Last Week’s Potatoes

Richard Feynmann (1918-88) was an interesting man. Ambitious, inevitably, but he had the kind of mind that looked for the unimaginable, ‘left the door open’ to the impossible, and when the unthinkable poked its head above the parapet he had the courage to relax into the ‘beauty and majesty’ of it. All of which could be a description of how to approach the spiritual, don’t you think?

He was a physicist and a romantic. Perhaps the two always go together and I’ve never noticed before… Anyway, he fell in love with a beautiful girl who had tuberculosis, a death sentence in the late 40s, and married her so he could take care of her. I like this man.

In ‘What do You Care What Other People Think?’ Further Adventures of a Curious Character, he wrote:
“Is no one inspired by our present picture of the universe? This value of science remains unsung by singers: you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.
“Perhaps one of the reasons for this silence is that you have to know how to read music. For instance, the scientific article may say, ‘The radioactive phosphorus content of the cerebrum of the rat decreases to one-half in a period of two weeks.’ Now what does that mean?
“It means that phosphorus that is in the brain of a rat—and also in mine, and yours—is not the same phosphorus as it was two weeks ago. It means the atoms that are in the brain are being replaced: the ones that were there before have gone away.
“So what is this mind of ours: what are these atoms with consciousness? Last week’s potatoes! They now can remember what was going on in my mind a year ago—a mind which has long ago been replaced. To note that the thing I call my individuality is only a pattern or dance, that is what it means when one discovers how long it takes for the atoms of the brain to be replaced by other atoms. The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out—there are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.”
And he had a great sense of humour…

A Shelf

I am in a slightly arty-farty mood today, so I’m posting another still life from my home. Well, our home, actually, because of course, Andreas lives here too. Although, as he prefers a quiet life, he does tend to follow various guidelines (‘rules’ may be a little harsh… or not) that I set down.

This picture is of the middle two shelves where all our dvds are store. There are ten in all, but the middle one lies below the shelf holding our favourite TV series, the timeless productions that never fail to entertain, and above TV series that we like a lot but which have dated a bit  (like X-files). And as you can see, on that middle shelf are photos of Khyentse Rinpoche, dating from the early eighties right up to the mid noughties.

Is it really a kind of shrine, I hear you thinking to yourselves? Perhaps. And could such an assembly of disparate snaps be considered a kosher shrine (so to speak), from a Dharma point of view? I have no clue! Does it place Khyentse Rinpoche’s image in the midst of products of a media that rarely fails to inspire him? Albeit in a slightly abstract, homespun way? Well, what do you think? 

Khyentse Rinpoche at Jamyang’s Sister’s House

We ate momo’s at Jamyang’s house last night. Her momos are the most delicious you can imagine and she never fails to make a huge pile of them so we could really dig in and gorge ourselves.

Anyway, that’s really not the point here. Having spent the evening with Jamyang it occurred to me that I had a few photos somewhere of the day we went to her sister’s new house in the hills surrounding Thimpu. Rinpoche was performing a puja there (White Tara I think, but I can’t really remember) along with a few monks and long-haired gomchens. It was a lovely atmosphere and I remember the food was also particularly good. So here’s a snap of that day.

There’s a phrase I remember being repeated ad nauseum during my early years, “God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.” Well, the whole god thing has been rather blown apart for me by Buddhadharma, so taken literally it doesn’t really make sense any more. But when Rinpoche looks as happy as he does in this photo, I can easily buy into the illusion that, just for this instant, all really is right with the world. 

Mullah Nasruddin (7)

One day Mullah Nasruddin decided he wanted to learn to play the zurna, which is a kind of pipe.
“How much does it cost to learn to play?” he asked a well-known zurna master.
“Three hundred akche for the first lesson and one hundred akche after that,” replied the zurna master.
“That sounds good,” replied Mullah. “Can we start with the second lesson. I was a shepherd when I was a young boy, so I already have some experience of whistling. That must count as the first lesson, no?”

OT Rinpoche (4)

I’m feeling a bit self-indulgent this morning. OT Rinpoche changed planes in Berlin yesterday and as Andreas had some unfinished business with him I tagged along for the ride. Now, I know I’ve already posted umpteen pictures of OT Rinpoche over the past week or so, and that they’re all portraits rather than images of him doing anything particularly interesting, but I can’t help myself. He is very hard to resist.