August 16, 2010

This was our last class for the summer. And this chapter from Tao Te Ching offered a perfect closing to the season.

Know the male,
yet keep to the female:
receive the world in your arms.
If you receive the world
the Tao will never leave you
and you will be like a little child.

Know the white,
yet keep to the black:
be a pattern for the world.
If you are a pattern for the world,
the Tao will be strong inside you
and there will be nothing you can’t do.

Know the personal,
yet keep to the impersonal:
accept the world as it is.
If you accept the world,
the Tao will be luminous inside you
and you will return to your primal self.

The world is formed from the void,
like utensils from a block of wood.
The Master knows the utensils,
yet keeps to the block:
thus she can use all things.

“If you accept the world, the Tao will be luminous inside you and you will return to your primal self.” As I’m sitting here writing, my cat Lily is standing by the door, wanting to go outside. I get up from my desk to let her out. Typically, she stands there without moving. I watch annoyance begin to arise, catch it before it grabs hold of me, and practice opening into what is. Which in this moment is Lily on her own terms and me her devoted servant.  The shift from small self wanting the situation to be otherwise to big Self accepting the world as it is is subtle, but in that moment, time stops. I feel the Tao, luminous inside me. The edge of impatience, of “make up your mind already, I don’t have all night,” dissolves into the spaciousness of contentment. And in this mind place, it doesn’t matter if I’m focused at my desk or distracted by the cat. It is all one radiant whole with me in the stillness at the center. “If you accept the world, the Tao will be luminous inside you and you will return to your primal self.”

From this verse we moved to Baba Muktananda’s commentary on tantric philosophy, Secret of the Siddhas. These quotes are from “Chapter 9, The Origin of Kashmir Shaivism.” Please read the following with the understanding that what Shaivites call “Shiva, Daoists call “Tao.” My own preference tends towards “Devi.” But the metaphors are irrelevant. What we want to go for is that passionate embrace…

37.  Now I shall write briefly about the essence of Kashmir Shaivism… Shaivism teaches that Shiva [the sacred masculine] and Shakti [the sacred feminine] are the cause of the universe. They are not two but one. Shaivism tells us that Shiva is static, attributeless, and formless and that Shakti is His dynamic aspect….

261. The universe is a garden for us to roam in with love. It is not intended as a source of attachment, jealousy, hatred, or anxiety. These only destroy our equanimity. Give up all desires. If something comes, let it come; if something goes, let it go. It is all Shiva’s play. This is not a mere universe; it is an image of Him. Knowing it as Shiva, love it. Meditate on the awareness that all conscious beings as well as inert matter are Shiva. Having the knowledge of Shiva, understand that the world is the embodiment of Him…Shiva alone exists everywhere.

And the last word goes to Thomas Byrom’s translation of the Ashtavakra Gita, The Heart of Awareness. This text comes from Advaita Vedanta, another of the non-dual  (i.e. tantric) philosophies of India.

11. Stillness

All things arise,
Suffer change,
And pass away.

This is their nature.
When you know this,
Nothing perturbs you,

Nothing hurts you.

You become still.

It is easy.

God made all things.
There is only God.

When you know this,
Desire melts away.

Clinging to nothing,
You become still.

Sooner or later,
Fortune or misfortune
May befall you.

When you know this,
You desire nothing,
You grieve for nothing.

Subduing the senses,
You are  happy.

Whatever you do
Brings joy or sorrow,
Life or death.

When you know this,
You may act freely,
Without attachment.

For what is there to accomplish.

All sorrow comes from fear.
From nothing else.

When you know this,
You become free of it,
And desire melts away.

You become happy
And still.

“I am not the body,
Nor is the body mine.
I am awareness itself.”

When you know this,
You have no thought
For what you have done
Or left undone.

You become one,
Perfect and indivisible.

“I am in all things,
From Brahma to a blade if grass.”

When you know this,
You have no thought
For success or failure
Or the mind’s inconstancy.

You are pure.
You are still.

* * * * *

It has been a supreme joy to sit with you on Monday nights.
Enjoy the last weeks of the summer.
See you in September.

One thought on “August 16, 2010

  1. Thanks for unfolding the Tao each week, and for showing its many faces reflected so beautifully in other scriptures from varying traditions and in poems that break through even those fluid boundaries.

    May you–and Lily–have a peaceful and happy summer’s end, till we all rejoin for more in September!

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