NOTE: As an apology for this week’s post, and in the hope that it acts as sort of a countermeasure/antidote for you, the post itself will be followed by a recent post from the Truth or Consequences, New Mexico USA Dharma Center. (No joke! That’s the real name of the town!) It wasn’t signed, but these things are usually done by an officer of that group–my good friend and former landlady, Jan Main Born. (Again, not kidding. That’s her real name.) Thanks and much love to Jan and everyone there–and of course to you.
Hello from Kathmandu, Nepal! I hope you are happy and healthy.
The following is from the new book-in-progress.
Some folks have accused my writing of occasionally being “too real.” That is very understandable. Many of us have been steered away from real all of our lives by the wool that is constantly being pulled over our eyes—so not everyone is able to recognize, much less deal with, real. Sometimes real really hurts. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Other folks think I have been too upbeat and happy during this whole past year of disease, political manipulation of economics, and other assorted disasters. They think I have not been real enough. This little piece will likely put an end to those complaints. I hope you enjoy it anyway. Be well. Love, Tenzin And, to those of my friends that worry about folks with wavering emotions, please don’t. I promise to be back to cheery and that the writing will make you smile next week.
***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. Thank you!
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IT IS WEIRD TO BE “RICH”
I spent several teen years begging on the streets for survival and much of my adult life working for causes that didn’t return appreciable, if any, paychecks. I’m not complaining! Much of it was fun and all of it was educational. There were decades of adulthood spent sleeping on other people’s floors or spare mattresses. I often drank the beer, ate the food, and smoked the weed of benevolent friends—and was always the poorest person in any town that I entered. My work, as well as my life, has been more “dependent upon the kindness of strangers” than was Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Friends were always happy to be part of the work that was getting done. I was always grateful for the help that allowed me to do the work.
Of all the culture shock that I should be feeling here on the opposite side of the world from my homeland, the part that jars my system the most is being a rich guy. Of course, it’s altogether relative. With $445 a month of so-called Social Security income (and just a bit of savings), I would be living well below poverty level back in America. And, although I am a rich guy among some people here, I certainly am not one as compared with the Tibetan community that occupies much of this neighborhood. Tibetans make up a good portion of this Boudha Stupa area but less than nine percent of the population of Nepal. Much of the remaining ninety-plus percent of indigenous Nepali people, and even more so the non-Tibetan and non-Nepali immigrant groups, are not as financially fortunate as the Tibetans seem to be.
This is certainly true for the labor force that works within but lives outside the Stupa area. They work in restaurants, shops, construction, and have carts in the streets from which they sell fruit or vegetables or kitchen utensils or Q-tips or anything else that can make them a few rupees profit.
Many people came to Nepal from India to enjoy greater opportunities. They became well respected members of the community. Many others came because begging and other street hustling rackets are more productive here. These folks are the most annoying and aggressive operators. They train their children to be very cute, pitiable, and profitable. They are raising career beggars. These street and tin shack people are a large financial step below the local workers. In America, the street people and I would be in a very similar financial situation. Here, I am considered wealthy.
Oddly enough, the amount of money I have is not what immediately influences their decision. They have not seen my bank balance. What they have seen is my skin color.
During pre-corona-scare years, the street people got used to having many tourists from Europe and America visit Nepal for a week or two. They have seen so many foreign vacation dollars fly by and around them that many locals think everyone white is rich! Relatively speaking, they have a point. Anyone that can afford the price of the plane ticket to get here actually is rich, compared with the folks on the street that are trying to live off of what trickles down from the visitors.
Many street people are polite—but some beggars (and street merchants) can be rudely aggressive in their efforts to widen that trickle. The hardcore beggars ask and don’t stop asking if you say “no.” They keep talking to you and often tug on your sleeve as they follow you up the street. Some bark “Money! Money! Money!” in your ear for a length of two or three blocks. Others very loudly interrupt while you are in mid-conversation with friends. They continuously caw in your ear like a crow on crack. Their hope is that you will give them some money so they will just shut up and go away. These folks have, what we would call in Brooklyn, a “crawling up your ass” modus operandi. In most of Brooklyn, these people would get the shit beaten out of them very quickly.
Myself, and the fellow beggars I have known in America, always realized that once a prospective contributor says “no,” our time is more productively spent moving on to a new and hopefully more receptive target. The Indian/Nepali beggar hasn’t yet figured out this little point of practicality—and shows no concern for any points of street etiquette.
As a guy who, besides personal panhandling experiences, spent four decades begging money for environmental groups and assorted charities, it is extremely bizarre and unsettling for me to be hit on a dozen times a day by folks that are trying to shine my sneakers, or extort money in exchange for them just leaving me alone. An invasive and aggressive persistence is only an asset in rare situations and occupations. Begging is not one of those—and even legitimate, dedicated, altruistic soliciting for a very worthy cause has its limits.
And there are certain variations of aggressive persistence that need to be ended immediately. The perpetrators need to be punished (if you believe in that sort of thing) and mandated into rehabilitation facilities.
Most locals that give to street beggars contribute five or ten rupees. During my first four months in Kathmandu, I would give a twenty rupee note to everyone that asked. I’d pocket fifty of them at a time, hand them out until they were gone, and then go get some more. I like being helpful, twenty rupees is only about eighteen cents, and it kept me in a friendly state of mind on the street. Some of these street folks looked like they were doing fine. Others were obviously missing parts of their body or mind. Others were alcoholics. Whatever their story, it seemed that if they were out there asking, they needed to be helped. Many homeless people worldwide suffer as much from the inequities of economic systems as they suffer from personal bad luck, bad habits, or bad decisions. There is a big difference between a humanely based war on poverty and a government instituted war on poor people that is based in a cold, perverse economic policy.
I like, respect and often defend my fellow street peeps. Some are more fun to be around than others, but they all remind me of just how slim and temporary that line is between material wealth and material poverty. Street experience taught me a long time ago that plumbers, carpenters, single mothers, innocent orphans, even doctors and professors, can end up sleeping in an alley right alongside junkies and alcoholics. Half the world is only one bad break or decision away from being street people.
Early in the fifth month after my arrival here, a young and attractive woman was begging near the Stupa. One side of her face was severely black and blue. Out of the corner of my eye, I barely noticed the man hovering about twenty feet away, darting glances at her. I gave her thirty rupees instead of twenty. I later learned that she was intentionally beaten by that hovering man, in the hope that the signs of abuse would evoke more sympathy and higher contributions from tourists and local working folks. There was no way to know if the man was her husband, pimp, boyfriend, or owner.
I don’t give anything to any Kathmandu street people any more. It’s about more than just the aggressive, annoying thing. Many of the horrible things seen in the Slum Dog Millionaire movie actually happen here in real life. It may be a lot more widespread and severe in India, but some of the same cruelty exists in Kathmandu as well.
I feel badly about not helping those of my street brothers and sisters that are regular people in legitimate need, but there is no way to tell which folks are on the level and which folks are part of a beggar’s cartel—or something that is much more abusive and disturbing. I have to step on my natural instinct to help, in order to no longer support the many levels of social and individual pain trying to grow stronger on these streets.
Our US government’s savage actions and TV’s exaggerated imagery have fostered quite a bad international reputation of the American people. But, as is true in most countries, individual citizens are often a lot nicer than their government. American people can be generous. We can be quite compassionate and forgiving as well. This is especially true of Americans that have had some training in and experience with real forgiveness and compassion. But if I ever again see a young woman with a black and blue face, and a man hovering close by with his eyes on her begging hand, I might just screw up, forget what Buddha taught me, and kick the living fuck out of the guy. He not only beat a defenseless woman. He also iced the heart of a warm man.
Many thanks to our wonderful friends at the 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!
FROM THE TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES DHARMA CENTER
I read and reread the stories of our lineage holders. In another setting they would be called, “Saints”. Their human struggles are so intriguing and helpful to our own paths. So, I picked up “The Life of Marpa” again, and noticed on the opening page a curious phrase, “Tsang Nyon Heruka”, later explained in the Introduction (which I confess I usually skip). He is the actual author of the book! He signed his name in his writings as “King of the Herukas”, and was known as the “Mad Yogin of Tsang”. He wrote the Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, and Mila’s bio, Rechungpa’s Bio, and The Life of Marpa. When they say, “translated from Tibetan”, they are translating the Mad Yogin of Tsang’s original work! Biographies are called namthar in Tibetan, which means “complete liberation”, which tells us why biographies are so important for us to study, as “merely seeing or reading this biography can awaken enlightenment.”
It was popular in the late 1400’s to study with the monastic crowd for a while, then go off to the caves and really do intensive practice. Most were known as Crazy Yogins and other colorful names. The Mad Yogin of Tsang lived from 1452-1507 c.e.
So, during this Crone Phase of the Moon, it seems appropriate to share Milarepa’s “Song of a Lunatic”. Milarepa met with an accomplished yogi (Dampa Sangye) from India. They exchanged their experience through songs, as was Milarepa’s style, but not Dampa Sangye’s. With some convincing, Mila convinced his peer to sing, and he sang about “Relieving All Sorrows”. Mila was pleased and happy, but Dampa Sangye was surprised at Mila’s nakedness, and he suggested that Mila cover up his private parts. Dampa Sangye asked, “What? Are you a lunatic, or what?” So, Milarepa sang “The Song of a Lunatic.”
“To all Gurus I pay my homage.I take refuge in the Gracious One,I pray you, dispel my hindrances;Bring me to the right Path, I pray.Men say, “Is not Milarepa mad?”I also think it may be so.Now, listen to my madness.The father and the son are mad,And so are the Transmission and Dorje Chang’s Succession.Mad, too, was my Great-Grandfather, the Fair Sage, Tilopa.And my Grandfather, Naropa, the great scholar.Mad, too, was my Father, Marpa the Translator;So, too, is Milarepa.The demon of the intrinsic Bodies Four makes Dorje Chang’s Succession crazy;The devil of the Mahamudra made my my Great Grandfather Tilopa Crazy;The demon of the secret Awareness made my Grandfather Naropa crazy;The devil of the Tantras Four made my Father Marpa mad;The demons of Mind and Prana have driven me, Milarepa, mad.The impartial Understanding itself is crazy;So are the free, self-liberating Actions,The self illuminating Practice of No perception,The Accomplishment without Hope and Fear,And Discipline without Pretension.Not only am I mad, myself, I madly afflict the demons.With the Gurus’ Pith Instruction I punish all male demons;With the blessing of Dakinis I harrow female demons;With the he-devil of Happy Mind I enter the Ultimate;With the she-devil of Instantaneous realization I perform all acts.Not only do I punish demons, I also suffer pains and sickness – The Great Symbol hurts my back.The Great Perfection afflicts my chest.In practicing the Vase Breathing, I catch all kinds of sickness -The fever of Wisdom attacks me from above.The cold of Samadhi invades me from below.The cold fever of the Bliss Void assails me in the middle.From my mouth I vomit the blood of Pith Instructions.Lazily I stretch, thrilled by the Dharma Essence.I have many sicknesses, and many times have died.Dead are my prejudices in the vast sphere of the View.All my distractions and drowsiness have died in the sphere of Practice.My pretensions and hypocrisy have died in the sphere of Action.Dead are all my fears and hopes in the sphere of Accomplishment,And my affectations and pretenses died in the sphere of Precepts.I, the yogi, will die in Trikaya’s Realm.Tomorrow, when this yogi dies, no fair shroud will he see, but the subtle, divine Revelations.His corpse will not be bound by hempen rope, but by the cord of the Central Channel.His corpse bearers to the cemetery will not be nose-wiping sons, but his blessed Son of Awareness.Not by the gray, earthy road, but along the Bodhi Path the funeral parade will go.The Gurus of the Whispered Lineage will lead the way.The Dakinis of the Four Divisions will be the guides.The corpse will not be brought to the red and massive hill, but to the hill of Adi Buddha.The corpse will not be carried to the cemetery where foxes play, but to the Park of Skill and Wisdom.It will be buried only in the Grave of Dorje Chang.”
The yogi from India was quite pleased with this song, and they enjoyed a Ganachakra Feast together.
Text from, “The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa”, Volume Two, Translated by Garma C.C. Chang, Shambhala Press, 1962, pages 610-613.
The Mad Yogin of Tsang piece is from, “The Life of Marpa the Translator: Seeing Accomplishes All”, Nalanda Translation Committee, Shambhala, Boston and London, 1982, Introduction pages xix-xxiv.