October 25, 2010

I find this week’s verse from Tao Te Ching particularly moving:

She who is centered in the Tao
can go where she wishes, without danger.
She perceives the universal harmony,
even amid great pain,
because she has found peace in her heart.

Music or the smell of good cooking
may make people stop and enjoy.
But words that point to the Tao
seem monotonous and without flavor.

When you look for it, there is nothing to see.
When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear.
When you use it, it is inexhaustible.

This verse put me in mind of one of my favorite teachings from the Hindu Yogic tradition, sthitha prajna, steady wisdom. This quote comes from the medieval poet-saint Jneshwar’s commentary on Bhagavad Gita:

O Arjuna, if you want to have the vision of wisdom, pay attention to Me.  I will explain to you how to recognize wisdom.
You may recognize wisdom in a person who has patience without intolerance.

He patiently bears all things, just as a person wears his favorite ornaments.  Even if calamity should come to him, he wouldn’t be overwhelmed by it.

His attitude is one of glad acceptance, whether he obtains what he wants or what he doesn’t want.

Be bears with equanimity both honor and shame, he is the same in happiness and sorrow, and he isn’t affected differently by praise or blame.

He isn’t scorched by heat, nor does he shiver with cold.  He isn’t intimidated by anything.

Just as Mount Meru doesn’t feel the weight of its own peaks, nor does the boar feel the burden of the earth, and just as the entire creation doesn’t weigh down the earth, in the same way, he doesn’t sweat under the pressure of the pairs of opposites.

Just as the ocean swells to receive the water of all the rivers flowing into it, similarly, there is nothing that such a person cannot bear with equanimity, and he has no memory even of what he has suffered.

Whatever happens to his body he accepts as his own, and he takes no credit for what he suffers.

O Arjuna, he who practices such quiet endurance adds greatness to wisdom.

So, my dear ones, here are your readings for this week. I would love to embellish the above quotes with more commentary as I do at class, but honestly, as I copy them here, I find myself pulled into an inner place where there are no words.  Seems the best I can do is be scribe to the teachings, which I offer from my heart to yours. May we enter into that sublime stillness through the Monday Night portals of chanting, meditation and good company, again and again and again.

October 18, 2010

This week’s readings constellated around verse 34 of Tao Te Ching:


The great Tao flows everywhere.
All things are born from it,
yet it doesn’t create them.
It pours itself into its work,
yet it makes no claim.
It nourishes infinite worlds,
yet it doesn’t hold onto them.
Since it has merged with all things
and hidden in their  hearts,
it can be called humble.
Since all things vanish into it
and it alone endures,
it can also be called great.
It isn’t aware of its greatness;
thus it is truly great.
I have to say this is one of my favorite verses. I love the image of the great Tao flowing everywhere, of all things being born from it, yet it does not create them. This reminded me of Krishna’s revelation of “his” divine manifestations to Arjuna in Chapter 10 of the Bhagavad Gita. Here are excerpts that I read in class:

Neither the myriad gods
nor any of the sages know
my origin: I am the source
from which gods and sages emerge.

Whoever knows me as the Unborn,
the Beginningless, the great Lord
of all worlds—he alone sees
truly and is freed from all harm.

Understanding and wisdom,
patience, truth, peace of mind,
pleasure and pain, being
and nonbeing, fear and courage,

nonviolence, equanimity,
control, benevolence, fame,
dishonor—all these conditions
come forth from me alone….

He who can understand
the glory of my manifestations
is forever united with me
by his unwavering love.

I am the source of all things,
and all things emerge from me;
knowing this, wise men worship
by entering my state of being….

Acting with deep compassion
from within my own being, I dispel
all ignorance-born darkness
with wisdom’s resplendent light.

This reference to wisdom’s resplendent light sent me to the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament:

From Proverbs, 3

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed.

Which sent me to The Thunder, Perfect Mind from the Nag Hammadi Library. People at class seemed especially interested in this text which has been around for awhile now but is still not that widely known. You can read all about it at this site:  http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl.html Here are a handful of excerpts:

I was sent forth from the power,
and I have come to those who reflect upon me,
and I have been found among those who seek after me.

For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one
and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great,
and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,…

For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and boldness.
I am shameless; I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and peace….

Give heed to me.
I am the one who is disgraced and the great one.
I am peace,
and war has come because of me.

I am an alien and a citizen.
I am the substance and the one who has no substance.

Those who are without association with me are ignorant of me,
and those who are in my substance are the ones who know me.
Those who are close to me have been ignorant of me,
and those who are far away from me are the ones who have known me.
On the day when I am close to you,
you are far away from me
and on the day when I am far away from you
I am close to you.

I am … within.
I am … of the natures.
I am the creation of the spirits.
I am control and the uncontrollable.
I am the union and the dissolution.
I am the abiding and I am the dissolving.
I am the one below,
and they come up to me.
I am the judgment and the acquittal.
I, I am sinless,
and the root of sin derives from me.
I am the hearing which is attainable to everyone
and the speech which cannot be grasped.
I am a mute who does not speak,
and great is my multitude of words.

Hear me in gentleness, and learn of me in roughness.

For I am the one who alone exists….

This translation is by George W. MacRae is published in The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, published by Harper. The full text is available all over the internet. At class I read from the version in Jane Hirshfield’s glorious poetry anthology, Women in Praise of the Sacred.

Riveting as these above readings were, I was in a gluttonous mood at class this week, wanting more, and more, and more, so pulled out a poem from our beloved Kali-bhakta Ramprasad:

Essence of awareness! Brilliant Kali!
You are the utterly free play of divine energy.
Every event springs only
from your sweet will.
You alone act through all our actions,
although we foolishly claim responsibility.

You permit the powerful elephant to sink into quicksand,
the powerless pilgrim to climb the sacred mountain.
You confer upon exalted souls
a stature as sublime as ruler of the cosmos,
while others you maintain in the most humble station.
Your divine activity remains sheer mystery
to the singer of this hymn.

I am the instrument, you its adept wielder.
I am the mud-walled village dwelling,
you the tender Mother who abides here.
I am the chariot, you the radiant charioteer.
I move only as you move through me.

This poet calls out, lost in ecstasy:
“O mind, there is nothing more to fear,
I have sold my entire being to the Goddess

And the final word goes to the Tibetan Dakini, Yeshe Tsogyel:

O brothers and sisters,
you who have mastered the teaching —
If you recognize me,
Queen of the Lake of Awareness,
who encompasses
both emptiness and form,
know that I live in the minds
of all beings who live.
Know that I live
in the body of mind
and the field of the senses,
that the twelve kinds of matter
are only my bones and my skin.
We are not two,
yet you look for me outside;
when you find me within yourself,
your own naked mind,
that Single Awareness
will fill all worlds.
Then the joy of the One
will hold you like a lake —
its fish with gold-seeing eyes
will grow many and fat.
Hold to that knowledge and pleasure,
and the Creative will be your wings.
You will leap through green meadows of earthly appearance,
enter the sky-fields, and vanish.


October 11, 2010

Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.
If you realize that you have enough,
you are truly rich.
If you stay in the center
and embrace death with your whole heart,
you will endure forever.

Well, what to say, it’s been too many weeks since we had this class and I’m sorry to say I can’t remember other readings I brought in that night. I’m making every effort to stay on top of this blog!

October 4, 2010

The Tao can’t be perceived.
Smaller than an electron,
it contains uncountable galaxies.

If powerful men and women
could remain centered in the Tao,
all things would be in harmony.
The world would become a paradise,
and the law would be written in their hearts.

When you have names and forms,
know they are provisional.
When you have instructions,
know where their function should end.
Knowing when to stop,
you can avoid any danger.

All things end in the Tao
as rivers flow into the sea.

The notion that the Tao is smaller than an electron yet contains uncountable galaxies is one that we encounter over and over again. William Blake put it this way in the opening lines from his Augeries of Innocence:

To see the World in a Grain of Sand
And heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

Here’s Baba Muktananda in his autobiography, Play of Consciousness, describing his meditation realization of the Self (i.e. Tao) as the “Blue Pearl:”

As I gazed at the tiny Blue Pearl, I saw it expand, spreading radiance in all directions so that the whole sky and earth were illuminated by it. It was now no longer a Pearl but had become a shining, blazing, infinite Light; the Light which writers of the scriptures and those who have realized the Truth have called the divine Light of Chiti. The Light pervaded everywhere in the form of the universe. I saw the earth being born and expanding from the Light of Consciousness… In this condition, the phenomenal world vanished and I saw only pure radiance. Just as one can see the infinite rays of the sun shimmering in all directions, so the Blue Light was sending out countless rays of divine radiance all about it.

And the last words go to my  beloved Mechthild of Magdeburg:

Of all that God has shown me
I can speak just the smallest word,
Not more than a honey bee
Takes on her foot
From an overspilling jar.

September 27, 2010

Here’s this week’s reading from Tao Te Ching:

Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.
Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is the highest value.
If peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but humans like himself.
He doesn’t wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?

He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral.

Although this verse seems intended for political leaders, you might apply it to yourself: what tools of violence and fear do you use against yourself and people with whom you come in contact.  This was the gist of our conversation in class. I encourage you to sit with it, applying the criteria of “decent man” to your own ways of being.  Along with this reading, I told a story I first learned from the Buddhist meditation teacher Pema Chodron, the story of Milarepa in the Cave. Since I’m a few weeks backed up on posting, I’ll post this story another time…