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My Little Paradise


tariki
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I was recently reading a small book about Shinran, one of the ancient (12th century) fathers of Pure Land Buddhism. Apparently Shinran wrote that if we wished to study a spiritual path we needed to set ourselves apart and stick our head in a book (not quite the language he used, but near enough) whereas if we wished to actually walk the path, then there was no better place to start than where we found ourselves NOW. In fact, no other place to start. Buddhism, in some of its manifestations, also claims that a million Buddha's can be found in just one flower, and that to see the Buddha is to see the Dharma (truth/reality) So reality is everywhere, here and now, not some place other or beyond.

 

Anyway, flying somewhat in the face of such musing, I have my own little paradise which often stands out as special. Well, it sure beats sitting in a dentists chair. It is the Record Department of my local Oxfam Store, where I spend every Tuesday afternoon. It has one of the biggest collections of vinyl records in the UK, as well as CD's and DVD'S, sheet music and other paraphernalia. I once picked up an old guitar there for a few pounds, the one I get out when the grandchildren invade our home, the one they can accidentally knock over or attempt to play as if a cello, leaving more expensive models safe.

 

Yes, it is paradise. I take along a few of my own CD's, and play them to my hearts content. I also take along my Kindle eReader. Occasionally a customer comes in and rudely interrupts my realm of peace and joy.......but that is a small price to pay. Yet many of the customers have a story to tell, or a point of view to discuss, even an opinion on the music playing (like "what the hell is THAT?") I've passed many a happy hour reminiscing about the Sixties, or the early career of Jerry Lee Lewis, and learnt a lot. I've learnt that all vinyl records are of a particular pressing, much like particular editions of books - there are those willing to pay a lot for the earliest pressing of a particular pressing. For me I just concentrate on the music itself, but each to their own.

 

Recently an old guy came in, bent over a little, perhaps with arthritis. He had the look of someone who had never had a life. ( Oh yes, I can be very judgemental at times. ) He shuffled around the stock for quite a while, picking and choosing, and eventually came over and rudely interrupted my peace by wishing to purchase a couple of vinyl singles. I read out the label of one of the singles he had chosen, an old Fifties number. "Yes, I'll enjoy strumming along to that. I used to play along to it in my younger days" the old guy said, then revealed that he owned two Stratocasters and two Les Pauls. Well, you never can tell. I asked him if he had ever played in a group and he told me that he had never been able to play in public, just too shy. Which is rather sad, yet in many ways I am able to empathsise.

 

Well, maybe enough for now.

 

 

 

 

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Hi Joseph,

 

Oxfam stores just accept donations.

 

Charity stores are a growth industry in the UK. There are over 10 in my home town, involving Hospices, child charities, heart etc etc. Up until just a few years ago the shops always had a slighly dowdy look to them but nowadays their appearance differs little from any other store. A lot of time is often spent dressing the windows; the Christmas window of a store close to my home was worth taking a photo of. And bargains galore!

 

The Charity store has become a great base for many forms of recycling. My little grandson looks great in his very cheap trousers, no doubt worn by another little urchin not long ago!

 

Still, cheap is relative. When buying for my own daughter many years ago at a small village rummage sale, we managed to get five dresses for 10 pence. She looked beautiful in one of them and we had a studio photo taken with her wearing it.

 

Derek

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Derek thanks for the story. It was buddha-ful you making contact with so many Buddhas. A long time ago in the late sixties or early seventies my most prized possession was an over coat I bought at a thrift store can't remember the subway stop, but there were so many different, independent creative shops offering their blessings. It was the overcoat the people wore who went around the neighborhood warning people to turn off their lights in London because the Germans were flying over with bombs. I finally gave it up in India. Thanks for the memory that brought me the energy and experience of a young idealistic wanderer.

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Those buddhas seem to get everywhere. Thanks Soma for your own story and memories. Jogged my own braincells, about bombs and germans, a story my grandmother always told ( perhaps far too often ) Once when the air-raid siren went and the whole family were running for the shelter at the bottom of the garden, Grandad stopped and began to run back into the house. "Hey, come on back, where are you going?" To which grandad shouted "I've forgotten my false teeth". Grandma cried out "Don't be daft, they're dropping bombs not sandwiches!"

 

Another connection - with hand-me-downs I suppose - was a biography of a Jewish guy who was mournng the death of his father. He was reading from the Jewish Prayer Book which was kept on the rostrum in the synagogue for funeral recitations. Though this guy had no particular faith as such he was deeply moved by the sheer wear and tear of the prayer book, held by so many hands over the years, each pair of hands having their very own story of grief and loss and words to say. I remember writing about this once on a Buddhist Forum, when the "impermanence of all things" was part of the thread. I remember thinking then about the relative permanence of the book, the more worn its pages the more the pages had to tell. About how words and doctrines have their own impermanence and limited scope. Fitting at some times but not in others.

 

Thanks

 

Derek

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"Jogged my own braincells, about bombs and germans, a story my grandmother always told ( perhaps far too often ) Once when the air-raid siren went and the whole family were running for the shelter at the bottom of the garden, Grandad stopped and began to run back into the house. "Hey, come on back, where are you going?" To which grandad shouted "I've forgotten my false "teeth". Grandma cried out "Don't be daft, they're dropping bombs not sandwiches!"

 

When I first got to Korea, they had air raid drills one day a month. The day my first son was born, my wife was in labor so we walked down to the main street to flag down a taxi, but every time a taxi stopped a business man would run and get in it so I had to cross the street to get a taxi by myself and then have it u turn to pick up my wife. I asked the driver why everyone was panicking and stealing taxis which was unusual and he said the drill was today. We didn't know the time so he said I hope we make it to the hospital before they stop everyone to go down into the shelters.

 

"I remember writing about this once on a Buddhist Forum, when the "impermanence of all things" was part of the thread."

 

The drill was not real, they were not dropping bombs. It was temporary and people were taking it so serious and could not see the relative seriousness of my situation compared to theirs.

 

"I remember thinking then about the relative permanence of the book, the more worn its pages the more the pages had to tell. About how words and doctrines have their own impermanence and limited scope."

 

In many countries I had individuals at their own risk stand up for me and my situation. Our communication was limited because of the language barrier, culture and doctrines were different, but they stood between me and hostile forces. It is amazing how this benevolent universe gives us lessons to be learned and forgotten, forgotten my the individuals who forgot how to smile and laugh.

 

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Thanks Soma for your stories and memories. Its good to hear the stories of others. Hearing the story they cease to be "others". I was reading a novel, "The Sorrow of War" by Boa Ninh, a North Vietnamese soldier. The novel was partly biographical. Ninh's story was of his family and his sweetheart left behind when he was called up to the army. The faceless soldier of the Vietcong ( the "enemy" ) was replaced by a human being. Another story was of a war correspondant who covered the Middle East, who told of the childhood of many Afghani's, the way they were forced to live during the 16 years of occupation by the Soviet forces, locked into refugee camps with minimal resources, no entertainment or mental stimulation but the cries of Mullahs and the words of the Koran."Just where did the Taliban come from, what is their story?". Imagine such a childhood. It could have been different.

 

Maybe we need to listen to each others stories in order to change them. And our own.

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When I taught ESL at an at risk middle school, I had two Vietnam students who were brother and sister. The father was killed during the Vietnam War and because of his death the mother committed suicide. After the take over the two students told me they tried to escape on boats so filled with refugees the water was close to the rim. They told me how they had to hang over the boat to go to the bathroom and had nothing to drink or eat for days. They were caught twice, but the third time made it to a refugee camp run by people from Malaysia. It must have been tough the brother was a comedian so I think that was his coping mechanism while the sister was tough. When the Chinese or Mexican students were talking in their language she thought they were talking about her and wanted to fight.

 

We had a multicultural fair and she tied a cord to a tennis ball which she draped from the ceiling and challenge anyone to be able to kick higher than her. No one could beat her. Even her cousin couldn't beat her and he won a fight just with his legs, he never used his hands. Ten years later I go to the public tennis courts with my friends and they were full, but Phong who was playing on one court tried to give me his court, his friends thought he was crazy. I could not accept. In Iran they have a custom when you go to someone's house and say, "I like your vase" by custom they say "I give it to you." It is amazing the filters we look through observing our diverse experiences in life.

 

This April my wife and I are going to Korea, Cambodia and Vietnam for a month to taste some of that diversity.

 

When I went through Afghanistan the Russians were in their occupation, but you would not know it because you never saw them in Kabul. They had a midnight curfew so no one was on the streets and that is when they did their maneuvers. Many people said, make sure you make it to Kabul before dark because the bandits ruled the night. The homes in the mountains had overhangs over the front gate where they could see who was there or shoot first.

 

In Hong Kong I stayed at Chung King Mansion which was an inexpensive way to find lodging in a high rise. The Mujahideen stayed there when they went to negotiate weapons from the US. Osama Bin Laden was one of their heros and what our leaders called a freedom fighter, but was called a terrorist when those weapons were turned on the US. The Mujahideen became the Taliban. I had ESL students who in the US were friends from Pakistan and Northern India which are the Sikhs and they told me we are friends here, but if we go home we are enemies. The Sikhs and Pakistanis are enemies at the Northern border, the two countries are separated by a kilometer so when you leave one country you have to walk through the DMZ to get to the other one. Emotions and ignorance create wars, murders and death. When 9/11 happened Americans were killing Sikhs who are the enemy of Muslims, but Americans saw their turbans and thought they were Muslim. The emotions get stirred up by the ignorance spread by all the major religions so people are willing to kill, knowing it is wrong, but justified with god on their side. This world would so much better if religion was used to raise the consciousness of individuals instead of manipulating the masses.

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Thanks Soma. Nice to hear stories that speak of diversity. The beauty of difference. Its potential for healing is not always appreciated.

 

 

The Two-Headed Calf

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.

 

 

Laura Gilpin

 

Edited by tariki
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  • 2 weeks later...

I listen to an interview from a person who left London to give a talk in the US. They asked him how long the trip was and he replied I physically left London many hours ago, but really just left London when I landed in the US so I am present now.

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