Sunday, November 28, 2010

stay with that silence

There was a time we lost ourselves in others,
a time we ate the best of foods.
There was time we relied on the intellect,
a time we looked for fortune
but all this had no value in the end.
For a mouthful of food and some bitter herbs
we went everywhere,
we made so many plans
one day it was Rome,
the next day it was Africa.
We entered a raging battlefield, for what?
a few crumbs of bread.
Lose your soul in God's love, I swear
there is no other way.
Stay with that silence.
I once ran toward the knowledge of this world;
now the papers are packed, the pens are broken
O Saaqi, bring on the wine!
~ Rumi
from A Garden Beyond Paradise
version by Jonathan Star

Friday, November 26, 2010

Autumn Quince

How sad they are,
the promises we never return to.
They stay in our mouths,
roughen the tongue, lead lives of their own.
Houses built and unwittingly lived in;
a succession of milk bottles brought to the door
every morning and taken inside.
And which one is real?
The music in the composer's ear
or the lapsed piece the orchestra plays?
The world is a blurred version of itself --
marred, lovely, and flawed.
It is enough.
~ Jane Hirshfield
from Of Gravity & Angels

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

from "Among School Children"

Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
~ W. B. Yeats

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Be still

Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
be silent, they try
To speak your
To the living walls.
Who are you?
Are you? Whose
Silence are you?
Who (be quiet)
Are you (as these stones
Are quiet). Do not
Think of what you are
Still less of
What you may one day be.
Be what you are (but who?) be
The unthinkable one
You do not know.
~ Thomas Merton
excerpt from In Silence

emptiness and freedom

What can I say about the emptiness and freedom 
into whose door I entered for that half-minute, 
which was enough for a lifetime, 
because it was a new life altogether?  
There is nothing with which to compare it.  
I could call it nothingness, 
but it is an infinitely fruitful freedom, 
to lack all things and to lack my self 
in the fresh air of that happiness 
that seems to be above all modes of being.  
Don't let me build any more walls around it, or I will shut myself out.
~ Thomas Merton
from Dialogues with Silence
sketch by the author

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I wearied myself searching

I wearied myself searching for the friend
With efforts beyond my strength
I came to the door
And saw how powerfully the locks were bolted
And the longing in me became that strong
And then I saw that I was gazing from within the presence
Only after that waiting and giving up all trying
Did Lalla flow out from where I knelt

~ Lalla

Friday, November 19, 2010

love lays siege

Love lays siege to each being 
and seeks to discover an opening, 
a path leading into the heart, 
by means of which love can permeate everywhere. 

The difference between the sinner and the saint 
is that the sinner closes his heart to love 
while the saint opens himself to this same love. 

In both cases the love is the same and the pressure is the same.

~ Lev Gillet
The Burning Bush


Wednesday, November 17, 2010


There stands death, a bluish distillate
in a cup without a saucer.  Such a strange
place to find a cup: standing on
the back of a hand.  One recognizes clearly
the line along the glazed curve, where the handle
snapped.  Covered with dust.  And HOPE is written
across the side, in faded Gothic letters.

The man who was to drink out of that cup
read it aloud at breakfast, long ago.

What kind of beings are they then,
who finally must be scared away by poison?

Otherwise would they stay here? Would they keep
chewing so foolishly on their own frustration?
The hard present moment must be pulled
out of them, like a set of false teeth.  Then
they mumble.  They go on mumbling, mumbling...

O shooting star
that fell into my eyes and through my body -:
Not to forget you.  To endure.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from Uncollected Poems
translated by Stephen Mitchell

for freedom

As a bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind,
Clear of the certainty of ground,
Opening the imagination of wings
Into the grace of emptiness
To fulfill new voyagings,
May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.
As the ocean absolves itself
Of the expectation of land,
Approaching only 
In the form of waves
That fill and pleat and fall
With such gradual elegance
As to make of the limit 
A sonorous threshold
Whose music echoes back along 
The give and strain of memory,
Thus may your heart know the patience
That can draw infinity from limitation.
As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The tight solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time 
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you
Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart.
~ John O'Donohue
from To Bless the Space Between Us
photo by Edan Chapman

on the mechanical activity of thought

We were talking of the importance of thought and yet of its
unimportance; of how thought has a great deal of action and within
its own field only limited freedom. We spoke of a state of mind
that is totally unconditioned. This morning we can go into this
question of conditioning; not only the superficial, cultural
conditioning, but also why conditioning takes place. We can
enquire about the quality of mind that is not conditioned, that has
gone beyond conditioning. We have to go into this matter very
deeply to find out what love is. And in understanding what love is,
perhaps we shall be able to comprehend the full significance of
So, first we will find out whether the mind can be totally and
completely free of conditioning. It is fairly obvious how we are
superficially conditioned by the culture, the society, the
propaganda around us, and also by nationality, by a particular
religion, by education and through environmental influences. I
think it is fairly clear and fairly simple to see how most human
beings, of whatever country or race, are conditioned by the
particular culture or religion to which they belong. They are
moulded, held within a particular pattern. One can fairly easily put
aside such conditioning.
Then there is the deeper conditioning, such as an aggressive
attitude towards life. Aggression implies a sense of dominance, of
seeking power, possessions, prestige. One has to go very deeply to
be completely free of that, because it is very subtle, taking many
different forms. One may think one is not aggres- sive, but when
one has an ideal, an opinion, an evaluation, verbal and non-verbal,
there is a sense of assertiveness which gradually becomes
aggressive and violent. One can see this in oneself. Behind the very
word `aggression' though you may say it very gently - there is a
kick, there is a furtive, dominant, compulsive action which
becomes cruel and violent. That aggressive conditioning one has to
discover, whether one has derived it from the animal, or has
become aggressive in one's own self-assertive pleasure. Is one
aggressive in the total sense of that word, which means `stepping
Another form of conditioning is that of comparison. One
compares oneself with what one thinks is noble or heroic, with
whit one would like to be, as opposed to what one is. The
comparative pursuit is a form of conditioning; again, it is
extraordinarily subtle. I compare myself with somebody who is a
little more intelligent or more beautiful physically. Secretly or
openly, there is a constant soliloquy, talking to oneself in terms of
comparison. Observe this in yourself. Where there is comparison
there is a form of aggression in the feeling of achievement; or,
when you cannot achieve, there is a sense of frustration and a
feeling of inferiority. From childhood we are educated to compare.
Our educational system is based on comparison, on the giving of
marks, on examinations. In comparing yourself with somebody
who is cleverer, there is envy, jealousy, and all the conflict that
ensues. Comparison implies measurement; I am measuring myself
against something I think is better or nobler.
One asks: `Can the mind ever be free of this social and cultural
conditioning, of the mind measuring and comparing, the
conditioning of fear and pleasure, of reward and punishment?' The
whole of our moral and religious structures are based on this. Why
is it that we are conditioned? We see the outward influences which
are conditioning us and the inward voluntary demand to be
conditioned. Why do we accept this conditioning? Why has the
mind allowed itself to be conditioned? What is the factor behind it
all? Why do I, born in a certain country and culture, calling myself
a Hindu, with all the superstition and tradition imposed by the
family, the society, accept such conditioning? What is the urge that
lies behind this? What is the factor that is constantly demanding
and acquiescing, yielding to or resisting this conditioning? One can
see that one wants to be safe and secure in the community which is
following a certain pattern. If one does not follow that pattern one
may lose one's job, be without money, not be regarded as a
respectable human being. There is a revolt against that, and that
revolt forms its own conditioning - which all the young people are
going through now. One must find out what is the urge that makes
one conform. Unless one discovers it for oneself, one will always
be conditioned one way or the other, positively or negatively. From
the moment one is born until one dies, the process goes on. One
may revolt against it, one may try to escape into another
conditioning, withdrawing into a monastery as do the people who
devote their life to contemplation, to philosophy, but it is the same
movement right through. What is the machinery that is in constant
movement, adjusting itself to various forms of conditioning?
Thought is everlastingly conditioned, because it is the response
of the past as memory. Thought is always mechanical; it falls very
easily into a pattern, into a groove, and then you consider you are
being tremendously active, whether you are confined to the
Communist groove, the Catholic groove, or whatever it is. It is the
easiest, the most mechanical thing to do - and we think we are
living! So although thought has a certain limited freedom in its
field, everything it does is mechanical. After all, to go to the moon
is quite mechanical, it is the outcome of the accumulated
knowledge of centuries. The pursuit of technical thinking takes you
to the moon, or under the sea and so on. The mind wants to follow
a groove, wants to be mechanical and that way there is safety,
security, there is no disturbance. To live mechanically is not only
encouraged by society, but also by each one of us, because that is
the easiest way to live.
So thought being a mechanical, repetitive pursuit, accepts any
form of conditioning which enables it to continue in its mechanical
activity. A philosopher invents a new theory, an economist a new
system, and we accept that groove and follow it. Our society, our
culture, our religious prompting, everything seems to function
mechanically; yet in that there is a certain sense of stimulation.
When you go to Mass, there is a certain excitement, emotion, and
that becomes the pattern. I do not know if this is something you
have ever tried - do it once and you will see the fun of it: take a
piece of stick or a stone, any odd piece with a little shape to it, put
it on the mantlepiece and put a flower beside it every morning.
Within a month you will see that it has become a habit, as a
religious symbol, and you have begun to identify yourself with
Thought is the response of the past. If one has been taught
engineering as a profession, one adds to and adjusts that
knowledge, but one is set in that line; similarly if you are a doctor
and so on. Thought is somewhat free within a certain field, but it is
still within the limits of mechanical functioning. Do you see that,
not only verbally and intellectually, but actually? Are you as aware
of it as when you hear that train? Sound of passing train.)
Can the mind free itself from the habits it has cultivated, from
certain opinions, judgments, attitudes and values? Which means,
can the mind be free of thought? If this is not completely
understood, then the next thing which I am going to talk, about will
have no meaning. The understanding of this leads to the next
question, which is inevitable, if you go into it. If thought is
mechanical, if it inevitably conforms to the conditioning of the
mind, then what is love? Is love the product of thought? Is love
nurtured, cultivated by thought, dependent on thought?
What is love? - bearing in mind that the description is not the
described, the word is not the thing. Can the mind be free of the
mechanical activity of thought so as to find out what love is? For
most of us love is associated, or equated, with sex. That is a form
of conditioning. When you are enquiring into this really very
complex, intricate and extraordinarily beautiful thing, you must
find out how that word `sex' has conditioned the mind.
We say we will not kill - we will not go to Vietnam or some
other place to kill, but we do not mind killing animals. If you
yourself had to kill the animal which you eat, and saw the ugliness
of it, would you eat that animal? I doubt it very much. But you do
not mind the butcher killing it for you to eat; in that there is a great
deal of hypocrisy.
So one asks not only what love is, but also what is compassion.
In the Christian culture the animals have no soul, they are put on
earth by God for you to eat; that is the Christian conditioning. In
certain parts of India to kill is wrong, whether to kill a fly, an
animal or anything else. So they do not kill the least thing, they go
to the extreme of exaggeration; again, that is their conditioning.
And there are people who support antivivisection, yet wear
marvellous furs: such hypocrisy goes on!
What does it mean to be compassionate? Not merely verbally,
but actually to be compassionate? Is compassion a matter of habit,
of thought, a matter of the mechanical repetition of being kind,
polite, gentle, tender? Can the mind which is caught in the activity
of thought with its conditioning, its mechanical repetition, be
compassionate at all? It can talk about it, it can encourage social
reform, be kind to the poor heathen and so on; but is that
compassion? When thought dictates, when thought is active, can
there be any place for compassion? Compassion being action
without motive, without self-interest, without any sense of fear,
without any sense of pleasure.
So one asks: `Is love pleasure?, - sex is pleasure, of course. We
take pleasure in violence, we take pleasure in achievement, in
assertion, in aggression. Also we take pleasure in being somebody.
And all that is the product of thought, the product of measurement
- `I was that' and `I will be this'. Is pleasure, in the sense in which
we have been speaking, is that love? How can a mind which is
caught in habit, in measurement and comparison, know what love
is? One may say, love is this or that but that is all the product of
From that observation arises the question: what is death? What
does it mean, to die? It must be the most marvellous experience! It
must imply something that has completely come to an end. The
movement that has been set going the strife, struggle, turmoil, all
the despairs and frustrations - all that suddenly comes to in end.
The man who is trying to become famous, who is assertive, violent,
brutal - that activity is cut off! Have you noticed how anything that
continues psychologically becomes mechanical, repetitive. It is
only when psychological continuance comes to an end, that there is
something totally new - you can see this in yourself. Creation is not
the continuation of what is, or what was, but the ending of that.
So psychologically can one die? You understand my question?
Can one die to the known, die to what has been - not in order to
become something else - which is the ending of and the freedom
from the known? After all, that is what death is.
The physical organism will die, naturally; it has been abused,
kicked around, frustrated; it has eaten and drunk all kinds of things.
You know how you live and you go on that way till it dies. The
body, through accident, through old age, through some disease,
through the strain of constant emotional battle within and without,
becomes twisted, ugly, and it dies. There is self pity in this dying
and also pity for oneself when somebody else dies. When
somebody dies whom we consider we love, is there not in that
sorrow a great deal of care? For you are left alone, you are exposed
to yourself, you have nobody to rely on, nobody to give you
comfort. Our sorrow is tinged with this self-pity and fear and
naturally in this uncertainty one accepts every form of belief.
The whole of Asia believes in reincarnation, in being reborn in
another life. When you enquire what it is that is going to be born in
the next life, you come up against difficulties. What is it?
Yourself? What are you? a lot of words, a lot of opinions,
attachments to your possessions, to your furniture, to your
conditioning. Is all that, which you call the soul, going to be reborn
in the next life? Reincarnation implies that what you are today
determines what you will be again in the next life. Therefore
behave! - not tomorrow, but today, because what you do today you
are going to pay for in the next life. people who believe in
reincarnation do not bother about behavior;t all; it is just a matter
of belief, which has no value. Incarnate today, afresh not in the
next life! Change it now completely, change with great passion, let
the mind strip itself of everything, of every conditioning, every
knowledge, of everything it thinks is `right' - empty it. Then you
will know what dying means; and then you will know what love is.
For love is not something of the past, of thought, of culture; it is
not pleasure. A mind that has understood the whole movement of
thought becomes extraordinarily quiet, absolutely silent. That
silence is the beginning of the new.
Questioner: Sir, can love have an object?
Krishnamurti: Who is asking the question? Thought or love?
Love is not asking this question. When you love, you love! - you
do not ask, `Is there an object, or no object, is it personal or
impersonal?'. Oh, you do not know what is means, the beauty of it!
Our love, as it is, is such a trial; our relationship with each other is
such a conflict. Our love is based on your image of me and my
image of you. Look at it very carefully, at the relationship between
these two isolated images which say to each other, `We love'. The
images are the product of the past, of memories, memories of what
you said to me and I said to you; and this relationship between the
two images must inevitably be an isolating process. That is what
we call relationship. To be related means to be in contact not
merely physically which is not possible when there is an image,
when there is the self-isolating process of thought, which is the
`me', and the`you'. We say: `Has love an object? Or is love divine
or profane?, - you follow? Sir, when you love, you are neither
giving nor receiving.
Questioner: When one goes behind these words, `beauty' and
`love', don't all these divisions disappear?

Krishnamurti: Have you ever sat, not day-dreaming, but very
quietly, completely aware? In that awareness there is no
verbalization, no choice, no restraint or direction. When the body is
completely relaxed, have you noticed the silence that comes into
being? That requires a great deal of investigation, because our
minds are never still but endlessly chattering and therefore divided.
We divide living into fragments.
Can all this fragmentation come to an end? Knowing that
thought is responsible for this fragmentation, we ask: `Can thought
be completely silent yet respond when it is necessary, without
violence, objectively, sanely, rationally - still let this silence
pervade?' That is the only way: to find for oneself this quality of
the mind that has no fragments, that is not broken up as the `you'
and the `me'.
Questioner: Sir, is the killing of a fly on the same level as the
killing of an animal or a human being?
Krishnamurti: Where will you begin the comprehension of
killing? You say you will not go to war, kill a human being ( I do
not know if you say it or not, it is up to you), but you do not mind
taking sides your group and my group. You do not mind believing
in something and standing by what you believe. You do not mind
killing people with a word, with a gesture - and you will be careful
not to kill a fly! Some years ago the speaker was in a country
where Buddhism is the accepted religion. If you are a practising
Buddhist, it is one of the accepted principles not to kill. Two
people came to see the speaker and said, `We have a problem: we
do not want to kill. We are ardent Buddhists, we have been brought
up not to kill; but we like eggs and we do not want to kill a fertile
egg - so what are we to do?' You understand? Unless inwardly you
are very clear as to what killing implies - not only with a gun, but
by a word, by gesture, by division, by saying `my country', `your
country', `my God', `your God" there will inevitably be killing in
some form. Do not make a lot of ado about killing a fly and then go
and `kill' your neighbour with a word.
The speaker has never eaten meat in his life, does not know
what it tastes like even, and yet he puts on leather shoes. One his to
live,and although in your heart you do not want to kill anything,
hurt anybody - and you really mean it - yet you have to `kill' the
vegetable which you eat; for if you do not eat anything you come
very quickly to an end. One has to find out for oneself very clearly
without any choice, without any prejudice, one has to be highly
sensitive and intelligent and then let that intelligence act - not say,
`I will not kill flies', yet say something brutal about one's husband.
~ J. Krishnamurti
from a public talk in Saanen on July 28th 1970

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Going Blind

She sat just like the others at the table.
But on second glance, she seemed to hold her cup
a little differently as she picked it up.
She smiled once.  It was almost painful.
And when they finished and it was time to stand
and slowly, as chance selected them, they left 
and moved through many rooms (they talked and laughed),
I saw her.  She was moving far behind
the others, absorbed, like someone who will soon 
have to sing before a large assembly; 
upon her eyes, which were radiant with joy,
light played as on the surface of a pool.
She followed slowly, taking a long time,
as though there were some obstacle in the way;
and yet: as though, once it was overcome,
she would be beyond all walking, and would fly.
~  Rainer Maria Rilke
from New Poems
translated by Stephen Mitchell

Monday, November 15, 2010

on the anniversary of my death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day 
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

~ W.S. Merwin

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Light cannot see inside things.
That is what the dark is for:
Minding the interior,
Nurturing the draw of growth
Through places where death
In its own way turns into life.

In the glare of neon times,
Let our eyes not be worn
By surfaces that shine
With hunger made attractive.

That our thoughts may be true light,
Finding their way into words
Which have the weight of shadow
To hold the layers of truth.

That we never place our trust
In minds claimed by empty light,
Where one-sided certainties
Are driven by false desire.

When we look into the heart,
May our eyes have the kindness
And reverence of candlelight.

That the searching of our minds
Be equal to the oblique
Crevices and corners where
The mystery continues to dwell,
Glimmering in fugitive light.

When we are confined inside
The dark house of suffering
That moonlight might find a window.

When we become false and lost
That the severe noon-light
Would cast our shadow clear.

When we love, that dawn-light
Would lighten our feet
Upon the waters.

As we grow old, that twilight
Would illuminate treasure
In the fields of memory.

And when we come to search for God,
Let us first be robed in night,
Put on the mind of morning
To feel the rush of light
Spread slowly inside
The color and stillness
Of a found word.

~ John O'Donohue (1956-2008)
from To Bless the Space Between Us
photo by Alan Schaller

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Lake Isle Of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the mourning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
~ William Butler Yeats
yeats portrait by John Singer Sargent - 1908

This poem was one of the first poems by Yeats. It was written when the author was young, twenty-five years old, and he was living in London. The isle of the poem really exists, and is situated in Ireland, in Lough Gill. There were two main reasons why the poet wrote these verses: firstly, he was a young Irish person who was living in London, a big city which is not in his country. Ireland is a country whose economy was based on the agriculture, so Yeats wants to return to this type of life, the life of his childhood, secondly, at that moment, Yeats knew of and read Thoreau and wanted to emulate him.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Swan

This laboring through what is still undone,
as though, legs bound, we hobbled along the way,
is like the awkward walking of the swan.
And dying - to let go, no longer feel
the solid ground we stand on every day -
is like his anxious letting himself fall
into the water, which receives him gently
and which, as though with reverence and joy,
draws back past him in streams on either side;
while, infinitely silent and aware,
in his full majesty and ever more
indifferent, he condescends to glide.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from New Poems
translated by Stephen Mitchell