Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.
Therefore the Master remains
serene in the midst of sorrow.
Evil cannot enter his heart.
Because he has given up helping,
he is people’s great help.
True words seem paradoxical.
This is such a great verse we stayed with it for two weeks. As I wrote in my last post, it’s an elegant articulation of the Sacred Feminine. For visitors to this blog who are unclear about what exactly is the Sacred Feminine, the simplest way to get this is to think of the feminine as the realm of being and masculine as the realm of doing.
While we can work with the personifications articulated as gods and goddesses, I think it’s way more helpful and relevant to understand that these are energies of consciousness within ourselves.
Think of the Goddess, aka Devi, aka the Sacred Feminine as the great interior well of being, ocean of the unconscious, ground of being, source of everything we are. It’s the mysterious inside of us. That which we don’t see. It’s what we sense and feel and intuit. And it is the content, to put it in more modern language contained within the vehicles, (which are of the masculine), of our actions and words…
So again: feminine = realm of being; masculine = realm of doing…
It’s helpful to think of the masculine as the bridge function; that which carries the energy of being into manifestation. For instance: creative inspiration arises from the feminine and is interpreted and developed (or denied and ignored) through the masculine faculty of thinking and creating. Great things happen when masculine and feminine work in loving harmony. The masculine stays connected to the feminine, understanding that this is its ground. Problems arise when the masculine (doing/thinking/individuating) function dissociates from its feminine source. The story I tell in this week’s dharma talk is a lovely illustration of this….
Here’s that talk. It’s a good one 😉
Here’s the story:
“Once Vishnu was riding through the air on the sunbird Garuda. Both of them, filled with their sense of self, saw in Vishnu the highest most irresistible and universal being. They flew past the throne of the Great Goddess but gave her no heed. “Fly on, fly on,” said Vishnu to Garuda. Then the Great Goddess poured rigidity upon them, and they could not stir from the spot. Vishnu in his rage shook her seat with both hands but could not move. Instead he fell and sank to the bottom of the world ocean. Unable to stir, he lost consciousness and became rigid, defenseless, and lifeless. Brahma went in search of him and tried to lift him, but he also fell under the same enchantment and grew rigid. The same fate befell all the other gods who tried to raise them from the bottom of the sea. Only Shiva understood what had happened and led them back to do homage to Her and obtain her grace… Then as they worshipped her, the Goddess revealed herself in the flesh and bade all gods drink of the waters of her womb and bathe therein. ‘Then you will be free of imprisonment in your ego…’ ”
Here are the two quotes, both cited in Edward C. Whitmont’s 1986 book, Return to the Goddess. The first is from Elucidations, Prologue to Chretien de Troyes’ Percival. The second is the verse I often recite from John C. We’s 1962 version of the Tao Te Ching. The above story is also told by Whitmont…
The land was dead and desert
So that they lost the voices of the wells
And the maidens who were in them.
The spirit of the fountain never dies.
It is called the mysterious feminine.
The entrance to the mysterious feminine
Is the root of all heaven and earth.
Frail, frail it is, hardly existing.
But touch it; it will never run dry.
Here is this week’s chanting:
Here’s the opening chant and dharana:
And the final word goes to Mary Oliver. This is from her 2006 collection, Thirst. This is the poem I did not have time to read!
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth, with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.