Saturday, November 23, 2019

why does not the church tell you?

At last the time came for the bride
to be with Him.

Nothing all the other brides had ever known 
could have prepared me.

Only the beauty and light you cannot describe
has a place in His house.

I can touch God - yes - but not with anything I own,
not with anything I can identify with,
not with anything that

Purity, have you ever contemplated that word?
I once beheld the root of the Immaculate
and it drew me into itself.

I looked at all through
His eyes.

Why does not my sacred church tell you:
God only sees

~ St. John of the Cross
 from Love Poems from God
by Daniel Ladinsky

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


When the path ignites a soul,
there's no remaining in place.

The foot touches ground,
but not for long.

The way where love tells its secret
stays always in motion,
and there is no you there, and no reason.

The rider urges his horse to gallop,
and so doing, throws himself
under the flying hooves.

In love-unity there's no old or new.
Everything is nothing.
God alone is.

For lovers the phenomena-veil is very transparent,
and the delicate tracings on it cannot
be explained with language.

Clouds burn off as the sun rises,
and the love-world floods with light.

But cloud-water can be obscuring,
as well as useful.

There is an affection that covers the glory,
rather than dissolving into it.

It's a subtle difference,
like the change in Persian
from the word "friendship"
to the word "work."

That happens with just a dot
above or below the third letter.

There is a seeing of the beauty
of union that doesn't actively work
for the inner conversation.

Your hand and feet must move,
as a stream streams, working
as its Self, to get to the ocean.
Then there's no more mention
of the search.

Being famous, or being a disgrace,
who's ahead or behind, these considerations
are rocks and clogged places
that slow you. Be as naked as a wheat grain
out of its husk and sleek as Adam.

Don't ask for anything other
than the presence.

Don't speak of a "you"
apart from That.

A full container cannot be more full.
Be whole, and nothing.

~ Hakim Sanai
version by Coleman Barks
from  The Hand of Poetry: Five Mystic Poets of Persia, 
with Lectures by Inayat Khan

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

the "goal?"

The traveler who finds his road blocked by a river will use a raft to reach the opposite shore, but, this shore once reached, he will not carry the raft on his shoulders while continuing his journey.  He will abandon it as something which has become useless.

The raft represents the different kinds of methods, intellectual training or moral discipline, which are available as means to bring the seeker of liberation to the "other shore".  On this shore, both have lost their value; they bear no relation to the conditions existing on the "other shore" and, like the raft in the parable, they are only a useless burden.... 

"The country which is nowhere is the real home."

On the other hand, is there any traveler who makes a crossing?  
Is there a somebody who reaches the other shore?

If this was the case, this traveler would carry with him the "hither shore" into the "beyond", just as the dust on the soles of one's shoes is carried from one place to another.  The traveler would transform the "other bank" into "this bank" because here and there are in him, are him and that outside the mind which thinks "here" and "there" are no other "here" and "there".

To go beyond virtue and vice, opinions and beliefs is to go beyond the mental constructions which are built up by the mind, unceasingly, and to recognize, by transcendent insight, that they are void of reality.  It is also to recognize, by transcendent insight, that that which has been imagined as practicing virtue, surrendering to vice, as holding opinions and elaborating theories, as traveling towards a goal and reaching the goal, is nothing but an inconsistent phantom, devoid of reality. 

~ Alexandra David-Neel and Lama Yongden
from The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects


come in, my self

A certain person came to the Friend’s door
and knocked.
“Who’s there?”
“It’s me.”
The Friend answered, “Go away. There’s no place
for raw meat at this table.”

The individual went wandering for a year.
Nothing but the fire of separation
can change hypocrisy and ego. The person returned
completely cooked,
walked up and down in front of the Friend’s house,
gently knocked.
“Who is it?”
“Please come in, my self,
there’s no place in this house for two.
The doubled end of the thread is not what goes through
the eye of the needle.
It’s a single-pointed, fined-down, thread end,
not a big ego-beast with baggage."

~ Rumi
excerpt taken from Two Friends
translation by coleman barks

Sunday, November 17, 2019

the solitude of the other

 art by Ralf Winkler

I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: 
that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.
 For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude,
 then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing
 the opportunity for solitude. And only those are the true sharings
 which rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation...

All companionship can consist only in the strengthening of two neighboring solitudes,
 whereas everything that one is wont to call giving oneself is by nature 
harmful to companionship: for when a person abandons himself, 
he is no longer anything, and when two people both give themselves up
 in order to come close to each other, there is no longer
 any ground beneath them...

once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings
 infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up,
 if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible
 for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky!

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

from Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties:
 Translations and Considerations

Let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not
 in each other’s shadow.

 ~ Kahlil Gibran
from The Prophet

 art by Odilon Redon

the inner work

The outward work will never be puny if the inward work is great.
 And the outward work can never be great or even good if the onward one is puny
 or of little worth. The inward work invariably includes in itself all expansiveness,
 all breadth, all length, all depth.
 Such a work receives and draws all its being from nowhere 
else except from and in the heart of God.

If that which you seek cannot be found within you, 
you will never find it outside of you.

~ Meister Eckhart
Dominican Theologian and Christian Mystic, 14th Century

Friday, November 15, 2019

human desire

Human desire differs from animal desire in that it is at root insatiable. 

Man is characterized by a hunger for the infinite, for an eternity of life, 
love and joy which, whether he knows it or not, can be nothing other than God.
 Assuming that God exists, it will follow that God is man's true end,
 for the appetite of a living organism shows its function. 

The stomach hungers for food because it's function is to digest food. 
As physical taste and hunger may often be mistaken as to their true object, 
desiring nothing but caviar instead of a balanced diet, 
man is often mistaken as to the goal of his life, desiring wealth,
 power or physical pleasure instead of God. But his real appetite
 continues to be God, for which these lesser goals are always
 unsatisfactory substitutes. 

Those who set their hearts on finite goals are always discontented; 
they must always have more and more and more of what they desire, 
and failing this are frustrated and miserable. Profound contentment
 is only enjoyed by animals and primitives, in which infinite hunger
 has not been awakened, and by the saints and mystics 
who have realized union with God.

- Alan Watts
from Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion

on giving

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the over-prudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have--and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.

It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.
And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors'.

You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

And you receivers... and you are all receivers... assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the freehearted earth for mother, and God for father.

~ Kahlil Gibran

Monday, November 11, 2019

merton: on war and fear



The present war crisis is something we have made entirely for and by ourselves. There is in reality not the slightest logical reason for war, and yet the whole world is plunging headlong into frightful destruction, and doing so with the purpose of avoiding war and preserving peace! This is a true war-madness, an illness of the mind and the spirit that is spreading With a furious and subtle contagion all over the world. Of all the countries that are sick, America is perhaps the most grievously afflicted. This is a nation that claims to be fighting for religious truth along with freedom and other values of the spirit. 

What are we to do?  That task is to work for the total abolition of war. There can be no question that unless war is abolished the world will remain constantly in a state of madness and desperation in which, because of the immense destructive power of modern weapons, the danger of catastrophe will be imminent and probably at every moment everywhere. We may never succeed in this campaign but whether we succeed or not the duty is evident. It is the great task of our time. Everything else is secondary, for the survival of the human race itself depends on it. We must at least face this responsibility and do something about it. And the first job of an is to understand the psychological forces at work in ourselves and in society.

At the root of all war is fear, not so much the fear men have of one another as the fear they have of everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another. They do not even trust themselves.... They cannot trust anything because they have ceased to know  God.

It is not only our hatred of others that is dangerous but also and above an our hatred of ourselves: particularly that hatred of ourselves which is too deep and too powerful to be consciously faced. For it is this that makes us see our own evil in others and unable to see it in ourselves....

As if this were not enough, we make the situation much worse by artificially intensifying our sense of evil, and by increasing our propensity to feel guilt even for things that are not in themselves wrong. In all these ways, we build up such an obsession with evil, both in ourselves and in others, that we waste all our mental energy trying to account for this evil, to punish it, to exorcise it, or to get rid of it in any way we can.

We drive ourselves mad with our preoccupation and in the end there is no outlet left but violence. We have to destroy something or someone. By that time, we have created for ourselves a suitable enemy, a scapegoat in whom we have invested all the evil in the world. He is the cause of every wrong. He is the fomenter of an conflict. If he can only be destroyed, conflict will cease, evil will be done with, there will be no more war....

In our refusal to accept the partially good intentions of others and work with them (of course prudently and with resignation to the inevitable imperfection of the result) we are unconsciously proclaiming our own malice, our own intolerance, our own lack of realism, our own ethical and political quackery.

Perhaps in the end the first real step toward peace would be a realistic acceptance of the fact that our political deals are perhaps to a great extent illusions and fictions to which we cling, out of motives that are not always perfectly honest: that because of this we prevent ourselves from seeing any good or any practicability in the political ideas of our enemies--which may of course be in many ways even more illusory and dishonest than our own. We will never get anywhere unless we can accept the fact that politics is an inextricable tangle of good and evil motives in which, perhaps, the evil predominate but where one must continue to hope doggedly in what little good can still be found....

I believe the basis for valid political action can only be the recognition that the true solution to our problems is not accessible to any one isolated party or nation but that all must arrive at it by working together....

We must try to accept ourselves whether individually or collectively, not only as perfectly good or perfectly bad, but in our mysterious, unaccountable mixture of good and evil. We have to stand by the modicum of good that is in us without exaggerating it. We have to defend our real rights, because unless we respect our own rights we will certainly not respect the rights of others. But at the same time we have to recognize that we have willfully or otherwise trespassed on the rights of others. We must be able to admit this not only as the result of self-examination, but when it is pointed out unexpectedly, and perhaps not too gently, by somebody else.

These principles that govern personal moral conduct, that make harmony possible in small social units like the family, also apply in the wider areas of the state and in the whole community of nations. It is however quite absurd, in our present situation or in any other, to expect these principles to be universally accepted as the result of moral exhortations. There is very little hope that the world will be run according to them all of a sudden, as a result of some hypothetical change of heart on the part of politicians. It is useless and even laughable to base political thought on the faint hope of a purely contingent and subjective moral illumination in the hearts of the world's leaders. But outside of political thought and action, in the religious sphere, it is not only permissible to hope for such a mysterious consummation, but it is necessary to pray for it. We can and must believe not so much that the mysterious light of God can "convert" the ones who are mostly responsible for the world's peace, but at least that they may, in spite of their obstinacy and their prejudices, be guarded against fatal error....

For only love--which means humility--can exorcise the fear that is at the root of all war .

What is the use of postmarking our mail with the exhortation to 'pray for peace' and then spending billions of dollars on atomic submarines, thermonuclear weapons, and ballistic missiles? This, I would think, would certainly be what the New Testament calls 'mocking God' - and mocking Him far more effectively than what the atheists do. The culminating horror of the joke is that we are piling up these weapons to protect ourselves against atheists, who, quite frankly, believe there is no God and are convinced that one has to rely on bombs and missiles since nothing else offers any real security. Is it then, because we have so much trust in the power of God that we are intent upon utterly destroying these people before they can destroy us? Even at the risk of destroying ourselves at the same time?

If men really wanted peace they would sincerely ask God for it and He would give it to them. But why should He give the world a peace it does not really desire? The peace the world pretends to desire is really no peace at all.

To some men peace merely means the liberty to exploit other people without fear of retaliation or interference. To others peace means the freedom to rob brothers without interruption. To still others it means the leisure to devour the goods of the earth without being compelled to interrupt their pleasures to feed those whom their greed is starving. And to practically everybody, peace simply means the absence of any physical violence that might cast a shadow over lives devoted to the satisfaction of their animal appetites for comfort and pleasure.

Many men like these have asked God for what they thought was "peace" and wondered why their prayer was not answered. They could not understand that it actually was answered. God left them with what they desired, for their idea of peace was only another form of war....

So instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed--but hate these things in yourself not in another.


~ Thomas Merton
excerpt from his 1962 essay: The Root of War is Fear

Thursday, November 7, 2019

day after day I let things go



Day after day I let things go
why worry about tomorrow today
the four afflictions are hard to predict
wealth and honor don't last
lakeside villas are swallowed by vines
streamside trails disappear into weeds
such things are easy for all to see
but no one is willing to look


A white-haired monk afflicted with age 
living under thatch year after year
I've exhausted my life on simple passions
my movements all spring from the sacred mind
when birds don't come the mountain is quiet
ten thousand pines keep it dark green
from the kalpa of nothingness it's clear
a miraculous light still shines.


What can you say about profit and fame
to a solitary untroubled mountain monk
weeds of delusion don't grow in the mind 
where flowers of wisdom bloom
bamboo shoots and fiddleheads blanket the slopes
dust seldom falls on moss-covered ground
I was over thirty when I first arrived
how many sunsets have turned my windows red


I was a Zen monk who didn't know Zen
so I chose the woods for the years I had left
a patched robe over my body
braided bamboo around my waist
mountain shade and stream light explain the Patriarch's meaning
flower smiles and bird songs reveal the hidden key
sometimes I sit on flat- topped rocks
cloudfree afternoons once a month

~ Stonehouse
translated by Red Pine
art by Huang Kung-wang (1269-1354)

Stonehouse was born in 1272 in the town of Changshu, not far from where the Yantze empties into the East China Sea.  He took his name from a cave at the edge of town.  The cave was on Yushan, which was named for Yu Chung-wei, whose nephew founded the Chou dynasty in North China around 1100 BC.  Yushan is also known for its pine trees, its rock formations, and its springs, in particular a spring that flows out of a cave as big as a house.  Locals call the cave Shihwutung, or "Stonehouse Cave."

from the introduction to "The Zen Works of Stonehouse"
by Red Pine (Bill Porter)

loafing with friends at Ojo Caliente

Mineral pools remember a lot about history.
Here we are at Ojo Caliente, sitting together.
Soaking up the rumble of earth’s forgetfulness.

Why should we worry if Anna Karenina ends badly?
The world is reborn each time a mouse
Puts her foot down on the dusty barn floor.

Sometimes ohs and ahs bring us joy.  When
You place your life inside the vowels, the music
Opens the doors to a hundred closed nights.

People say that even in the highest heaven
If you managed to keep your ears open
You would hear angels weeping night and day.

The culture of the Etruscans has disappeared.
So many things are over. A thousand hopes
F. Scott Fitzgerald had for himself are gone.

No one is as lucky as those who live on the earth.
Even the Pope finds himself longing for darkness.
The sun catches on fire in the lonely heavens.

                                                                For Hanna and Martin

~ Robert Bly
from My Sentence was a Thousand Years of Joy

may as well let things go


A hundred years flash by
does anyone think this through
if what you're doing isn't clear
the edge between life and death is sheer
stitches on a monk's robe are a loving wife's tears
grains of sweet rice are an old farmer's fat
don't think charity has no reward
every seed bears fruit in time


Cares disappeared when I entered the mountains
serene at heart I let the world go
before my door the shade fades in fall
the spring roars in back after a rain
I offer tea and vegetables to a visiting farmer
to a neighbor monk I give chrysanthemums in a pot from town
the jaded life of the gentry
can't match a mountain monk's with scenes like these


This body's lifetime is like a bubble's
may as well let things go
plans and events seldom agree
who can step back doesn't worry
we blossom and fade like flowers
we gather and part like clouds
earthly thoughts I forgot long ago
withering away on a mountain peak


I've never treasured thoughts of success
I welcome old age and enjoy being free
grass shoes a bamboo staff the last month of spring
paper curtains plum blossoms daybreak dreams
eternal life and buddhahood are utter illusions
freedom from worry and care is the practice
last night the howling pine wind spoke
this is something the deaf can't hear

~ Stonehouse
translated by Red Pine
art by Huang Kung-wang a contemporary of 
Stonehouse who lived in the same area

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

out of my deeper heart

Out of my deeper heart a bird rose and flew skyward.
Higher and higher did it rise, yet larger and larger did it grow.
At first it was but like a swallow, then a lark, then an eagle,
 then as vast as a spring cloud, and then it filled the starry heavens.
Out of my heart a bird flew skyward. 
And it waxed larger as it flew. 
 Yet it left not my heart.

~ Kahlil Gibran
from The Forerunner, His Parables and Poems
art by  Shel Waldman

Monday, November 4, 2019

that pure unseparated element

Never, not for a single day, do we have
before us that pure space into which flowers
endlessly open. Always there is World
and never Nowhere without the No:h
that pure
unseparated element which one breathes
without desire and endlessly knows. A child
may wander t
here for hours, through the timeless
stillness, may get lost in it and be
shaken back. Or someone dies and is it.
For, nearing death, one doesn't see death; but stares
beyond, perhaps with an animal's vast gaze.
Lovers, if the beloved were not there
blocking the view, are close to it, and marvel...
As if by some mistake, it opens for them
behind each other... But neither can move past
the other, and it changes back to World.
Forever turned toward objects, we see in them
the mere reflection of the realm of freedom,
which we have dimmed. Or when some animal
mutely, serenely, looks us through and through.
That is what fate means: to be opposite, 
to be opposite and nothing else, forever.
~ Rainer Marie Rilke
from the  Duino Elegies
excerpt from the Eighth Elegy  

walking within the weather of love

~ Coleman Barks
 on Rumi

Friday, November 1, 2019

feel the ocean moving through you

Just remember,
You are the only faithful student you have.
All the others leave eventually.

Have you been making yourself shallow
with making others eminent?

Just remember, when you're in union,
you don't have to fear
that you'll be drained.

The command comes to speak,
and you feel the ocean
moving through you.

Then comes, Be silent,
as when the rain stops,
and the trees in the orchard
begin to draw moisture
up into themselves.

~ Rumi
version by Coleman Barks 
 art by Randall David Tipton

tangles and merges

look at love
how it tangles
with the one fallen in love

look at spirit
how it fuses with earth
giving it new life
why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend

why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known

why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last

look at your heart and tongue
one feels but deaf and dumb
the other speaks in words and signs

look at water and fire
earth and wind
enemies and friends all at once

the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together

look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox

you too must mingle my friends
since the earth and the sky
are mingled just for you and me

be like sugarcane
sweet yet silent
don't get mixed up with bitter words

my beloved grows right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be

~ Rumi
from Rumi: Fountain of Fire
Translated by Nader Khalili
art by Katey Elise

inner hospitality

When you decide to practice inner hospitality, the self-torment ceases. 
The abandoned, neglected, and negative selves come into a seamless unity. 
The soul is wise and subtle it recognizes that unity fosters belonging. 
The soul adores unity. What you separate, the soul joins. 

As your experience extends and deepens, 
your memory becomes richer and more complex. 
Your soul is the priestess of memory, selecting, sifting, 
and ultimately gathering your vanishing days toward presence. 

This liturgy of remembrance, literally re-membering, 
is always at work within you. 
Human solitude is rich and endlessly creative.

~ John O'Donohue
art by georgia o'keeffe