Sunday, January 31, 2021

to choose one's attitude


We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing:

 the last of the human freedoms -

 to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances...

~ Victor Frankl


Toss aside your map of the world,
All your beliefs and constructs.
Dare the wild unknown.

Here in this terrifying freedom,
Naked before the universe,
Commune with the One

Who knows everything from the inside:
Invisible power pervading everywhere.
Divine Presence permeating everything.

Breathe tenderly as
The lover of all beings.

~ Vijnana Bhairava Tantra 

the movement of relationship

Daily living is the only field of action available to us. Daily living is the field of relationships, where self-discovery is possible. Self-discovery cannot take place in withdrawal. Even if you wish to look at yourself and get acquainted with the factuality of your inner life, you require the mirror of relationships. The relationships, the movement of relationships, in daily living are the mirror in which the factuality of your psychological structure gets reflected. And in that mirror, you can look at yourself.

It is only in the movement of relationships, of what you call daily living, that you can discover whether there is inner freedom OR you are bound by a number of chains: sensually, verbally, psychologically. Freedom of slavery is possible in the movement of relationships. Away from them, the word freedom has no meaning. The word peace is meaningless if you live in isolation […]

So whether you call it peace, whether you call it freedom, enlightenment – it can occur, it can happen only in the field of relationships which give you the opportunity for direct action. And understanding is the perfume of action. Freedom and peace are the perfume of the movement of relationship.

This is necessary to be clarified because spirituality, religion, spiritual inquiry are unfortunately associated with withdrawal from living. And it seems to me this withdrawal from living, this turning away from the travail of responsibilities, living with people, handling the man-made structures, etc., withdrawing from all that is a denial of inquiry. In withdrawal, in isolation, it’s like a barren field where you cannot grow.

Creativity requires the soil of relationship. The flowering of freedom requires the action and interaction between nature and yourself between non-human species and yourself, between human species and yourself. So one would like to emphasize the necessity of living with people, in society, so that the discovery can take place. Living somewhere in the monastery, in a temple, in an ashram, in the caves of the Himalayas or wherever, thought can project an idea of peace, it can project an idea of transformation, but it’s lifeless.

The friend who is sitting with you has spent months in the cave in the Himalayas, in a student life. Because there was the conditioning around her that you have to go to the Himalayas if you want inner peace, enlightenment [….] And living for months where you wouldn’t see a human being at all. And of course there was what we would call peace, but it was dead. And there was relaxation which had no dynamism. Relaxation to the extent of being sensually numbed….

Vimala Thakar


Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book 
known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title.
~ Virginia Woolfe
Painting: The Prisoner, 1878 - Nikolai Alexandrovich Yaroshenko

spanish guitar

Vlatko Stefanovski & Miroslav Tadic - Jovano Jovanke
Live in Zagreb 2007

Thursday, January 28, 2021

ourselves and earth

I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete,
The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who remains jagged and broken.

I swear there is no greatness or power that does not emulate those of the earth,
There can be no theory of any account unless it corroborate the theory of the earth.,
No politics, song, religion, behavior, or what not, is of any account, 
unless it compare with the amplitude of the earth,
Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiality, rectitude of the earth.

~ Walt Whitman

spiritual rest, inward stillness

The opening of the spiritual eyes is a glowing darkness and rich nothingness... 
It may be called: Purity of soul and spiritual rest, inward stillness 
and peace of conscience, refinement of thought and integrity of soul,
 a lively consciousness of grace and solitude of heart, 
the wakeful sleep of the spouse and the tasting of heavenly joys, 
the ardor of love and brightness of light, 
the entry into contemplation and reformation of feeling...

A real pilgrim going to Jerusalem leaves his house  and land, 
wife and children; he divests himself of all that he possesses 
in order to travel light and without encumbrances. 
 Similarly, if you which to be a spiritual pilgrim, you must divest yourself
 of all that you possess; that is, both of good deeds and bad, 
and leave them all behind you.  Recognize your own poverty,
 so that you will not place any confidence in your own work; 
 instead, always be desiring the grace of deeper love, 
and seeking the spiritual presence. 
 It you do this, you will be setting your heart wholly
 on reaching Jerusalem, and on nothing else.

~ Walter Hilton (1340-1396)
Hilton wrote the masterpiece The Ladder (or Scale) of Perfection,
 first published in 1494, written in English but also known under its Latin title, Scala Perfectionis.

dark pines and strange rocks remain unknown to those who look for mind with mind

The ancients entered mountains in search of the Way
their daily practice revolved around their bodies
they tied heavy stones to their waists to hull rice
they carried their hoes in the rain to plant pines
it goes without saying they moved dirt and rocks
and never stopped hauling firewood and water
the slackers who wear a robe to get food
don't hang around an old Zen monk
Everything's growth depends on old roots
why argue about who's tall or short
the road to success is a tunnel of fire
the door to buddhahood is a wall of ice
my hut sits alone among brambles and weeds
the cloudy Isle of Penglai is a crane's universe
my hair has turned white in the cliffs and gorges
how often have I leaned on a fence rail till dark
I moved to the cliffs in order to practice
I didn't need others to judge my faults
when natures are simple old habits end
when thoughts are pure awareness arises
planting pines and weeding have strengthened my body
reading sutras and sewing have sharpened my sight
the world's anomalies are funny indeed
the refugees of Ch'in are called hermits too
I searched creation without success 
by chance I found this forested peak
my thatched hut pokes through clouds and sky
the moss-slick trail cuts through bamboo
favor and shame arouse the ambitious
I grow old on the stillness of Zen
dark pines and strange rocks remain unknown
to those who look for mind with mind
~ Stonehouse
translated by Red Pine
art by Wang Chien

43.  In his Peach Blossom Spring, T'ao Yuan-ming tells the story of a group of people fleeing the oppressive rule of the Ch'in dynasty, which unified China in 221 BC.  In the course of their flight, these refugees discovered a hidden valley.  When a fisherman stumbled onto their sanctuary several hundred years later, he found a peaceful farming community.  Eventually the fisherman returned to his own village and told others about his discovery.  But the refugees obliterated the traces he left to mark his route, and their valley was never found again.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021


...perception is the first stage of the conceptualisation process, 
and the two elements -perception and conception -
 form one whole, and that one whole is the mechanism
 whereby we create samsara.
What we are required to do is the contrary, 
to lay everything down, to be nothing, to know that we are nothing,
 and thereby leave behind the whole process of conceptualisation. 
 So-doing we cease to be that which we never were, 
are not, and never could be.
That, no doubt, is nirvana, ... 
at that moment we are sitting in a state of perfect availability. 
 We re-become integrally that which we always were, 
are, and forever must be.
...because THIS can never be thought or spoken, for this,
 being purely non-objective, is in a different "direction of measurement" 
from any conceptual dimension, being the source of all 
dimensionality and phenomenality.
~ Wei Wu Wei
(All Else is Bondage)


Every time you try to name THIS-HERE-NOW
 you are an eye trying to see itself.  
You cannot objectify THIS WHICH-YOU-ARE, 
and that which you can objectify is THAT-WHICH-YOU-ARE-NOT.
THIS which is seeking is THAT which is sought, and
THAT which is sought is THIS which is seeking.
When Bodhidharma told Hui K'o to bring him his mind
 so that he might tranquillise it, 
and Hui K'o failed to find it, 
Bodhidharma said "There you see - I have tranquillised it for you,"
 what then enlightened Hui K'o?  
He saw that the sought was the Seeker, 
and that the seeker was the Sought.
~ Wei Wu Wei
(All Else is Bondage)

on another's sorrow

Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow's share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow filled?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan, an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

And can He who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird's grief and care,
Hear the woes that infants bear --

And not sit beside the next,
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant's tear?

And not sit both night and day,
Wiping all our tears away?
Oh no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give his joy to all:
He becomes an infant small,
He becomes a man of woe,
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by:
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not year.

Oh He gives to us his joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled an gone
He doth sit by us and moan.

 ~William Blake
from Songs of Innocence
art by guy denning

Monday, January 25, 2021

this place is a dream


This place is a dream.
Only a sleeper considers it real.
Then death comes like dawn,
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought was your grief.
But there’s a difference with this dream.
Everything cruel and unconscious
done in the illusion of the present world,
all that does not fade away at the death-waking.
It stays,
and it must be interpreted.
And this groggy time we live,
this is what it’s like:
A man goes to sleep in the town where he has always lived
and he dreams he’s living in another town.
In the dream, he doesn't remember
the town he’s sleeping in his bed in. He believes
the reality of the dream town.
The world is that kind of sleep.
The dust of many crumbled cities
settles over us like a forgetful doze,
but we are older than those cities.
We began as a mineral.
We emerged into plant life
and into the animal state, and then into being human,
and always we have forgotten our former states,
except in early spring when we slightly recall
being green again.
That’s how a young person turns
toward a teacher. That’s how a baby leans
toward the breast, without knowing the secret
of its desire, yet turning instinctively.
Humankind is being led along an evolving course,
through this migration of intelligence's,
and though we seem to be sleeping,
there is an inner wakefulness
that directs the dream,
and that will eventually startle us back
to the truth of who we are.

~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks

always been


Birth, old age,
Sickness, and death:
From the beginning,
This is the way
Things have always been.
Any thought
Of release from this life
Will wrap you only more tightly
In its snares.
The sleeping person
Looks for a Buddha,
The troubled person
Turns toward meditation.
But the one who knows 
That there's nothing to seek
Knows too that there's nothing to say.
She keeps her mouth closed.

~ Ly Ngoc Kieu
translated by Thich Nhat Hanh and Jane Hirshfield

The earliest known woman writer of Vietnam, 
she was a Zen Buddhist nun in the eleventh century.  
Born a princess, she became a nun after being widowed.


sleeping in the forest

I thought the earth
remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness.  All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom.  By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
~ Mary Oliver


trees in winter

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

~ William Carlos Williams
photo by Callahan

Sunday, January 24, 2021

they will not observe their own minds


It's tragic. People have been deluded for so long.
They do not recognize that their own minds are the true Buddhas.
They do not recognize that their own natures are the true Buddhas.
They want to search for the Buddha, yet they will not observe their own minds.
All the Buddhas of the past were merely persons who understood their minds.
All the sages and saints of the present are likewise merely persons
who have cultivated their own minds.
the ordinary man is deluded, he assumes the ...elements are his body
and ...thoughts are his mind. He does not know his own nature... he
does not know that his own numinous awareness is the true Buddha.
He looks for the Buddha outside his mind.
While wandering aimlessly, the entrance to the road might by chance
be pointed out by a wise advisor.  If ... he then follows the light and
sees his own original nature,... innately free of obstruction. 
...sudden awakening. 
Although he has awakened ... the beginning-less habit-energies 
are extremely difficult to remove suddenly and so he must continue
to cultivate...Through this gradual permeation, his endeavors 
reach completion. This process can be compared to the maturation
of a child.
~ Robert E. Buswell, Jr.
from Tracing Back the Radiance
Chinul's Korean Way of Zen

the baseless fabric of this vision

Be cheerful, sir:
Our revels now are ended.  These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

~ William Shakespeare

inside the river

Inside the river is there a river? -
it could follow slow water the way
the real current follows a stiller
shore. And in your life the life that
hurries could pass, and pass its
open neighbor the earth, and its shore
the sky. To be here, and always to find
places in the current, the dreams
the river has - surely we bubbles
ought to tell about it?

Listen: One of the rooms the river has
after its bridge and its bend in the mountains
is a place waiting for the sun every
afternoon, when the sun dwells
at a slant under a log and finds
that little yellow room and a waterbug
trying to learn circles but never making
one its shadow approves. Miles later
the river tries to recall that dream,
turning with all of its twisting self
that found gravel and found it good.

Just before the ocean that river
turns on its back and side and slowly
invites the world and the air and the sky,
trying to give away everything, everything.

  ~ William Stafford

Saturday, January 23, 2021

When your consciousness has become ripe


When your consciousness has become ripe in true zazen —
 pure like clear water,
like a serene mountain lake,
not moved by any wind — 
then anything may serve as a medium for realisation.

~ Yamada Kôun Rôshi

Friday, January 22, 2021

learned from a rainstorm


There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. 
When meeting with a sudden shower, 
you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. 
But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, 
you still get wet. 
When you are resolved from the beginning, 
you will not be perplexed, 
though you will still get the same soaking. 
This understanding extends to everything.

~ Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

all is being changed

By expenditure of hope,
Intelligence, and work,
You think you have it fixed.
It is unfixed by rule.
Within the darkness, all
Is being changed, and you
Also will be changed.

Now I recall to mind
A costly year: Jane Kenyon,
Bill Lippert, Philip Sherrard,
All in the same spring dead,
So much companionship
Gone as the river goes.

And my good workhorse Nick
Dead, who called out to me
In his conclusive pain
To ask my help. I had
No help to give. And flood
Covered the cropland twice.
By summer's end there are
No more perfect leaves.

But won't you be ashamed
To count the passing year
At its mere cost, your debt
Inevitably paid?
For every year is costly,
As you know well. Nothing
Is given that is not
Taken, and nothing taken
That was not first a gift.

The gift is balanced by
Its total loss, and yet,
And yet the light breaks in,
Heaven seizing its moments
That are at once its own
And yours. The day ends
And is unending where
The summer tanager,
Warbler, and vireo
Sing as they move among
Illuminated leaves.

~ Wendell Berry
from Given, Sabbaths 1998, VI

The Way

Friend, I have lost the way.
The way leads on.
Is there another way?
The way is one.
I must retrace the track.
It's lost and gone.
Back, I must travel back!
None goes there, none.
Then I'll make here my place,
(The road leads on),
Stand still and set my face,
(The road leaps on),
Stay here, for ever stay.
None stays here, none.
I cannot find the way.
The way leads on.
Oh places I have passed!
That journey's done.
And what will come at last?
The road leads on.
~ Edwin Muir
(Collected Poems)

a floating cloud

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

it's compassion

In contemplative practice, you refuse to identify with any one side, 
while still maintaining your intelligence.  
You hold the creative tension of every seeming conflict and 
go beyond words to pure, open-ended experience, 
which has the potential to unify many seeming contradictions.
 Notice how wordy political and academic discourse is, 
and how quiet monks and hermits are.

It really is a different way of knowing,
 and you can tell it by its gratuity,
 its open-endedness, its compassion...

Fr. Richard Rohr
photo: Dr. and Mrs. King singing in the rain on a march 1965
by Moneta Sleet Jr.