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,
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,
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.