Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan

After 12 years, I return. My uncle, sister and I arranged for our Uber driver from the previous day to take us there, wait a few hours and take us back to the city. Unfortunately he avoided the toll road and the ride ended up being longer than it should’ve been. We finally arrived ready to rid ourselves of our cagey confines.

On the way in was a museum which wasn’t there during my last visit. It was small but well laid out and informative. The to-scale model of ancient Teotihuacan was impressive and helped but the place in perspective. I learned that the indigenous people that built the city modeled it as a representation of the cosmos. The larger pyramid the sun, the lesser the moon. The Moon at the end or head of the avenue of the dead. This placement got me thinking. It wasn’t stated anywhere but maybe the inhabitants of the city viewed the moon as their Hades. For many cultures the the land of the dead is below the earth’s surface. Maybe the original people there believed it was an outerworld instead of an underworld. You live you life by the abundance of the sun and when you die you join in the slow trot down the avenue of the dead direction the moon. According to archaeological evidence, the original inhabitants burn the city down themselves. Others inhabited it throughout the centuries after that. The city was deserted when the Spanish arrived. Maybe they had already joined the avenue on the other side of this plane. I used to always confuse Teotihuacan and Tenochtitlan. Nevermore Lenore.

 

Teotihuacan museum

Teotihuacan model

Teotihuacan museum

We made our way to el Piramide del Sol. A huge line wrapped all about the western edge of the enormous base. My uncle kept grumbling something along the lines of: “Back in my day there was no line. This is crazy.” I too didn’t remember waiting in any line during my last visit, but I thought it was funny him spouting that iconic old-man phrase. The line did take quite a long time. While in line my sister bought this jaguar-head whistle than when operated correctly made the sound of a jaguar growl and roar. The trick is to pronounce a Spanish ‘r’, or trilled /r/, while simultaneously creating a small passage with your other hand that covers the small opening at other end of the apparatus. Our attempts didn’t sound quite like those of the men selling them but we got close a few times.

Teotihuacan whistle

Once at the summit I realized that since I had last been there ‘they’ had added concrete with jagged rocks. It was not comfortable to stand much less sit up there for more than a few minutes. I’m sure this was intentional. Many cities push out their homeless populations in a similar way. They add bars in the middle of park benches so no one can sleep there or they fence off areas under bridge overpasses. I’m not a fan of these not-so-subtle ‘fuck-offs.’ There was a line on the steep decline down as well.

Pyramid of the Sun

Much further down the main ancient avenue was el Piramide de la Luna. I found it much more enjoyable there. Because of it’s distance away from the entrances, only a small fraction of people made the trek there after scaling the Sun. The summit of the Moon is flat and there are many nice edges to sit legs dangling. The view is breathtaking from that vantage point.

I felt that the place had a powerful energy. I’ve found that many of these ancient structures have a similar power. I noticed it at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The same feeling was at Le Mont St. Michel in France, and the Pantheon in Rome. I think that the locations of these structures and those like them were not chosen <em>par hasard</em>. They stand at the crossroads or conglomerations of energy fields. Focal points if you will. These locations tap into that and maybe even structures like pyramids might magnify it. I believe ancient peoples knew this. At the very least, I have the feeling that there is more to these types of places than meets the eye. Being there reminded me of a phrase from Deepak Chopra –

<em>”I am space, I am the sun. I am the directions. Above and below. I am the gods. I am the demons. I am all beings. I am darkness. I am the earth. I am the ocean. I am the dust, the wind, the fire, in all this world. I am omnipresent. How can there be anything but me? Me, a spirit?” </em>

Pyramid of the Sun

After we scaled la Luna, we exited out the incorrect gate. Our driver was not there and our whereabouts were unrecognizable. We started walking in the supposed direction of our original entrance. On the way we grabbed some giant micheladas. Droooool. We ended up calling our guy and he came to meet us where we were. We got some very different and delicious tacos at a nearby stand. When I think of tacos, I think of the typical smallish ones with corn tortillas. I usually need at least 6 to feel satisfied. So, I ordered 4 for each of us. Bistec con nopales. Turns out these were gi-normous Azteca tacos in huge blue corn tortillas. Each one was like 3 average-sized tacos. We started laughing every time they brought another plate of those monster tacos. But hey, in the end we finished them all.

Micheladas Teotihuacan

After micheladas and tacos. We were all done for. Our driver transported 3 big sleeping babies back to the city. He was awesome. Gracias Jorge, esa tarde fue perfecto y te agradezco por tus conversaciones simpáticas y por nos haber llevado.

Hanuman Sak Yant

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One of my very last days in Thailand before going to India I made a decision. I decided to get my second Sak Yant (traditional Thai tattoo) from Master Arjan Pi Bang Kating. I love many aspects of Sak Yant: The tradition and history of it, the spiritual energy and magic it possesses/endows, and the artistic and aesthetic aspect. I decided to do it now because it may be years before I come back to Thailand, if I ever make it back. There is just so much of the world to see and so little time in life. For these reasons, I paid Arjan Pi Bang Kating another visit.

 

 

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My first Sak Yant with him was Seua Liaw Hlang, or Tiger Looking Backwards. I was told that that Sak Yant would provide general protection in my life, take the brunt of any bad karma, give me courage, take away fear and scare away malevolent spirits. In choosing my second tattoo, I wanted a Sak Yant with attributes that would complement and enhance my first one, and I decided on Hanuman.

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I read a lot about Hanuman and there are many meanings that I extrapolated from stories about him that really resonated with me. Hanuman is a very interesting deity in Hindu history. Many of his exploits can be found in the ancient story the Ramayana, in which he faithfully serves King Rama in his quest to defeat the evil king Ravana who stole his wife Sita. He was Rama’s strongest warrior, and led an army against the evil king of Lanka (Sri Lanka). As such, the Hanuman tattoo fosters fearlessness in the face of adversity and protects the bearer from bodily harm. He was a faithful servant of king Rama, and this tattoo also evokes humility and selflessness.

Hanuman is supposed to be a monkey deity, although, I don’t believe he was really a monkey, I believe he was a real supernatural being that may have existed thousands of years ago. The only way humans at that time could fit the existence of beings of his kind into their perceptual reality was to liken them to things or other creatures they knew existed and could compare to.

As a monkey deity, he has a savage or animal side. Despite this, he is the image of a selfless, realized being that transcends anything wild or savage. This duality to me means that anyone, including you or me can rise above our animal instincts and transcend this lower plane of existence. In my free time I like to meditate and Hanuman reminds me of an analogy I was told during a Goenka Vipassana meditation retreat. Hanuman is a monkey-like being that can fly. Goenka said that our mind is like a monkey, never sitting still, constantly grasping from branch to branch (thought to thought) without any discipline. Again, despite his simian nature, Hanuman has perfect control over himself and transcends the animal qualities that one would normally associate with monkies.

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Once again, the tattoo process itself hurt quite a bit more than tattooing with a modern machine. The pain seemed to shoot to other parts of my body. I even experienced weird spasms on my right side when he was tapping away just to the right of my spine. I was worried that the spine was going to be the most painful. Well it wasn’t. The most painful areas were tender spots where the latimus dorsi muscle begins near the protruding bone at the bottom of the nape of my neck. Directly above this bone also hurt more than other areas.

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When Arjan Pi Bang Kating was finished, just as last time, he began chanting. He would chant in a low, monotone voice very rapidly with his index finger pushing on a golden leaflet he had placed on the finished tattoo. He would periodically pause to blow on the tattoo. I realized that he was programming the tattoo with the power that that particular Hanuman Sak Yant is supposed to have. It made me think of how one programs a crystal, holding it in the hand and focusing on the qualities one wants the crystal to give the wearer. In this same way, he was programming my new Sak Yant. It was a very powerful experience and I’m glad I went to see Arjan Pi Bang Kating again and I’m very grateful for his masterful work.