Monday, June 30, 2014

Three Temples In Cambodia III

Prasat Preah Vihera runs for 800 meters up a steep mountain incline  and stops   just short of the dramatic cliff at the top. It is a spectacular situation and I have included an aerial picture from the internet so you can see what it is like. Politically the temple’s situation is just as precarious. It sits right on the Thai/Cambodian border and the two countries have been quarrelling  over its ownership for decades. A few years ago this led to shooting and even today the visitor is met by razor wire, armed soldiers, mine fields and pill boxes. Preah Vihera started when a 9th century when Khmer king got a message from Siva telling him to set up a lingum on the high point of the Dangrek Range. The complex consists of a series of stairways and stone-paved roads that give access to or pass through four gateways and shrines. The view from the top is breathtaking; to the northeast one can see the jungle-covered hills of Thailand and to the south the e seemingly endless plain of Cambodia’s hinterland. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Three Temples In Cambodia II

Beng Mealea’s name means Lotus Pond and is a recent one, its original name being unknown because as yet no inscription giving details about who built the temple, when and what they called it has been found. This  temple has been  constructed with exceptional  care, unlike  Banteay Chamr for example, which shows signs of hast and carelessness. Where the stonework is in its original position  at Beng Mealea you can walk through  mysterious halls and galleries. In other places tree roots have prized the stones apart causing whole sections to collapse, the great piles of stones looking  like toy blocks  scattered by some giant child. In other places moss transforms such stones into cubes of green velvet. But it is the  tree;  their  roots, their  foliage  and the play of light and shade they create on surfaces that  make Beng Mealea so worth a visit.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Three Temples In Cambodia I


Last week a few friends and I spent 10 days in Cambodia. Our intention was to visit three ancient temples - Banteay Chamr, Preah Vihera and Beng Mealea. The first is one of the few Khmer Buddhist temples and was apparently dedicated to Avalokitesvara while Beng Mealea reflects Buddhist/Hinduism syncretism. Both these temples are situated in thick jungle, the second much more so than the first, giving them an added appeal. Preah Vihera is perched  on the very edge of a sheer cliff and almost straddles the Thai/Cambodian border. Soldiers of both countries have been engaged   in combat over the temple in the recent past and the area remains tense. Today and for the next two posts  I will share with you some of the photos we took during our visit. Today Banteay Chamr.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

The 5 Regrets Of The Dying

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them. When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard. This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings. Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called "comfort" of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is your life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly.
By Bronnie Ware

Monday, June 9, 2014

In Praise Of The Buddha

As regards the way in which the Lord has worked for the welfare of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare and happiness of both gods and humans, except for the Lord we find no teacher like this whether we survey either the past or the present.
Beautifully taught is the Lord’s Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself.  Except for the Lord we find no one who could proclaim such a progressive teaching, whether we survey the past or the present.

The Lord has clearly explained what is right and what is wrong, what is blameworthy and what is praiseworthy, what is to be followed and what avoided, what is low and what is high, what is impure, what is pure and what is mixed.  Except for the Lord, we find no one who could so clearly explain such things, whether we survey the past or the present.
The Lord has well taught to his disciples the Way leading to Nirvana and they merge into each other, Nirvana and the Way, just as the Ganges and Yamuna flow into each other and go on united.  Except for the Lord, we find no teacher of the Way leading to Nirvana, whether we survey the past or the present. 
The Lord has gained many companions, both learners and those who have destroyed the defilements, and the Lord lives together with them, all of them rejoicing in unity.  Except for the Lord, we find no teacher such as this, whether we survey the past or the present.
 The Lord acts as he speaks, and he speaks as he acts. Except for the Lord, we find no teacher as consistent as this, whether we survey the past or the present.
The Lord has crossed over doubt, transcended all hesitation; in regard to the goal of the holy life, he has accomplished his aim. Except for the Lord we find no teacher who has done this, whether we survey the past or the present. 
Digha Nikaya II,222