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Monday, October 31, 2005

Mystic Missal Prayers


Lead me from dreaming to waking.
Lead me from opacity to clarity.
Lead me from the complicated to the simple.
Lead me from the obscure to the obvious.
Lead me from intention to attention.
Lead me from what I'm told I am to what I see I am.
Lead me from confrontation to wide openness.
Lead me to the place I never left,
Where there is peace, and peace
- The Upanishads

1. Pray, and think what you will, your thoughts will be purified by prayer.
2. Pray, and do what you will. Your acts will be pleasing to God and useful and salutory to yourself.
3. Pray, and do not labour much to conquer your passions by your own strength. Prayer will destroy them in you.
4. Pray, and fear nothing. Fear no misfortunes, fear no disasters. Prayer will protect you and ward them off.
5. Pray somehow or other, only pray always and be disturbed by nothing.
6. It is to be noted, finally, that if the time of your vigilence in prayer is prolonged, then naturally no time will be left not only for doing sinful actions but even for thinking of them. -anonymous, from 'The Way of the Pilgrim'

" Prayer is only another name for good, clean, direct thinking." - Mr Gruffydd, How Green Was My Valley

St. Denis' Prayer -
You are wisdom, uncreated and eternal,
the supreme First Cause, above all being,
sovereign Godhead, soveneign goodness,
watching unseen the God-inspired wisdom of Christian people.
Raise us, we pray, that we may totally respond
to the supreme, unknown, ultimate, and splendid height
of your words, mysterious and inspired.
There all God's secret matters lie covered and hidden
under darkness both profound and brilliant, silent and wise.
You make what is ultimate and beyond brightness
secretly to shine in all that is most dark.
In your way, ever unseen and intangible,
You fill to the full with most beautiful splendor
those souls who close their eyes that they may see,
And I, please, with love that goes beyond mind
to all that is beyond mind,
seek to gain such for myself through this prayer.

O great and holy God, I pray thee, set open my inwardness to me; that I may rightly know what I am; and open in me what was shut up in Adam. - Jacob Boehme

O sweet nature of the unborn light,
purify my mind and
enlighten my understanding
so that I may be conscious of you! - Meister Eckhart

Reflect that many are called but few are chosen and that, if you are not careful, your perdition is more certain than your salvation, especially since the path to eternal life is so constricted. -

Eternal One! Thou self-existent Cause
Of all existence, source of love and light;
Thou universal uncreated God,
In whom all things exist and have their being,
Who lives in all things and all things in Him;
Infinite art Thou, inconceivable
Beyond the grasp of finite intellect;
Unknowable to all except thyself.
Nothing exists but Thou, and there is nothing
In which no Good exists; Thou art, but we
Appear to be; for forms are empty nothings,
If not inhabited by Thee; they are
Thyself made manifest. - Franz Hartmann

Your prayer should be, " Break the legs
of what I want to happen. Humilate
my desire. Eat me like candy.
It's spring, and finally
I have no will." - Rumi

unto whom all hearts are open,
unto whom all wills do speak,
from whom no secret thing is hidden,
I beseech thee
so to cleanse the purpose of my heart
with the unutterable gift of thy grace
that I may perfectly love thee,
and worthily praise thee.

Heaven above,
Heaven below.
Stars above,
Stars below.
All that is above,
All that is below.
Grasp this
and rejoice.

May I recognize whatever visions appear, as the reflections of mine own consciousness;
May I know them to be of the nature of apparitions in the Bardo: When at this all-important moment of opportunity of achieving a great end.
May I not fear the bands of Peaceful and Wrathful Deities, mine own thought-forms. - Bardo Thodol

O God, the Giver of Life, Remover of pains and sorrows, Bestower of happiness, and Creator of the Universe;
Thou art luminous, pure, and adorable; We meditate on Thee;
May Thou inspire and guide our intellect in the right direction.
- Gayatri Mantra

Guide me that I might see clearly.
Bless me that I might understand.
Strengthen me that I might live my understanding. - Robert Cergol

Hymn to Almighty God "In Charleston graveyard upon Release"

Hail moon! Hail sun!
Hail sacred tree.
The center now shall hold!
Almighty God, who healeth me,
All praise to Thee

For Thou art One!
I know! I know!
As Thou art There above.
But Many in us Here below.
O yes, I know!
I know it's so!

I'll give my best
I'll give my all.
In Faith, I am assured.
That from this World we cannot fall.
No! Not at all.
We cannot fall!

So let me live.
So let me die.
A moth unto Thy Flame.
Light unto Light! To Thee I fly.
Nor question why.
To Thee I fly.

My burden great.
My spirit free.
A goal I dimly see.
Almighty God, who healeth me.
All praise to Thee!
All praise to Thee!

John E. Davis II

Lord, I am broken and have no hope, Thou art my first, my last, and only Refuge.

There is only God, there is no reality but God.

I take refuge with the Lord of the Dawn,
from the mischief of created things,
from the mischief of those who practice secret arts, and
from the mischief of the Envious One as he practices envy.

O my Lord! bestow wisdom on me, and join me with the righteous; Grant me honorable mention on the tongue of truth among the latest (generations); Make me one of the inheritors of the Garden of Bliss.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for thine is the
kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Lord, grant me
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

Oh Soul, thou fair lady of my perfect dream, how can I bring thee peace?
Forgive my inconstant love, and the needless filling of your bountiful breast with tribulation.
Rest your fair head on the One who gives Peace,
Understanding of our trials, and the
Grace that delivers us from ourselves.

Make every act an offering to me (God); regard me as your only protector. Relying on interior discipline, meditate on me always. Remembering me, you shall overcome all difficulties through my grace. But if you will not heed me in your self-will, nothing will avail you. -Bhagavad Gita 18:57-58

"I am convinced that intense self-introspection does not require large amounts of time. It requires only short meditations which regardless of the form they take, in essence, amount to a prayer -- a plea to the higher self for help and guidance. This sets in motion a direction so that amidst busy-ness and hard work -- that higher self will manifest and the inner man will get through to communicate -- which you will experience as insight or mini-realizations -- that translate into a change of being." - Bob Cergol

Douglas Harding on Prayer : Well, we have to distinguish between two kinds of prayer. There is one kind of prayer which is petitionary - asking for my tummy-ache to get better or for the weather to improve, or someone to stop behaving nastily to me. That kind of petitionary prayer is not of interest to me, and I don't think it is effective. I suppose it may be for some people. It could act as a kind of magic if you put faith in some providence out there who will work this magic for you. But it's not for me.
The other kind of prayer, which is very different, is like this: Say I desire the health of someone I love very much, or my own health, or my own ability to do my job, that kind of thing - which are really very deserving requests - but adding always at the end 'Thy will be done'. I would like this, but not my will but Thy will be done. Then the question is who is praying to who? and of course in the last absolute resort it is who you really are having a conversation with who you really are. It's a kind of internal process within your true identity, and not only important, but indispensable.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

THE PROPHET - Kahlil Gibran..LOVE


Then said Almitra, "Speak to us of Love."

And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said: When love beckons to you, follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself. He threshes you to make you naked. He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant; And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love.

When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, "I am in the heart of God." And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself. But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving; To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy; To return home at eventide with gratitude; And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Spiritual Teachers-more Zen stories...

Spiritual Teachers

Noticing that his father was growing old, the son of a burglar asked his father to teach him the trade so that he could carry on the family business after his father had retired.

The father agreed, and that night they broke into a house together.
Opening a large chest the father told his son to go in and pick out the clothing. As soon as the boy was inside, the father locked the chest and then made a lot of noise so that the whole house was aroused. Then he slipped quietly away.

Locked inside the chest the boy was angry, terrified, and puzzled as to how he was going to get out. Then an idea flashed to him- he made a noise like a cat. The family told a maid to take a candle and examine the chest. When the lid was unlocked the boy jumped out, blew the candle, pushed his way past the astonished maid, and ran out. The people ran after him. Noticing a well by the side of the road the boy threw in a large stone, then hid in the darkness. The pursuers gathered around the well trying to see the burglar drowning himself.

When the boy got home he was very angry at his father and he tried to tell him the story; but the father said: 'Don't bother to tell me the details, you are here- you have learned the art.'


During the civil wars in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and take control. In one particular village, everyone fled just before the army arrived - everyone except the Zen master.

Curious about this old fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of man this master was. When he wasn't treated with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the general burst into anger.
"You fool," he shouted as he reached for his sword, "don't you realize you are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking an eye!"

But despite the threat, the master seemed unmoved.
"And do you realize," the master replied calmly, "that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?"

Friday, October 21, 2005

Spiritual Teachers

Meditation and Compassion

Once it happened that a young man belonging to a very rich and aristocratic family, came to a Zen master. He had known everything, indulged in every desire; he had enough money, so there was no problem. But then he got fed up -- fed up with sex, fed up with women, fed up with wine. He came to the Zen master and said, "Now I am fed up with the world. Is there some way that I can know myself, who I am?"
The young man said, "But before you say anything, let me tell you something about myself. I am indecisive and cannot continue anything for long, so if you give me some technique or if you tell me to meditate, I may do it for a few days and then I will escape, knowing well that there is nothing in the world, knowing well that only misery awaits there, death. But this is my type of mind. I cannot continue, I cannot persist in anything, so before you choose something, remember this."

The master said, "Then it will be very difficult if you cannot persist, because long effort will be needed to undo all that you have done in the past. You will have to travel back. It will have to be a regression. You will have to reach back to the moment when you were born, when fresh, young. That freshness will have to be achieved again. It is not ahead, but back that you will have to go -- to become a child again. But if you say you cannot persist and that within days you will escape, it will be difficult. But let me ask you one question: Have you ever been interested in something so deeply that you were absorbed completely?"

The young man thought and he said, "Yes, only in chess, the game of chess, I have been very much interested. I love it, and that's the only thing that is saving me. Everything else has fallen away; only chess is still with me, and with it I can somehow pass my time."
The master said, "Then something can be done. You wait." He called the attendant and told him to bring one monk who had been meditating for twelve years in the monastery, and to tell the monk to bring a chessboard.
The chessboard was brought; the monk came. He was acquainted a little with chess, but for twelve years he had been meditating in a cell. He had forgotten the world and chess and everything.

The master said to him, "Listen, monk! -- this is going to be a dangerous game. If you are defeated by this young man, the sword is here and I will cut off your head, because I wouldn't like a meditative monk -- who has been meditating for twelve years -- to be defeated by an ordinary young man. But I promise you, if you die by my hand then you will reach the highest heaven. So don't be disturbed."
The young man became also a little uneasy, and then the master turned to him and said, "Look, you say that you get absorbed in chess, so now get totally absorbed -- because this is a question of life and death. If you are defeated I will cut off your head, and remember, I cannot promise heaven for you. This man is okay, he will go anyhow, but I cannot promise any heaven for you. If you die hell is the place -- immediately you will go to the seventh hell."
For a moment the young man thought to escape. This was going to be a dangerous game, and he had not come here for this. But then it looked dishonorable; he was a samurai, a son of a warrior, and just because of death, imminent death, to escape was not in his blood. So he said, "Okay."

The game started. The young man started trembling like a leaf in a strong wind, the whole body trembling. He started perspiring, and cold perspiration came to his body; he started sweating from his head to the soles of his feet. It was a question of life and death, and thinking stopped, because whenever there is such an emergency you cannot afford thought. Thought is for leisure. When there is no problem you can think; when there is really a problem thinking stops, because the mind needs time, and when there is an emergency there is no time. You have to do something immediately.
Every moment, death was coming nearer. The monk started, and he looked so serene and calm that the young man thought, "Well, death is certain!" But when the thoughts disappeared, he became totally absorbed in the moment. When thoughts disappeared, he also forgot that death was awaiting -- because death too is a thought. He forgot about death, he forgot about life, he became just a part of the game, absorbed, totally immersed in it.

By and by, as the mind disappeared completely, he started playing beautifully. He had never played that way. In the beginning the monk was winning, but within minutes the young man got absorbed, started beautiful movements, and the monk started losing. Only the moment existed, only the present. There was no problem then; the body became okay, trembling stopped, perspiration evaporated. He was light like a feather, weightless. The perspiration even helped -- he became weightless, his whole body felt as if it could fly. His mind was no more there. Perception became clear, absolutely clear, and he could see ahead, five moves ahead. He had never played so beautifully. The other's game started crumbling; within minutes the other would be defeated, and his victory was certain.
Then suddenly, when his eyes were clear, mirrorlike, when perception was profound, deep, he looked at the monk. He was so innocent. Twelve years of meditation -- he had become like a flower; twelve years of austerity -- he had become absolutely pure. No desire, no thought, no goal, no purpose existed for him. He was as innocent as possible... not even a child is so innocent. His beautiful face, his clear, skyblue eyes.... This young man started feeling compassion for him -- sooner or later his head would be cut off. The moment he felt this compassion, unknown doors opened, and something absolutely unknown started filling his heart. He felt so blissful. All over his inner being flowers started falling. He felt so blissful... he had never known this bliss, this beautitude, this benediction.

Then he started making wrong moves knowingly, because the thought came to his mind, "If I am killed nothing is disturbed; I have nothing of worth. But if this monk is killed something beautiful will be destroyed; but for me, just a useless existence...." He started making wrong movements consciously, to make the monk win. At that moment the master upturned the table, started laughing and said, "Nobody is going to be defeated here. You both have won."
This monk was already in heaven, he was rich; no need to cut off his head. He was not troubled at all when the master said, "Your head is to be cut off." Not a single thought arose in his mind. There was no question of choice -- if the master says it is going to be so, it is okay. He said yes with his whole heart. That was why there was no perspiration, no trembling. He was playing chess; death was not a problem.
And the master said, "You have won, and your victory has been greater than this monk's. Now I will initiate you. You can be here, and soon you will be enlightened."
Both basic things had happened: meditation and compassion. Buddha has called these two the basic: pragya and karuna, meditation and compassion.
The young man said, "Explain it to me. Something has happened I don't know about. I am already transformed; I am not the same young man who came to you a few hours ago. That man is already dead. Something has happened -- you have done a miracle."

drawing by DeepaThe master said, "Because death was so imminent, you couldn't think, thoughts stopped. Death was so close by, thinking was impossible. Death was so near, there was no gap between you and death, and thoughts need space to move. There was no space, so thinking stopped. Meditation happened spontaneously. But that was not enough, because that type of meditation which happens because of emergency will be lost; when the emergency is gone that meditation will be lost. So I couldn't throw the board at that moment, I had to wait."
If meditation really happens, whatsoever the cause, compassion has to follow. Compassion is the flowering of meditation. If compassion is not coming, your meditation is, somewhere, wrong.

Then I looked at your face. You were filled with bliss and your eyes became buddhalike. You looked at the monk, and you felt and you thought, "It is better to sacrifice myself than this monk. This monk is more valuable than me."
This is compassion -- when the other becomes more valuable than you. This is love -- when you can sacrifice yourself for the other. When you become the means and the other becomes the end, this is love. When you are the end and the other is used as a means, this is lust. Lust is always cunning and love is always compassionate.
"Then I saw in your eyes the compassion arising, and then you started to make wrong movements just to be defeated, so that you would be killed and this monk saved. At that moment I had to throw the board. You had won. Now you can be here. I have taught you both meditation and compassion. Now follow this track, and let them become spontaneous in you -- not situational, not depending on any emergency, but just a quality of your being."

The Dividing Mind-"Every last one of us thinks we are right"

"Every last one of us thinks we are right" -

The Dividing Mind

Our mind has an amazing ability to split itself. The effect of this on the seeker of self-knowledge is to lead him about in endless circles of egos, never getting a true look at himself. "The world is divided into people who think they are right" also applies to the world inside our heads. The ego has to maintain this position of being right, or the center of the universe, in order to keep its position as the unquestioned 'I'. It accomplishes this by splitting into different roles. This is the Ego1-Ego 2 game, in which the main ego, or Ego 1, creates a scapegoat, Ego 2, on which to place all negative aspects about itself. It cannot be wrong and maintain its absolute rule, so when the facts speak otherwise, Ego 2 becomes the culprit. The variations of this are legion. Thus, a ceaseless internal conflict is perpetuated and any attempt to go within is effectively blocked. And we wonder why the unexamined life is misery.

This process is started long before memory, when the parents use this same escape mechanism on their children. The parent keeps its attention away from its own negative aspects by using the child as Ego 2. The child is then taught the trick, growing up using this mind-splitting to remain 'right' regardless of the facts of its own behavior or thoughts. The voice of the parent will remain in them, goading them to create their own endless versions of Ego 2 as facets of their personality, to be planted eventually in children of their own.

This process can be seen most clearly in extreme cases where either trauma or frustration reached such a level as to cause the mind to escape by creating another 'person' complete with its own world. In cases of trauma so intense as to be completely unacceptable, the mind may create a new, safe personality and forget the former one which was subject to the traumatic event. All conscious connection with the traumatic event is thus lost. In cases of frustration or extreme boredom, the mind may compensate by creating a grandiose paradigm in which to reside, where it lives in inner fantasy to escape the 'average' existence of the fact state. The ego cannot tolerate 'average'. "Always remember your unique, just like everyone else." In either case, the mind has succeeded in creating a refuge where it can remain 'right'. This is all simply a mechanism of nature to insure that the individuals of the species do not self-terminate prematurely. The sad part is our ignorance of it all, and our continuing identification with the mind's creations. We are not very good at observing ourselves, but most excellent at creating new 'selves' and their worlds.

If we come to the point where no fantasy will do the trick, however grandiose or safe, and where we begin to see we are not 'right' or 'wrong' but simply ignorant, we may begin to yearn for something more than the ego can provide. The Inner Self is continually trying to draw our attention to how we fool ourselves, and relentlessly showing us how to get back in touch with the facts. This is an inner process to which we have a right and need, and with which we can reconnect. It lies beyond the ego-centric position, and comes about when we start to observe ourselves rather than create or visualize 'selves' we then identify with, in either a positive or negative manner. The adage "know thyself" now has new meaning. It does not say "if you don't like what's happening, but wish to stay identified with the manifest, create a new 'you' ". Learning to observe, or listen, takes courage and patience but leads to an amazing situation. You become everything when you are not anything. There are many techniques that can help us learn to listen. In the quiet of a mind at peace, the tools of dream interpretation, intense self-analysis, group confrontation, time alone in contemplation, and even life itself can teach the earnest seeker what he is not, and how to re-establish contact with the Inner Self. Listen with attentiveness; the Inner Self may be heard above and beyond the mind-splitting clamor and dis-ease of the ego and its creations.

Bob Fergeson

Lead me from dreaming to waking.
Lead me from opacity to clarity.
Lead me from the complicated to the simple.
Lead me from the obscure to the obvious.
Lead me from intention to attention.
Lead me from what I'm told I am to what I see I am.
Lead me from confrontation to wide openness.
Lead me to the place I never left,
Where there is peace, and peace
- The Upanishads

Friday, October 14, 2005

Interview with Ma Tsu

Interview with Ma Tsu

Hui Hai as a young man traveled to the monastery of the renowned Ch'an Master Ma Tsu (d. 788) and had the following first interview:

Ma Tsu: What do you hope to gain by coming here?
Hui Hai: I have come seeking the Buddha-Dharma [the way to Truth].
Ma Tsu: Instead of looking to the treasure house which is your very own, you have left home and gone wandering far away. What for?....
Hui Hai: Please tell me to what you alluded when you spoke of a treasure house of my own.
Ma Tsu: That which asked the question is your treasure house. It contains absolutely everything you need and lacks nothing at all. It is there for you to use freely, so why this vain search for something outside yourself?

From Blofeld's commentary on the Hui Hai Treatise:

"An important technique aimed at that perfect mind-control by which the achievementless achievement is achieved is that of dhyana (here meaning ch'an-ting or sazen [sitting meditation]), whereby the mind is turned inward upon itself and the innermost recesses of our being are so well explored that we at last come face to face with that unsullied Mind which is neither yours nor mine, nor anybody else's, and yet discoverable in all of us."

The Hound of Heaven

The Buddha does not flee from men, it is men who flee the Buddha.

The Diamond Sutra

The Diamond Sutra says: "If their minds grasp the Dharma, they will still cling to the notion of an ego (a being and a life); if their minds grasp the Non-Dharma, they will still cling to the notion of an ego. Therefore we should not grasp at and hold onto the notions either of Dharma or Non-Dharma." This is holding the true Dharma. If you understand this doctrine, that is true deliverance. That, indeed, is reaching the gate of nonduality. [Hui Hai's treatise is packed with quotes. In addition to being named the Great Pearl, he could be called the Great Quoter - another similarity to Yours Truly!]

What is Awakening to the Way?

The nature of the Absolute is void and yet not void.... A sutra says: "Understand that one point and a thousand others will accordingly grow clear; misunderstand that one and ten thousand delusions will encompass you. He who holds to that one has no more problems to solve." This is the great marvelous awakening to the Way (Truth).

Can a Despised Man Find Enlightenment?

Bodhi is attainable at the very moment we make up our minds to achieve it....

Q: Do Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism really amount to one doctrine or to three?

A: Employed by men of great capacity, they are the same.... all of them spring forth from the functioning of the one self-nature.... Whether a man remains deluded or gains Illumination depends upon himself, not upon differences or similarity of doctrine.

Once a commentator on the Vimalakirti Sutra said, It is written in our sutra: "You should regard the six heretics as your teachers. After you have joined the Order, you should be misled by them and take part in their fall.... You should vilify the Buddha and destroy the Dharma. You should not belong to the Sangha and you should not attain deliverance. If you can behave like this, you may take my food."

When Subhuti, one of Buddha's disciples, knocked at Vimalakirti's door and asked for food, the Upasaka [meditator] spoke the above words. The development of a universal mind, which alone can enable them to reach their goal, is above such dualities as avoiding heretics, revering the Buddha, protecting the Dharma, joining the Order, and so forth. The six heretics are the six senses; though they constantly mislead us, we cannot get away from them to find the Absolute elsewhere. In other words, we should realize the Absolute from the very midst of relativities and contraries.

Q: Please tell us how to achieve deliverance.

A: Never having been bound, you have no need to seek deliverance. Straightforward functioning and straightforward conduct cannot be surpassed.

Q: Does this apply even to those who have yet to perceive their own nature?

A: Your not having perceived your own nature does not imply that you lack that nature. Why so? Because perception itself IS that nature....

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

TAT Forum

All the True Vows
by David Whyte

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don't turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember, in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you'll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.">TAT Forum: "All the True Vows
by David Whyte

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don't turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember, in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you'll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again."

Sunday, October 09, 2005

After the Absolute -- Chapter 7

"First, You need to want the Truth more than anything else. Not at first maybe--you might start with just a mild curiosity. But eventually, if anything is going to crack for you, you'll need a tremendous hunger for the Truth.

"There's a story of the student who asked a Zen master what it took to reach Enlightenment. The master led him into a nearby lake until they were chest deep in water, then he grabbed the student and held his head under water. At first the student didn't resist because it was the master and he figured there must be a good reason for it. But as he started to run out of air he began to struggle more and more until eventually he was fighting with everything he had to get free. Finally the master let him up and the student gasped and coughed and almost collapsed. When he got control of himself again he asked the master why he had held him under. The master said, "When you want the Truth as much as you wanted air just now, there’s no way you can miss it."

There was scattered laughter in the audience, but Rose did not smile or pause.

"Second," he continued, "you need energy. You need to become dynamic enough to do the digging and work it takes--finding the books, the teachers, the methods, and acting on the things you discover along the way. This requires a lot of energy, so you'll need to conserve what you have and use it for this purpose.

"And third, it takes commitment--a simple pledge to yourself and any God who might be listening. These are the three things. Without these, all philosophies are empty words."

Rose had yet to look at his notes. He seemed to be taking his cues from the mood of the room.

"There are no guarantees in this line of work, this business of becoming," he said. "Anyone who tells you otherwise has something he's trying to sell. The only thing I, or anyone else who's been down this road, can do is give you the benefit of his own experiences."

So Rose proceeded to do just that, recounting for the audience the stages of his life's search--the time of faith in the seminary, the pursuit of logic and science in college, the years of meditation and ascetic disciplines.

"Then," he said, "at thirty years of age I had an experience that came about as a result of none of these factors."

"Would you say, then, that you found God in your Experience?"

"You become God, yes," Rose said matter-of-factly. "Although I hesitate to use that word because it comes with a long history of childish connotations. We're not talking about a big guy with white whiskers keeping tabs on how many rules we break."

"I think of God as more of a 'Universal Mind,'" the man continued quietly.

"Well, perhaps," Rose said. "But the Absolute is beyond Universal Mind. Mind is still a dimension. You discover this by losing your own individual mind. Then you realize--because Mind is still there--that what you had all your life was not the individual mind you thought you had, but merely contact with an undifferentiated Mind dimension.

"So, yes, it’s accurate to say I found God, or became God, in the experience. But it’s also accurate to say I found nothing. There was no one there but me. You command creation, and yet you’re not operating under the illusion that you can change anything."

A tall man who had been taking notes throughout the talk raised his hand.

"Then you encountered no other intelligences during your Experience?"

"I didn't see anybody there but me. And yet, I sensed that something was helping me, maybe even guiding me--something that was just outside the picture. In fact, I sometimes think the whole experience was orchestrated for the purpose of showing me that Richard Rose the body doesn't exist."

"So you had help?" another man asked.

"Yes. I believe the whole experience was engineered. I just never got a good look at who or what was helping me. It was benevolent help, of course, but not protective. If you’re going to visit the Totality and the Void, your Holy Guardian Angel can't tell you beforehand that everything will be all right, that he'll be right there with you. No. You have to die like a dog. Die without hope. Only then can you make the personal discovery that through it all you are still observing--'I'm still here!' It wasn't until I returned that I realized something had created the Experience, even the physical conditions preceding it."

"But aren't there other systems that can bring you to the Truth without all this disaster?"

"To know death properly, a person must die."

"Then why would anyone want to pursue something like that, I mean, if they knew it meant they had to die to get there?"

"Who dies? What dies?" Rose asked, not altogether rhetorically. "Sometimes you have to plow under a city to build something more beautiful."

The room stayed silent.

"I know. Nobody looks for death," Rose continued. "I wasn't looking for death. I didn't want to find Nothingness. In fact, I always wanted to assert my individuality to the greatest degree of it's intensity."

I could hear a young woman's voice from the front row. "The whole experience doesn't sound very pleasant."

"Who said it would be?"

"I mean, its not the type of spiritual experiences I've been reading about."

"Then you're reading about lesser experiences. Enlightenment is the death of the mind. Death. You think you are dying--completely and forever. And it's good to think that because it kills the ego. When a person feels himself dying he immediately drops all his egos.

"It has to be this way. You must go through death with no hope of survival. Because you have to be truthful with yourself--all those tales about life after death could be fiction. But when you die honestly, you die with absolute despair. And that absolute despair removes the last ego you've got left--the spiritual ego that believes the individual mind is immortal.

"But then something amazing happens. After you die, you find yourself still here, observing this mess. And that observing is the secret of immortality. In fact, the only thing I think is valuable to know is that when you die, the Observer still lives.

"What I found in the Experience is that the soul of man is God. Every human being has the potential to discover this. To discover his essence, his soul. And in the act of discovery one becomes what he has discovered. If we were nothing more than the projected illusion we call 'me,' at death we would go out like a candle.

A student sitting on the steps in the aisle raised his hand.

"Where did the soul of man come from?" he asked.

"Does it have to come from something? Couldn't it just be? It is."

"If the soul of man can just be, why can't we just be? Why all this effort?"

"Because we are not the soul of man," Rose said, suddenly animated. "We are not the soul of man! We are shadows on the wall of Plato's cave. Each individual on this planet has the potential to find his soul, to become a soul. But you are not a soul until you discover yourself, your True Self. And yet it is also accurate to say that what you are is a soul. You don't have a soul, you are a soul. What you have is a projected body-mind unit that operates in the vicinity of the soul that is observing your fictional life.

"But you will not gain immortality by listening to me or anyone else try to explain this, or by believing me or anyone else. The only immortality possible is to become fully identified with the soul--the Observer, your True Self--before your body dies. Then you will not die with the body. In traditional Zen this is expressed with the saying, 'If you die before you die, then when you die you will not die.'"

"But you said you found Nothingness."

"Yes, but a person can't conceive of Nothingness. In the Experience, you don't think of Nothingness. Nothingness descends upon you."

"Isn't that oblivion?"

"Nothingness is not oblivion. I don't think anyone really finds oblivion at death. Certain people--purely instinctive people who are living a basic animal existence--might descend into blackness for a period. But for how long, I don't know.

"Death is different for each person, then?"

"Absolutely. If everyone found the same thing at death--if your actions on earth had no effect on your situation after death--then there wouldn't be much point in me talking."

"So what will it be like for you?"

Rose smiled. "My life is no longer tied to this planet. This place is a stage, and when you leave, you turn out the lights."

There was a long pause before the next question.

"Don't you believe in reincarnation, Mister Rose?" The speaker was an attractive middle-aged woman.

"I don't believe it or disbelieve it. I've got no proof either way. I may have been here before, but I have no memory of it. What I've noticed, though, is that the people who push reincarnation the hardest are generally using it as an excuse to keep from putting out any spiritual effort in this lifetime.

"I will say that as an explanation for human suffering and the inequities you see in society, reincarnation is a more easily digestible system to the human intellect than the concept of 'one chance then heaven or hell forever.' But just because it's more digestible doesn't mean it's true. In fact, the more palatable an explanation for things is, the more likely it is that it's been created out of the wishful mind of man.

"Besides," he added, turning back to the woman who asked the question, "if people do come back, it's only because they don't realize they could just stay dead and be a lot better off. In their ignorance they feel somehow compelled to continue to play the game, to go back on stage."

A young man directly in front of me raised his hand and Rose nodded in his direction.

"What is it like to come back, Mister Rose?" he asked. "Is the world different, or do you leave the Experience behind?"

"The world is never the same again. For me now, it's like I'm an insane man watching all this. Of course that's a very liberating state to be in," he said with a grin. "An insane man is free to do all sorts of insane things."

The laughter provided a welcome break from the seriousness. The whole room seemed to loosen up, including Rose.

"It was pretty rough at first, though. The night I came back I couldn't stop weeping. I just wandered the streets crying uncontrollably, looking for a bridge high enough to jump off of. Seriously. I didn't want to live. I couldn't stand the thought of being back here in the nightmare. The only reason I didn't jump is the rivers are shallow out there and I was afraid I'd just get stuck in the mud.

"Then I passed a church and that gave me hope. I figured that priests spend their lives looking, maybe one of them has read something about what just happened to me. So I knocked on the door. This blob of a priest with an enormous gut answers and he looks at me like I'm some kind of worm. I knew he wasn't going to be any help, so I asked him, 'Are there any older priests around?' There I am, standing on the church steps with tears streaming down my cheeks and he doesn’t even invite me in. He just scowls at me and says, 'How long has it been since you've been to confession.'

"And I thought, 'Where's my gun?'" Rose continued talking through the laughter. "Really. I wanted to shoot the bastard. But the anger was good. It helped bring me out of it. It helped me stop weeping.

"Gradually, the worst of the trauma passed and I started drifting back into life again. But I still felt terribly out of place in a world that I knew without a shadow of a doubt was an illusion--having just visited the real place. For several weeks people were transparent to me. I mean literally transparent--I could see right through their bodies.

"So I figured I'd better head back home, because I still wasn't too stable. I had an old friend living in Alliance, Ohio, and he got me a job at the place he was working. That's when everything became beautiful to me. Hills were once more hills, valleys once more valleys. Children looked like baby dolls. The starkness of the Absolute I had visited now made life and motion appear as beauty to me. Those months following my Experience were the happiest of my life, except maybe for the years of peace and bliss I had in my twenties when I was living a very ascetic lifestyle.

"Every day I'd come back to my room after work and sit down in front of the typewriter. I'd given up on trying to talk about the Experience--you just can't describe an Absolute condition using relative terms--but I had hoped to write a book of poetry and at least try to capture the beauty of the illusion I'd been forced to come back to. Most of it I tore up as soon as I wrote it. But then one day something came over me and I was able to write about my Experience. That’s when I wrote ‘The Three Books of the Absolute.’

"It was like automatic writing," Rose continued. "The words just appeared on the page."

A hand was raised near the front of the room. "Do you think your years of asceticism brought about your Experience?"

"Not really. It was like a period of adolescence on the way to adulthood. Necessary, but not directly causal. However, I do think that all that experimentation, investigation, and especially conservation of my energy, was definitely part of the preparation for my Experience."

"What's the other part?"

"The main preparation for Enlightenment is trauma. But you don't need to engage in any special disciplines to induce it. Your life will give you plenty of trauma whether you're on a spiritual path or not. Indulge in it while you can. You'll have plenty of peace in the marble orchard--maybe." Rose laughed in a way that made me uneasy.

"What I mean is," he continued, "you have to go through these traumas in life--now, while you're on Earth--in order to improve your situation after death. Everyone may be immortal, but we don't all go to the same place when we die. Awareness may not terminate for anyone, but you can't expect to advance into a dimension that you haven't mentally vaccinated yourself to beforehand. If the average mind--with its convictions and limitations--landed in an Absolute dimension, it would think it was either in oblivion or hell."

"Will a person who’s been doing spiritual practices, like meditating regularly, get a foreshadowing of what you finally experienced?"

"No. This does not accrue gradually. It happens suddenly and is never anything like you might imagine beforehand. I always thought a spiritual experience would be sheer beauty. I had visions of reaching some beautiful fields of flowers or God knows what. And the fact that I found something so utterly devastating and contrary to my desires convinced me that the experience was genuine, and not the product of wishful thinking.

"It's the effort you put forth--the vector you create--that propels you into this, not an accumulation of knowledge. You're engaged in a relentless pursuit of Truth, yes, but even in the midst of it you suspect that you are incapable of perceiving the Truth. So you engage in the obsessive pursuit of a goal while simultaneously believing you will never be successful. You live this! A person on the spiritual path lives this every moment of every day of his life. You push and push and push without hope. And then, no words or logic can explain what finally happens. It's an explosion. Your being changes."

"But doesn't the wisdom you acquire on your search coalesce in Enlightenment?"

"No," Rose said flatly. "That is not the path. You can't acquire wisdom because you don't know what it is. The path is subtractive. You keep sorting through the garbage pile to see if something real lies underneath it. And after you get done subtracting everything, what's left is an Absolute condition. That's what's real, not the little bits and pieces you set aside because you thought they were true along the way. You don't know anything until you know Everything."

"Do you think other people have had the same type of experience you did?"

"Oh yes, I know that now. But after my Experience I felt completely isolated. It wasn't until years later that I found out about other spiritual incidents. I was in Steubenville, Ohio--we had a little group that met there--and after one of the meetings a woman handed me a copy of Richard Bucke's Cosmic Consciousness." When I read it I knew I wasn’t alone.

"But cosmic consciousness isn't the final experience," Rose continued. "The people in Bucke's book describe an experience where they understand the harmonious interworkings of everything in the universe. They see lights and experience bliss, and so on. This is wonderful. But experiencing the Absolute goes beyond all that. In the Absolute there is no bliss or sorrow."

The land of the wise men

What Have We Lost?

What Have We Lost?
by Bob Fergeson

"When Freud coined the phrase that the ego was 'the true seat
of anxiety,' he was giving voice to a very true and profound intuition."
~ C.G. Jung, Psychological Commentary, Tibetan Book of the Dead

We come into this life complete unto Ourselves. Helpless in body and mind, and a bit forgetful perhaps, but still possessing faith in our Self-sufficiency. As we begin to look around us at the fascinating play of form and feeling, we slowly begin to lose our innocent Self-absorption and begin to be seduced into the present dimension. We can't help it, being terribly naive and still somewhat innocent (though carrying an unconscious package deep inside, the basis for our arrival here in the bardo of life). This regretfully changes, as we are soon permeated with an unseen fog-like state of mind we inherit from our newly chosen home environment. Constantly battered by moods and emotions we do not understand and cannot question, we find ourselves facing a daily onslaught of conflict and stress, followed by relief and pleasure, all designed to hook our attention in the outer world. The unconscious tendencies we have waiting patiently inside soon enough find their counterparts in the willing environment. Our mind is eventually set in concrete by the pattern of action-reaction with the world as we have encountered it, leaving little freedom of movement. We become hopelessly outer-oriented. With every passing year, the pattern becomes more fixed, and we ourselves become more convinced that the solution lies in more of the same. More control, more action-reaction, more identification, until we finally conquer and become master of the very environment that made us, or so we think. As someone once pointed out, this a good working definition of insanity. But here we are.

We have become hypnotized by the world. Our mind, and the minds of those who taught us from birth, have convinced us that we are an individual, a separate "thing" in a world of separated things. This sooner or later creates the unquestioned, complete identification with this illusory "thing," this knot between the sentient Self and the world. This knot is called ego, nebulous at best, though it calls itself "I." Because we have transferred our very sense of being into something unreal, which must be continually created and enforced, we feel an underlying anxiety, a longing for something, something stable and inherently self-sufficient. We, as ego, mistakenly transform this anxiety into a hope and belief in fear and desire, and we turn again and again to the world for the solution to our own mind-made problem. The Tibetan Book of the Dead gives us a hint at how serious this transference of meaning from the real to the unreal can be. Death of the body may not break the spell. Even in our dreams and fantasies, we are continually wandering, looking for safety and fulfillment in ego-building and unquestioned belief in our desires and fears. We have lost our Selves, and can only react to the creations of our own now desperate minds.

As we continue through life, becoming more and more engrossed, our thoughts and actions reinforce themselves and the driving forces behind them, leaving less and less chance for any meaningful change. Just as in the world of the after-death Bardos, where at every step of the way the mind becomes more and more sensually oriented, more and more emotionally strident and confused, where in desperation, the wanderer eventually returns to life and the world of bodies and things in order to manifest its unconscious fears and desires, so is it also in this life. We wander from one game of desire to another, encouraged by success and pleasure, and driven by fear and our growing anxiety: the carrot and the stick that deny us any rest. We become obsessed with our health and possessions, and when faced with death, will do anything for even one more week of existence. We continue to turn towards life, bodies, and emotional highs and lows, making the same mistakes over and over, never guessing that the solution lies within, not in the manic, repetitious attempt to control the outer environment.

The world is change. Any hiding place or fortification we crawl into, or pleasure palace we build, will fail us, someday. All form is subject to this never-ceasing change. Only in the Formless can we find the road Home. This wandering from bardo to bardo, dream to dream, gives no peace or true understanding. The true cure for our anxiety and longing is the death of the ego, not the body. We have lost our connection to our Inner Self, not some thing, or some needed control over things. Instead, with non-attachment and great attention, look at the world, at the little life you think you love and hate so much, and at your anxious fear of it, at your coming death. Question everything, especially your self. Then, hopefully this dream of existence will be seen for what it is: a never-ending play of form upon emotion, a wandering through desire and fear that never ceases. Turn your attention back to your Source, to the Love within, and find peace for the wanderer, the lost traveler in the endless bardos of life, death, and dreams