Take off the top of my head

If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?

Emily Dickinson.


Today is a beautiful day,…


Today is a beautiful day, like the others before it and the others to come.

Grappling with a sense of no-self

This was a submission for an exercise in which we were required to choose one thing in life and using what we have learnt so far, analyse why it is empty, why it is dependent arising. And also, illustrate its emptiness and dependent arising nature.

A simple exercise turned into a mass of over 1,000 words as I attempted the exercise. As I am but a beginner, my apologies in advance if you find that there is anything factually wrong or inaccurate in this article. Do let me know in the comments and I will amend it.


For the longest time, I thought I had an empty Self. Literally empty (at this time, I have not come across the explanation of Emptiness). I could feel. I could laugh, cry and tear. I could feel sadness and happiness. But my sense of self could not last for some reason.

Compared to other people, I would drift from one clique of friends to another. I thought: “There is no one like myself, who belongs to no clique, who belongs to no group permanently.”

There is this clique that I used to hang out with in secondary school. I have drifted away from them for more than a decade now, I think. But this clique still hangs out together to play football, celebrate birthdays and what-nots. Some of them are already married and have kids. So they have progressed together as a clique.

I was envious (and still am) when I see this. Because I am not like them. I have drifted from one clique to another, unable to settle down. Maybe it’s because my interests change so much (and their interests remain the same). That clique I know plays football regularly. But I’ve stopped since a long time ago. I only played because I wanted to fit into that clique, I think.

I used to go to the gym regularly. But I’ve stopped that too.

I would drift from one interest to another. From one friend to another. Meeting everyone and knowing no one. I felt empty. When everyone around me seemed to have a stable sense of identity, how could I exist in such a state of flux?


To compound this sense of identity-issue, I thought I was the least original person out there during my university days. Throughout my Literature classes, I would meet brilliant people who, when they open their mouths during classes, would offer excellent insights on whatever we happen to be studying at the moment. I was a laggard. I could only hide behind the words of dead people, repeating their philosophies and theories.

In me, I conjured up Lacan and Freud, two of the philosophers that I quoted quite often. I couldn’t complete my essays without heavy research. I had no original thought. To start on my essay, I needed someone else’s beginning. And gradually, I felt that there were other people’s opinions in me, rumbling about and waiting for me to give them voice.

At this point in time, I came across this quote. And it resonated like a bell that rang in the deepest recesses of the mountain ranges, the highest point of a mountain monastery.

“I am a part of all that I have met; [18]
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move…”
–Lord Alfred Tennyson, Ulyssess

It would help me reconcile some part of myself – the part that was always changing, moving and unable to be pinned down by myself.


AFTER I came across Buddhist philosophy and the teachings on Emptiness, I realised that it was OK to feel this way. That nothing has an inherent self and what I am feeling and experiencing is just that: the playing out of a lack of an inherent self. Nothing is permanent. It is OK if my interests change all the time and if my friends change all the time.


Going further, I realised that Emptiness meant relativity. Everything is dependent on one another. There is no standalone self, according to what I have understood from my readings of Buddhist philosophy.

I remember this. This is this. Because that is that. Therefore I am who I am. Because you are who you are.

I am the sum of all the experiences that I have. I am the sum of all the people whom I have met, regardless of whether these experiences are happy or sad, positive or negative, whether these people are good or bad.

There is no me. Because I am everybody. I am here because my parents brought me up. I am here because my colleague introduced me to Thich Nhat Hanh. I am here because someone in KMSPKS decided to go online and put up on the materials on their upcoming course. [Redacted]. My self thus arises because of all these causes and conditions. Is this correct? I don’t really know.

It doesn’t seem to end. I don’t know whether I am pushing it too far and I don’t know whether it is right or wrong but at this point, I am filled with gratitude towards everyone. I can’t find myself in myself anymore.

I am reminded of the phrase describing the stages of practice. I hope I am moving along them. To see the mountains for the mountains, the rivers for the rivers. Then to see the rivers in the mountains. And then to see the mountains for the mountains, the rivers for the rivers again.

Recently, another clique that I have gotten close to seemed to be drifting apart as well. It is not surprising anymore. We have our own lives and dreams to pursue. Compared to years ago, there is hardly any time to meet one another now. The different thing now is that I am able to take it as it is and not despair over it.

With metta.

Updated on March 31: Letter has been amended. The contents and purpose remain the same. 


A posed question

What in life is permanent?

The standard answer would be “nothing”.Nothing in life is ever permanent — things come and go in waves. It arises and it ceases.

Then I observed my cravings today. And I realise that cravings come and go. My craving for fast-food, my craving for ice-cream, my craving for yoghurt, my craving for many other things.

So it occurred to me that there is something permanent after all and that is craving.

Then another thought surfaced: was I really craving after the objects per se or was it just…craving of craving?

Questions on Self

When we are unhappy with another person, why do we punish ourselves by doing things like gorging on food and maintaining anger? 

When we can accept that there is a plurality of viewpoints and opinions in the world, why can we not accept the fact that your loved ones, as a result of this plurality, will not share the same viewpoint as yourself? 

Again, when we are intellectually aware of this plurality and other similar facts (or cliches, if you will), why can we not put words into practice? 

Night observations #1

The Australian walks across the road. The red man is on – a silent signal. His right arm – the Australian’s – trembles, a disorder that couldn’t be cured.

“Now I’m torn between loyalties. You know, in Tokyo, they don’t cross when the light’s red? They’ll stop and wait there at the line…” the Australian droned to another man beside him.

Traffic drowns out the rest of the conversation. His friend would have heard the rest.

Moments later the green man blinks.

A Japanese woman, small in stature, runs in the man’s footsteps. She catches up with the voice before it fades entirely into the night.

“Guilty, guilty,” she says in a high-pitch voice.


Sublime sunlight

At first, I had nothing to write for today. But I remembered that something significant happened yesterday morning.

I was on a bus to work when it suddenly pierced me how wonderful the sunlight at that very moment was. The light comes from a sun that continuously burns and yet the light reaches us in different degrees, each pleasing and disturbing everyone.

The soft light pleased me for it casts everything in a gossamer glow, beautifying everything. The journey to work, the crowded bus, commuters’ expressions. It’s the kind of sunlight I like best. At once a reminder of both the day and night because I still feel the coldness in my bones and in the air. I see a trace of night in the air, water vapour hanging over large patches of greenery, to be evaporated by the sunlight once it’s out.

At 8am, it’s still a kind of day/night. When the moon hangs out in the sky and the sunlight’s light.

There are so many versions of sunlight out there for each and everyone of us. For those who want to tan, for those who want light, for those who want heat, for those who want a rainbow, for those who want life. By the mere interference of a landscape, of a horizon, of the earth’s spin, of the universe’s spin, infinite possibilities exist. Simply sublime.