Sunday, August 14, 2011

into deep eternity

Exultation is the going
Of the inland soul to the sea -
Past the houses, past the headlands,
Into deep Eternity.

~ Emily Dickinson

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I would like to describe

I would like to describe the simplest emotion
joy or sadness
but not as others do
reaching for shafts of rain or sun

I would like to describe a light
which is being born in me
but I know it does not resemble
any star
for it is not so bright
not so pure
and it is uncertain

I would like to describe courage
without dragging behind me a dusty lion
and also anxiety
without shaking a glass full of water
to put it another way 
I would give all metaphors
in return for one word
drawn out of my breast like a rib
for one word
contained within the boundaries
of my skin
but apparently this is not possible

and just to say - I love
I run around like mad 
picking up handfuls of birds
and my tenderness
which after all is not made of water
asks the water for a face

and anger
different from fire
borrows from it
a loquacious tongue

so is blurred
so is blurred
in me what white-haired gentlemen 
separated once and for all
and said
this is the subject
and this is the object

we fall asleep with one had under our head
and with the other in a mound of planets

our feet abandon us 
and taste the earth
with their tiny roots
which next morning
we tear out painfully

~ Zbigniew Herbert 
translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Peter Dale Scott

Friday, August 12, 2011

just being


Dharmakaya is not just expressed in words, in sounds.  It can express itself in just being.  Sometimes if we don't do anything, we help more than if we do a lot.  We call that non-action.  It is like the calm person on a small boat in a storm.  That person does not have to do much, just to be himself, and the situation can change.  That is also an aspect of Dharmakaya: not talking, not teaching, just being.

This is true not only of humans, but other species as well.   Look at the trees in our yard.  An oak tree is an oak tree.  That is all it has to do.   If an oak tree is less than an oak tree, then we are all in trouble.  Therefore, the oak tree is preaching the Dharma.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh
from Being Peace

the knower


By following any religion, 
cult or creed, 
one becomes inevitably conditioned, 
because one is obliged to conform and accept its disciplines, 
both physical and mental. 

One may get a little peace for some time, 
but such a peace will not last long. 

In your true nature, 
you are the knower of concepts and therefore 
prior to them.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

two washings

One morning in a strange bathroom
a woman tries again and again to wash the sleep 
from her eyelids' corners,
until she understands.  Ah, she thinks, it begins.
Then goes to put on the soup,
first rerinsing the beans, then lifting the cast-iron pot
back onto the stove with two steadying hands.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from After

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I looked for my self


I looked for my self, but my self was gone.
The boundaries of my being
had disappeared in the sea.
Waves broke. Awareness rose again.
And a voice returned me to myself.
It always happens like this.
Sea turns on itself and foams,
and with every foaming bit
another body, another being takes form.
And when the sea sends word,
each foaming body
melts back to ocean-breath.

~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks
sketch by e.e. cummings

audible to all men, at all times, in all places

Silence is the communing of a conscious soul with itself.
If the soul attends for a moment to its own infinity, then and there is silence.
She is audible to all men, at all times, in all places, 
and if we will we may always hearken to her admonitions.

~ Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
from Thoreau and the Art of Life
art by Roderick Maclver

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

busy days

These were full and busy days...
This busy life is quite different from the shiftless leisure that shantyboaters are supposed to enjoy.  We became industrious and respected members of the community.  I even cut corn in the fall to get our winter's supply.  On Sundays we prepared for visitors.  I kept myself presentable, and did not become involved in any work which could not be dropped instantly.

This placed us in a new position with regard to the river.  Watching it from the shore, almost as a landsman, we might have felt a longing to drift with it again and, ever passing new shores,  make only brief stops along the way.  Yet we did not regret our present shore-bound life, rather we made the most of it; for the autumn and our departure would come soon enough.

~ Harlan Hubbard
from Shantyboat Journal
edited by Don Wallis
art by van gogh

the seer, though unseen

...the Imperishable.  It is neither big nor small, neither long nor short,
 neither hot nor cold, neither bright nor dark, neither air nor space. 
 It is without attachment, without taste, smell, or touch, without eyes, ears, 
tongue, mouth, breath, or mind, without movement, without limitation,
without inside or outside.  It consumes nothing, and nothing consumes it.

In perfect accord with the will of the Imperishable, sun and moon make their orbits;
 heaven and earth remain in place; moments, hours, days, nights, fortnights, 
months, and seasons become years; river starting from the snow-clad mountains 
flow east and west, north and south, to the sea.

Without knowing the Imperishable, whoever performs rites and ceremonies
 and undergoes austerities, even for many years, reaps little benefit,
 because rites, ceremonies, and austerities are all perishable.  Whosoever dies 
without knowing the Imperishable dies in a pitiable state; but those who know 
the Imperishable attain immortality when the body is shed at death.

The Imperishable is the seer, though unseen; the hearer, though unheard;
 the thinker, though unthought; the knower, though unknown. Nothing 
other than the Imperishable can see, hear, think, or know.  It is in
 the Imperishable that space is woven, warp and woof.

~  from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
translated by Eknath Easwaran

Monday, August 8, 2011

Some Further Words

Let me be plain with you, dear reader.
I am an old-fashioned man. I like
the world of nature despite its mortal
dangers. I like the domestic world
of humans, so long as it pays its debts
to the natural world, and keeps its bounds.
I like the promise of Heaven. My purpose
is a language that can repay just thanks
and honor for those gifts, a tongue
set free from fashionable lies.

Neither this world nor any of its places
is an "environment." And a house
for sale is not a "home." Economics
is not "science," nor "information" knowledge.
A knave with a degree is a knave. A fool
in a public office is not a "leader."
A rich thief is a thief. And the ghost
of Arthur Moore, who taught me Chaucer,
returns in the night to say again:
"Let me tell you something, boy.
An intellectual whore is a whore."

The world is babbled to pieces after
the divorce of things from their names.
Ceaseless preparation for war
is not peace. Health is not procured
by sale of medication, or purity
by the addition of poison. Science
at the bidding of the corporations
is knowledge reduced to merchandise;
it is a whoredom of the mind,
and so is the art that calls this "progress."
So is the cowardice that calls it "inevitable."

I think the issues of "identity" mostly
are poppycock. We are what we have done,
which includes our promises, includes
our hopes, but promises first. I know
a "fetus" is a human child.
I loved my children from the time
they were conceived, having loved
their mother, who loved them
from the time they were conceived
and before. Who are we to say
the world did not begin in love?

I would like to die in love as I was born,
and as myself of life impoverished go
into the love all flesh begins
and ends in. I don't like machines,
which are neither mortal nor immortal,
though I am constrained to use them.
(Thus the age perfects its clench.)
Some day they will be gone, and that
will be a glad and a holy day.
I mean the dire machines that run
by burning the world's body and
its breath. When I see an airplane
fuming through the once-pure sky
or a vehicle of the outer space
with its little inner space
imitating a star at night, I say,
"Get out of there!" as I would speak
to a fox or a thief in the henhouse.
When I hear the stock market has fallen,
I say, "Long live gravity! Long live
stupidity, error, and greed in the palaces
of fantasy capitalism!" I think
an economy should be based on thrift,
on taking care of things, not on theft,
usury, seduction, waste, and ruin.

My purpose is a language that can make us whole,
though mortal, ignorant, and small.
The world is whole beyond human knowing.
The body's life is its own, untouched
by the little clockwork of explanation.
I approve of death, when it comes in time
to the old. I don't want to five
on mortal terms forever, or survive
an hour as a cooling stew of pieces
of other people. I don't believe that life
or knowledge can be given by machines.
The machine economy has set afire
the household of the human soul,
and all the creatures are burning within it

"Intellectual property" names
the deed by which the mind is bought
and sold, the world enslaved. We
who do not own ourselves, being free,
own by theft what belongs to God,
to the living world, and equally
to us all. Or how can we own a part
of what we only can possess
entirely? Life is a gift we have
only by giving it back again.
Let us agree: "the laborer is worthy
of his hire," but he cannot own what he knows,
which must be freely told, or labor
dies with the laborer. The farmer
is worthy of the harvest made
in time, but he must leave the light
by which he planted, grew, and reaped,
the seed immortal in mortality,
freely to the time to come. The land
too he keeps by giving it up,
as the thinker receives and gives a thought,
as the singer sings in the common air.

I don't believe that "scientific genius"
in its naive assertions of power
is equal either to nature or
to human culture. Its thoughtless invasions
of the nuclei of atoms and cells
and this world's every habitation
have not brought us to the light
but sent us wandering farther through
the dark. Nor do I believe
.artistic genius" is the possession
of any artist. No one has made
the art by which one makes the works
of art. Each one who speaks speaks
as a convocation. We live as councils
of ghosts. It is not "human genius"
that makes us human, but an old love,
an old intelligence of the heart
we gather to us from the world,
from the creatures, from the angels
of inspiration, from the dead--
an intelligence merely nonexistent
to those who do not have it, but --
to those who have it more dear than life.

And just as tenderly to be known
are the affections that make a woman and a man
their household and their homeland one.
These too, though known, cannot be told
to those who do not know them, and fewer
of us learn them, year by year.
These affections are leaving the world
like the colors of extinct birds,
like the songs of a dead language.

Think of the genius of the animals,
every one truly what it is:
gnat, fox, minnow, swallow, each made
of light and luminous within itself.
They know (better than we do) how
to live in the places where they live.
And so I would like to be a true
human being, dear reader-a choice
not altogether possible now.
But this is what I'm for, the side
I'm on. And this is what you should
expect of me, as I expect it of
myself, though for realization we
may wait a thousand or a million years.

~ Wendell Berry
from the American Poetry Review (May/June 2002)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

putting aside the things of the mind


Truth is not for those who are respectable, nor for those who desire self-extension, self-fulfillment. Truth is not for those who are seeking security, permanency; for the permanency they seek is merely the opposite of impermanency. Being caught in the net of time, they seek that which is permanent, but the permanent they seek is not the real because what they seek is the product of their thought. Therefore, a man who would discover reality must cease to seek -which does not mean that he must be contented with what is. On the contrary, a man who is intent upon the discovery of truth must be inwardly a complete revolutionary. He cannot belong to any class, to any nation, to any group or ideology, to any organized religion; for truth is not in the temple or the church, truth is not to be found in the things made by the hand or by the mind. Truth comes into being only when the things of the mind and of the hand are put aside, and that putting aside of the things of the mind and of the hand is not a matter of time. Truth comes to him who is free of time, who is not using time as a means of self-extension. Time means memory of yesterday, memory of your family, of your race, of your particular character, of the accumulation of your experience which makes up the 'me' and the 'mine'.

~ J. Krishnamurti
from The Book of Life
art by Dali

seek the unforeseen

Whoever cannot seek
the unforeseen sees nothing,
for the known way
is an impasse.

~ Heraclitus

Friday, August 5, 2011

Naomi Shihab Nye



Thursday, August 4, 2011

exclude nothing


We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any way can; 
everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible in it. 
That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us:
to have courage for the most strange, 
the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. 

That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm; 
the experiences that are called "visions," the whole so-called "spirit-world," 
death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, 
have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life 
that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied. 

 But fear of the inexplicable has not alone impoverished the existence of the individual; 
the relationship between one human being and another has also been cramped by it, 
as though it had been lifted out of the riverbed of endless possibilities 
and set down in a fallow spot on the bank, to which nothing happens. 

For it is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves 
from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed: 
it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable experience 
with which one does not think oneself able to cope. 

But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, 
not even the most enigmatical, will live the relation to another as something alive 
and will himself draw exhaustively from his own existence. 
For if we think of this existence of the individual as a larger or smaller room,
 it appears evident that most people learn to know only a corner of their room, 
a place by the window, a strip of floor on which they walk up and down. 
Thus they have a certain security. 

And yet that dangerous insecurity is so much more human 
which drives the prisoners in Poe's stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons 
and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their abode. 
We, however, are not prisoners. 
No traps or snares are set about us, 
and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us. 

We are set down in life as in the element to which we best correspond, 
and over and above this we have through thousands of years of accommodation 
become so like this life, that when we hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, 
scarcely to be distinguished from all that surrounds us. 

We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. 
Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abuses belong to us; 
are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. 

And if only we arrange our life according to that principle 
which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, 
then that which now still seems to us the most alien 
will become what we most trust and find most faithful. 

How should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons 
that at the last moment turn into princesses; 
perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting 
to see us once beautiful and brave. 
Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being 
something helpless that wants help from us. 

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

the hawk in his nest


It's all right if this suffering goes on for years. 
It's all right if the hawk never finds his own nest.
It's all right if we never receive the love we want. 

It's all right if we listen to the sitar for hours.
It doesn't matter how softly the musician plays.
Sooner or later the melody will say it all. 

It doesn't matter if we regret our crimes or not.
The mice will carry all our defeats into Asia,
And the Tuva throat-singers will tell the whole story. 

It's all right if we can't remain cheerful all day.
The task we have accepted is to go down
To renew our friendship with the ruined things. 

It's all right if people think we are idiots.
It's all right if we lie face down on the earth.
It's all right if we open the coffin and climb in. 

It's not our fault that things have gone wrong.
Let's agree it was Saturn and the other old men
Who have arranged these series of defeats for us.

~ Robert Bly
from Talking into the Ear of a Donkey