Wednesday, March 29, 2017
There is a small green island
where one white cow lives alone,
a meadow of an island.
The cow grazes till nightfall, full and fat,
but during the night she panics
and grows thin as a single hair. "What shall I eat
tomorrow? There's nothing left!"
By dawn, the grass has grown up again, waist-high.
The cow starts eating and by dark
the meadow is clipped short.
She's full of strength and energy, but she panics
in the dark as before, and grows
abnormally thin overnight.
The cow does this over and over,
and this is all she does.
She never thinks, "This meadow has never failed
to grow back. Why should I be afraid
every night that it won't?"
The cow is the bodily soul.
The island field is this world where
that grows lean with fear and fat with blessing,
lean and fat. White cow,
don't make yourself miserable
with what's to come, or not to come.
translation by Coleman Barks
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Once upon a time there was a man who had about twelve cows, and he loved his cows. Every morning and evening he would praise them for the amount of milk they were giving and praise them for their beauty. One morning he noticed that the amount of milk had lessened. Each day for a week he noticed the same thing. So that night he decided to stay up and see what was going on.
About midnight, he happened to look up at the stars, and he saw one star that seemed to be getting larger. It was - and the light got stronger as the star came closer and closer to earth. It came straight down towards his cow pasture and stopped a few feet from him in the form of a great ball of light. Inside the light there was a luminous woman. As soon as her toes touched the ground, the light disappeared, and she stood there like an ordinary woman.
He said to her, "Are you the one who has been stealing milk from my cows?" "Yes," she said, "my sisters and I like the milk from your cows very much." He said, "You are very beautiful, and I'm glad that you like my cows. And so, this is what I want to say: If you marry me, we can live together, and I will never hit you and you won't have to take care of the cows all the time. I'll take care of them part of the time myself. Will you marry me?" She said slowly, "Yes, I will. But there's one condition. I have brought this basket with me, and I want you to agree that you will never look into this basket. You must never look into it, no matter how long we are married. Do you agree to that?" "Oh, I do," he said.
So they were married, and they lived together very well for six or seven months. Then one day, while she was out herding the cows, he happened to notice that basket standing in a corner of the house. He said to himself, "Well, you know, she is my wife, so it could be considered to be my basket. After all, this is my house, and the basket is in my house, and so it could be considered my basket!" After he had said this, he opened the basket and then began to laugh. "There's absolutely nothing in the basket! Nothing! There's nothing in the basket!" He kept saying these words and laughing so loud that his wife eventually heard the laughter.
She came into the house and she said to him, "Have you opened the basket?" He began laughing again. "I did!" he said. "I opened the basket! There's nothing in it! There's nothing in the basket at all! There's absolutely nothing in the basket! Nothing is in the basket!"
She said,"I have to leave now. I have to go back." He cried out. "Don't go! Don't leave me!" She said, "I have to go back now. What I brought with me in the basket was spirit. It's so like human beings to think that spirit is nothing."
And she was gone.
~ An African Story
from The Soul is Here for It's Own Joy - Sacred Poems from Many Cultures
edited by Robert Bly
african rock art from Chad
Friday, March 24, 2017
I got sleepy while driving and pulled in under a tree at the
side of the road. Rolled up in the back seat and went to sleep.
How long? Hours. Darkness had come.
All of a sudden I was awake, and didn't know who I was?
I'm fully conscious, but that doesn't help. Where am I?
WHO am I? I am something that has just woken up in a back
seat, throwing itself around in panic like a cat in a gunnysack.
Who am I?
After a long while my life comes back to me. My name
comes to me like an angel. Outside the castle walls there is a
trumpet blast (as in the Leonora Overture) and the footsteps
that will save me come quickly quickly down the long staircase.
It's me coming! It's me!
But it is impossible to forget the fifteen-second battle in the
hell of nothingness, a few feet from a major highway where
the cars slip past with their lights dimmed.
~ Tomas Tranströmer
art by Picasso
Sunday, March 19, 2017
From "the incessant workings of his mind and the physical activity displayed by the body... nothing of all that is from him, is him. He, physically and mentally, is the multitude of others.
On the mental plane, this "multitude of others" includes many beings who are his contemporaries: people he consorts with, with whom he chats, whose actions he watches. ... the individual absorbs a part of the various energies given off by those with whom he is in contact, and these incongruous energies, installing themselves in that which he considers his "I", form a swarming throng.
To a Westerner, Plato, Zeno, Jesus, Saint Paul, Calvin, Diderot, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, Napoleon, and many others constitute a diversified crowd,...
These names are only examples. The guests, whom X shelters in his particular guest-house, are not at all the same as those who live with Y.
"that which is compound", which is constituted by the combination of elements as a house is made up of stones, wood, etc., is only a collection, a group and in no way a real "ego". Thus the individual is empty, everything is empty, because one can find nothing in it except the parts which constitute it.
~ Alexandra David-Neel and Lama Yongden
from The Secret oral teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects
art by Picasso
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Surely becomes disarrayed
When the teacher is out of sight
Because of our grand
Birds of passage
Arrive with a broken
Are then lifted by God
So high and
To experience the heart
The mind surely becomes disarrayed
When the Teacher is out
from The Gift
translations by Daniel Ladinisky
Friday, March 17, 2017
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
There is no remedy against this reversal of the natural order. Man cannot escape from his own achievement. He cannot but adopt the conditions of his own life. No longer in a merely physical universe, man lives in a symbolic universe. Language, myth, art, and religion are parts of this universe. They are the varied threads which weave the symbolic net, the tangled web of human experience. All human progress in thought and experience refines and strengthens this net. No longer can man confront reality immediately; he cannot see it, as it were, face to face. Physical reality seems to recede in proportion as man's symbolic activity advances. Instead of dealing with the things themselves man is in a sense constantly conversing with himself.
He has so enveloped himself in linguistic forms, in artistic images, in mythical symbols or religious rites that he cannot see or know anything except by the interposition of this artificial medium. His situation is the same in the theoretical as in the practical sphere. Even here man does not live in a world of hard facts, or according to his immediate needs and desires. He lives rather in the midst of imaginary emotions, in hopes and fears, in illusions and disillusions, in his fantasies and dreams. 'What disturbs and alarms man,' said Epictetus, 'are not the things, but his opinions and fantasies about the things.
~ Ernst Cassirer
from An Essay on Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture
with thanks to Love is a Place
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Coming empty handed, going empty handed - that is human.
When you are born, where do you come from?
When you die, where do you go?
Life is like a floating cloud which appears.
Death is like a floating cloud which disappears.
The floating cloud itself originally does not exist.
Life and death, coming and going, are also like that.
But there is one thing which always remains clear.
It is pure and clear, not depending on life and death.
What then is the one pure and clear thing?
~ Zen Master Seung Sahn
Saturday, March 4, 2017
A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot
where it's being boiled.
"Why are you doing this to me?"
The cook knocks him down with the ladle.
"Don't you try to jump out.
You think I'm torturing you.
I'm giving you flavor,
so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.
Remember when you drank rain in the garden.
That was for this."
Grace first. Sexual pleasure,
then a boiling new life begins,
and the Friend has something good to eat.
Eventually the chickpea
will say to the cook,
"Boil me some more.
Hit me with the skimming spoon.
I can't do this be myself.
I'm like an elephant that dreams of gardens
back in Hindustan and doesn't pay attention
to his driver. You're my cook, my driver,
my way into existence. I love cooking."
The cook says, "I was once like you,
fresh from the ground, Then I boiled in time,
and boiled in the body, two fierce boilings.
My animal soul grew powerful.
I controlled it with practices,
and boiled some more, and boiled once beyond that,
and become your teacher."
from The essential Rumi
translations by Coleman Barks and John Moyne
People in a village
At the desert's edge
Had a daughter
Who was changed (they thought)
By magic arts
Into a pony.
At first they berated her
"Why do you have to be a horse?"
She could think of no reply.
So they led her out with a halter
Into the hot waste land
Where there was a saint
Living in a cell.
"Father" they said
"This young mare here
Is, or was, our daughter.
Enemies, wicked men,
Magicians, have made her
The animal you see.
Now by your prayers to God
Change her back
Into the girl she used to be."
"My prayers" said Macarius,
"Will change nothing,
For I see no mare.
Why do you call this good child
But he led her into his cell
With her parents:
There he spoke to God
Anointing the girl with oil;
And when they saw with what love
He placed his hand upon her head
They realized, at once.
She was no animal.
She had never changed.
She had been a girl from the beginning.
"Your own eyes
Are your enemies.
Your own crooked thoughts
(said the anchorite)
Change people around you
Into birds and animals.
Your own ill-will
(said the clear-eyed one)
Peoples the world with specters."
~ Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems