Monkeys and Other Wild Things

Some days I’d rather deal with wild monkeys than with people. That’s a rather strange statement since people are also monkeys. So lets say some species seem more understandable than others sometimes. But I’m not the only one who feels that way it seems.

Birute Galdikas watches orangutans in Borneo, Dian Fossey watched gorillas in Rwanda, Jane Goodall watched chimpanzees in Tanzania. They all studied under the famous paleo-anthropologist Louis Leakey, whose work among the Kikuyu people of Africa I remember studying years ago-or more specifically some linguistic elements of Kikuyu language.  The archeological excavations of Leakey’s group at Olduvai were so influential in the development of evolutionary theory that some people say they proved Darwin correct.  These women who were his students liked to watch living primates rather than dig up dead ones. I can understand that after spending the past few weeks observing a local rhesus monkey troupe that’s moved into town and declared the rooftop of our house the center of their territory. There’s no way to get rid of them so I’ve just been watching them. There’s always been monkey troupes around but I haven’t really put any time into actually watching their activities at length. Any one who’s been reading my Twitter status updates knows they have captured my attention. I used to think anyone who would sit in the bush and watch primates was a bit off their rocker. But now I understand why they might want to do that. Incredibly fascinating. And if anyone has doubts about the origins of the human species a couple of weeks of monkey watching will give some serious insights.

Here’s some stuff I put on Twitter.

30 Oct Monkey wars on our tin roof. Cool weather brings the wild troupes down to confront the locals. Chaos, noise and territorial display ensues.

1 Nov Rhesus monkey troupe, top ranks grab handfuls of leaves, stuff them in their mouths.Lower ranks will pick 1 leaf or eat the scraps of others

7 Nov Wild monkeys in town-healthy animals once,now malnourished, cut from fights, burnt from electric wire encounters,a few lost limbs,some ill.

9 Nov The Rhesus monkey troop are a fascinating study. Instructive in many ways. No they are not like us. We are like them.

24 Nov Leopards down from higher altitudes due 2 early & heavy snows taking local livestock. Best to carry a big stick if walking in the evening. (Leopards and other jungle cats eat monkeys particularly in the winter)

29 Nov Monkeys are tearing up the oak trees getting at the newly budding acorns. Plenty of noise and fighting involved for the best perches.

2 Dec Odd silence all morning.No birds,dogs,monkeys.Only a few butterflies on the raspberries & the occasional distant child’s shout drifting in.

14 Dec At night if the lights are on moths and other insects bump against the window. Monkeys lurk below and pick off the bugs to eat. Opportunists

Here’s some monkey pictures.

Baby monkey eating leaves while sitting on a stump at the foot of the oak tree just outside the window. This little stump is a favorite perch of most of the troupe and they will fight to get to sit on it.
Monkey swinging on a vine along the cliff face. Sometimes 3 or 4 of them will grab onto these vines and try to catch each other. That’s fine when the vines are green and strong but at this time they are dried out and can break.
A couple of monkeys playing on the cliff face. They seem to play some kind of tag and it looks rather dangerous as it’s quite a sharp cliff with rocks that come loose. They also like to chase the large lizards that come and sun on the rock face.

These were all taken outside our dining room window so when I’m writing on the computer and sitting at the dining room table I get to watch this all day.  The large lizards too are quite fascinating as they scramble across the rocks or on the gravel. The biggest ones are over a foot long.  I don’t know if the monkeys eat them or not but they get really excited chasing them around.

General Stuff

A bunch of quotes, a bunch of thoughts, some reactions to blog stuff, a potpourri of nothing much.  But, like incense,  it also smells nice when you set it on fire. Devil I am not advocating arson, except in very specific circumstances, like if there’s a plague epidemic Alienor something similar. Did I mention that I don’t like smileys?

Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.

Gertrude Stein

I read that just after I read a blog post about the virtues of spending one’s day in silent gratitude. The gratitude thing I’ve bemoaned to death in a previous post. And then I read this on Twitter recently “The Buddha in my living room says good morning and reminds me just to be. I bow to him in gratitude.” Now if I had “The Buddha” in my living room that means he’s just gone through a time machine. That’s fairly astounding. I might be wanting to call the press about that.  If it is a statue and it is talking to me then I might have a question or two for it (or for myself). If I am bowing I might just want to bow and not advertise it on Twitter at the same time. You know where I’m going with this.

The purpose of gratitude.

I agree with Gertrude Stein’s evaluation. To enumerate thanks all day long to one’s self is a bit of a time waster. It gives the impression that everything in the universe is done for the specific purpose of MY appreciation. It isn’t. The universe doesn’t really give a shit about you or me.

Reginald Ray (who I think is a very good teacher-here’s some more of his words) wrote:

There are no victims of reality

Nor are there heroes of reality. The neutrality of the actual or absolute as some might put it is something that’s hard to get a grip on. Equanimity-a sublime view.  Who could stand a GOD that doesn’t really Care? (Or how come I’m an atheist-short form)

What does that make the rest? It doesn’t mean that there are no victims in the relative sense. When delusion is at the center of our being and activity and everything is all about ME then others are going to suffer for that.  And as long as our perceptions are received through the ME filter reactions remain painful. How come there’s so much suffering in the world? That’s why.

In the big world-not just the small world in my head that I’d like to think is representation of the big world (its not) -there’s not going to be a time when there is no one left to think “ME” in big neon letters. That sounds really pessimistic. But look around. 2012Peace ain’t going to save us.

So what about gratitude? Giving thanks where it belongs, for substantial reasons makes a little bit of difference. Encouragement is useful to both give and receive. Projecting gratitude onto a semi-mythological figure for whatever he might or might not have done and broadcasting that is a declaration of “Look at what a perfect Buddhist example I am”.  A public posture.

Am I then ungrateful for Buddhadharma? It’s certainly been useful to me. That’s not hard to acknowledge.  But who do I thank that will make some difference?

Do I phony up some expression to satisfy some people I don’t even know just to gain their approval? Do I play out some charade of ritual, make a big dramatic production of it? Why? An acknowledgement of sources is enough, just like when writing a thesis. Does one write personal thank you notes to everyone that gets cited in an academic paper? Or does one call up anyone who ever had a clever cleaning suggestion that one took up? Do we touch the ground beneath our table neighbor for passing the salt?  Gratitude as acknowledgement is one thing. Gratitude as a production number quite something else.

Sometimes the dramatic productions around Buddhist practice are a little hard to take. Of course reacting to it my problem. And that gets handled. No other option.

But there’s a bigger issue too. That’s the one of imitationBlack Sheep. This is where we get into Buddhist practice as social fiction. That’s where all the “Buddhists are like this or that or something else” and “Buddhists behave/say only xyz.” and “To be Buddhist means to express only certain things.” and so on and on and on. Buddhist practice becomes reduced to a series of highly structured, predictable actions and words with no meaning whatsoever. (stuck in the nama-rupa –the labels and the forms)

Some Bible guy wrote sarcastically today on Twitter: “Buddhism is like standing in front of a steam roller and imagining it’s cotton candy.” and some Buddhist people retweeted it un-ironicallyPizza. That Bible guy is not far off in some cases.  Believing things are all Cat face and Rainbow doesn’t make it so.

It’s about playing a Buddhist role, taking on a Buddhist fantasy, trying on a costume made by a fixed ideal and not about reality at all.

When a living tradition becomes static the dharma is no longer real, genuine dharma at all…It’s only a form, like a scarecrow

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

This brings me to stuff about intention and motivation.

“It is very important before receiving any Dharma teaching to set a proper motivation, or reaffirm and enhance that motivation if we already basically have it. This is important not only for those who are listening to a spiritual discourse, but also for the person delivering it…A Buddhist teaching must be given with the sincere wish to benefit all beings by means of it.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

A brief response on the Schwarz/KPC/elephant journal issue.

The above rambling about gratitude and intention is about posturing. Posturing seems to me to be what all the @ryderjaphy (Bill Schwarz)Baring teeth smile and KPC Princessfeud is all about. You’re right Bill. Not interested. And please don’t suppose that you speak for all Buddhists or all Buddhist bloggers either.The wisest is not the one who necessarily speaks the loudest, or with the nastiest lawyer KPC. Neither wants to listen either to each other or anyone else. They are only fighting to be right, fighting to win some ridiculous zero sum game. That’s the main reason I don’t want to get involved. Both sides only seem interested in amassing troops to help them win their side and berating and abusing those of the other side, or even on their own side if these troops don’t do what they’re told or ask too many questions.  Two of a kind. Being so invested in being right that potential allies are pushed aside without a thought is not something most people want to be involved with. I don’t. And being involved with the personal vanity project Starof Waylon Lewis’ that is elephant journal, where this mess started, mainly due to a decided lack of editorial oversight, lack of fact checking, lack of clarity, lack of scruples, lack of restraint, lack of concern for the fallout (now EJ has deleted all of Schwarz’s work entirely as if that makes some difference), lack of sense in general is also something I can do without. Pose away with these manufactured “issues” to get readership and attention. Or fight it out on the WWF. Punk Just kidding Same difference.

Musical Accompaniment (I almost forgot!)

The Monkeys-Pleasant Valley Sunday

And here’s one with the video-EMI doesn’t like their vids played on blogs.

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