When I was small, I used to wonder if I was the only person that existed. I don’t know when exactly I decided that I was not alone, even with this thought, or even that I can prove that there are others with independent consciousnesses. Mostly, I’ve decided to leave the whole thing alone. But from time to time, it occurs to me that I was right in the first place.

I don’t know what kind of mind-shape you have, but I find that my thought processes are usually in word form. Sometimes, though, an occasional, if solitary image does penetrate. They are mostly seemingly solitary images, like me.

Years later, I lived in Spain. I was sitting meditating when I found myself running up the stony path that stood for a road in those remote parts. Only I was a deer. Don’t ask me to prove it or analyse it – I was. I was running and I was quite happy running and not thinking too much about it. There were other images, coloured shapes no doubt, of my inner self; but those days, they seem so distant.

When I was not meditating I also saw things that were simply, I suppose, natural phenomena. Up in the hills, walking, I saw this hawk. Light and dark brown, head down, meaning business. Knowing where it was going. It swooped, levelled out and plummeted. Only in a horizontal plane. It effortlessly zig-zagged in and out of cliffs, chasms and trees, following almost exactly the path I was taking.

Other times I would see this hoopoe whose swooping, undulating style of flight would make me think it was a Glasgow magpie dressed up in yellow feathers and crest. Of course it wasn’t – it was something else altogether.

The solitary, most thoughtful times would be at night. It was my favourite time. Sometimes I would get up deliberately in the middle of it all, and for a change I would ignore the satellites passing by overhead and refuse to stare at them. I would  walk through the holly oak and herbal scented scrub with no fear of stumbling, as the moon would be full. The wild pigs that in daylight I would often hear, but not see, would be out with me, moonlit and unbothered by my presence. I would see many things that were not to be seen in daylight. But it was not just the seeing, it was the feeling. It felt open. Happy, I suppose, is another word I would use, but then again the word would not have occurred to me. Seeing clearly was all that seemed to matter. Breathing in and out, that was enough. There was no sense of burden, hardly anything to hold on to. And that suited me.

The friends that I spent time with were exactly that – friends. Sometimes though, exasperating, as they interfered with my sense of what should be. They were nothing if not true friends. Nitya would go on about boats that he had built, the details boring me to death, almost. We would often have verbal gitano knife-fights over words. Occasionally a dull but deliberate blade would drag across each others’ egos and we would lose it, whatever it was. We would nurse our wounds and go back down the cliffs to our shared hut.

At one point, Nitya started sleeping on the roof of a shrine/meditation building that we and others helped build. He would watch the stars until he fell to dreams. I had the hut to myself, and that suited me. I liked it there on my own. But when I got really ill, Nitya was the one who brought me food and drink or anything else that I needed.

When I got better, I took to wandering the hills and cliffs again. I saw myself as a kind of semi-mad shaman. Divine bliss-kid trying to see through things. Well that’s not totally true. I often did not have to even try. It would just happen. Looking at photos from that time is like viewing a old and strange cave painting and trying to work out what the painter was thinking about when he painted it. The eyes are pure, even mad. What I would not give for that brown-skinned madness again.

My eyes penetrate. But they’re soft. They look, but they leave you alone. They are me, and they are not. No that’s not totally true. I remember meditating and wishing my self well and happiness in my future self, which then I had no way of imagining. So when I look at photos such as this, it is also like me meeting myself as I was, as I am now. The fact that this can be done used to astonish me. Now, I am simply one part grateful, one part longing, the rest just being happy to look.

Food Books or Film? What to Critique?


I love food – that’s it. I watch and care about what I eat but live between the two worlds of fastidious protein botherer or foody hedonist. For that reason I’m out, Dragon’s Den-style. So, no, I don’t particularly want to write about it. I get lost in or bored with books, most often the former. I’m probably too broad in my tastes and opinionated to regularly write about them. My opinions matter regarding books but not  enough to enslave you to them or even bore you with them. Although I have dabbled.

I love films. I love books on film related subjects. I love so many films and so many genres of films that my head can spin sometimes. Films excite me. Films can fill my head with impossible ideas and make all this seem possible at the same time. I think films are great.

Sometimes it is impossible to shut me up after I’ve seen a film. Good or bad? – doesn’t make a difference. This can also be the same for books or food The ridiculously passionate extent that films take me over goes way beyond that. Not seeing films brings on withdrawal symptoms that point to addiction, another powerful indicator. I respond to films in an unique way too complicated to explain. I assume, mostly, that everyone else should feel the same.

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Something I Wish I Had Done Differently


I wish I had become involved in Buddhism earlier in my life. I first stepped through the door of the Glasgow Buddhist Centre in January 1983. Four years later, July 1987, I was ordained and given the Dharma name Manjuprabha. I became a member of the Western Buddhist Order and a teacher of meditation.

Later still, I attended the University of Glasgow, studied and received a degree in Scottish Literature and Language, taking a further Post Graduate Certificate in Education. I now teach English in a Glasgow secondary school.

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A Response from the Stygian Gloom to Gedboy


Unfortunately, your assertion that Catholic schools are superior places of education has little basis other than the abuse of assertion over fact. Or, if you prefer, a cliche, a self-serving Chinese whisper, often much-quoted by those with less experience than the willingness to repeat dogma. I take on board your “thirty years of experience” (sic), but what of my experience?

I was brought up a Catholic; both my secondary and primary schooling took place in Catholic schools. I also have substantial experience of teaching in Catholic as well as non-denominational schools. Put simply, I saw no reasonable comparable evidence of superiority either educationally or of the oft-quoted chestnut regarding ethos. I have experienced many positives on both kinds of establishment but no substantive evidence that Catholic schools bring more to the table.

I will start if I may, with a negative example based on this experience. In Catholic establishments (including my teachers’ training college) I regularly heard the use of the term “non-Catholic” as a thoughtless general term in reference to the wider world. The emphasis was clearly on the “non” aspect of this term as an emphatic negative. I have also heard the term used by headteachers and teachers alike referring to students and other members of staff in the same school. Here, at least, is a clear view of people or institutions outside the Catholic world, probably based on an opinion. I will waste little time on this other than to comment that after many years outside of the influences of the Catholic Church through personal choice and mixing with a more enlightened and rational wider world, I was disappointed that this term was still a major currency. I feel the use of this term says everything about the attitudes and “ethos” of Catholic institutions and its “core values” and “moral drivers”. I certainly would not agree with you that these kinds of opinions “should be supported by all schools”.

That is not to say, however, that I did not experience many positives in Catholic schools, which I certainly did. The use of this de-humanising term, unfortunately, along with the self-serving trope that Catholic schools were innately superior in their singular or collective ethos was severely undermined at least by this.

I have been and remain a Celtic fan. This is partly because of, but mostly in spite of, its Catholic associations. I have managed to do this throughout good and bad seasons along with experiences of prejudice and bigotry on both sides of the fence. However, the reason for continuing with this is that more than a few followers of this great football team have long had their share of a broader, more left-wing, democratic and forward-thinking world view. I might even bring to the table, tentatively, the word intellectual. I am proud of these associations above all. All of this can of course exist side by side with its Catholic history. When I hear the line “…if you know your history, its enough to make your heart feel glad”, I think of a great deal more than Catholic influence as attested by my experience.

Not all of this came, I believe, from an innately superior Catholic mind set or ethos. Ironically it is the same “non-Catholic ” wider free-thinking world that informs my attitudes and behaviour. I know that I am not alone in this, having conversed at length with many of the same in the wider Celtic supporting community and not least beyond.

I have been told that the Talmud says:  if you save one person then you save the world. Its opposite:  to exclude one person or group would be to reject the innocent or greatly inhibit their world, not to mention yours. To include everyone to the life-affirming joys and education of the world is not one particular person or religion’s innately superior gift, but everyone’s. We are all connected, like it or not. I have seen something approaching the best  in both kinds of schools. Hopefully, I do not present myself as “obtuse” or “formed in the stygian gloom of total ignorance and stupidity”. Neither am I sympathetic to “an attempted cultural and religious pogrom”; to do so would be to condemn friends, colleagues and not least members of my family who are Catholic both in name and in some cases in regular practice. That would mean lumping together the innocent with innocents whom I love dearly.

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