Where Is the World?

Ajahn Amaro

Where Is the World?

Lights in the dark; dozens of orange patches, human habitations, glow below the window. Turkey passes by: Muş, Solhan, Varto, Hınıs, Erzurum… a poem of pulses, the beat of life, written on the land.

What are their stories? Their names? Their loves and losses? It’s the small hours here – some winter revellers might be looking up as I write hearing the sound of a plane far above, see our lights, white and red, as we sing upon the airs above. Do they wonder who we are? Where we are going?

‘Where are they going?’ My cousin Richard once asked of a passing ship, seen from the restaurant of our family hotel, the Bellevue Britannia, Ostend, when I was not yet quite two years old.

Apparently, allegedly, I spoke in a deep voice, saying, ‘They are going wherever the ship is taking them’ or somesuch. Which was strangely well-formed grammar for a not-quite-two-year-old, if the story is true, of course. This also (again, as the story has repeatedly been told) nearly gave my aunt, seated at my side, a heart attack.

Where are we going? Who can go anywhere, really? The mind, all our minds are exactly, precisely here – a ‘here’ without a ‘there’, the place of non-abiding: Şırnak, Lake Van, Cadir Dagˇi, Muradiye, Ahlat, Bulanık – syllables that indicate memories, perceptions, the feelings of ownership, othership, conventions of ‘here and there’.

Where is the world? On the map-screen? Outside the window? In this mind?

‘In this fathom long body, with its perceptions and thoughts, is the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the way leading to the cessation of the world’ (S 2.26, A 4.45 ).

A glowing screen, white and lime-yellow words pasted over depictions, depixellations, of mountains and lakes, beside it the window, words encoded in neon puddles of street-lamp alphabets; names written in light, words understood, mysterious.

This reflection by Ajahn Amaro is from the book, Copper Isle Miles, (pdf) pp. 3-4.