple to tree, cave to hermitage ever deeper into the jungle of Dharma. At Kusinara, with U Chandramani as his preceptor, he became a sramanera and later took higher ordination in Sarnath. In Kalimpong, he received the bodhisattva vows from Dhardo Rinpoche and tantric initiations from Kyabje Rinpoche Chatral Sange Dorji and other supremely illustrious lamas. But perhaps the highest ordination and greatest initiation he received - he gave to himself - that auspicious rainbow washed morning of the 16th of August 1947, at Kasauli in the foothills of the Himalayas.

“As we left Kasauli it was raining, but, as in the course of our descent we emerged from the clouds into the bright sunshine below, we saw arching the road, at intervals of a few dozen yards, not only single but double and triple rainbows. Every time we turned a bend we found more rainbows waiting for us. We passed through them as though through the multicoloured arcades of some celestial palace. Against the background of bright sunshine, jewel-like glittering raindrops, and hills of the freshest and most vivid green, this plethora of delicate seven-hued bows seemed like the epiphany of another world.”

Ganga Hiti
Chandra Binayaka
16. 08. 07

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I am just starting to recover from the longest and most debilitating illness I’ve experienced out here. The Katmandu monsoon is not what I expected. In a single day, it can be quite cold and quite hot, and it’s always very humid – nothing gets fully dry. All perfect conditions for disease. And there is a major water-borne disease problem here – which I have discovered to my own cost.

I can now drink untreated Indian well-water with relative impunity. Tap water in Nepal is a different story. The civil war has had very detrimental effect on the country and especially its infrastructure, including the water supply – there is not nearly enough of it and what there is, is not drinkable. The Government estimates that presently 72% of the water from Kathmandu taps is not fit for consumption. There has been a bad outbreak of gastroenteritis in the Valley and even cholera – with more than ten people dead from that. The Government has been using loudspeakers on vehicles to warn people not to drink the water without boiling it.

The warning came too late for me – I’ve been sick on and off for weeks – in fact it’s been more than two months. At first I managed, but these last few weeks have left me very depleted of energy and somewhat lighter. A Dr friend, Karunamati, told me that the average life expectancy in the place I have been living is just 19 years. Apparently, that is mainly because of tainted water.

On the bright side – to keep myself happy I wrote up the notes of a poetry-writing walk that I’d undertaken in 2000 whilst living at Guhyaloka. So, on and off, I’ve been living once again amongst those extraordinary mountains and rocks.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

We are still in Buddha Gaya – I have been reluctant to go until we have completed a few important projects.

It is now very hot and almost impossible to do anything in the mid day – thinking becomes exhausting and even reading seems an effort. The computer gets so hot it starts to malfunction. The earth burns ones feet and the air is hot and dry.

But by some miracle we have managed to do quite a lot of work around Nissoka’s huts; piling up a lot of rubble dirt and sand to create a bigger rainy-season island for the huts, and erecting a reed roofed veranda and a reed wall to give privacy to the back garden. We also cleaned up after the builders who made quite a mess of the place. They put down new concrete floors and replaced the badly made straw roofs with red concrete tiles. Nissoka’s corner of the land is starting to come together. It looks quite nice and is becoming much more livable. Despite the heat everything is fresh green.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

We are still here at the Secret Jewel in Buddha Gaya, Manish Krishna and I. In a couple of days we are finally off to beloved Katmandu.

I've been here three months - since the end of the big Glasgow pilgrimage, first resting up then attacking a mountain of work. The fun part has been building new Pilgrimage websites and learning more about web-construction. It was cold when we arrived in Jan but now it is HOT. Lucky me - I can drink the water

We have also done a lot of work around the huts - they are becoming nice place to stay, slowly slowly.

I've got another big year ahead - including the Conventions of the Western Buddhist Order in Norfolk UK, visiting Bhante and returning to NZ for a month.


Sunday, April 02, 2006


I'm back.

We have just completed the fourth "Urgyen Sangharakshita:Teachers of the Present" pilgrimage that leads into Padma's Sikkimese Hiddenland.

Thongwa Rangdol
Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche's golden chorten
Now I'm heading for Kathmandu and the Dhardo Rinpoche:Nepal Mandala pilgrimage.

This is the door of the Ratnaketu Mahavihara in Kathmandu

Saturday, August 27, 2005


The Vultures Peak
Where the Buddha sat
And brought forth Wisdom

A page of Perfect Wisdom
Tibetan - Gold ink

What Wisdom looks like in Tibet
What Wisdom looks like in Japan

Chinese Hui Neng rips up Wisdom

Hommage to the Perfection of Wisdom

namo arya prajnaparamita

This is the oldest printed book.
It's called the Diamond Cutter and is about Prajnaparamita.
China 868 CE

The Heart Sutra, another book on Perfect Wisdom

worlds within
Prajnaparamita portrayed in a Prajnaparamita palm leaf text.

Thank you Edward Conze.
The man who translated the entire Prajanparamita litrature.


Mother of Awakening

Prajnaparamita means Transdental Wisdom

Once upon a time they worshiped Wisdom in Afghanistan
Transendental Wisdom

Dharmachari Sagaravajra, photographer, sculptor, wanderer, Kiwi, friend and renaissance man, beside the image of Prajnaparamita he created at Rivendel.

Eighty Yesterday - Twenty Five Today

Namo Kyabje Rinpoche Urgyen Sangharakshita
Eighty years ago yesterday Bhante was born.
Twenty five years ago today Bhante gave me, and us, the sadhana of Prajnaparamita.

White Tara blessing Bhante

om tare tutare ture bhante ayur punya jnana pustim kuru svaha

Prajnaparamita with Svayambhu and Naga


Bhante speaking in Patan, Nepal, during the visit of the sacred relics of the Buddha's two chief disciples, and the transition from the Rana to the Royal rule. Nepal is the main place where Prajnaparamita is worshiped.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Happy Birthday Bhante

Tooting Rinpoche
80 Today

It seems amazing that someone can live so long. And such a life, so good, so kind, and so conscious. And so much of it. Thank you very much indeed. May we be forever inseparable. And may you live a long and healthy life.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


The Buddha

We are going on pilgrimage... worship the ground he walked on...

... because we have glimpsed the truth he upheld....

The Beginning of Something Big

The Buddha was not always a big strong man...

Once he was a little baby.

Your Blogger warns you.
"Beware lots of baby photos follow"

Mayadevi and Her Son

From Ajanta
Mayadevi; the mother of the Buddha

Mayadevi gave birth under a tree

Brahma holds the baby Buddha.

The Buddha appears as a white elephant at the moment of conception.

The Buddha was born from the side of Mayadevi, who died shortly after.

The Little Buddha

Not exactly High Art

The Buddha's First Steps


Modern Indian


Mayadevi's Dream

The Buddha's mother Mayadevi dreamt of a white elephant entering her womb on the night that she concieved the bodhisattva.
Here are some images I found on the web.