Bokor Mountain – Kampot

Bokor Mountain is a ridge that keeps the worst of the summer rains away from Kampot.

I hired a bike and headed on up, it was low season and there roads were empty. As I climbed the mountain it got a lot cooler and fresher and it started to rain a little, well it was more like low clouds.

The spirits of the mountain are strong enough for the Catholic’s to build a church to try to tap into the energy and direct it to Rome, it’s been abandoned for some time now and even the road to it has been abandoned and grown over.

The first thing you see is Buddhist Temple with what I thought were heavily made up statues!?

Then you’ll see the big Buddha this one is a lot more feminine with a nice pair of boobies!!

Moving further up there’s the mountain resort and building works – it going to be huge probably as many chalets as the old town of Kampot has houses, ready for when they build the Marina with deep sea port and the cruise ship tourists come pouring in looking for a change of scenery.  I guess when 3-5000 couples from one cruise ship descend on the place it will be hustling and bustling, plus there will be houses for the workers.

The main hotel looks like a poor copy of old art deco style from yesteryear.

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Further up you’ll find the summit a large flat area with a number of shrines to all of the eastern divinities dotted around. I found a coach load of Chinese tourists plucking up plants around the base of these shrines I can only presume so they can have a little bit of the mountain spirit growing in their gardens.

I also found it interesting to see my old mate Lersi wearing a fish hat a bit like the Pope does and their Catholic mitres. There are obvious links to Dagon the fish head god from Sumeria. Lersi, by all accounts predates this and there’s probably a deeper meaning to it.

 

Lersi Tafai-Korb Kroo Mask Ceremony Pt1

I had the great privilege of attending a fantastic but unusual weekend, the Korb Kroo mask ceremony which was held on the first weekend of the Thai New Year I had little idea of what I was going to see, but I learnt a lot and enjoyed myself.

The weekend was dedicated to Lersi – the fire eye hermit, the event was at a purpose built  ranch (not monastery or temple) I was the only Westerner there, the entertainment was a bit of a jumble and the ceremonies and prayer were certainly strange at first. I’ll describe the weekend in part two but for now who is this deity if he’s not Buddha?

Who is this Lersi geezer?

I’d never heard of Lersi before or knew how much of a role he played but as I read up on the subject it became more and more familiar to me.

He has a few names from different cultures, Lersi – Ruesi and one I’ve heard of before Rishi. All are names or rather titles for the archetype of the Fire Eye Hermit, the wise old man as Jung calls him, the hermit, the ascetic,  the number 108 is also linked to the name – more about that later.

It originally comes from the Sanskrit – Rishi which means: Seer or Prophet, maybe Shaman would be a good modern translation. Their abilities include ability to float, voice powers, talk with animals, read minds, teleportation, alchemy, ability to see past, present and future realms, mastery over the elements (e.g. cause fire to combust just be looking) and many more.  In modern terms, psy-abilities, a medium into the spirit realms, chaos magician, mad scientist! the list goes on.

The Rishi is mentioned in the Hindu Veda’s the oldest Sanskrit texts, but they don’t mention any sort of origins. As Lersi is essentially a title for a state of mind, a state of being, a state of enlightenment, participating in this so called stairway to heaven, it’s something that’s been around since time immemorial, it describes the transition from a mundane mind through the various stages towards enlightenment, Buddha and Shiva transited as a Lersi on their way to becoming who they are.

The number 108 is also linked to the title as well, it’s said it represents the different names/levels/types of Lersi but it’s also a precessional number so it probably does have links to further back in time to when the seers of old first started to encode the Great Year of the earth’s wobble. The seminal book on this topic Hamlet’s Mill refers to the avenues of statues at Angkor in Cambodia, “108 per avenue, 54 on each side,” as examples of deliberate precessional encoding.

The Hermit is a global archetype, he appears in the tarot deck and other places, think of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda from Star Wars. This supports the idea that this figure/archetype has been around for a lot longer than modern Buddhism for example. Coincidentally my Tarot birth-card is The Hermit!

 

From the Tarot card interpretation:-

The Hermit indicates a need or desire to withdraw from the world. He is a wise old man, who has learned much about himself and his world through deep introspection and meditation. This card may indicate your soul may be craving a retreat in order to replenish and restore. By taking space and solitude, you will be ready to engage with and guide others when they most need you later on. The answers you seek will be found within you, not in any book or on any website. 

A Lersi is this and more:-

A Lersi will have revoked all self centered thought, and has freed himself from all worldly attachments. This kind of Lersi will see the nature of reality with his eyes closed, he will have complete “Sila” (ascetic vows), know what actions are meritorious and which are causes of negative results. He understands the laws of karma completely and acts wisely in accordance, and therefore develops no negative causes/effects in his future existences.This eightfold Ruesi will have passed the Sodaban level of consciousness, have divine mind, eyes and ears.

3500 to 5000 years ago, the Lersi composed texts, prayers, incantations and spells to invoke the Angelic beings. This was due to the fact that the Lersi had practised training their minds and raised their consciousness to the Samabhabhati level of Jhana. They could see things on higher planes that the normal human cannot, including being able to hear sounds from other dimensions that any normal person will never get to hear. This made listening to the Angelic Beings accessible. when a Lersi enters meditation and Samadhi, he will naturally experience visions and sounds that are created for him as a communication means by the Angelic Being that wishes to communicate with him.

A Lersi is a hermit but also a teacher who passes on their knowledge, the main event as it were is the Korb Kroo mask ceremony it’s a lineage tradition of passing on the teachings and blessing of the previous monks to the next line of acolytes and followers.

I’ll detail the weird and wonderful weekend events in Part 2.

Muang Mai Market in Chiang Mai

There’s loads of markets in Chiang Mai, but you can’t beat Muang Mai for the freshness of the fruit and vegetables and bargain prices.

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It’s an old sprawling warren of streets with stall after stall, most with a selection, some buy in produce by the truck load and prepare if needed.

 

You can’t get much fresher than these fish still alive in the tubs and killed to order. With the meat there’s no refrigeration so the flies are kept off with spinning streamers above the freshly prepared meat (if you’re lucky.)

Stack it high and flog it cheap is the motto. Stalls specialise in huge bags of peeled garlic, peeled onions, peeled shallots, dried chilli’s.

This grapefruit stall has just bought a truck load off the local farmer , they spend the day peeling and preparing, 1 tray goes for approx £0.40 or $0.60, cheaper than you can buy a unpeeled one back home. Be warned that little bag isn’t just sugar, it’s more like a bag of chilli powder with a hint of sugar!

A lot of the stock gets bought and resold in the surrounding local markets, so it’s definitely worth the trip.

I found a short Zen story suitable for a post about markets.

Socrates believed that the wise person would instinctively lead a frugal life. He himself would not even wear shoes; yet he constantly fell under the spell of the marketplace and would go there often to look at all the wares on display. When one of his friends asked why, Socrates said, “I love to go there and discover how many things I am perfectly happy without.”

Everything’s The Same But Different.

There’s so many things that’s the same in nearly all cities of developed nations, so it’s the little things you notice which peak you interest or give you a giggle.

Basically most of the big cities have  colour coded public transport maps, exit signs, traffic lights, zebra crossings (but they are yellow in Malaysia!) How they are used differs from strict obedience to a free for all quickly discerning is obviously a life saver!

Shopping Malls have surprising global brands, apparently Topshop bill themselves as being from London as a selling point! Auntie Anne’s Pretzels was another surprise.

But its the little things that make me smile like these gems I found in Chiang Mai.

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at least it wasn’t a fountain
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I dress my kids in Poo!

“lost in translation” signs

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A temple that had the iconic music sequence from “Close encounters of the Third Kind” as their intro “bing bongs” over the tannoy system, they also had these fantastic elaborately designed mini Stupa’s as grave markings.

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I’ve also got to thank David Beckham in helping cross the cultural divide, apart from being a name just about any bloke can say to another bloke in any accent / language to get the conversation onto football, also his haircuts have helped barbers, like a recent one I went to, who just pointed to a picture on the wall instead of interpreting my bad mime and worse local language – yep that’s close enough, get the clippers out.

Signs of good things to come?

I flew out using some of the airmiles I started collecting on my very first adventure to work on Camp America, oh so many years ago.
Apart from struggling with my 2 stuffed to the brim wheelie cases and a back pack on the train and tube to Heathrow the transit through the airport was fairly uneventful.
Just as I settled in my economy windows seat 2 young blonde Avril Lavine type rock chics approached, things are looking up already I thought.
Continue reading “Signs of good things to come?”