June 21, 2010

Where last week’s verse pushed some buttons, this week’s soars into the heart. It also blends beautifully with Ramprasad/Lex Hixon’s See all in her and her as all.  Try reading them out loud, interspersing verses back and forth. And see if you don’t begin feeling that upsurge of bliss described in the Shiva Sutras as udyamo bhairavaha...

The Master keeps her mind
always at one with the Tao;
that is what gives her radiance.

The Tao is ungraspable.
How can her mind be at one with it?
Because she doesn’t cling to ideas.

The Tao is dark and unfathomable.
How can it make her radiant?
because she lets it.

Since before time and space were,
the Tao is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.

Here is  Ramprasad’s  [version from Lex Hixon]
See all in her and her as all:

The Mother of the Universe
captivates every world with her beauty.
Her long hair streams as waves of cosmic energy.
This drunken poet has fallen forever in love
with her glorious black luminosity.
Mystic union with her transcendent blackness
is experienced by intense lovers.
This blackness even exhilarates Shiva,
supreme Knower of Reality,
and inspires as well every heavenly being,
ever ardent saint, every awakened sage.

Lord Shiva, essence of divinity,
meditates on her black form ceaselessly
as she dances in his heart.
Her beautiful blackness flows
as the graceful play of Krishna,
who removed all notions of mundane existence
from ecstatic milkmaids,
souls filled with sweet devotion.
Then Lord Krishna, garlanded with wildflowers,
transforms once more into original Kali,
wielding her sword of wisdom
that cuts away the veil of multiplicity.

The Black Goddess and her companions
are eternally sixteen timelessly dancing.
How my mysterious Mother shines,
full moon of Goddess Wisdom that never wanes,
surrounded by these piercing stars,
her revolutionary spiritual children!

Utterly lost in delight, her poet lover sings:
“This is the dawning of enlightenment,
the awakening to nonduality.
Her form and every form are now blending
into one radiant blackness.
O mind, despise no being, reject no path.
See all in her and her as all.”

And lest you still hunger for teachings that celebrate the unitive vision, here is Swami Muktananda, quoted from his wonderful book, Where Are You Going?

The Source of All Our Joy

Nothing in the world is greater than the Self. All out joy, all our inspiration, and all our strengths come from the Self. In fact, the Self contains everything in the universe. You will experience this when you turn within and see it in meditation….

The Self is our dearest friend. It exists inside us in its fullness, right within the heart. Thought the Self is always with us, it is so subtle that most people cannot see or hear it. The Self is the formless substratum of everything, the foundation of our lives. We cannot see it through the eyes, nor can we attain it through speech. The tongue can speak about it, but the true description of its nature is silence.

The Self cannot be attained through the mind or through the senses. Yet when the …[mind is]… purified through meditation, it reveals itself on its own… Just by meditating peacefully, we can make the Self manifest before us….

In India there lived a great Sufi named Hazrat Basjid Bastami. When he was young, Bastami set out on a pilgrimage to Mecca. On his way he came upon a dervish. “Where are you going?” the dervish asked.
“To Mecca,” Bastami replied.
“To see God.”
“How much money do you have?”
“Four hundred gold dinars.”
“Give them to me,” said the dervish. He took the money and put it in his pocket. Then he said, “What will you do in Mecca? You will simply walk around the sacred rock seven times Instead of doing that, walk around me seven times. Bastami did as he was told. “Now you can leave,” the dervish said. “You have achieved your purpose. But first let me tell you something. Since the day Mecca was built, God has never dwelled there. But since the heart was created, God has never left it. Go home and meditate.”

Whoever has attained God has attained Him within the human heart. The heart is the greatest temple of God.

June 14, 2010

This verse elicited a full spectrum of responses: sheer annoyance at the language, confusion in trying to unpack the meaning, uplift in the presence of the sublime …  On one level, it’s strangely cryptic; on another,  all too obvious. It seems to have a different character from previous verses. I wondered if Mitchell struggled with his translation. Even the commentary he offers seems to throw up its hands in the presence of this verse.  Which suggests we might be right inside the Mystery here —  or perhaps not.  Living with these verses over the last 21 weeks, I find the teachings — I almost want to call them suggestions — finding their place inside me in a very gentle way. Very satisfying. Not too demanding. And yet filled with such bounty and grace. Enjoy.  [Or not…]
Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!
Other people are excited,
as though they were at a parade.
I alone don’t care.
I alone am expressionless,
like an infant before it can smile.
Other people have what they need;
I alone possess nothing.
I alone drift about,
like someone without a home.
I am an idiot, my mind is so empty.
Other people are bright;
I alone am dark.
Other people are sharp;
I alone am dull.
Other people have a purpose;
I alone don’t know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless at the wind.
I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother’s breasts.

June 7, 2010

This week’s reading from the Tao Te Ching is less cryptic than last week’s


Throw away holiness and wisdom,
and people will be a hundred times happier.
Throw away morality and justice, and people will do the right thing.
Throw away industry and profit,
and there won’t be any thieves.
If these three aren’t enough,
just stay at the center of the circle.
and let all things take their course.

Of course, when disaster strikes — like, for instance, what’s happening (and tragically, what’s not happening quickly enough) in the Gulf of Mexico — one questions the notion of letting all things take their course. Needless to say, this verse refers more to our inner stance than our outer action. It’s less about letting all things take their course, more about not becoming all wound up when things take a course we disapprove of. Doesn’t mean we should be passive spectators.  Far from it. In the language of Devi Yoga, it’s about allowing our action to arise from pure stillness. That’s the action that does no harm. That’s the action that’s empowered by truth. That’s the staying at the center of the circle.

This wonderful poem by the Zen master Ryokan offers a rather tongue-in-cheek version of this teaching. The English translation is by John Stevens:

The I Ching States Happiness Lies in the Proper Blend of:

Far and away, our favorite teaching of the evening came in this story:

There was a woman who woke up one morning,
looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head.
Well,” she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today?”
So she did and she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror
and saw that she had only two hairs on her head.
“H-M-M,” she said, “I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today?”
So she did and she had a grand day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head. “Well,” she said, “today I’m going to wear my hair in a pony tail.” So she did and she had a fun, fun day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn’t a single hair on her head. “YEA!” she exclaimed,
“I don’t have to fix my hair today!”

* * * * *

Let’s here it for living in that non-dual state that is absolutely extraordinarily awesomely powerfully masterfully the way that is the Way.

May 24, 2010

This week’s  reading from the Tao Te Ching strikes me as a kind of zen riddle  in the way it shakes up notions we tend to associate with “positive” ways of being.  See what it does to your mind:
When the great Tao is forgotten,
goodness and piety appear.
When the body’s intelligence declines,
cleverness and knowledge step forth.
When there is no peace in the family,
filial piety begins.
When the country falls into chaos,
patriotism is born.
This reading inspired a conversation/contemplation about what happens when we lose touch with the pure ground of Self, and in that process get caught in the up/down, in/out, good/bad, right/wrong dance of dualistic thinking. This story, paraphrased from Baba Muktananda’s Where Are You Going? offers a lovely teaching on this theme:

In the state of Rajastan, in ancient India, lived a cobbler named Ravidas. Many people used to go to him and in his company, experienced great peace. One day the prime minister went, and returning to the palace, told the king, “There is a great saint living in the city. He will be able to give you some peace.”

The king was very unhappy. He had a great deal of wealth, power, and all the other things that make a person agitated. He had nothing that gave him peace. But when the prime minister suggested he go to Ravidas, he said, “He is a cobbler. How can a king ask for instructions from a cobbler?” But the prime minister persisted and the king finally agreed to go. Disguising himself he walked into Ravidas’s shop and said, “I am very unhappy and I lack peace. Please give me something that will bring peace to my heart.”

Ravidas  kept a stone pot full of water into which he dipped pieces of leather before he worked on them. He poured some of this water into a glass  and gave it to the king, saying,. “Drink this.”

The king was revolted by this water  which was dark red and smelled like leather. Pretending to drink, he poured it down his shirt, bowed to the saint, and left. Returning to the palace, he saw his shirt was badly stained so called the royal washerman to clean it. Surprised to see the royal shirt in such condition, the washerman made some inquiries and learned what had happened. Giving the shirt to his daughter, he explained what the king had done, and told her to wash it very well. The daughter, who  was very intelligent and  pure, knew Ravidas’s power. So she took the shirt and sucked out all the stains. Then she washed it and gave it back to her father to return to the king.

From that day on, the girl had very deep meditations. After a few years, she had attained such a state that people began to feel the same joy in her presence they felt in the company of Ravidas. Many went to receive her blessings, among the,  the prime minister. After he had seen her, he went to the king and said, “O Your Majesty, you are still so unhappy and agitated. Why don’t you go to that ecstatic girl and see if she can give you some peace?” The king was reluctant – after all, she was the daughter of a washerman – but in desperation, went to her room. Standing before her he said, “I am very unhappy. Please give me your blessing so that I can attain peace.”

The girl looked at him with great wonderment. “O Your Majesty,” she said. “Everything I have, I received from what you threw away. Everything I have, I obtained by sucking Ravidas’s water out of the shirt you gave my father to wash!”

Contemplating duality, I was moved to give Mary Oliver the final word.  I took a book of her poems down from the shelf and let it open randomly.  Having been out in the garden that morning cutting vase-fulls of peonies, that this was the poem that came… it was one of those perfect wonder moments. A lovely  reminder of the oneness beneath duality, always there, holding us in its luminous, if not always visible, embrace…

-Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,

as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open –
pools of lace,
white and pink—
and all day the black ants climb over them.

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities—
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise, their stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again –
beauty the brave, the exemplary.

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?