August 2, 2010

I’m still running  behind so will keep commentary to a minimum. Suffice to say that from my perspective, these readings fit beautifully together.


The heavy is the root of the light.
The unmoved is the source of all movement.

Thus the master travels all day
without leaving home.
However splendid the views,
she stays serenely in herself.

Why should the lord of the country
flit about like a fool?
If you let yourself be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your root.
If you let restlessness move you,
you lose touch with who you are.

This verse reminded me of  the story of  Satyakama and Gautama told in the Upanishads.  The version I read at class comes from the Vedanta Press edition by Sw. Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester.  I think Satyakama perfectly embodies the understanding contained in the above verse. See what you think:

One day the boy Satyakama came to his mother and said: “Mother, I want to be a religious student. What is my family name?”

“My son,” replied his mother, “I do not know. In my youth I was a servant and worked in many places. I do not know who was your father. I am Jabala, and you are Satyakama. Call yourself Satyakama Jabala.”

Thereupon the boy went to Gautama and asked to be accepted as a student. “Of what family are you, my lad?” inquired the sage.

Satyakama relied: “I asked my mother what my family name was and she answered: ‘I do not know. In my youth I was a servant and worked in many places. I do not know who was your father. I am Jabala, and you are Satyakama. Call yourself Satyakama Jabala!’ I am therefore Satyakama Jabala, sir.”

Then said the sage: “None but a true Brahmin would have spoken thus. Go and fetch fuel, for I will teach you. You have not swerved from the truth.”

After initiating Satkakama, the sage gave him four hundred lean and sickly cattle, saying, “Take good care of these my lad.” The boy promptly drove them toward the forest, vowing to himself that he would not return until they numbered a thousand. He dwelt in the forest for many years, and when the cattle had increased to a thousand, the bull of the herd approached him and said, “Satyakama, we have become a herd of one thousand. Do you now lead us to the house of your master, and I will teach you one foot of Brahman.”

“Speak out, please,” said Satyakama.

Then said the bull: “The east is a part of the Lord and so is the west; the south is a part of the Lord and so is the north. The four cardinal points form a foot of Brahman. Fire will teach you another.”

On the following day, Satyakama began his journey. Toward evening he lit a fire and heard a voice saying, “Satyakama, I will teach you one foot of Brahman. This earth is a portion of Brahman. The sky and the heavens are portions of him. The ocean is a portion of him. All these form a foot of Brahman. A swan will teach you another.”

Satyakama continued his journey. One the following evening a swan came to him and said: “I have come to teach you one foot of Brahman. This lighted fire before you is part of Brahman, and likewise the moon; the lightning too is a part. All these form a foot of Brahman. A loon will teach you another.”

The next evening a loon came and said: “I will teach you one foot of Brahman. Breath is a part of Brahman, sight is a part, hearing is a part, mind is a part. All these form a foot of Brahman.”

At last the youth arrived at the home of his master and reverently presented himself before him. As soon as Gautama saw him, he exclaimed: “My son, your face shines like a knower of Brahman. By whom were you taught?”

“By beings other than men,” replied Satyakama, “but I desire that you too should teach me. For I have heard from the wise that the knowledge that the Guru imparts will alone lead to the supreme good.”

Then the sage taught him that knowledge and left nothing out.”

And we leave the final word to Sheik Nasrudin, as told by Christina Feldman and Jack Kornfield in Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart.

Mulla Nasrudin used to stand in the street on market-days, to be pointed out as an idiot.

No matter how often people offered him a large and a small coin, he always chose the smaller piece.

One day a kindly man said to him: “Mulla, you should take the bigger coin. Then you will have more money and people will no longer be able to make a laughing-stock of you.”

“That might be true,” said Nasrudin, “but if I always take the larger, people will stop offering me money to prove that I am more idiotic than they are. Then I would have no money at all.”

2 thoughts on “August 2, 2010

  1. This evokes Two Poems that I once learned:

    Hold on to what is good
    even if it a handful of earth. Hold on to what you believe
    even if it a tree which stands by itself.
    Hold on to what you must do
    even if it is a long way from here.
    Hold onto to life
    Even when it is easier letting go.
    Hold on to my hand even when
    I have gone away from you.

    Woman of
    the mountains
    Lying face up to the sky
    What do you know of old stars born
    When you were young
    With raindrops forming tears For all the stars which died.
    What has the moon told you of loneliness
    With its sad face fixed on yours
    waiting forever to be touched
    by the mothering sun.

    What song does the wind play for you
    As it lingers on your breast
    And hollows out the softness of your thighs.
    Who has kept you company through the ages
    As the earth turned green beneath you
    And the river flowed from your eyes.
    Woman of the mountains Lying face up to the sun
    When will you know
    the generosity of time
    To crumble your unmoving body
    Into mine.

  2. “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” These words are from the first few lines of St. Augustine’s ‘Confessions.’ Putting aside for a moment all the associations, many negative, that we might have about Augustine, this deeply felt theme of his most personal work seems both psychologically and spiritually profound. These are words to live by. This quote has been coming up for me in unexpected places this week, and the theme of restlessness in the Tao Te Ching reminded me of it again.

    I have been sorting through my mother’s belongings and, in turn, those papers and family memorabilia that she inherited from my grandmother. Last weekend, I found a yellowed program from a talk my grandfather had given, and this quote was one of his themes. It touched me to be connected to something that meant a lot to him.

    As I’m writing this, I can see the sidebar containing Suzin’s beautiful theme for Monday Night Class: “Asana will make you beautiful and meditation will make you wise, but chanting will set you free!” Yes! Our chanting seems like the how-to guide for resting in God, resting in our true Self. It is both the guide and the resting itself! What a privilege to get this taste of real freedom!

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