“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
For me, one of the highlights of traveling in Southeast Asia has always been chatting with the monks at the Buddhist temples found around almost every corner. Without exception, I’ve found them to be friendly and open, and just as curious about Western customs and my personal life as I was about theirs’.
Of all the SE Asian countries, Laos is my favorite travel destination. I first went there in late 2004 while I was teaching in China. This first introduction was so pleasant that it encouraged me to begin the search for a job in a region where the gentle, laid-back vibe contrasted sharply to the rushed pace of the large Chinese city where I was working.
At that time, Laos was a place seemingly frozen in an earlier era, where locals would readily offer help to a traveler without expecting anything in return. This same spirit of openness was embodied by the young monks at the many temples in the old capital of Luang Prabang, a place I’d read about and was keen to visit.
A large black wicker Buddha at an outdoor pavilion in Myanmar, the only one of this type I’ve ever encountered. Photo: Henry Lewis
I don’t remember making a conscious decision to immerse myself in the study of Buddhism, but by 2005 when I arrived in Thailand to teach I already understood (at least on an intellectual level) many of its basic tenants. I’d read books by Tibet’s Dalai Lama, Vietnam’s Thich Nhat Hanh and a variety of other popular Asian Buddhist writers. I found their suggestions on how to achieve freedom from the human ‘monkey mind’ with the aim of eventually attaining a higher state of consciousness to be very appealing.
I’d also regularly attended a Buddhist sangha back in Seattle during the early 1990s where I’d developed a meditation practice and learned more about the rituals and practices which had been repackaged for Western consumption. What lay in front of me, however, was a series of lessons on the different interpretations and manifestations of Buddhism found from one country and culture in East Asia to another.
Thais making merit through symbolic offerings at Wat Po in Bangkok. Note, the cow sculpture which is more often seen in Hindu iconography. The syncretic nature of religion means that when a faith enters a new region, it usually blends with the folk belief system that was already in place before its arrival. Photo: Henry Lewis
After reading a young bloggers recent post, I decided to disable Word Ads on my site. How could I in good faith continue to write about our wasteful lifestyles and promote sustainable living while ads for things that people clearly don’t ‘need’ were being displayed at the end of each of my posts? That irony left me feeling hollow.
So, for me, turning off all ads is the right decision. Mind you, I’m far from being wealthy and I’m still looking for ways to produce income, but I’d rather make a living strictly based on my skill-set than from gimmicky advertising.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family in the USA, and to all those everywhere who are thankful for having the human essentials of food, clothing and shelter. There are so many in our world who are in flux as refugees and who have nothing more than the clothes on their backs. For them, my greatest hope is an end to their suffering and more stable and prosperous lives in the future.
The British pop rock group The 1975 have created a powerful music video, Love It If We Made It, with the refrain: “Modernity has failed us”
Surrounded by desert, the ancient Egyptians depended on their intimate knowledge of the Nile River’s ever changing flow for survival. The river’s natural flood cycles fertilized the land and made it suitable for growing crops. The Nile is shown here as it flows through present-day Luxor, the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes. Photo Credit: Henry Lewis
I’m obsessed with history and archaeology. For me, there’s a fascinating mystique that surrounds the exploration of advanced ancient cultures from the early Egyptians and Sumerians to the later New World Mayas and Incas. One thing they all had in common was a deep respect for the natural world that sustained them.
Try to imagine the innate knowledge ancient humans once possessed; the kind of skills and oneness with nature that was required for groups to navigate their way from one continent to another during the last Ice Age. These early explorers depended more on their knowledge of and continuity with nature than on the primitive technologies that were available at that time. Where is such intuition today?
Separation II, 1896. Lithograph by Edvard Munch.
In a world of artifice and sham
Where money and power rule
The Kardashsian shadow
Superficial and empathy lacking
Mind control prospers
Orwell’s prophecy rendered.
The human spirit subjugated
Mass consumption won
Aim for awareness
Gaze in the mirror
Where the only truth
Tree of Life. Photo Credit: Banchop Rasi
Polarizing the people is the authoritarian’s ultimate weapon. When this happens, the people’s power will be taken away.
From: Rap Against Dictatorship in Thailand
Note–the English subtitles begin at 0:14
I was living in Bangkok during the 2006 coup d’état. While the military take over was peaceful at the time, deadly violence later erupted as anger boiled over in the population which had become polarized into two opposing groups–the red shirts and the yellow shirts. Needless to say, this made it easier to identify those at large rallies who held similar views.
I was excited to find this video since it’s a sign that some Thai artists are taking a stand against a dictatorship which has instituted draconian laws removing their right to speak out against corruption and injustice.
I wish only peace, security and freedom for my former Thai students.