Is Big Bird a God?

Hello! I hope you are happy and healthy.
            I have heard and am paying attention to those friends that have said things like, “My husband and I love the writing, but my brain hurts after reading it.” I will post more strictly upbeat, happy, fun bits of the books for at least the next month. There will be minimal scathing rants about social injustice, or so-called obscenity, or deep philosophy—and more Puppy-ness. Here we go.            

A lot of strange things can happen after you are pronounced dead at the hospital, brought back to life by a rebellious second doctor putting a post-mortem second shot of adrenaline in your heart, and then very shortly after regaining consciousness decide to manage your own heroin withdrawal without help.            

I met Garuda. This trip through the Twilight Zone bounced between being deeply into and all the way out of conventional reality. The experience would actually be eligible for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most fun ever had by a human being during heroin withdrawals, except for the little physical and psychological torture inconvenience. That “inconvenience” actually was not as much of a problem for me as it usually is for folks. It was gracefully overshadowed by the rest of the experience.           

Garuda can be quickly but only semi-accurately translated into Western as the Asian Phoenix. Mine was a little different. It very rarely presented itself in any conventionally described Garuda form. It also changed forms at will. In the interest of keeping these posts within the thousand-word range of quick and easy reading, here are a few random paragraphs plucked from the twenty-plus page section in the book Fearless Puppy On American Road that describes the entire experience. Thank you very much for reading, and for clicking on the backlinks.                                                                     Stay happy please, Ten***p.s. As always, if you find these weekly bits bothersome, let me know and I’ll stop sending them to you. If you find the reading at all enjoyable, please—it literally takes only seconds—click one or more or all of the highlighted backlinks following this paragraph. This simple process is completely without risk, cost, or difficulty. All it does is bring you to the site that is highlighted. Each click is a big help in pushing Fearless Puppy up in the Google rankings. Whether you browse the sites or close the windows immediately, your help has been delivered when you click. Thank you!





Ever been kicked in the crotch by a horse? Neither have I, but it seems that it might be a lot of fun compared with the effects of heroin withdrawal.                        

Some details have been forgotten and some particulars may be restructured, but this book is pretty much a true story. Except for this piece here. Maybe.       

You might call it real. Maybe not. Then again, who knows what the word “real” actually means?       

A lot of folks think that real is what materially exists and can be registered by the five senses. If you can see, feel, taste, smell, or hear it, that’s considered real by most people. But there are other schools of thought on the subject. Some folks think that our material definition of reality is just a collectively agreed upon hallucination.

A breeze comes up. It blows dust in my eyes.

Wipe eyes. Blink.

Opened eyes after blinking see that the highway has disappeared.      

Angelic sky blue surrounds me. Totally surrounds me. I am standing on it, as well as in it and under it. There is no solid ground but the blue is as secure to stand on as any of the Earth’s densest terrain. It is, oddly enough, also as comfortable to move through as Earth’s atmosphere.      

A strong but pleasant beam of light sprays right through me, treating me as a transparency.     Something nonphysical within me is being cleaned up enough to be wherever it has arrived.   

Whoever my hosts are, they want me to be here but don’t seem to want the bunch of garbage that has traveled with me.       All this is much less than clear. Ordinary sense is on vacation.      

Thousands of large white birds become visible. Each brilliant wing in the flock is composed of tiny feathers, alternating silver and crystal. Each tiny feather is as sharp as a razor. The wings begin to flap as the birds take flight. As they do so, a wind chime symphony at the volume of soft jazz is manufactured by the clank of silver against crystal. The symphony ends as the birds land in (and on) the blue.       

“We are Garrruda. Welcome.”        

It is somehow apparent that these thousands of birds are actually one combined energy. This energy displays a presence and beauty the likes of which I have never seen before. It is easy to believe myself in the presence of a Goddess.
        I feel as if two trains of thought are traveling my mind at once. One of these trains is so smart, happy, and healthy that it seems borrowed. The other is the ordinary mind that I have been using for the past year or two.
        “OK,” I think to my selves. “A little stranger than usual, but it’s a pleasant strange. This is not my first altered-state experience. We can deal with this.” I make my selves comfortable.
         My lower self is having a cynical day on Sesame Street. It thinks, “I wonder if I’m ever going to get a straight answer out of Big Bird and company here!”          

I think of another question. “What, please, is Garrruda’s purpose?”         

“Aha!” sing all the birds in a singular melodic voice that is accompanied by a symphonic flapping of wings. “That is an easy question to answer. Garrruda is here to protect you!”         

“Well, thank you very much. But protect me from what?”         

“Garrruda is here to protect you from your lower self. We are here to shelter you from that which informs you that you may never receive a straight answer from Big Bird and company.”        

Garrruda gives a soft giggle, this time in multiple voices. It is accompanied by a glance containing such a gentle compassion that it melts my embarrassment.
        “Every once in a while you get a residual, shall we say, subconscious drive-by shooting from the psychological remnants of that experience. Sometimes that bad memory, which aggregated to your psyche so long ago and associates success with punishment, attempts to surface as you are approaching a door of success. The memory is a defense mechanism. It is based upon previous conditioning. It thinks it is your friend. It is warning you not to succeed because, according to this little piece of history, you will be hurt if you win.”         

The memory is a bit unnerving. “Yes! I recognized that problem many years ago and actually remember talking myself out of it. This memory was told that it was a bad piece of information and was not a valid thought for me to live by. I dismissed it.”         

The birds smile and flap their wings. After an angelic ten-second wing chime sonata of silver and crystal, Garrruda speaks again. “When you recognize and repair dysfunctional conditioning in such a manner, you are at one with me. Byuncovering your obstacle and dissolving it, you are protected from being less than your better Self. This process requires nothing but the courage for objective self-examination. This process is a secret to many, but common knowledge to Garrruda. Through internal awareness of the root causes of our obstacles, we can cut those obstacles out. We thereby prevent being bound by them. This is the formula for psychological liberation and happiness.”         

Garrruda smiles and wraps its wings around me. Thousands of razor sharp feathers caress me without inflicting any pain or injury. An electrical charge of well being saturates my body—and then goes deeper than that. My whole life is being energized, not just the body. The sensation is like breathing pure oxygen straight from the tank. Oddly enough, there is also a feeling of being encased in water.          

Within an instant, I find out why.          

As Garrruda opens its wings, it dissolves. It disappears slowly, fading from bottom to top with its benevolent smile being the last part to vanish.                                                                      

* * *                                                         Jonah’s Frying Pan         

The bird is gone altogether and I am indeed encased in water. The blue that made up Garrruda’s world has maintained its color but become liquid. It seems odd to be breathing in water and odder yet to not be worried about it, or anything else for that matter. An all-pervasive comfort surrounds me. Everything seems better than fine—and exactly the way it is supposed to be.          

A multicolored fish joins me. It appears to be about ten feet in length and weigh nearly three hundred pounds. My new friend has a very pleasant nature, a happy demeanor, and a smile as wide as a row boat.

***Believe it or not, the chapter gets even stranger and more fun from here on!

Many thanks to our wonderful friends at Pema Boutique Hotel for their help and support.

***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author are also available through Amazon or the Fearless Puppy website, where there are sample chapters from those books. Entertaining TV/radio interviews with and newspaper articles about the author are also available there. There is no charge for anything but the complete books! All author profits from book sales will be donated to help sponsor an increase in the number of wisdom professionals on Earth, beginning with but certainly not limited to Buddhist monks and nuns.        
***If you missed the Introduction to the new book that will be titled Temple Dog Soldier, or would like to see several chapters of it that are available for free online, go to the Puppy website Blog section. This is a book in progress. You will be reading it as it is being created! Just like you, I don’t know what the next chapter is going to be about until it is written. As the Intro will tell you, this is a totally true story—and probably the only book ever written by and about a corpse journeying completely around the world!

Light and Breezy

Greetings from Nepal. I hope you are happy and healthy.  The air quality in Kathmandu has cleared just a bit. For the past week it had gone from bad to worse due to a dry winter and accompanying wildfires. We earned the dubious honor of being the most dangerous place on Earth to breathe.        

With great admiration and respect for humanity, I continue to see folks move along through trauma after trauma with strength and perseverance that most often includes a smile. It is a shame that all that strength and perseverance has to be mustered up to deal with trauma after trauma. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to spend all that energy fixing things that are already broken instead of dealing with so many increasing and additional troubles? The continuing propaganda, gaslighting, manipulation, misinformation, and intentional confusion provided the public, as well as the very real plagues, ecological disasters, political mismanagements, and other malfunctions influence almost everyone’s mood.  So much energy is spent rising above bullshit that shouldn’t exist in the first place.        

As they say in the old country, “This too shall pass.” Meanwhile, I guess there’s no common sense in doing anything but trying to create, within and without, the positivity we’d like to be swimming in.        

Tourist traffic is still sparse, but there is talk of that changing soon. Many of the small businesses here are struggling to stay afloat. While many of the less expensive hotels go out of business, the upscale hotel construction continues everywhere. Controlling interests continue building up to the gentrification of the Eastern hemisphere that is happening in coordination with the de-gentrification being forced upon the West.          

I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia for three months before coming to Nepal. Here are some short excerpts from what will be the Cambodia section of the new book. They were written before the world got so complex and heavy. To me, they are a welcome bit of light and breezy. I hope you find some light and breezy here too. Thanks very much for reading and for clicking on the backlinks.
                                            Be well. Love to all there, Tenzin

***p.s. As always, if you find these weekly bits bothersome, let me know and I’ll stop sending them to you. If you find the reading at all enjoyable, please—it literally takes only seconds—click one or more or all of the highlighted backlinks following this paragraph. This simple process is completely without risk, cost, or difficulty. All it does is bring you to the site that is highlighted. Each click is a big help in pushing Fearless Puppy up in the Google rankings. Whether you browse the sites or close the windows immediately, your help has been delivered when you click. Thank you!FEARLESS PUPPY WEBSITE BLOG 



                                                                                        The Local Market     

The local neighborhood market is a miniature version of the downtown Night Market, but with a very noticeable lack of bars and massage parlors. There is a lot more concentration on food, clothing, and cosmetics. Cosmetics are a big thing in Cambodia.      

This is a neighborhood venue that caters to a few long-term tourists, but mostly to locals with families. Fresh produce, meat, and live fish are available. The live fish sit on wet tables until someone buys them. At one of these fish tables, two live ones jump off the table and onto the floor right in front of me—and start walking down the floor! I shit you not. These fish have feet! There are no toes, but where a dog or cat’s front legs would be there are flipper/feet type appendages that allow the fish to actually walk!                                                                  

The Peace Cafe             

One of the cleanest and most beautiful bits of jungle in the neighborhood is the Peace Café. It sits about a half mile up the road and across the river from The Royal Dragon Apartments where I live. Gorgeous exotic fresh flowers of various purples and oranges grace each table. The place is spotless and the servers are in uniforms. As soon as a customer sits down, the server arrives with a smiling face and a cold, wet, very refreshing mentholated towel.              The food is some of the best in Southeast Asia or anywhere else. The Peace Café is strictly vegetarian. They don’t even use eggs. But they can make vegetable dishes taste like anything! Their vegan version of the nationally famous Amok fish rivals the original. They also offer meditation classes.             

If this sounds more like a fancy uptown restaurant than an ordinary mom-and-pop place, you are right. The prices reflect it. But that only means that a two dollar meal downtown (that would cost fifteen dollars in most of America) costs four dollars at The Peace Cafe. It is worth it. The atmosphere, as well as the food, reflect the value of the place.           

There is a card displaying a wisdom saying on each table at the Peace Café. Here is a sampling.              If you are depressed, you are a living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.              There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.              If you want peace, stop fighting. If you want peace of mind, stop fighting with your thought.                                                        

Death Defying Dragon Drivers       

I grew up in New York City and have since been in major metropolitan areas around the world. Cambodian drivers are by far and away the craziest and bravest I have ever seen. It is a miracle that half the population doesn’t die daily in traffic accidents! Tuk-tuks, motorbikes, some cars, and the occasional truck weave around each other with very reckless abandon. It is common to see someone driving on the wrong side of the road as if it is their personal one-way street and the opposing traffic is part of a video game obstacle course. Like Grand Theft Auto, drivers seem to treat the driving process as a form of entertainment instead of a potentially dangerous form of transportation. Rules are fluid. Folks have no trouble bending them. I have seen tuk-tuks going north while motorbikes go south in the same lane. As this goes on, a car tries to use the very same space to go from east to west. The situation is a bit more tame but still prevalent in my little suburban neighborhood. Downtown is flat-out batshit crazy. Pedestrians are always at risk. Looking both ways before crossing may not be enough.                                                                       Laughing Girl        

A few blocks walk from the Peace Café is a free standing hut restaurant with seventy-five cent coconuts. They chop the top off and stick a straw in one for me. A few blocks past that, down a side street, is a stand with a dozen kinds of natural juices. Half of the juices are made from fruits I have never heard of before. I get the Aloe Vera. Downing both juices would give a good rush all by itself. The monstrous amounts of sugar that Cambodians put in everything possible adds to the jolt.         

On that same side street, a block past the juice place, is a thirty foot tall, ornately carved, stone gateway. This is most often a sign that there is a temple, probably with an elementary school attached to it, behind that gateway. The gate itself is an incredible piece of art containing finely crafted scroll work as well as images of goddesses, elephants, and crocodiles. If a singular craftsman of his day did this, it may have taken a whole lifetime to finish.          

Getting closer affords a view of three orange-robed monks walking in the distance behind a hundred screaming children at play in a schoolyard. My juice buzz and I wander through the gate into a hectic schoolyard full of the sweet, noisy chaos of happy children, and then on to the serene silence of the temple/monk-residence section. Wandering into a small side temple gives a big surprise. Half of it is cordoned off into sections of orange robes hung over rope lines acting as room dividers. Three or four monks are actually living in this shrine!          

The main temple is much bigger. It is spotless and beautiful, as most of them are. It is considered a blessing to clean the temple. Monks and locals alike take very attentive care of the area. After a half hour of meditating/day dreaming in the temple, I go back to the school area to write up some notes. There are a few stone steps behind a woman that sells ice cream from a cart by the schoolyard. She has a crying three-year-old daughter with her. The child is perched in a basket on the handlebars of the bicycle that hauls that cart around.           

Many times, all that children need is to be distracted from their crying for just a minute in order to completely forget what the crying was about in the first place. (It can work with whining adults too.) I stroke the child’s hand while giggling and smiling at her. She starts giggling back. Giggles turn into uproarious laughter and the kid is on a roll! I’m ready to play. I start laughing and smiling right back at her. A half-dozen kids waiting for ice cream think this is hilarious. They start laughing along with us. This goes on for twenty minutes. Every few minutes the baby takes a break. As soon as she catches her breath and starts to laugh again, I give her a big smile and laugh in return—and then everyone waiting for ice cream breaks into laughter as well.            

At six feet and two inches tall, I may be the biggest, whitest thing this kid has ever seen in her short life. She may be the sweetest person I have ever met in mine.                                  

Many thanks to our wonderful friends at Pema Boutique Hotel for their help and support.

***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author are also available through Amazon or the Fearless Puppy website, where there are sample chapters from those books. Entertaining TV/radio interviews with and newspaper articles about the author are also available there. There is no charge for anything but the complete books! All author profits from book sales will be donated to help sponsor an increase in the number of wisdom professionals on Earth, beginning with but certainly not limited to Buddhist monks and nuns.        
***If you missed the Introduction to the new book that will be titled Temple Dog Soldier, or would like to see several chapters of it that are available for free online, go to the Puppy website Blog section. This is a book in progress. You will be reading it as it is being created! Just like you, I don’t know what the next chapter is going to be about until it is written. As the Intro will tell you, this is a totally true story—and probably the only book ever written by and about a corpse journeying completely around the world!

Not There Yet

I hope you are happy and healthy. I am still in Kathmandu, currently coming back from a severe dog bite, a few weeks of loose-stomach problems that fried my brain with dehydration, and attempting to recover from it all with construction noise in the apartment beneath me that sounded like an industrial jack hammer performing a lobotomy through a skull with a thick steel plate in it. The experience has turned me into a mildly shell-shocked, part-time short-tempered asshole. I have now moved back to the lovely Pema Boutique Hotel, into a room that is quieter and more amenable. Rapid progress is being made both mentally and physically. Meanwhile, the following seems to be an appropriate post—and will be a piece within the new book-in-progress. I hope it gives you a good laugh. Laughter, as the old saying goes, may well be the best medicine. Back to more about Love, Dharma, Nuns, and Lamas next week.
                                                                  Be well. Love, Tenzin
***p.s. As always, if you find these weekly bits bothersome, let me know and I’ll stop sending them to you. If you find the reading at all enjoyable, please—it literally takes only seconds—click one or more or all of the highlighted backlinks following this paragraph. This simple process is completely without risk, cost, or difficulty. All it does is bring you to the site that is highlighted. Each click is a big help in pushing Fearless Puppy up in the Google rankings. Whether you browse the sites or close the windows immediately, your help has been delivered when you click. Thank you! FEARLESS PUPPY WEBSITE BLOG FEARLESS PUPPY ON AMERICAN ROAD/AMAZON PAGEREINCARNATION THROUGH COMMON SENSE/AMAZON PAGEFEARLESS WEBSITE

                                                                           NOT THERE YET            

A friend of mine in America told me he was interested in finding out more about Buddhism. I directed him to the closest meditation center, and told him which day and at what time to catch the best meditation for beginners.          

We spoke again a week later. He told me, “The meditation was cool. Some of the people were nice—but some weren’t so nice at all! I thought they all were supposed to be Buddhists, and be like mellow and friendly all the time!?!”           

I asked him, “Does everyone who goes to your church act like Jesus all the time? People go to these places because they want to become something that they haven’t already become. They want to get somewhere, but they aren’t there yet. If everyone was already there, there wouldn’t be much need for churches or temples or mosques or synagogues—and for that matter there wouldn’t be much need for police forces, armies, jails, mental institutions, or many other unfortunate things.”           

His eyes opened wide with sudden revelation. It never occurred to him that everyone going to a Buddhist center was not a Buddha! He is not alone in this innocent ignorance.            

Many folks take it for granted that people within their own faith have, to say the least, not attained the exalted spiritual stature of their icons. They figure that falling short of the spiritual high mark is a sign of normalcy, and that being forgiven for this comes with the package. But for some reason it is harder for many folks to accept it when adherents of other faiths aren’t successfully living up to their own creeds. In my experience, this judgment is heaped upon the Buddhists more than it is heaped upon the followers of any other faith. Perhaps it is Buddha’s serenity, reputation for unsurpassed wisdom, and the mystical, exotic nature of the East that makes people in this troubled world think that every sheep in the flock is actually wearing The Buddha’s wool.           

I think I can help here. I think I can do my little part to put an end to that misconception. Here is something that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am definitely a not-there-yet Buddhist. These are a couple of short bits from the very short section (only these two pieces!) of the new book-in-progress. I call the section, Better Pissed Off Than Pissed On. You may notice that both bits are in a general style and rhythm that I have to thank Jeff Foxworthy for.                                                                                 

for my “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” friends                        You Might Be A…

If you are a woman (or a man with a wife, girlfriend, mother, or sister that you love) and you like a guy who says he can “grab pussy” and get away with it because he is famous         

You might be a schizophrenic

If you love, pray to, worship, revere, or even just respect the Prince of Peace but support carpet bombing that murders thousands of innocent goat herders who don’t even know where America is on a map while it is trying to kill a few psychotic fanatics                    

You might be a schizophrenic

If you think that using the words Democrat or Republican puts you on the just and moral side of any argument         

You might be a schizophrenicIf you think that unnecessary oil pipelines or any other ventures proven to poison the water of your fellow citizens are fine and dandy as long as your personal drinking water is pure                     

You might be a schizophrenic (and are obviously a self-centered asshole)

If you think it is a good idea to spend all your country’s money destroying strangers overseas while your own country’s infrastructure collapses before your very eyes, then either you don’t know what “infrastructure” means or         

You might be a schizophrenic (and are probably a bit slow-witted too)

If you tell me I can’t speak whatever way I want to speak about a country that constantly brags about “giving” its citizens “the right” to free speech         

You are very obviously a schizophrenicIf you worship a God that hates the same people you do          You are the text-book definition of schizophrenic

If you are writing about how life in America has gotten schizophrenic instead of having fun and helping to make things better in whatever way you can         

You may be discovering just how contagious schizophrenia can be                                                                                                                 

Go Fuck Yourself
If you think some mythical cartoon character from someone else’s ancient imagination is going to ride in on a white horse or fly in on a cloud at the last minute to save us from the results of things we knew all along were wrong but kept on doing anyway,

go fuck yourself.

If you care when The Cowboys are torturing The Redskins on the football field but don’t care that it happened in real life,

go fuck yourself.

If these phrases are part of your life: “Ethics don’t apply to business,” “That’s just the way it is,” “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,”

go fuck yourself.

If you would step over a hundred hungry and homeless people to get to a charity benefit at the country club,

go fuck yourself.

If you like Black music, clothing, slang, style, and cool, but you distrust or despise Black people whom you pass on the street—even though you have never personally met those individuals,

go fuck yourself.

If you’ve never given a moment’s thought to the difference between being self-centered (in the negative sense) and being centered in self (in the positive sense)—well, that happens. A lot of us just don’t get exposed to those kinds of notions. But if you don’t think about it now,

go fuck yourself.

If you work all day at a job you don’t like to make money you don’t need to buy things you don’t want in order to impress people you don’t really care about,

well, you’ve already fucked yourself.

If you are the kind of person who would put a venomous chapter called “Go Fuck Yourself” in what is otherwise a perfectly good book,

go fuck yourself.

Many thanks to our wonderful friends at Pema Boutique Hotel for their help and support. ***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author are also available through Amazon or the Fearless Puppy website, where there are sample chapters from those books. Entertaining TV/radio interviews with and newspaper articles about the author are also available there. There is no charge for anything but the complete books! All author profits from book sales will be donated to help sponsor an increase in the number of wisdom professionals on Earth, beginning with but certainly not limited to Buddhist monks and nuns.        
***If you missed the Introduction to the new book that will be titled Temple Dog Soldier, or would like to see several chapters of it that are available for free online, go to the Puppy website Blog section. This is a book in progress. You will be reading it as it is being created! Just like you, I don’t know what the next chapter is going to be about until it is written. As the Intro will tell you, this is a totally true story—and probably the only book ever written by and about a corpse journeying completely around the world!

We Don’t Crack!

Stupaville Don’t Crack

There is a popular expression in Black America that goes, “Black don’t crack.” The concept, of course, is that after suffering centuries of every imaginable brutal abuse, in a country they physically built but were never allowed to feel at home in, Black folks as a unit have developed an unbreakable resiliency.
The great comedienne Wanda Sykes recently produced a line that gave us a laugh, but is actually too true to be called a joke. Speaking of the president who has fanned the flames of race-related tragedies and so many other American disasters during the past few years, she said, “I can’t believe this motherfucker cracked black! That’s not supposed to happen! He actually cracked black!”
The situation in Nepal is at least as bad, economically and medically, as it is everywhere else. But Stupaville still don’t crack! This roughly ten square block neighborhood that I live in contains at least five large monasteries housing well over a thousand monks and nuns, as well as one of the holiest structures in the Eastern hemisphere. There are a whole lot more Buddhist monks, nuns, and monasteries, as well as Hindu Temples and holy people, in the surrounding city and mountains.
I’m guessing there are about two thousand or so people that aren’t monks or nuns who live in this Boudha Stupa section of Kathmandu, Nepal. They go to work or school every morning like the rest of us. But they all have a bit of happiness and decorum about them that the monks, nuns, and overall cultural influences here are responsible for.
Some of these people have lost their jobs and homes as well as loved ones. Many businesses are closed permanently and for sale. The main income for most business in this relatively affluent neighborhood has previously come from the tourist traffic. That tourist traffic has been nonexistent for almost a year.
It is amazing how many local people still walk around with the kind of internally generated happiness that can only come from a deep faith in the inevitable. They also maintain a strong sense of cooperative community among themselves, and are more grateful for their remaining advantages than they are grieved about those advantages they have lost.
This ability to not crack in the face of severe adversity is even more amazing when you consider the circumstances. Nepal has been a fourth world country for a long time—way before the economic, social, and political manipulation of the coronavirus was even a twinkle in Pfizer’s eye. A vast majority of the folks here live without heat all winter in concrete buildings that could easily function as meat lockers. Lack of refrigeration and a less than consistent electrical service are wide spread, so the people are often chilled much more thoroughly than the meat they will be eating. Many folks were malnourished for a long time before this recent crisis, in spite of the fact that food prices are a fraction of what they are in the Western world. Tuberculosis and many other very unpleasant diseases are by no means a rarity, and the air pollution in Kathmandu is among the worst in the world.
But there is a strong sense of community in Stupaville and, I am told, throughout Nepal. This is an incredible accomplishment considering the history of the area and the diversity of the native population. There are many different sects stemming from the various kingdoms that used to occupy the Kathmandu Valley, as well as the surrounding hills, many centuries ago. These kingdoms often made brutal war as they conquered each other in the olden days. Now most of the descendants of these various small kingdoms keep up with their historical cultural heritages while coexisting peacefully with the descendants of the other tribes.
Although the country is Hindu by a very large majority, other groups are made to feel at home. There are also an exiled Tibetan Buddhist community (much of it here in Stupaville), a healthy representation of Christians, and some Muslim devotees. There seems to be another New Year’s Day celebration here every other month! Each culture has its own. But there is no apparent friction, and a good deal of very visible mutual respect between the tribes these days. People of all sects greet each other with a “Namaste” and the palms of both hands joined in front of their chests. The popular translation of the word Namaste is “I recognize the Divine within you.”
There is no need for any of these groups to have a __ Lives Matter campaign. Police brutality is relatively infrequent and equally distributed among all the people when it does happen. Beggars work several streets in Stupaville. Some are in real need of food. Others just want to get drunk again. Several are scamming to pay the mortgage on a condo in India. Some can be aggressive and follow a potential contributor for blocks, hoping to break him or her down. In previous seasons, when tourists jammed every street, a beggar could make a lot of money by employing this annoying persistence.
Not everyone contributes to them, but I haven’t heard anyone yelling “Leave me alone and get a job, you bum” even once during the near year that I’ve been here. The folks with homes and jobs are polite, if not helpful, to their beggars as well as to each other. Folks here seem to universally recognize that the divine lives in all creatures, no matter how well disguised it may be at times.
The world seems to be changing more rapidly and severely than ever before. It is certainly changing more rapidly and severely than it ever has during our little lifetimes. Whether the Boudha Stupa neighborhood will ever become a Wanda Sykes joke is an ongoing question. But life here in Stupaville, at least for the time being, is still a celebration that stays strong enough to carry around joy in the present and a sweet hope for the future.
I hope it is where you are.
***If you missed the Introduction to the book that will be titled Temple Dog Soldier and contain the above chapter, or would like to see several other chapters that are available for free online, go to the Fearless Puppy website Blog section. This is a book in progress. You are reading it as it is being created! Just like you, I don’t know what the next chapter is going to be about until it is written. As the Intro will tell you, this is a totally true story—and probably the only book ever written by and about a corpse making a complete journey around the world! **The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author are also available through the website or Amazon. (See all the 5 reviews there!) There are also sample chapters from both books at the website. Very entertaining tv/radio interviews with, and newspaper articles about, the author are also available there. There is no charge for anything but the complete books! All author profits from book sales will be donated to help sponsor an increase in the number of wisdom professionals on Earth, beginning with but certainly not limited to Buddhist monks and nuns.

Short But Sweet

Mr. Mee and Ms. Kumnung
Mr. Mee and Ms. Kumnung are my best friends in the Temple. He is a Monk student. She is a Nun’s assistant and lay disciple. That means she does all the things a Nun student would do but is not planning to actually become one. Neither Mee nor Kumnung drink alcohol, have sex, eat after noon, or partake in many of the things that most of us would consider daily habits, pleasures, or even necessities. They are both happy.
They are like parents, a brother and sister, and friends to me. They help me with my language handicap and never call me “farang.” We eat together and breathe together. When one of us leaves the Temple grounds, we miss each other. I go out from the Temple grounds often. They rarely leave at all. In spite of my financial destitution, I always share tobacco with Mr. Mee and make special efforts to get sweets for Ms. Kumnung. She smiles when I come back from town, whether I’m carrying sweets for her or not. I would miss a hundred meals just to see that smile once.
Mr. Mee is the James Brown of our Temple home. Just like the late, great “hardest working man in show business,” he is constantly making an effort. With tools that would be considered more of a liability than an asset in the Western world, he gets everything done. Raking, hoeing, planting, painting, studying, and cleaning—he does it all and more. There is no lawn mower here. He mows the large lawn with a scythe and scissors.
Neither of these people ever complains about anything although more often than not there are no sweets, and some days we have no money for rolling papers. Mr. Mee and I often make our cigarettes from shreds of calendar paper and donated tobacco.
Mee and Kumnung always try to understand me. This takes all their patience, but they somehow never run out of it. There is very little I wouldn’t do for them and it seems they each feel the same way toward me.
Mr. Mee has enough scars on his arm from heroin addiction to have scared the shit out of Kurt Cobain and Lenny Bruce.
Ms. Kumnung has both heart and lung malfunctions. She takes more prescription medication than any nursing home resident I’ve ever met.
Mee and Kumnung are married. They shared the same bed for eight years before coming to the Temple to sleep apart.
I guess they think things are better this way.
FROM THE BOOK REINCARNATION THROUGH COMMON SENSE “Reincarnation Through Common Sense is a true-story travel adventure book about rural Asian Buddhist Monks and Nuns adopting a very troubled soul from Brooklyn, New York. Westerners have written many books about living in Asian temples. None are like this crazy true story! The main character’s life runs through death into reincarnation without ever leaving his body. He describes this process in a manner so intimate and natural that you’ll think you are having coffee on a bar stool in the temple with him. For simplified street explanations of complex Buddhist thought, and an experience unique in comedic drama, spirituality, adventure, and sheer creativity, buy and read Reincarnation Through Common Sense.”

Pandemics And Root Canals and Hornets, Oh My!

August 18, 2020

                           Pandemics And Root Canals and Hornets, Oh My!
If you are anything like me, then after eighty days in near-solitary confinement watching your species go insane with panic over this century’s bubonic plague while powerful sociopaths culturally engineer and blatantly gaslight democracy out of existence—you need some diversion. After seeing Murder Hornets invade Washington State while socially crippling racism and mindless riots vent lifetimes of both righteous indignation and misdirected anger as they swallow your homeland’s last remaining shred of integrity—you need some excitement! How about finding a working dentist that has First World dental knowledge, in a Fourth World country, during a lockdown where people are afraid to even shake hands much less put those hands into each other’s mouths? Doesn’t a bunch of root canals sounds like just the ticket while waiting for this whole thing to turn the corner and actually become the zombie apocalypse we’ve all been anxiously awaiting? Can you think of a more fun-filled activity, during a time in history when clinical depression is considered a normal reaction, than a procedure many sadists view as their go-to form of torture? Well, I certainly can’t!
It seems my teeth can’t either. The few natural teeth left in my mouth have gone rogue. They scream like mindless infants among the many silent, space-age implants housed in the rest of my jawbone. The pain has distracted me from both the hash pipe induced hibernation and the golden meditations. It is one of the very few things that could ever inspire me to attempt what seems to be the impossible—finding a high level professional with a strong knowledge of cutting edge procedures and sterile, modern equipment in a country where I don’t know a single word of the native language. This dentist needs to be willing to risk exposure to potential plague by diving into a foreigner’s mouth. The foreigner is from the nation with the world’s highest plague-related death toll. This has to happen in a world that has completely shut down, and in a part of that world where the phrase “strong knowledge of cutting edge procedures and sterile, modern equipment ” has never been part of the vocabulary.
Sometimes you get lucky. Doctor Samdup at Mon Lam dental clinic has an Internet presence that includes an email address. He answers emails quickly, and opens his office for emergencies even during a pandemic. During our first meeting, he shows more than enough dental knowledge and humanity to inspire my confidence. He seems to be a wonderful and very talented person. Dr. Samdup’s office has only one other employee. His younger brother, Chungdak, is his dental assistant since the dentist lost his actual assistant when she returned to her village as lockdown began. Chungdak seems to know his way around a dental office pretty well. Tibetan refugee families, and Nepali families in general, are very tightly knit. He has no doubt been watching his elder brother very closely since birth.
There is a high risk in this situation, but it doesn’t involve the dentist. It is with the administration that controls the opening and mandatory closing of businesses, such as the  laboratory that makes the crowns. There is a five day wait after the root canal procedures before lack of infection is verified. This verification allows the remains of the teeth to safely accept crowns. The lab makes the crowns during that five day gap. Teeth lose core strength when the central nerve (root) is extracted. Nothing is left in the middle but a vacant canal. Teeth in that condition, without strong permanent crowns offering a protective cover, could shatter. If there is a sudden forced shut down of the lab, the results could be disastrous. Decisions such as whether or not to shut businesses down are often made on-the-fly amidst the uncharted waters that have engulfed our lives in 2020.
Many administrative authorities around the world, within government and business alike, have shown confusion about what appropriate Corona procedure is and how to implement it. Actions that affect everyone everywhere are sometimes instituted by very small groups of folks doing guesswork in offices and boardrooms. They can’t be altogether blamed for this. Political and social as well as medical functions are all on new ground.
Some authorities also show more concern for the control and social engineering of their constituents than for the well-being of those people.
We all suffer a shortage of accurate information, not just government and business. There also, at times, seems to be a lack of knowledge as to what to do with accurate information, even if it appears in a very recognizable form.
Authority often has an unfortunate abundance of confidence without clarity. To be fair, so do many folks that aren’t in authority. Confidence, when tainted by pride and ignorance, will not allow its host to admit just how little he or she actually and accurately knows. This can result in some half-baked and counterproductive decision making.
All these factors are currently making life on Earth very unpredictable.
Again, sometimes you get lucky.
The lab stays open and everything goes smoothly. Two short weeks after first entering the Mon Lam dental clinic, I discover that it is possible to have fun getting four root canal procedures done, as well as a tooth pulled. Doctor Samdup seems to have the heart of Mother Teresa, the knowledge of a scholar, and the skill of a top level dental surgeon.
Those of you residing in the Western world will think this is a misprint. It is not. Four root canals, four crowns, and one extraction costs a total of  less than five hundred U.S. dollars here. The same procedures and prosthetics anywhere in America would cost somewhere between five and thirteen thousand dollars. It is very unlikely that the dentist performing these procedures in America would be any more talented than Dr. Samdup of the Boudha section of Kathmandu.
There are a lot of older foreigners with dental issues here. I recommend Dr. Samdup to all of them.
Holy Shit, I Really Am Dead!
Here is something even more bizarre than root canals during a zombie apocalypse! I have been severely, abnormally sensitive to cold for many years. Some friends say that I was spawned by a lizard, cobra, or other cold-blooded reptile. When most other people wear shorts and a T-shirt, I am in a sweatshirt and cap. In addition, I often claim to be already dead and that this book is being written by a corpse. As you know, doctors said the death part would happen by now.
These light-hearted comments have just tripped over their own feet. As it turns out, both of these chuckles seem to be a very different type of funny than anyone could have ever suspected.
Having seen and experienced more trauma than most people do in several lifetimes, I don’t freak out easily or often. But I am a little freaked now.
The monastery café that serves free lunch to trapped tourists is required by the government to keep people at least three feet apart while waiting in line at the steam tables, make sure each person keeps a mask on except while eating, and keep each person seated at a different table. Management is also required to welcome diners by putting a thermometer to the skin of each person before they are allowed to enter the first gate.
If you have a fever, there is another series of procedures.
Fever is not my problem. Usually, my friend Mr. Dawa or the lovely Ms. Diki just press the thermometer up to my head and say, “you’re fine.” Then I proceed to the mandatory hand washing and line waiting. Last week Dawa showed the thermometer to me. It said 90 degrees. I advised him to get a new thermometer as either his was broken or he was talking with one of the undead. He held that thermometer to his own and several other people’s heads. The readings were all between 96 degrees and 99 degrees. We have tried this little experiment five times during the past two weeks. Each time my temperature runs between 88 and 94°. This is cross-checked each day against several people, and always registers them between 96 and 99°!
There is no apparent explanation for this. It now appears that this book actually is being written by a corpse. For all my joking about “the zombie apocalypse,” I never thought of myself as one of the zombies!
A Nice Thought
“We suffer a serious disease as well as all the terrible human mismanagement, political and economic manipulation, fear mongering, gaslighting, social engineering, and other assorted criminal greed that is flying into our lives on the tailwinds of this virus. What if these are the abusive parents of the beautiful happening that we’ve been talking about and waiting for all of our lives? Could all this madness just be the last dying gasp of the old paradigm and its disappearing architects? Is their organized confusion and grasping at regressive straws just a sign that the old ways are fading to make room for a new, more compassionate, much more common-sensible sanity—a sanity that may come to us as soon as the dust from all the insanity settles? There may be some real ugliness in the tunnel, but the light at the end of it could be the birthplace of a near-utopian legend. As we keep our inner lights burning brightly right now, no matter how dark it temporarily seems to be outside, our better possibilities gather strength on their road to becoming tomorrow’s realities.”  Tenzin Kharma Trinley
MORE TO COME ON Nepal, photos of ancient spiritual and historical sites, people, culture, and more—if you want it. If not let me know and I will take you off the mailing list right away.
***If you missed the Introduction to the book that will be titled Temple Dog Soldier and contain the above chapters, or would like to see several other chapters that are available for free online, go to the Puppy website Blog section at (If you only have time for a bit, scroll down 6 or 7 pieces to the most important bit. It is titled What I Have Learned So Far.) This is a book in progress. You are reading it as it is being created! Just like you, I don’t know what the next chapter is going to be about until it is written. As the Intro will tell you, this is a totally true story—and probably the only book ever written about a dead man’s journey around the world!
***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author are also available through the website, as are sample chapters from those books. Very entertaining tv/radio interviews with, and newspaper articles about, the author are also available there. There is no charge for anything but the complete books! All author profits from book sales will be donated to help sponsor an increase in the number of wisdom professionals on Earth, beginning with but certainly not exclusive to Buddhist monks and nuns.


Moving On
In spite of the beauty and history, the friendliness of the people, and what may be the most inexpensive cost of living on Earth, it is time to leave Cambodia.
After a week or two in Nepal to break up the long trip, Spain is the next goal. The cost of living is bound to be more expensive in Spain, but I speak the language enough to carry on basic conversations with the locals there. The frustration of conversations ending with a first smile instead of beginning with one can cause devastating loneliness, even in a strong-minded traveler. A sixty-eight year old person is isolated enough when going around the world alone. Most individual world travelers are much younger. They are zip lining and night clubbing. The older ones usually travel in tightly knit tour groups. Not being able to speak with locals hammers a big, uncomfortable nail into communication’s coffin and can put a damper on an otherwise joyful trip.
On To Nepal
You may remember my friend Neil from the Netherlands, described in an earlier chapter. Before leaving for home, he advised me that help getting through customs and security at the Siem Reap airport was available through his connections. He sets it all up from Holland by phone. I get a ride to the airport in a Lexus from Neill’s Cambodian business partner, and am guided through check-in and customs by one of his friends that works at the airport. Neill continues to be a godsend, even from several thousand miles away.
It is great flight with wonderful crews on Silk/Singapore airlines. A Nepali couple fill the two seats next to me on the second plane. They are very sociable. We speak for hours as if we have known each other for years. Dayal and Orina live in Pokhara, about five and a half hours outside of Kathmandu. Oddly enough, their city has just been highly recommended to me. A good friend in America with Nepali traveling experience emailed just the previous day to say that, considering my health concerns, I should leave Kathmandu as quickly as possible and get to the lakeside Himalayan beauty of Pokhara. I tell Dayal and Orina to expect me within a couple of days. They are very happy about that and looking forward to my arrival.
A Terrible Beginning To A Wonderful Experience
Kathmandu, Nepal has the certified worst air quality on the planet Earth. Oxygen has color and texture here. The temperature is currently running between thirty and fifty degrees colder than Cambodia. I reserve a hotel room near the famous Boudhanath Stupa, and am guaranteed three times in three different emails from the manager that it has efficient heat.
When I step off the plane after the all day trip from Cambodia by way of Singapore, a hotel representative and driver are waiting with a sign that says, “Mr. Tenzin. Mandala Hotel.” So far, so good. Upon arrival at the hotel, I find that they have no heat in the rooms. The manager is gone for the night, so there is no way to confront him. It is too late to get anywhere else. Being out of options, I crawl into bed figuring death is imminent but at least my exit will be peaceful. Death ignores my invitation and sends suffering to take its place. All night shivering while fully dressed replaces sleep. Fiery anger with the dishonest manager is brewing in my cauldron. Anger is almost always poison, but in this case it may have raised my blood pressure enough to save me from illness.
When the manager that sent me the “we definitely have heat” emails comes in the next morning, I give him a massive tirade of shit and feel no guilt about it. It is loud and severe! Employees are staring around corners and folks look in from neighboring shops to catch the show. The word “fuck” is used more times in this five minutes than I have used it in any other five minutes since my early teenage years in Brooklyn. I tell the guy that if I die from this episode, Italians from New York are going to visit him. To his credit, he finds me a hotel with heat and has his people help carry my bags to it. The Pema Boutique Hotel is what I pictured the Mandala would be like. It is heated and clean. They are both about the same price, but the Mandala has cost me a lot more in terms of health problems and aggravation. It takes two days and gallons of hot tea to thaw out my lungs and get rid of the chill.
There are valid reasons why this situation is so serious. For the first time since twelve years old, I haven’t had any ganja for four days in a row. This has me more than a little tweaky. The forty-two hundred feet altitude and 30some degree low temperatures here would be a shocking change to anyone’s system compared with the sea level altitude and 70some degree lows that I just came from hours ago. These problems are piled on top of jet lag and the ever present fact that doctors had already labeled me a walking corpse a full year before starting this trip around the globe. The in-room heat most Americans take for granted is a real concern here in the third world.
The situation is well remedied in the next venue. If you are ever in Kathmandu, do yourself a favor and stay at The Pema Boutique Hotel on Phulbari Street. The place is as nice as any in the Stupa area and the staff is incredible. I’ve been in hundreds of hotels, motels, and hostels during my life, but never at one staffed with better people than those working here. Nikky is the manager. He does everything possible to insure the health and comfort of his guests. Power went out in the whole ten block Stupa area and Nikky spent a half hour rigging up the heater in my room with extension cords and batteries. Wangmo is Nikky’s sister and seems to be the hotel’s administrator. I immediately take her presence as a good omen for a few reasons. She is kind, honest, clever, and has a giant Beatles sticker on the front of her computer.
The food here is good and the service is great. This is due to a fine cook and wonderful staff that is fronted by two very special people. Bishnu is the young lady usually at the front desk. She is lovely, efficient, speaks English fluently, and has a patient smile that never fades. Passang is the 20some year old go-to guy. He is the main waiter in the restaurant, the room service person, and the main housekeeping person. He works fifteen hours a day, six days per week, without ever losing his happy, personable, pleasant attitude. I think of him more as a younger brother than a hotel staff member. The staff is rounded out by Tashi and several other young ladies. Each is as beautiful in character as they are in physical appearance.
Daytime In Magicville
With the preliminary disaster behind me, I step out into a spiritual paradise. The giant Boudhanath Stupa is in the middle of it all. A Stupa could be very loosely described as a dome-shaped Buddhist monument containing holy relics. The word Stupa is literally translated from the Sanskrit language into English as “heap.” Stupa structures actually pre-date Buddhism as burial mounds for relics as well as people. There are many levels of symbolism associated with the structure. All the earthly elements are represented. The building has a solid square base that represents earth. The hemispherical dome represents water. A cone shaped spire above the dome represents fire. There is a lotus parasol and crescent moon at the top representing air. Giant eyes painted on the dome represent the all-seeing wisdom ability of Buddha. The nose represents Nirvana, the liberation from suffering. It is in the shape of the Nepali character for the number 1, signifying universal unity. A whole book could be written about the various representations and interpretations of Stupa symbols! Perhaps the most important of these is that Stupas are considered to be a representation of the enlightened mind of all the Buddhas.
The Boudhanath Stupa is thought by many to be the mother of them all. Many folks feel there is a magic in the structure itself. Others feel that the building’s power stems from generations of human energy being fed into it. Reverence, devotion, prayers, and aspirations have been inspired by and fed into this structure for over a dozen centuries—and not just by visitors, pilgrims, and local passersby. Many spiritual professionals wearing robes live in the several monasteries surrounding it. They have been on the job for their entire lives. There is no denying the intensity of the structure itself, the intensity that radiates between the building and its devotees, or the energy that permeates the entire surrounding neighborhood.
On the grounds are a few hundred people, nearly a third of them monks and nuns, walking around the structure in a clockwise direction. Many of them are working rosary prayer beads and reciting mantras as they walk. A mantra is a short phrase containing the message associated with a particular deity. Continuous repetition of this phrase not only instills its qualities into the person speaking it, but is simultaneously directed toward the benefit of everything alive. For example, “Om Mani Padme Hum” is the mantra associated with Chenrezig, the deity of compassion. Continuous repetition of it fosters compassionate tendencies within the person pronouncing the phrase as well as sending those tendencies out into the world. There are varied opinions about which end of this equation is actually in play. Some think that a compassionate energy is actually projected into the atmosphere in the manner of a positive spell being cast. Others feel that the person pronouncing and absorbing these positive thoughts then passes the benefits on to the world through their actions, which are upgraded due to a strong association with the mantra’s message. The evidence I have seen supports the possibility that both opinions are true to at least some extent. To exactly what extent may depend upon the length and depth of experience, and the strength of motivation, in the practitioner.
I join the walk around the building.
The sound of monks chanting, blowing giant ceremonial trumpets, and beating drums seems to be coming from everywhere. It is. There are temples in all directions. The air is thick with an electrical vibration of elevated consciousness and compassion that I can physically feel as a swelling in my heart. It also feels like I am walking in slow motion as if through deep water, but with a lightness and lack of labor. This otherworldly experience seems out of my control. It is overpowering enough to draw tears from my eyes. A child brushes against me. According to his father’s watch, I have been walking around the Stupa in a trance for an hour. There is no way to tell how many times I have gone around it, but the crowd has grown since my trance began. A sea of people from around the world, many clothed in outfits that match the red-wine colored robes of the monks and nuns walking with them, flow around the Stupa structure. They are both engulfed in and creating the massive vibration, like the current within a river.
The flow of people that surrounds the Stupa is itself surrounded by a ring of shops. Most of them deal in Buddhist artifacts, masks, paintings, and Nepali souvenirs. Streets feed into that ring of shops from every direction. Like the spokes of a wheel, they branch out to create the neighborhood.
I float up to one of the rooftop Stupa-view cafés in the primary ring of shops. There is no way to be sure whether or not it is the same one filmed in the Keanu Reeves Little Buddha movie. Imagination tells me that it is. A strong cup of coffee there helps bring me back to Earth a bit—but certainly not altogether.
Love and Medicine For Breakfast
I will try to describe the rest of the Kathmandu experience in terms that are as grounded as possible. I don’t want to sound like a person whose LSD experiences never wore off. But the truth is that the baffling energy of the Stupa and the folks that frequent it spreads throughout this whole neighborhood and doesn’t seem to ever fade or weaken. The Pema Boutique Hotel is only a few blocks up one of the adjoining streets that act as spokes in the neighborhood wheel with the Stupa as its central hub. If you are anywhere within that wheel, you are engulfed in and become part of its motion, as it seems I have.
Next Morning
The next morning starts with the breakfast that is included in the price of the room. It might be the best breakfast available anywhere. Guests are offered a choice of American, Chinese, or Himalayan breakfast sets. I go with the flow and pick the Himalayan. It contains more food than one person could possibly eat and includes porridge (oatmeal) with honey, nuts and raisins, tsampa (a traditional Himalayan barley flour dough), a scrambled egg, a bit of well flavored spinach, Indian bread, mildly curried potato soup, fruit juice, and the option of cappuccino, coffee, or tea.
I eat seated at the front window counter of the hotel with a full view of the action on the street. The folks passing by are a very beautiful collection of humans. Besides the regular type of physical beauty, many seem to have a glow or radiance about them. Many are working their prayer beads and reciting mantras on the way to the Stupa. An old lady walks by with a limp. I project Medicine Buddha mantras in her direction.
There is no way to tell if the old lady feels it, but it feels so good to me that I continue to do it toward everyone walking by on the street. About halfway through breakfast, it clicks in that most of the people already look healthy. They don’t really need Medicine Buddha! I had been listening to the Beatles singing All You Need Is Love on the computer in my room while getting ready to come down for breakfast, and so switch the mantra to the “Love, love, love” phrase from the song.
Yes, folks, I realize that an ex-junkie from Brooklyn, New York sitting in a window in the middle of Asia casting love spells on everybody passing by in the street sounds a little fucking nuts—but that’s what this neighborhood can do to a person! And the more you think about it, the less strange it sounds. Being in a war zone will likely turn anyone defensively violent and keep them in a constant state of fear. The nicest of people can turn into a raging beast when life-threatening danger is in the air. Being in Stupaville fosters the attitude of projecting positive energy at any and everything that is alive. This sort of thing only sounds weird to most of us because we have spent much of our lives being on guard, stressed, and competitive instead of loving, comfortable, and cooperative.
The positivity in the atmosphere is largely, but certainly not solely, about the influence of all the monks and nuns in the area. Every one here, not just the spiritual professionals, is warm, friendly, and helpful—even when it doesn’t involve any obvious profit for them. It is also very apparent that the girls and women seem less nervous around white men than they are in Cambodia. Maybe this is true because they have seen more of our spiritually oriented gentlemen, and less of our bombings and sexual tourism.
But as much as I love Nepal and want to see more of this country, it is time to go. It is very chilly and wet at this time of year, the concrete buildings radiate the cold, the electricity cuts out often and takes the heating systems with it, it isn’t altogether safe to eat a salad, the air quality is as dangerous as the weather, and there is no access to the dietary needs, vitamins, medicinal supplements, and other resources necessary for an old ailing Westerner to stay alive. Spain has constant sunshine, warmer temperatures, more reliable electricity, healthy Mediterranean food options—and I speak enough Spanish to hold a conversation with locals. I will certainly miss what, in less than a week and in spite of all its material shortcomings, has become my favorite place on Earth. It would be wonderful to return in the warmer season, but for now it seems like this old man’s survival is dependent upon getting to some warm sunshine and greater resources. If I had discovered Nepal when eighteen years old, my last fifty years would have been spent right here. But old age brings with it a degree of physical fragility and restriction, as well as the wisdom to recognize and obey it. A person in my condition may go to sleep here and, if the electricity cuts out during the night, might wake up with a long painful illness—or not wake up at all.
There is a distinct line between courage and stupidity. I am going to erase that line. Those two commonsensible paragraphs above about leaving immediately for Spain were written last night. They still make a lot of sense, but I can’t bring myself to leave Nepal. Every time I walk out on the street, my brain experiences a joyful explosion and I start laughing at nothing just from being around the people here.
Of course this Stupa neighborhood is a particularly consecrated area, and likely unique within Nepal as well as being unique on Earth. Even the rest of this city is probably quite a bit different. The Stupa is universally regarded as an international treasure, is a certified World Heritage landmark, and one of the holiest places in the world for Buddhists and Hindus alike. Besides that, it is now Losar (Tibetan New Year) week—so the vibe is likely stepped up even a notch further than usual. Every time the thought of leaving pops up, I cry like an abandoned baby. Part of that feeling, and the rest of my personal emotional circus, is no doubt the result of not smoking ganja for an entire week for the first time in fifty years, culture shock, and all the other variations in life that are being dealt with. But there is a lot more to it than that. Every day I go out and kiss the sky like Jimi Hendrix. Every night I punch up plane and hotel reservations for Spain, but can never bring myself to push that last button and finalize them. Whether it is a case of courage or a case of stupidity, I’m going to be here a bit longer. If I die before finishing this book, or even the next section of it, know that I love you and have loved being able to write for you. This will be true no matter where in the world my body gets left behind. But this feeling, like all feelings, is a little stronger here in heaven.
Losar Day
Today is Losar, the Tibetan new year. It includes going to temple with family as well as public festivities. The Tibetan New Year’s celebration lasts for several days. When I hit the lobby for breakfast on this Losar Day One, Nikky, Wangmo, and much of the hotel crew, along with several of their family members, are present and dressed like royalty. They are even more smiley and sweet than usual, if that is possible. The streets are lined with people in their finest and most colorful regalia. If Walt Disney was still alive, even he would stand back in awe of the spectacle.
My positive-energy-projection-toward-the-street shtick is being done from the front window counter of the hotel without even thinking about it anymore. It happens on automatic pilot. After breakfast, I head toward the Stupa and watch as the entire massive structure is painted. This happens every New Year’s Day. It has been cold and raw since my arrival in Kathmandu, but even the sun has come out in force for this festive occasion. So have folks from all over Nepal and the world. A 20some year old named Milabuddha sits next to me on a bench by the Stupa. He is from another part of Nepal. Mila starts a conversation and then takes a selfie of us on his phone. The friendliness of the people here continues to astound me. It will be very interesting to travel elsewhere in Nepal and see if this friendliness is a national habit. Being in the Stupa neighborhood is somewhat like being in church. Visitors are on their most noble behavior.
But for the thousands of people that actually live here, their most noble behavior is way of life—and the animals on the Stupa grounds are just as amazing as the humans! A couple of dozen dogs, by far and away the most conscious, mellowest, and sweetest animals in the world, surround the Stupa. They seem to belong to no one and everyone. These canines seem more human than many actual biological humans. They also seem to have a sharp intelligence, a kind of radar and sense of premonition.
A white one sits himself in front of the bench that me and Milabuddha are on. A man walks in our direction and starts to approach a woman two benches away with his hand out. The man looks more hungover than hungry. He has an air of snarling surliness about him that I can feel from a distance. He isn’t doing anything loud, crazy, or even noticeably different than other folks—but to me the energy radiating from him seems to stand out like a sore thumb within this otherwise serene atmosphere. The white dog feels it too. He bolts up and darts himself between that man and the woman on the bench. White dog barks as if his master’s house is on fire! The man backs off and walks away quickly. The dog continues to bark at the ornery man’s heels for twenty yards or so until both are well out of range of the benches. White dog then simply lays down silently by the Stupa. This creature seems to be in a meditation, as do all the canines in the area. These animals lay around as if they are reincarnated saints that have earned the right to relax in heaven for a lifetime—unless there is a situation that calls them to action.
Several hundred of the most well fed pigeons in the world have their own corner of the Stupa grounds. Locals sell grain to visitors who spread it around for the birds to eat. Any form of caring for any form of life is considered a source of blessing here.
While I’m sitting on the second floor deck of a temple building facing the Stupa, a monk comes over to talk with me. He tells me that the crowds are a lot thinner than usual for Losar this year due to the Corona virus threat. We speak about how this is just one link in a long chain of well-publicized pandemic threats that included Swine Flu, West Nile virus, Henta, Bird Flu, SARS, and so many others. I guess out loud that these maladies may be largely manufactured, or at the least exaggerated, by the media and their associates that profit from public fear. These human vultures know that scared people will pay blindly for imaginary protection from manufactured enemies. Folks in Cambodia had also complained about the sparse tourist traffic this year. They also blamed it on the disease scare (as well as on the potentially volatile political situation there). For whatever reasons, tourist traffic in Asia seems to be way down this year. The merchants, manufacturers, people who count on visitor fees and contributions, cab drivers, and so on are all suffering the result.
On the way home, I stop at Thar Lam Monastery to visit the temple that sits halfway between the Stupa and my hotel. The monks are having New Year’s badminton and volleyball tournaments! The adult monks are playing as the elder and child monks cheer from the sidelines. I sit down near a few elders to watch and am immediately approached by a young black dog with markings that make it look as if it is wearing a white necktie. The dog licks me until I fall off my seat on the narrow curb, and keeps licking as I lay on my back on the ground. The monks are laughing at me almost as hard as I am laughing at myself. The dog seems to be laughing too.
Midway through the game, I go into the temple. It is, as most of them are, a beautiful structure with a gorgeous interior composed of giant iconic Buddhist statues. The walls are painted with scenes from the historical Buddha’s life. There are offerings of yak cheese, cookies, fruit, and many other goodies stacked everywhere in obvious preparation for a later ceremony. After a short solo meditation, I head back to the hotel with a big smile on my face and the love of fearless puppies in my heart.
Much of humanity thinks that a power beyond itself will drop from the sky to help save our species. Few people are coherently concerned, consciously aware, dedicated, motivated, and common sensible enough to realize that the only way our planet will become a better planet is if we each individually put in the mental work necessary to become better people. I may be in the ten square block area of Earth that contains the highest concentration of people that are aware of this fact. There is a palpable density of love and goodwill here that is fostered internally by individuals. This internal mental work, this fostering of goodwill, is not done as a self-serving mechanism. It is motivated by and done on behalf of the entire human community. It is extremely powerful—and it seems that even the animals are involved in the process.
My experience of being here is akin to that of a thirteen-year-old baseball fanatic who has suddenly found himself living in a bed-and-breakfast planted smack in the middle of the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. I have spent almost all of my life in America. In America, many people who see soldiers in uniform approach them and say, “thank you for your service.” The soldiers are considered heroes worthy of respect and admiration. My heroes are not professional killers. My heroes are professional altruists that dedicate their lives to producing saner, kinder, more compassionate opportunities for everything that lives on this planet. My heroes are walking on the streets of Nepal, and I have a campsite in the Hall of Fame.
***If you missed the Introduction to the book that will be titled Temple Dog Soldier and contains the above chapter, or would like to see several other chapters that are available for free online, go to the Puppy website blog section at, or check out fearlesspuppy at, or send email requests to This is a book in progress. You are reading it as it is being created! Just like you, I don’t know what the next chapter is going to be about until it is written. As the Intro will tell you, this is a totally true story and the only book ever written about an around the world voyage being made by a corpse!***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author are also available through the website, as are free sample chapters from those books. Very entertaining tv/radio interviews with, and newspaper articles about, the author are also available there. There is no charge for anything but the complete books! Author profits from book sales will be donated to help sponsor an increase in the number of wisdom professionals on Earth, beginning with but certainly not exclusive to Buddhist monks and nuns. 

Oh Shit!/The Largest Temple Ever On Earth/American Nuance

Country Bus To The Capitol City
Time for a six hour bus trip through the country side. This will bring me from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, the capitol city of Cambodia. Phnom Penh is where the American Embassy is and where US passports get renewed. That is this week’s mission. Most countries require that your passport have at least six months left before it’s expiration date, or they won’t let you into their country. Mine is close to that six-month line, and it will soon be time to travel. The winter season of highs only in the low 90s is nearly over in Cambodia. Lordee knows how hot it’s going to get after that! As I understand it, the same stifling humidity sticks around but the temperatures go up.
I Have To Stop Smoking That Stuff For Breakfast!
Do you want to hear a funny story? It won’t seem funny for a page or two, but the punchline is hilarious!
The trip to Phnom Penh starts with the usual Southeast Asian tweaks. My ride is scheduled on a big bus with a bathroom in it. That costs twelve dollars instead of the nine dollars that the regular bus would have cost.
Shuttles to the bus station pick folks up at certain hotels, but not at apartments like mine. I take a tuk-tuk to the bus station and am told by the friendly desk lady that the bus will be around in forty minutes. An hour later, a van shows up. Turns out that we are at an auxiliary bus station and the van is taking us to the main station three miles away. Upon arrival at the real bus station there is another van waiting for us. I ask where the big bus with the bathroom is and am told by the receptionist that it is broken. They brought the van to replace it. There are exactly eleven passengers waiting and exactly eleven passenger seats in the van. There is no crowd of travelers waiting disappointedly for the big bus. I have obviously been sold a ticket for passage on a vehicle that never existed. Now my nearly seventy-year-old kidneys are packed in a van like sardines along with eleven other full-sized humans (including driver). The option is to wait twelve hours for the next scheduled fully equipped full-size bus, which is certainly not guaranteed to be one! I hop on board while giving the customer service person a ration of shit, and immediately feel bad about that. Snapping at folks on the job is something I rarely do and am never proud of. No matter how screwed you get by a company, getting nasty with an employee rarely helps.
Within twenty minutes of leaving town, the trip improves a bit. Lower population in the outlying villages accounts for a slight improvement in both air quality and the amount of trash scattered everywhere. There are more bicycles than motorbikes in rural Cambodia, and only a few tuk-tuks in the two or three larger towns between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
The landscape is not really jungle. It is more like rice paddies and savannah. It looks like Central Florida in the US, as well as much of Africa as seen on National Geographic. Most of the houses are built on stilts as protection against flooding that often results from monsoon rains. A lot of fields, big cows, horned bulls, and water buffalo are surrounded by bushes and trees. The animals graze in the wide open fields where rice must grow at certain times of year. There is very little sign of a crop now and no apparent cultivation going on. The massive amount of food growing in the wild may delete the need for much cultivation of other crops. There are no tractors or other mechanized farm equipment around. If there is any plowing done, the water buffalo must do it. Cattle are everywhere! They are in the front yards of houses, in the fields, and on the road. They seem to think they own the place. Several short van stops are necessary to allow horned behemoths to shuffle across the road at their own pace in front of us.
More shops than logic would dictate a need for line both sides of the road, but they aren’t shops as a Westerner knows them. They are handmade tables and shelves constructed of tree branches tied together with twine. These are shielded from the sun by giant beach umbrellas. They hold everything from fruit and clothing to gasoline for motorbikes that is sold in old quart whiskey bottles. There are a few temples scattered throughout the country side, but rural Cambodia seems nowhere near as thick with them as Siem Reap.
Many countries are represented by the passengers in our van including Germany, Ireland, Australia, and several Asian countries. I sit next to and speak with a lovely couple in their fifties from Denmark. They have several reasonable questions to ask an American. “What is with all the guns?” “How do intelligent people vote for someone like Donald Trump?” “What is going to happen there?” Susanna and Kurt voice more concern than scorn for the US.
We finally arrive in Phnom Penh. The Embassy is already closed for the day. After check-in at the hotel, there is still time to go find the vitamin store I had researched. As is the practice, I give the tuk-tuk driver the address and phone number of the target destination. He proceeds to get us lost for an hour and a half in a city that is much bigger, more polluted, and filthier than even Siem Reap’s worst neighborhoods. He actually drives around one particular block five times and calls the vitamin store four times. In spite of getting instructions from them during all four calls, the search continues. We finally find the place, only to discover that it was falsely advertised as a vitamin store and has nothing but protein powders in it.
The next day’s Embassy procedure is even more frustrating than the vitamin trip! Turns out they don’t actually renew passports in country but send them to America for processing, after which they get mailed back to Cambodia. This process is supposed to take two weeks. It could take much longer, and either way would include another unpleasant, expensive round-trip into a city that is way too big for my liking. It is February. My passport expires in October. I can still linger a month or two and have the necessary six months of passport left that is required to get into another country. It seems smarter to do that, and then deal with the passport renewal in a place where the process is simpler and things are more organized. I walk out of the embassy in the middle of the process, again feeling a frustrated irritability that, as a rule, is completely out of character.
Other tweaks, too many and minor to mention, happen in Phnom Penh. Siem Reap may have some problems but there are no folks standing on a main street in downtown with their pants around their ankles and junk to the breeze, staring blankly into space. Whatever happened to this poor guy seems to have also happened, at least in some small part, to the entire city. I have had enough of this place and figure to treat myself to a plane ride back to Siem Reap instead of taking that van bus again. My last night in the big city is used for a boring rest in the hotel room and making a plane reservation on the computer.
But the SNAFUs aren’t over yet! Ready to fly in the morning, I go to the check-in counter at the airport to discover that someone on the other end of the computer screwed up my reservation last night. I don’t have one, and they don’t sell tickets at the check-in counter. The check-in counter folks direct me to the purchase counter at the other end of the airport. I haul over there to discover that the one person on that desk is out to lunch and won’t be back until after my flight leaves. At this point, pissed-off has overtaken logic. I’m co-bitching to and with other travelers having problems, as well as everyone else within earshot.
This is rarely a good thing. Anytime I react badly to temporary external shit instead of dwelling in the eternal internal shinola, I immediately don’t like who I have become. But in this case, irritability pays off. An innocent bystander overhears the tirade and reports on a flight leaving one hour later on a different airline. I go to that airline’s sales counter.
The ticket costs three times as much as the other ticket would have, due to buying it so close to flight time. The guy I buy it from takes half an hour to put it together, pretty much listening to me alternate between barking at him and apologizing for my attitude.   He finally gives me a typed piece of paper with only a flight number and time on it. There is no receipt to show proof of ticket purchase, nor any other information on the paper. Luckily there is a thick plastic window between us. It protects me from another bad reaction, and protects him from me. I strongly request an actual receipt and further instructions. He gives them.
Here’s The Punch Line
Everyone has to show a passport at the gate in order to finally board the plane. My eyes haphazardly drop into focus on the information in front as I hand mine to the boarding crew. I (please excuse the expression) about shit myself—then start laughing too loudly. Luckily, I am already in the tunnel going to the plane. If anyone in authority was able to see me, it would have appeared that a lunatic was laughing like a hyena at nothing. They surely would have called the men in the white coats to take me away.
The expiration date on the passport is indeed October, but not the October I thought it was. There is a little over a year and a half left until expiration, not just a half year. That October expiration is for 2021, not 2020.
This is all very funny, but also very embarrassing for me. I’m the guy who is always telling people how important paying real attention is. I am suffering a series of expensive and very aggravating malfunctions due to not paying attention to a simple and clearly printed detail. My eyes had seen, but not registered, that detail at least a dozen times during the past week.
It is even more embarrassing for me as the guy who always tells people that anger is pointless and accomplishes nothing. I have snapped at several people and made an actual asshole out of myself more than once during the past few days. Whether some of those people deserved it or not is no excuse for doing it. The heat, pollution, humidity, dietary variations, and the lack of ability to communicate are taking an obvious mental toll. In spite of all its good points, it seems that I need to get out of Cambodia soon.
There is another factor. I may have to stop smoking weed for breakfast, at least until I get away from this foggy brown stuff and back to the more clarifying green weed. Maybe that will improve the odds of making lucid observations and the better decisions that come with them. Now that it is over, my brainfart provided a good, long laugh—but not good enough to ever want to repeat such mental clumsiness, or the ordeals that result from it.
The Largest Temple Ever Built On Earth
Angkor Was is the largest temple ever built on Earth. It is actually an ancient city tied together by a complex of temples. It was built by Emperor Suryavarman The Second almost a thousand years ago as the state temple and political center of his empire. “Angkor” means “capitol city” in the Cambodian language. “Wat” means “temple.” It was rediscovered in the 1840s by French explorer Henri Mouhot. He said that the site was “grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.”
The temple’s design represents Mount Meru, the home of the gods according to some adherents of both the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Angkor Wat’s five towers are intended to recreate the five peaks of Mount Meru. The walls and moat below honor the surrounding mountain ranges and the sea. The tower above the main shrine is Angkor Wat’s highest point at nearly seventy feet in the air.
There is a Buddhist/Hindu fusion in Angkor Wat that seems to pay the two schools of thought an equal respect. There are Shiva Lingas and Buddha images within the same building!
A fifteen foot high wall and a wide moat protected the city, temple and residents of Angkor—but not always successfully. Much of that wall still stands. Inside this wall, Angkor Wat covers two hundred acres. It seems this area included the city, the temple structure, and also the emperor’s palace, which was just north of the temple.
The libraries, temples, and other buildings are all decorated with thousands of stone figures carved into their rock walls. These represent deities and heroic figures, many from the Hindu and Buddhist religions. They include soldiers, gods, and demons that are most often involved in warfare.
In 1992, Angkor Wat was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Chhum Chhaiya is my guide for this tour. He is also my waiter at the rare farm-to-table restaurant in the area, an English language student, and my friend. He also does volunteer work as tour guide for high school students from all over Cambodia that come to see their national treasure in Siem Reap.
Chhum tells me that the entire complex was built entirely by free labor—but not slave labor. Chhum makes his best effort at English language to explain that it was “believe labor.” Thousands of folks worked without pay for decades in the belief that the most noble way to spend life was in dedication and service to Buddha, Vishnu, their king, countrymen, and empire.
According to Chhum, giant stones were hauled by elephants from quarries many miles away. The elephants were able to pull these massive rocks because the rocks lay on bamboo rollers. Do you know how to make bamboo hold up to a several ton stone? Do you know how to pick that stone up and put it perfectly in place, once it gets where it is going? It seems the ancients did.
The area is, of course, too big to walk around—even if it wasn’t ninety-six degrees with the humidity nearly as high. Tourists hire a tuk-tuk for the day to drive them from individual site to individual site. The tuk-tuk waits outside each area while tourists climb through ancient structures.
This two hundred acres is very different from its cosmopolitan host city of Siem Reap. There is almost no trash by the side of the road. The air has a consecrated freshness to it. There are lakes, jungle, and monkeys. Angkor Wat it is considered sacred ground, and is treated as such by locals and tourists alike.
If this attitude was carried over into the city, the nation, and the planet, life on Earth would be much different for all of us. Unfortunately, precious little in any location on Earth is treated with the reverence that the ruins of Angkor Wat enjoy. My brother-from-another-mother Joe Fort (artist for the Fearless Puppy book cover) recently wrote to me, forlorn about the current state of the world. He compared our politicians and industrialists to biker bullies armed with chains, on the verge of beating a relatively innocent public to death. He hoped that people, especially American people, would arm themselves by casting future votes with increased heart and intelligence.
I do so hate giving bad news to good people! But it seems that we are past the point where arming ourselves with votes, or any other make-believe electoral effort, will help. You can’t beat a system that someone else owns from balls to bone. The owners may afford us the grand illusion that we are in control of the system we live within, but we have no power to influence any actual physical control mechanisms. Media, food, water, etc. are regulated outside of public domain. In addition, the owners and the system are co-involved in the process of killing themselves quickly—and unfortunately, perhaps taking most of the planet with them. Putting cooperative, much less combative, energy into the last gasp of a failing, suicidal empire seems like a misuse of potential. It seems that our energies are better spent putting together sensible focus and function in life. Actively building common sense always seems to work better than destroying evil. Results are more pleasant and last longer if achieved through positive means.
I know we’d all like to think that our votes count, but results are scripted long before we get to the polls. This has been true since at least as far back as 1963 and in an almost-as-real sense, as far back as 1776 and beyond. It is not at all a strictly American problem! It was Hermann Goebbels of the short-lived Nazi empire who said, “It doesn’t matter who votes. It matters who counts the votes.” Political action on behalf of humane function is a noble effort, but the only chance of averting the seemingly inevitable collapse of humanity is a massive awakening among the majority of individuals that compose the human community. The most intelligent and historically successful method to fuel an awakening in Consciousness that accomplishes social progress is nonviolent noncooperation with oppressive forces. This requires generous, altruistic, and in places sacrificially heroic character strength by billions of individuals—not only all at once, but also one at a time. This is not going to happen. Very few people would even give up a cell phone to cancel their support of the demons that own the towers. Very few will ever stop watching manufactured traumas on TV, although these cause continuous adrenaline and cortisol rushes that shock the mind and central nervous system into a fear-based, defensive way of life. The greater contributions to personal mental health or the public good by our largely “selfie” oriented culture seem even more unlikely. I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but unless some massive tipping point in our way of life, sparked by a big change in consciousness, is reached by billions of individual humans within the next few years, it seems we are very much in a “smoke em if you got em” situation.
It won’t be the first time! Look at Angkor Wat! Look at the pyramids of Egypt! Even our present-day geniuses don’t know how ancient technology accomplished much of what it accomplished! Many civilizations that enjoyed a deeper intelligence and a stronger congruence with the rest of life on Earth have disappeared. They took most of their wisdom with them. There are a lot of empty libraries in Angkor Wat.
As Relates To America
Do you remember this paragraph from the beginning of the book? “Several friends who have been abroad lately tell me that there is no place else on Earth as morally bankrupt, lacking integrity, crumbling apart from the inside, and as intimidating and repulsive to its neighbors as America. There is plenty of evidence to support their claims but I still don’t like to believe them. I have to go see for myself. If it is true that no place sucks quite as badly as America does, I want to find out why. What are other places doing that we would benefit from doing ourselves? And more importantly, why are we not doing those things? What things are the other places doing that don’t work for them? Why aren’t they fixing their own messes? What are the ways people keep smiling, laughing, and loving life while fighting to repair a world that is mentally as well as physically ill, often disturbing if not disgusting, and may very well have a more severe terminal illness than I do? How do folks keep the fun happening in the midst of all the tragedy?”
I almost forgot it altogether! The present tense is always the place to be. After only three months on the road, America and that paragraph already seem like distant memories from a past lifetime. But since it is one of the reasons for traveling overseas, here is a comparison of America to Southeast Asia as I have experienced it so far.
America is more technologically and materially advanced, cleaner, and its citizens have more choice of and access to food, clothing, and shelter by far than here in Cambodia. The folks here work harder, put in longer hours, and yet many get paid so much less that their families don’t have enough to eat every day. Many cannot afford to send their children to elementary school for basic literacy. There is no free schooling here. There are many other factors, such as the brutal heat and humidity, that make life difficult in Southeast Asia. Nonetheless, Cambodians are happier, kinder, friendlier, in many ways healthier, and seem to enjoy life more than the average American. If I had to choose between living the rest of my life in Cambodia or America, I would choose Cambodia.
There is a feeling of camaraderie among the people here. Families are very close and the entire nation is something of an extended family. America does this at times, but it always seems to spring from an aggressive, combative motivation. Cambodians are not that angry or scared. Their motivation is constructive, not destructive. Cambodia is on the way up, not the way down. It can sometimes seem as if the nation is stumbling in the dark, bumping into things while trying to find its way—but it is moving forward. They are like Americans must have been during the pioneer days, before we became such spoiled little people.
We Americans often take our thoughts and emotions so seriously that meaningless episodes become big dramatic events. Cambodians have the ability to know that shit happens and everything is temporary. They know that very few things are actually important enough to get upset about. More importantly, they know that getting upset under any circumstances usually results in more harm than good. Cambodians work seriously at living well, but don’t take themselves seriously in the way that makes life a trial or burden. They have a sense of the tragic but know that life is generally to be celebrated, not mourned. Southeast Asians have a much better sense of perspective as far as knowing that the world doesn’t revolve around their individual desires. The misguided, artificially manufactured sense of entitlement that America suffers, and makes the rest of the world suffer, is not present here.
Cambodians also seem to have less animosity towards any specific group than the people in many other countries do. They may get irritable with foreigners on occasion and overcharge foreigners regularly, but they don’t seem to have any particular prejudice against Muslims, Americans, Africans, Chinese, or anyone else. The little bit of animosity that I hear directed toward foreigners is directed toward all of them, or at an individual tourist who acts like enough of a jackass to earn an irritable response.
“There is a bondage (humans have) to the Earth, and a release (from it). You don’t have to be quit of your bondage to experience the release. The two go together. This is a great mystical experience, where the individual no longer identifies with the history of his carnal body but rather identifies with the consciousness that informs that body. When you are identified with the consciousness rather than the vehicle, the suffering of the vehicle has nothing to do with the consciousness. You are free in bondage! Mythologically, the shackles fall off without leaving your wrists. (This makes one capable of ) joyful participation in the sorrows of the world. You can’t eliminate the sorrows of the world! Time involves sorrow. And if you are in the field of time, that is the experience of the carnal body. But that which is participating in this has another dimension, the eternal dimension—and it can joyfully affirm this.” Joseph Campbell
Let’s paraphrase and try to simplify this quote a little. We are all symbolically hanging on the cross where life meets time. Everyone alive deals with times of illness, difficulty, loss, trauma, suffering, and eventual death. When we can embrace the inevitable processes of life-and-time, and do it courageously with a smile and eyes open, we accomplish the clarity and grace that are spoken of by nearly all the world’s spiritual messengers. When we realize that in spite of all the bumps in the road, we can hit that road with an affirmative, positive attitude, the life we live takes on a dimension that is heroic. We become capable of joyful participation in our world, although fully aware of the inevitable suffering and death it entails.
“When the ego is capable of taking part in this crucifixion, then you are really in the Imitatio Christi and have achieved, I would say, the goal of the Christian message.” JC
Joseph Campbell spent almost his whole life in America. There are very few people in Cambodia familiar with him, or with the history or even the definition of crucifixion. Yet, so many people in Southeast Asia have a better grasp of Campbell’s message than most Americans do. Why? Is it the severe living conditions that color the Southeast Asian attitude? the Buddhism?
Maybe both. But there is more. The quality of attention paid by a student is in many ways more important than who the teacher is. It may be more important than any other aspect of learning. Maybe as Americans we just have too many distractions available to draw our quality attention away from our better teachers. So many brilliant minds with readily available wisdom and valuable knowledge are ignored. Even Nature itself often takes a back seat to some very meaningless, and in some cases very unnatural, habits and hobbies.
Technology and material advantage have helped humanity accomplish some wonderful things. Unfortunately, they have in many cases become fatal attractions. The addiction to them, as well as the all too frequent overdoses of them, often negate their potential advantage. We Americans so often watch other people living, working, loving, traveling, and so on in our movies and on our TV shows without doing any of that living, working, loving, and traveling ourselves. We recognize life as a fine restaurant but eat the menu instead of the food.The technology that was designed to enhance life has in many cases kidnapped and restrained it.
We are, in addition, distracted from our simple goodness and ability to focus on and enjoy a meaningful life by so much more than technology. Multitasking and stress have never been an accepted part of life in Southeast Asia. Many folks in the materially developed world think that if a person is not stressed out, they aren’t doing anything important. If a person is stressed out all the time in Cambodia, they are thought to be mentally ill, or an asshole, or need a nap. People here work hard, sleep well, and smile often. Neither the sedentary nor pressured lifestyles that often foster mental as well as physical disease have taken a hold here yet.
There is more natural environment and less artificially manufactured phenomena in materially deprived countries than in materially developed ones. In materially developed countries, Nature gives way to concrete and steel in a psychological as well as a literal sense. Concrete and steel are hard, sharp-edged, cold, and dead. Nature is usually softer, curved, warm, alive and welcoming. It is receptive to a human connection with it.
Maybe we Americans are too materially affluent and carnally happy to pay attention to much else besides being materially affluent and carnally happy? Does all that attention we pay to trivial byproducts of material affluence draw quality attention away from our emotional, psychological, and spiritual affluence? Has this all happened at the expense of the happiness we thought it would buy?
I wish I could see the look on the face of that first person who unearths a cell phone, TV, or computer in an archaeological dig of the year 5021. Will they ever figure out our gadgets—or how dearly we paid for them?
***If you missed the Intro to this third book (that the above piece is from) or the several other sections available and would like to see them, go to the Puppy website blog section, or send an email request to, or check out fearlesspuppy at WordPress. This is a book in progress. You are seeing it here as I write it! And as it says in the Intro, it is a totally true story and may be the only book ever written by a corpse! I don’t know what the next chapter is going to be about either!***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author, as well as sample chapters by, very entertaining tv/radio interviews with, and newspaper articles about him are available at

Am I Happy Enough To Be Alive?

New Year’s Day
Coughing, sneezing, and severe respiratory congestion are not as much fun as the holiday week celebrations would have been. I won’t bring my germs around the monks, children, or general public so, except for short food runs to local markets, I stay home. Two weeks of sudden isolation, after two months of whirlwind activity and immersion in a very strange culture, provides an interesting insight. It has come to light that in contrast to several other wonderful qualities, I can be an ungrateful pinhead. Many things that other people would regard as miraculous good luck are things that I have not been appreciating enough.
It seems that the deep gratitude from my experience with the chanting monks has triggered an even deeper train of thought. Not every car in that train is firmly on its tracks. This leaves me a bit derailed and uncomfortable with myself. There are obviously a few pieces missing from my puzzle, but I’m not sure what they are.
I prefer to be healthy but the illness gives at least one benefit. It lays me flat for long enough to trace the problem to a source.
It all starts with gratitude for being alive. I don’t have much of it. A severe bout with cancer pushed the envelope of death so far that the seams of that envelope tore open a bit. What I experienced through the cracks was beautiful enough to make verbal description impossible. I have had some trouble coming completely back to and thoroughly loving life ever since. This must be remedied! It doesn’t matter what is on the other side of this incarnation. If I am indeed going to be in a body for a while, a much stronger appreciation of what “alive” can mean needs to be rebuilt. I will have to stop referring to my body as a meat prison.
I also haven’t been grateful enough for the money my parents left to me. It will last at least another year and has already afforded me several years free of financial concerns. During that period, there were two books written. Travel was done in relative comfort and a lot of live music shows were enjoyed. There was an expensive natural treatment of cancer. Death would have been a certainty without the resources that the inheritance allowed.
After a lifetime of sub-poverty and homelessness, you might think I get up every morning and kiss pictures of my generous deceased parents. Such is not the case. The money, in my father’s own words, was his way of apologizing for the damage done to his children. Mother did far more damage to her children than father did, but was still too arrogant and narcissistic when she died to admit a similar motivation for leaving us her money.
I emulate some of my mother’s arrogance and some of my father’s weak character by spending any time focused on their faults, rather than appreciating their better traits and parting gifts.
It goes further. The real friends I have had during this life, the good people I have met, the places seen and things done, the current plentiful supply of food, the nice place to live, and so many other things are not being given as many “thank you”s as they deserve.
It makes me feel a little bit like a jackass. I am going to change that right now! A good first step seems to be a walk around the Dragon neighborhood on New Year’s Day. A walk with a much greater awareness of, and appreciation for, things that haven’t been given enough attention and appreciation recently.
I often start the day buying a coconut from the coconut lady a quarter mile down the road. She always smiles as she chops the top off with a machete and sticks a straw in it for me. She speaks to me in her language and I speak to her in mine. Neither of us understands a word of what the other one says, but we both have fun. We laugh at ourselves and each other. When I leave her today, I add a “thank you very much for your kindness and coconuts” to the end of our conversation.
Next stop on my New Year’s Day tour to reestablish gratitude is the Peace Café to meet Neill, a recent acquaintance, and his family. This bit isn’t much different today than it is on any other day. I am always thanking the Peace Cafe people for who they are, what they do, and how they do it. The place is an exemplary venue.
Neill De Kort is an exemplary human. He is a Dutchman whose family relocated to Canada when Neill was in his teens.
We ran into each other at the bank. I never had a bank account, in America or anywhere else, until I was over fifty years old. If my parents hadn’t left me money that needed to be processed through a bank, I still wouldn’t have an account. To this day I‘ve never had a telephone or driven a car, and have spent the past forty-five years without a bill in my name. Friends tell me to expect technical trouble throughout the twenty-first century because I haven’t adapted to the twentieth century yet.
The Cambodian bank requires me to have a telephone number in order to open an account. The account is required in order to get money sent from America. My funds are running low. The irony of beating cancer only to possibly die homeless and hungry on steaming Asian streets makes me giggle. The facts that it could happen because I don’t like telephones, and while having several thousand dollars in an American bank, makes me laugh out loud—for a minute. Then it makes me argue with the bank officer. Neill is in the bank and walks by us while that discussion is going on.
He comes into the conversation out of nowhere, intervenes, and gives the bank officer his phone number. I didn’t know that Neill and his Cambodian partner had owned a coconut farm here for years. He recently sold it and is now into Cambodian real estate on the side, although his main and more global business is textiles. That would account for the pull he has in the bank. They must handle a lot of his business. My account opened without any further hitch. Neill and I had never met. He just saw someone having a problem and became the solution.
Neill’s father was also in the textile business, so the younger De Kort has two generations worth of related business connections all over Asia and the rest of the world. Neill is six feet five inches tall. He is a twenty year student of boxing with arms the length of a giraffe’s neck. I’m guessing he has won more fights than he’s lost. This is also a very intelligent, resourceful, accomplished guy. We hit it off well after hanging out a bit in the bank and arranged to have lunch at the Peace Cafe so that I could meet his family.
We meet on schedule. Neill’s gorgeous Dutch wife is named Bo. The legendary Bo Derek, in her prime, was no lovelier. Mrs. De Kort is graced by blond hair, green eyes, and two beautiful preschool aged children. She is probably five years younger than her thirty-five year old husband.
We all talk for several hours. It is by far and away the best conversation I have had, with the most like minded folks I’ve met, since leaving New Mexico. Mister and Misses De Kort have both used Rick Simpson Oil, as I did for the cancer. He for asthma. She for Lyme disease. Both had positive outcomes. Both have gone through health and attitude changes similar to the ones I went through. We share many common ideas and mutual attitudes.
Sometimes you don’t realize how much you miss something until you get a little taste of it again. I do well by myself. My days are filled with activities that are mostly solitary. These activities are usually productive, or at least harmless. Some are very interesting. There is rarely a sense that anything important is missing.
But folks like the De Korts make me remember that a real connection with other humans is an essential part of being human yourself. I appreciate the differences in people—but it is always a booster shot for the psyche and a strengthening of the heart when we find someone else who is on same wave length. It adds just a little concrete credence to the “we are all one” thing. That phrase is very obviously true on certain planes of existence, but it usually gets more lip service than validation in every day life. Folks who can make it blatantly real for you don’t seem to come along every day.
The De Korts will be leaving Cambodia on January second. Loneliness is a feeling that does not visit me often, but I feel its potential lurking nearby. I resolve to get the hell out of the house more often and go to places where people congregate. This should increase the odds of finding more people like the De Korts. Inexpensive living and adventurous surroundings are wonderful, but the company of kindred spirits is like water in the desert. I have no problem being grateful for this. Kindred spirits make gratitude easy.
The next stop on the New Year’s Day gratitude walk is the Domo Café. The Domo is a three block walk down River Road from the Peace Café. I silently thank the sun for the light and heat, the folks passing by for being so beautiful, the people who built this sidewalk under my feet, and the river for giving life to all the trees on either side of it.
At this point I have to wonder if this is all a lot of pretentious bullshit running through my head and I am just plain full of crap. But gratitude toward everything in general, as well as many things specifically, has been away too long. A little overkill may be necessary to bring a proper appreciation of life back to balance. I thank the crippled dog a few yards away for using the riverbank as his toilet instead of this sidewalk, then head into the Domo for my muffin. They are sold out. I thank them for saving me from the sugar consumption and move on.
The pattern of thanking everything and everyone continues for a few more stops. Gratitude is still not coming readily enough for me to feel altogether comfortable with myself. I appreciate my good fortune, but the glow around the memory of near-death still overpowers that appreciation.
More practice!
Sometimes gratitude takes an unexpected shape. The coffee shop lady is spaced out and gives me a cup with very little in it. I am grateful for the ability to stand up for myself and tell her so. Language problems and the feeling of being a guest can make it too easy to become a sheeple when one is in a foreign culture. She laughs at herself, apologizes, and fills the cup.
The next stop is the White Rose massage parlor. It is a strictly legit place where they always give a good rub and never approach clients to buy semi-sexual extras. Semi-sexual seems to be a good term for how far they go in the places that do offer such services. At six dollars for a well done therapeutic full hour massage without need to explain my sexual habits in sign language to a non-English speaking stranger, there is no problem feeling gratitude here either.
Speaking of sexual activity that is not my particular preference, it is time for another adventure! I have to get the clog out of my chest. A steam room is essential. It is among the best things a person can do for their lungs. Being prone to upper respiratory infections, like the one I have right now, I look in every travel spot for a sweat lodge, hotel, or health club with a steam room. Taking care of the lungs is even more important than usual in this city where most citizens publicly burn garbage that includes rubber and plastic while thousands of motorbikes pump additional toxins into the air as well.
My research shows that the only option for a steam room in Siem Reap is the city’s lone gay bathhouse. Gotta think about this one!
Within a minute’s thought, it turns out to be a no-brainer. This is no problem for me—and it shouldn’t be one for the other guys frequenting the place. I have no interest in sucking a dick myself, but I’m glad folks are having fun with it, if that’s what they want to do. No one has the right to tell another person how they should enjoy themselves. It takes a lot of the wrong kind of balls to tell people how they should live when those people aren’t hurting anyone or anything else. Many of us New York City basketball playing kids have carried a “no harm, no foul” attitude into adulthood as a way of life. It might be the best notion that growing up in Brooklyn gave me, and one of the few I decided to keep. If the rest of the planet shared this attitude, a lot of other problems would solve themselves. If the rest of the clientele in the bath house shares the “no harm, no foul” notion towards me, my experience will be pleasant and medically helpful.
It also seems logical that I am too old, unattractive, and worn for any gay guy in his right mind to hit on.
I go, and am right. The Men’s Resort and Spa is on a back street flanked by apartment buildings, a couple of temples, and a theater company’s office. The folks here are young enough to be my grandkids, and certainly looking for someone in their own age range. It seems peculiar how they walk around wrapped in towels, just staring at each other. There is no audible conversation and no visible participation. Something must happen between some of them eventually somewhere, but I see no actual interaction.
The steam room has eucalyptus. It does great things for my lungs. After three ten-minutes shifts, I silently thank the steam and the gay dudes, then catch a tuk-tuk back to The Dragon.
The Other Side Of The Coin
As is true with nearly everything else on this two-headed planet, the gratitude thing has tripped that trigger in my brain that looks at the other side of the coin. There is some tarnish on parts of paradise.
1— In general, gender equality has further to go in Southeast Asia than it does in The West. Part of the problem is the Cambodian male attitude toward local women who take up with foreigners, which resembles the mind-set of a horse with blinders on.
While it is true that some foreigners are here only for sex with younger women, this scenario only works because the older-men-with-money-keeping-young-mistresses thing has always been part of the culture here, and probably in most of the rest of the world too.
Many Cambodian males hide jealousy behind righteous indignation, prejudice, and sometimes even anger. Men in the company of their wives or girlfriends have occasionally stared at me with dagger eyes. They assume that because I am a white foreigner, I must be trying to buy or steal their women. As is true almost everywhere, media does its part to fan the flames of divisiveness and distrust. There are Southeast Asian soap operas on TV depicting evil, mustache twirling, devilish looking white men literally showering money on gorgeous, innocent, very intimidated looking Asian women.
But the local men here that assume the worst about tourists are not the majority, and they are not exactly knights in shining armor defending the honor of their maidens. Southeast Asian culture defines one of a daughter’s most pronounced duties as the care of her parents in their old age. It is not uncommon for a young woman to look for a man with money as a way of guaranteeing that she will be able to successfully fulfill that duty. “Arrangements” are as common as marriages. The practice of paying family support in exchange for devoted female company is not at all limited to foreigners.
It also seems that foreigner/native couples work out well for both parties, and the children that are usually involved. There are a lot of single women with children here. Almost every foreigner I know that is in a relationship with a local woman has at least one child attached to that relationship, and treats that child much better than daddy did. The foreigner usually treats the child’s mother better than daddy did as well. But the attitude of many Cambodians towards that foreigner, and even more so towards the woman he is with, is often far from warm and fuzzy.
2— Most of my Buddhist study has been done with Tibetans. In most cases, to enter the Tibetan Buddhist monastic order requires some very serious commitment.
In Southeast Asia, kids go to temple and become monks for a month as if it was summer camp. Most folks routinely spend a month as a monk in the temple after a close relative dies. An advantage to the Southeast Asian system is that it allows a much broader access to both foreigners and natives. I was able to live in a Thai Temple for half a year. That would not have been possible for a person like me within a Tibetan monastery.
A disadvantage to the Southeast Asian system is that, with the mesh in the net being so wide, more bad fish can slip into the organization. There are some monks with some very un-monk-like qualities.
I have never heard of pedophilia, homosexual or otherwise, within the Buddhist system. I should also say that, as in Catholicism, the majority of priests are well-motivated, morally admirable, and dedicated. But they are all human. Some falter. Instances of a Southeast Asian monk using his position of spiritual influence to take advantage of a woman happen occasionally. Much more often the trespasses involve money and business.
Although the following is just a rumor, it came from a very reliable source—enough so that I feel comfortable repeating it. If true, it is certainly not the first instance of corruption within the monastic system. Similar reports reached my ears every month or two in Thailand during my year and a half stay there.
The latest sad story involves a couple of humans in one of the Siem Reap temples. One head monk is reported to have stolen thousands of dollars from his temple. Most followers are poverty-stricken but the contributions from rich local businessmen, political hopefuls, foreign ex-pats, and even tourists can get hefty—especially by local standards. This head monk was fired, then cried and repented to the congregation. Instead of pressing charges, the congregation forgave and reinstated him. This will tell you something about Southeast Asian people. They often take that biblical, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” thing more seriously than most Christians do.
The other current rumor is of a deputy head monk who was caught stealing and was fired, but then reinstated by his head monk friend. He continues to own and drive a car, and operate a business out of his monk house. These are all definite no-nos for a Southeast Asian monk.
It may not kick you in the gut as hard as learning that TV’s saintly Cosby is a serial rapist in real life, but knowing that your spiritual guides can be as corrupt as your politicians isn’t fun.
3—This place is almost exactly on the other side of the world from East Coast America. This is true figuratively as well as literally. A lot of the differences are wonderful. Some just seem fuggin crazy. Communication is difficult. A lot of the problem stems from misinterpretations of language, but many communication problems happen due to conflicting interpretations of reality! Time and space themselves are looked at differently here. Any meeting arranged at a certain time has a very slim chance of actually happening at that time. Cambodians would be right at home in Latin America, as they seem to operate on manana time as well. Locals who speak English very well have told me such things as, “We will do it every Sunday, twice a month” and “I can do that thing but I cannot do it.” Either/or questions often get answered with “yes.” The folks here have no concept of north, south, east, or west. Really!
4—It is ninety-plus degrees and humid even during winter.
There are bags of garbage all over the place. This garbage is eventually burned and includes toxic materials within the ever-present smoke.
Much of the food is fried and much more of it is heavily sugared. Cambodia is still two or three generations away from Whole Foods Markets and increasing life spans.
Many locals look at a foreigner and see only money, not human. Charging foreigners more than locals is standard in many markets.
It may be safer, friendlier, and saner in many ways than most of the world. Southeast Asia is warmer during winter than almost anyplace else on Earth. It is less expensive to live comfortably here than it is to live at all on most of the planet. But some of the things that make up a paradise are blatantly missing. I love all the wonderful things that Cambodia and Southeast Asia are, but Pollyanna couldn’t pull off her act here.
I am usually very grateful for my ability to see both sides of any story.
Sometimes, not so much.
***If you missed the Intro to this third book (that the above piece is from) and would like to see it or other previous pieces, go to the Puppy website blog section, or send an email request to, or check out fearlesspuppy at WordPress. This is a book in progress. You are seeing it here as I write it! And as it says in the Intro, it is a totally true story and may be the only book ever written by a corpse! I don’t know what the next chapter is going to be about either!***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author, as well as sample chapters by, very entertaining tv/radio interviews with, and newspaper articles about him are available at

How To Properly Drown In Gratitude

Monk Chat
I finally have my first good therapeutic massage without complications. The rub costs eight dollars for a full hour and is nearly professional quality. It is good to have someone pay attention to what needs attention instead of having them greedily focus on their own gratification while employing manipulative attention exclusively to my genitals in order to reach their goals.
Anyone else ever had that problem?
I am refreshed and ready for Monk Chat.
Monk Chat means something different here than it did when I attended a few in Northern Thailand. There the chat was held at the temple. The monks were anxious to learn English and most of the chatting revolved around that. We conversed and made friends. We went places together outside of class.
Here it is more like a lecture and takes place at the Peace Café on Mondays at 3 PM. The monks are from the Wat Angkosar temple just a few blocks away. Two of them sit up front, explain what they do and how they see things, and then take questions from the group. The inquisitive group that I am part of totals thirteen people from all over the world.
Venerable Ura is the nineteen year old monk center stage. He is sharp as a tack and speaks English nearly as well as I do. The first thing he explains are the four main activities carried out every single day by a Cambodian monk. They are:
1— The most important activity for the whole community is the monks’ morning walk around the neighborhood. They collect food while blessing the people who donate it. The Southeast Asian people often get up before daybreak to start cooking rice for the monks. They consider donating food to them, and receiving the blessing, as essential beginnings to their day. The monks survive on this food, share it with the needy, and give leftovers to resident dogs and cats.
2—Morning chanting is supposed to happen at sunrise, but the timing can be adjusted depending on the inclination of the head monk at each different temple. Wat Angkosar’s head monk prefers to have the morning chant after breakfast. All the monks collectively repeat phrases that remind them to act as much like the Buddha as possible.
3—Evening chanting happens every sunset. A different set of phrases are used in the evening than in the morning, but all chants are directed toward the same purpose.
4—Night Dhamma study entails the reading of scriptures and the discussion of these Buddhist texts.
Venerable Ura next explains that the system is age related. If you are under twenty years old, you are a novice. If you are over twenty years old, you are a monk.
Neither a monk nor a novice can eat at any time except between sunrise and noon. They train themselves this way so that once they get used to that schedule, the craving for food doesn’t interfere with the potential to maintain purity of thought throughout most of the day and night.
Among the very cool and deep things Venerable Ura has to say is that hate, greed, and jealousy are the main enemies. Eliminate these and you will find happiness.
He then asks the group to say, “I want happiness.” We all say it out loud. He follows with, “Cut out the ‘want’ and cut out the ‘I.’ You will have nothing left but happiness.”
Introduction To The After School Sessions
The scuttlebutt around town is that nearly every school needs volunteer after-school English teachers. I go down to the temple/public school where Venerable Ura lives. The rumors turn out to be true, and one of the regular volunteer teachers invites me to stay for an observation session. Being a half hour early for the 5 to 6 PM session gives me time to jump onto the adjoining basketball court to play with the kids. I have been in parts of the world as the only white man the kids have ever seen. In those places, the game stops as bewildered faces stare for several minutes. Such is not the case in Siem Reap. Many tourists pass through here to see the famous ruins of Angkor Wat, the largest temple ever built on Earth. Even in outlying neighborhoods such as this one, the school-aged children are familiar with people from all over the world. We pass the ball around. We trade shots and laugh as if I am one of them.
The after-school English classes are held in an outside “room” containing long rows of desks about five deep and three blackboards up front. Beginner, medium level, and advanced classes are held simultaneously. There is a roof but no walls. I head back to this room to speak a bit with my host. Andries looks to be somewhere between sixty and seventy years old. He strongly resembles Santa Claus without the beard. Andires also acts like Santa Claus without the beard. He is never without a smile.
His English is very clearly understandable, although colored somewhat by a South African accent. This former motor mechanic from near Capetown is completely dedicated to what he does. His tone of voice has an obvious joy riding through it as he says to me, “It’s all about the kids. What they need and want is what it is all about. What you have planned or think you want to do, doesn’t mean fuck all!” He continues, “You have to make it fun for them and get them involved, get them interested. I see some of the local teachers just writing out words in English with the Khmer translation under those words. Then they just have the kids repeat like parrots over and over. They try to teach long sentences and grammatical structures to children who don’t even know what the fucking words in the sentences mean! The kids understand almost nothing of what they are being told, and when they leave here they don’t know shite. They forget the little bit they have learned by the time they get home. Bring the kids into the process! Give them something they can relate to, instead of throwing words at them that don’t mean anything in their world. Do that and they will end up retaining the material!”
Andires teaches both the 5 to 6 and the 6 to 7 p.m. after school classes five days a week. He has been doing it as an unpaid volunteer for five years. He considers it a privilege, not an obligation. When the children come in, he lights up and so do they. I watch him write vocabulary words on the board and have the kids match those words to the pictures in the book they are working from. He tells interesting one or two sentence stories around each word so that students are inspired to pay real attention, and also have a context to wrap the word around.
In the next part of the lesson, Andires writes out a series of words and has the children pick out the one that is in some way different. The first series is “wanted, waited, lived, ended.” It brings a yell from most of the dozen children. “Lived is only one syllable! The rest are two!” This advanced class nailed it. The teacher gives them a broad smile and enthusiastic compliment.
What I see is an inspiration. It gives me confidence. In spite of my lack of experience, it seems like I can do this. It should be just like playing basketball with the children, except we will be using nouns and verbs instead of a basketball. Now all that is left to do is find the director in order to get my appointment. He is a twenty-five year old monk with other obligations, and a hard man to locate. Andires is working on it.
On the walk back to my house from the school I stopped at what is called the Skybar. It is in the fancy Jaya House hotel. Alcohol is out of the question considering my medical condition. My liver has had all the abuse it can stand for one lifetime. A juice or tea on the second floor with some fellow English speakers seems like a good idea, but I do miss the alcohol. It is not because of the buzz. It is the socialization. A couple of drinks in a friendly atmosphere always seems to lubricate the lines of communication between people.
The Jaya House is beautiful but not really my kind of place. The view from this second floor bar is nice, but not as nice as the view from my fifth floor swimming pool rooftop. The apple juice is delicious but costs the unheard of sum of five American dollars. This is a full ten times the price it costs on the street, and almost twice as much as it costs even in the expensive downtown district. But neither the cost nor the view is the real problem. Jaya House could honestly be called gentrified, uptown, or luxurious. I am just as uncomfortable in extreme opulence as I am in extreme poverty. The people who frequent such places are often harder to get to know than the folks you meet in a regular bar. Many act as if they are protecting something instead of sharing something.
None of them here tonight seem lubricated enough to be sociable. Maybe I am not lubricated enough to be sociable, either!
School Daze
The first few days of my teaching experience are baffling for myself, the children, and Monk Chheang my Cambodian co-teacher.
I remember mentioning to Monk Chan, the after school program’s director, that I would do much better with a group that was advanced enough to know what, “use that word in a sentence” means. Maybe my communication didn’t travel well. One of the problems here is that many of the volunteer Cambodian English teachers are local monks who are only a short step ahead of the children in pursuing the language. Another is that we are using a sixth-grade text with kids who are at a first grade level. I might as well speak Martian to them!
Unable to effectively communicate with my co-teacher or students, I decide to quit. I have a lot of experience quitting things and have gotten very good at it. I’ll stick with writing. Writing in English is my thing. Folks tell me that I do it fairly well as a rule and very well in spots.
Knowledge of something doesn’t always equate to the ability to pass that knowledge on to someone else. I know English well enough, but absolutely suck at teaching the language to elementary level students.
I arrive early, figuring to give it one last frustrating day, turn in the text book, and say goodbye. Andires is always there earlier than anyone else. He is surprised to find me there before him. We trade laughs and hellos before I tell him that this will be the last day of my teaching career.
“No, you can’t do that! You are good at this. I looked over a few times yesterday and saw how well the students reacted to you.” I thank him for the bullshit compliment and explain the situation. Andires asks to see the book. He goes haywire when he sees it. “What the fuck are they thinking, giving you this book for those kids!?!? My advanced kids couldn’t do this shite! Look, you can do this job and you can do it very well. I have been at it for a long time and know my teachers by now. And you are right! Those kids are getting taught way over their heads. Here’s what you have to do. Just pick a category like shapes, or types of vehicles, colors, whatever. Take three or four examples from the category. So like for shapes, draw a triangle, square, rectangle, and circle on the board. Ask them to tell you what each one is. Write the English word under the shape so they visually associate the word with the shape. Then write out “This is a_______.” on the board. Have them repeat several times, jumping back and forth between the shapes as you point to them. They say “This is a square.” as you point to the square shape on the board. Do the same with the other shapes. Then tell them that “together these are all shapes.” Point out the appearance of the “s” at the end of the word “shapes” and get them into a singular/plural practice. Draw a few more circles next to the original one and have them add an “s” on to the word “circle” to make “circles.” Draw the word they already know, and make the plural out of it, explaining the only one/more than one difference between singular and plural. They may not have enough vocabulary to understand your explanation, but your co-teacher should, and he should be able to explain that to the students. All this time you’re making them say everything in full sentences. “This is a circle. This is a square.” Then you can get into teaching them “These are…” for the plural instead of “This is a…” for the singular. Again, you are probably going to need the co-teacher to explain some things in their own language. They sometimes just don’t have the vocabulary to understand even simple explanations. Holy shite! I still can’t believe they gave you that fucking advanced book to use! OK, give it a try! Work in little baby steps with them, because that is where their language level is at. If they learn three or four words, singular/plural, and practice these while making short but full sentences around them, that’s a miracle of a day. It can certainly be done! You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. These kids teach me more about life than I ever knew—certainly more than I teach them! Do yourself a favor. Stick around for a while.”
Andires doesn’t have me altogether convinced. I walk off still feeling like the time would be better spent writing books, but his enthusiasm is so contagious that anyone within range catches some. I decide to give this last day a very serious try.
I return the book to Monk Chheang explaining the problem as best possible. Then, except for a few personal creative variations, I do exactly what Andires told me to. It clicked! When something sparks children enough to wake up a little extra brain circuitry, anyone alive can see it in their eyes. It is as obvious as whether or not the electric lights have been turned on in the room. Every eye in the student body was lit.
Quitting doesn’t seem like as good an idea right now as it did several hours ago. Days like this are worth showing up for.
I will, however, be missing tomorrow’s school session in order to move apartments. My current digs on the third floor are still a little smoky, hot, and noisy. A move up to the fourth floor should help. Room 401 is a little more than I actually need. Two bedrooms, three bathrooms, a monster kitchen, an even bigger living room, and a private balcony facing the river are admittedly overkill for one person. But the cleaner air, quieter atmosphere, and cooler positioning of the place make it worth paying three hundred and seventy dollars a month instead of two hundred and fifty.
Monk CharleKym
I am very interested in being there when the monks do their chanting thing in the main temple. I ask my Cambodian co-teacher about it. He introduces me to the only monk on the grounds that is a native English speaker. I will be able to understand his answer clearly..
Monk CharleKym is a seventy year old Australian native with colon cancer. He is covered from top to bottom in sacred tattoos, including the face, head, and feet. A bag attaches to the side of his body and catches what would ordinarily run out the bottom of a person. But in true monk fashion he remains smiling, sociable, and anxious to help. It is a joy to speak with him.
Monk CharleKym lived among the natives in Papua, New Guinea for the forty years before he became a Buddhist monk. Charles is the only white man to ever be considered a blood member of that culture, and be privy to their rituals, initiations, and secrets. Part of that accomplishment hinged on the fact that, inspired by the book Black Like Me, Charles took a chemical to help darken his skin. It was something of a photo-negative reversal of the Michael Jackson move, but Charles did it several decades before Jackson.
I want to hang out with this guy for a hundred years but can see he is tiring rapidly. Vowing to myself to get back and talk more with him—actually just listen more—as soon as possible, I get right to my question. He answers that there is a 10:30 a.m. chant in the temple.
Monk CharleKym tells me, “You will hear the big bell ring. Then one monk will unlock the temple and other monks will start filing in. The chanting lasts about twenty minutes, then the Head Monk talks to them a bit, then they file out. If you ever just want to get into the temple to meditate by yourself, come see me. I am one of the people with the key.”
I thank him very sincerely. Meeting him and having temple access are both wonderful, humbling privileges. I am very grateful for them.
The Head Monk—Mahati Ta
Thirty plus orange-robed monks and a large American wearing overalls in ninety degree heat are sitting in the temple. One monk is sitting up front with a microphone. He is facing the Buddha images in front, with his back to the other monks and me. No one has to tell me that this is the Head Monk. An aspect of benevolent authority radiates from him. As soon as he starts chanting, so does everyone else in the room except me. I don’t know the words.
I listen for the nearly half hour that it lasts. But to say “I listen” doesn’t tell the whole story. The chant produces pure positive energy. Everyone reciting it is of the same mind. There is no interference to its power from the diversions of every day, regular-people life. No one in the room is thinking about the bills they have to pay, how to make it work better with the spouse and kids, or what they are going to eat tomorrow. Each individual within the group is giving total attention to the same resonance. They are so much on the same wavelength that it seems the chant is the product of a single voice. This is actually true in a very real way! Not only does each individual within the group share the same desire to reach spiritual heights and help humanity, they are each pronouncing the same very familiar sets of words that have been used for millennia. They are the same words that have been chanted by untold millions of monks just like them over uncountable generations. In addition, the monks all eat the same food and live together. They share very similar schedules and attitudes as well as common motivations. They have a big head start on the road to what is called Unity Consciousness. The energy is so intense that, much more than just listening to it, I have the feeling of being it. That may sound weird, but it is a very accurate description. Beautiful, otherworldly, transcendent, strange, joyful, clean, and perfect are words that come to mind when the chanting stops and I remember that I have an individual mind for things to come to.
Actually, after an experience like that, a collective mind seems like the only reality. My individual mind feels like a joke, a silly distraction from holding on to the bigger truth of the collective mind. This is no hocus-pocus bullshit. Ancient seers, Carl Jung, modern mystics, almost every quantum physics professor, as well as John Lennon and the Beatles share the same view on this subject. Even a walrus knows that “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”
When the chanting ends, the guy up front turns around to face the rest. He talks to them. It is again obvious that this man is in a position of authority. He speaks to the monks in a very firm tone. I don’t understand a word of it, but it sounds like he might be reminding them of how important certain types of discipline become when pursuing a deep experience of what the Beatles or the Buddha were talking about.
He then starts addressing the individual monks one at a time. The authoritative tone turns to honey. There are still a few serious sounding sentences coming from him but all conversations are gentle and contain laughter on both sides. It is very obvious that this man has a concern for his students right at the top of his list. It is just as obvious that the other monks have a great affection for this elder, teacher, and adviser. The air is as thick with these sentiments as it had been with the power and purity of the chanting a few minutes earlier.
On my way out, I go up front to put ten thousand Cambodian Riel (two dollars and fifty cents U.S.) in the voluntary collection box. I bow to the head monk and thank him. He gets up, shakes my hand, and holds it for several minutes as we talk and walk out of the temple. His English language skills are very good. He holds my hand as a grandfather might hold a grandson’s hand, although he is obviously decades younger than I am.
He asks about me. We exchange names, home towns, and ages. He is named Mahati Ta and is forty-five years old. He seems a little impressed that I made it to sixty-eight—or maybe I’m just projecting.
Mahati Ta says, “You can come to chanting anytime. Visit and have lunch with me some time! And thanks for doing volunteer teaching in the temple’s after school program.”
He tells me that he is Cambodian but has just come back from Viet Nam where he was studying. This has me curious, so I ask, “What different kind of Buddhism were you studying in Vietnam? How does it vary from Cambodian Buddhism?”
Mahati Ta surprises me by answering, “I am studying for a doctorate in public administration!”
I didn’t know monks do that!
We say goodbye and I walk towards the gate. There are still several hours until class. Stepping outside the gate of the school and temple grounds, a sudden wave of gratitude washes over me. The wave is immense. I laugh with the thought that drowning in massive gratitude would be a wonderful way to go—but living in it seems like a much better idea.
***If you missed the Intro to this third book (that the above piece is from) and would like to see it or other previous pieces, go to the Puppy website blog section, or send an email request to, or check out fearlesspuppy at WordPress. This is a book in progress. You are seeing it here as I write it! And as it says in the Intro, it is a totally true story and may be the only book ever written by a corpse! I don’t know what the next chapter is going to be about, either!***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author, as well as sample chapters by, very entertaining tv/radio interviews with, and newspaper articles about him are available at