Sila 1

Pirsig is a recluse or at least those that are clamouring for him say he is Ė I donít know whether he is or not. Mountain men are recluses, I am not a mountain man but one group of social gatherers said I was a recluse. I live on my own, and mostly prefer my own company. But if I could talk with people about this stuff all the time, I wouldnít be on my own so much. Here is what happens when I mix with people. I want to believe and trust them. When they tell me they are my friends I want to believe them. Why? Because that is a better world. It is the world of sila. Sila is a Buddhist word that I have thought is best translated as moral integrity. Sila needs to be the basic building block of the world. Imagine how wonderful the world would be if everyone was trying to be sila.

I have not always had sila Ė even after I hit bottom. For a while I would even argue against morality because I hear so much moral justification for stuff that was just not moral Ė I trusted my gut. But my gut was not always right because my gut was not stronger than lust, only sila is stronger than lust. Now sila is stronger than lust but thatís because thankfully my lust is so much weaker than it was.

Sila is the natural order of Gaia. That sounds so contrary to the way the world appears but it is still true, and simply shows how far humanity has strayed from Gaia Ė and we should be warned by that. When you live your life as if the world is sila the world is so much more pleasant. You help people and some help you. You treat people nicely and some treat you nicely. You give things and some people give back. This is sila, the way humanity wants to treat each other but canít because of the world of work. How can you give things when the measure of success is how much profit you make? How you keep your job!

I retired to Thailand. I had visited often, and in holiday visits people here tolerated my insular nature. It is not a paradise by any means but I am happy with my decision. They have a negotiating system for buying, quite common in the East. If you buy at the stalls they ask for a high price, and it is normal to bring the price down Ė the initial price is arbitrarily high to allow negotiation room. Many western visitors donít know this, pay the higher prices because they are still far cheaper than the West, and then become indignant when they find out they have been overcharged. They donít feel indignant about being overcharged everywhere in the West, it is a fact of life they ignore because the corporations are so controlling and powerful.

Although there are some wonderful people in the West, people who manage to live there and keep their own sila interact, many others just accept the dominant ethos of dog-eat-dog and adapt to it. It is these westerners, stressed out, fast-living and ignorant that I ran away from when I left the UK Ė thereís much more to leaving than that. Some of these dog-eat-doggers come to Thailand but because I live in sila-world I donít always see them coming. There are two such who would have claimed friendship. There is one who is lonely and insecure, and was a nasty drunk; I never spoke to him then. He stopped drinking and we became friends, and he helped me a bit with my motor-bike. He wanted a biker gang, and I had a bigger bike (bigger than 125). Because riding a bike was such a risk to a body of my age I sold my bike, and this dog-eat-dogger bought it. There were a number of things I had helped him with as I do in sila-world, but when it came to selling the bike he offered me a very low price. He said he had no money but he was my friend and would give the bike a good home. Spending time trying to get the best price was not part of my sila-world, and I accepted his price. The next week he came to my house offering money for my older bike, money the previous week he didnít have. If this is how he treated friends I didnít want to know him. This man was uncomfortable to be with because he wonít spend money Ė he was embarrassing except that if he is poor you donít mind. When I discussed this story with a mutual friend he told me that this man had just bought his sisterís share of a house in the UK so he owned a house in the UK, a house in Thailand and my big bike plus two others. I hope he enjoys this because he does not belong in sila-world, he belongs in the UK with the other dog-eat-doggers. This mutual friend later in discussion talked about how I had lost street-smarts, and it is true this would not have happened to me in the UK when I had lived there. I listened to him go on about different tricks he used to be street-smart in Thailand, and I began to feel slimy and uncomfortable. I had to listen to this because I had complained about the mutual friend, his response was street-smarts, and I just wanted to get away. In Thailand you donít speak the language, there is racism, and Farangs are taken advantage of by some; you tacitly join the expat enclave. But I have sila-world here in Thailand for a reason, and this is not dog-eat-dog UK; I will remember that in the choice of friends. If sila-world makes me a recluse then I am a recluse Ė I would so much rather have sila, live in sila than be tainted by dog-eat-dog.

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