Monday, June 9, 2014

The End of All Understanding

Next, the aspirants, persisting in more ardent surrender, are taken up into simple awareness itself, and leaping beyond all sensible things, they pass as if from sleep to wakefulness, from hearing to sight. And, there, those things that are seen cannot be revealed because they are beyond all hearing and beyond all instruction by voice. For there, incomprehensibly heard, as the end of all speech, is Love, blessed forever, the end of all understanding, because Love is truth, and the end of all sense, because Love is life, and the end, finally, of all being, because Love is being itself, and the perfection of every creature.

Such things are shown in stages to one who submits to Love by unshakeable trust at the heart. For if the trust is great, it unites the aspirant with Love, so that the aspirant transcends all that is not in union with Love Itself. Without Love, trust is not living but dead, and not trust at all. None of the wise of this world can grasp true happiness if they do not know Love. None can see anyone happy except with you, Love. For everyone of happy spirit subsists in your Spirit, as the vivified in the vivifier. And thus in you the finite is united to the infinite and to that which cannot be united, and the incomprehensible is seized by an eternal fruition, which is a most joyous and inexhaustible happiness.

~ On Learned Ignorance
Nicholas of Cusa
1401 to 1464 CE

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Where God Comes From

Every once in a while in the course of timelessness, as the story goes, the universe contracts down to a point that is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. As it nears the extreme extent of its contraction, sentient beings for the most part are shipped off to a happy land of radiant joy in the upper reaches of the possible places to land in such event. For a very long while, they live and play there with the greatest of ease, unbothered by snakes and fleas, with rays of pure light flashing from their mind-made bodies as they feed on rapture, float through the air as if there was nothing to it, and generally have a real good time. Every so often you can hear them shouting out in joy, “Hey, alright!” That’s because they are feeling good, and are moved spontaneously to make that understood! They may even start to imagine, given the extended happiness that they are experiencing, that this pleasurable condition will just go on forever. After all, it certainly seems like heaven, so why not?

Because things are the way they are, however, and sooner or later, after the lapse of a very long period as we might measure time, the cosmos begins to expand once again. In the course of this re-evolution, a vacancy one level down from Joy City opens up. As possible dwelling places go, it is really like a mansion with many attractive features, great views, excellent curb appeal, and so forth. Then a certain being, having reached his expiration code date, drops down from Happy Land and proceeds to occupy the vacancy made available in the course of the expanding universe. There he lives and plays with the greatest of ease, unbothered by snakes and fleas, with rays of pure light flashing from his mind-made body as he feeds on rapture, floats through the air as if there was nothing to it, and generally has a real good time (although not quite as good as the previous engagement). And he continues on in that enjoyment for a long, long period of time.

 After a while, however, as a result of dwelling there all alone for so long a time, there arises in him dissatisfaction and agitation, and so he says to himself: “Oh, I wish that other beings would come to this place!” Sure enough, just at that moment, due to their number coming up, certain other beings drop down from Joy City and find themselves knocking on the door of the first guy’s mansion. He is happy to welcome them in, and there they live and play with the greatest of ease, unbothered by snakes and fleas, with rays of pure light flashing from their mind-made bodies as they feed on rapture, float through the air as if there was nothing to it, and generally have a real good time (although it is not quite as much fun as the last place). And they continue on in that enjoyment for a long, long period of time.

 Eventually, the one who re-arose there first, pauses in the midst of his fun and thinks to himself: “Hey, I must be God, the Great One, the King of the Hill, the Top of the Heap, the Lord Himself, the Creator, the Supreme Being, the Almighty, the Father of all, and these beings have been created by me. Why? Because first I made the wish, and sure enough, they all appeared!"

Moreover the beings who re-arose there after him also think: “This must be God, the Great One, the King of the Hill, the Top of the Heap, the Lord Himself, the Creator, the Supreme Being, the Almighty, the Father of all. And we have been created by him. Why? Because we see that he was here first, and we appeared here after him.”

 Just so, the being who re-arose there first possesses longer life, greater beauty, and greater authority than the beings who re-arose there after him. One might say it’s an “early bird” kind of deal. In any case, in the course of time, it comes to be that a certain being, after dropping down from that glorious plane at the expiration of his code date, takes rebirth in this world. Having come to this world, it feels as if he has gone from home to homelessness. He sits down to ponder his fate, and after considering the matter for a good long time, he begins to remember his immediately preceding life (but none previous to that). In the meantime, others gradually drop down and join him in this world, filled alas with snakes and fleas and other bothersome things.

Remembering what had gone before, he exclaims to his new disciples: “We were created by Him, by God, the Great One, the King of the Hill, the Top of the Heap, the Lord Himself, the Creator, the Supreme Being, the Almighty, the Father of all. He lives and plays there in His heaven with the greatest of ease, unbothered by snakes and fleas, with rays of pure light flashing from His Body. He feeds on rapture, floats through the air as if there was nothing to it, and generally has a real good time. But we, who have been created by Him and born into this world, are impermanent, miserable, and doomed to perish. We better start offering stuff to Him, like those sheep over there.”

Just so, theistic religion is born, and what follows next – the confused history of the people -- is based on that initial misunderstanding about God and the universe.

~Based on a free transliteration of the Brahmajāla Sutta

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hsin Hsin Ming

Verses on The Mind of Absolute Trust,

By Seng T'san

Satisfying the deepest longing
at the heart isn’t difficult – 

just practice letting go
of grasping and avoiding,
and recognize what remains
as your own native happiness.

When we cling to differences,
heart and mind conflict.

If you want to end the inner war,
don’t be for or against.

The argument with oneself
is the primal disease of the mind.
Relentless suffering.

Not awake to the deeper principle,
we persist in disturbing our natural harmony. 

Luminous spaciousness, empty and full --
that's the mind of least resistance,
the mind of carefree humility.

Habitually craving and avoiding,
we can’t allow mind’s true nature,
Clear Light, to reveal itself.

Don’t get bewildered by things;
don’t lose yourself in what changes.

Be at peace in the immaculate
transparency of all arising;
stop trying to be
a knower.

When we don’t live as Tao Itself,
boundless and non-dwelling,
we part ways with our natural happiness,
confusing ourselves with borrowed
schemes and dogmas, claims
and superstitions.

Believing the world is real, we're
ignorant of its deeper reality.

Denying the world is real, we're
blind to the selfless innocence
of all forthcoming things.

Open those eyes!

The more we think about it all,
the farther we are from the truth.

Dropping off both body and mind,
there’s nowhere we can’t go.

Returning to the heart, we’re welcomed home;
chasing appearances,we lose their source.

In one moment of unbiased clear seeing,
we can transcend both form and emptiness.

Don’t keep searching for truth;
just let go of all opinions,
and truth will find you.

For the mind surrendered,
all selfishness dissolves.

Free of doubt, fearless in love,
we can trust the universe

Nothing to gain, nothing
to lose - all is empty,
brilliant, perfect
in itself.

In the world of all-as-is,
there is no self, no non-self.

If we want to speak plainly,
the best we can point to is

At the heart of surrender
there’s no separation,
nothing to add
nor subtract:

no lost nor found,
no bondage nor liberation,
no here nor there,
no this nor that -- 

the awakened awaken
to this truth, as
this truth.

The tiny is as large as the vast
when conceptual distinctions vanish.

The vast is as small as the tiny,
when mental limitations dissolve.

Being is an expression of non-being,
non-being is no different from being.

Until we understand this truth,
we won’t see anything clearly.

One is all, all is one -- 
when this becomes self-evident,
what interest in stages or categories
can occupy one's attention any longer?

Preachers become obsolete.

The mind of absolute trust is beyond
all thought, all striving, all motive
to know, to cling, or to turn away.

It is non-dwelling mind,
perfectly at home, at peace,
for within it there is no past,
no future, no present --

only what is.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Rhapsody on a Discourse from Symeon the New Theologian

As we fall deeper into That which is already perfect, the One Who is without form or shape – Source Itself -- may manifest Itself in form and shape in order to experience Itself as that. Nor does the only One cause the Light to come to us and be present with us in solitary quietude only. But how? This One comes in a definite form indeed, though it is a Divine One.

Yes, the Divine does not shine in an incomprehensible, inaccessible, and formless light only, but also appears in a particular pattern or likeness, in the simplicity of ordinary creation, so as to come to know Itself in the living pulse and Radiance of Itself, and to submerge itself in the love It Is, all for the very sake of Love. Source is Love, and Love must Love.

We cannot possibly say or express more than this. Still, This One appears clearly and is consciously known and clearly seen, though invisible while even visible. Source sees and hears invisibly and, just as Love speaks, beloved to beloved, face to face, heart and soul to heart and soul - so the One Who by nature is God speaks to and through those whom by grace It has begotten as gods, in order to reveal Itself to Itself. They in turn become the Lover Who loves so fervently that they become like mirrors in infinite reflection of each other, with not a trace of self between.

Thereupon, your heart may find itself merged in the form of an effulgent light of deep peace and radiant joy. However comforting, this light is but the prelude of the immortal and primordial light; it is the reflected brightness of Source. When this Glory appears, every selfish thought will vanish and every stricture of the soul be loosened, even as every bodily clinging is released.

The eyes of the heart are utterly purified and see That to which all mystics testify. Then the soul sees, as in a clear and spotless mirror, even its slightest failures, and in such vision is brought down to the gentle abyss of humility.

Next, as it perceives the greatness of the glory, it is filled with all joy and gladness; it is struck dumb with amazement at this wonder beyond all hope and tears of heart-felt bliss pour forth. Thus of the old the new emerges, and original innocence is reborn. In this unceasing river of beatitude  all praise flows, though circumstances follow the natural course of coming into view and passing back into that from which they emerged - the primordial ocean of being itself. In deed and truth, all activities of nature are seen at last as naught but This One, the very Living One, 'I Am that I Am'. Even now, this is no secret to the Heart!

One who is united thusly, merged in the ineffable Light of unconditional Love, sees things of which I am not able to write. The mind beholds marvelous visions and is wholly illuminated and becomes as of light, yet is unable to conceive of them or describe them. This mind is itself light and sees all things as light, for it is not other than the light Itself.

One perceives the light in their soul and is in ecstasy. In such ecstasy one sees it from afar, but as they return to themselves they find themselves again in the midst of the light. They are thus altogether at a loss for words and concepts to describe what they have perceived in their vision.

The light already shines in the darkness, both by day and by night, both within and without. It shines on us without change, without alteration, without form. It speaks, works, lives, gives life, and changes into light those whom it illuminates. We bear witness that "God is light," and those to whom it has been granted to recognize this have all beheld the Lord as light.

Those who have received the Divine have received the Divine as light, because the light of Its glory goes before It, and it is impossible for It to appear without light. Just as one who looks at the sun cannot but fill their eyes with light, so too one who always gazes intently into their heart cannot fail to be illumined.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Prayer of St. Francis


all polarity is perfectly

resolved in Your Peace --

hatred and love, injury and pardon,

doubt and faith, despair and hope,

darkness and light, sadness and joy

are complementary expressions of

essential unity functioning as

Your Play in time and space.


Divine Friend, by Your Grace

all seeking to be consoled,

to be understood,

to be loved

is surpassed by the natural

motive to comfort, heal, and bless,

for it is in relinquishing our demand to be

consoled, understood, forgiven, and loved that

we become true to Love, just as it is

in the death of our willfulness that we are

born to the eternal life of Thy Will.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gaudupada Re-Visited

(Musings based in part on the writings, such as the Māṇḍukya Kārikā, of Sri Gaudupada, (c. 8th century CE), a prominent early Teacher in the Advaita Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy. He is traditionally said to have been the grand-guru of the great teacher Adi Shankara, one of the most important figures in Hinduism).

Nothing we can see, think, or know is actually real. From the angle of vision coincident with awake awareness, there’s neither birth nor death, neither appearance nor disappearance, neither creation nor destruction, neither bondage nor liberation. There’s none who works for freedom nor is there any who is liberated – this is the truth proclaimed by Sri Gaudupada, and elaborated by the sages of Advaita.

The wise know that there’s neither unity nor plurality – the world is neither one nor many. It's more like a virtual reality game, and we have taken our places here in these game bodies to test ourselves, to see what we are really made of deep down at the core. Whatever appears in life or vision is part of that test, to gauge what our reaction will be. We are not here to acquire some enlightenment that is not already true of us, and progress through various stages until we arrive at some exalted destination. We ourselves are the destination -- we go nowhere. There's never been a human being in need of honor, protection, and freedom. That's all props and stage sets for the game, the play of consciousness, the dream.

The external world has no existence independent of the consciousness which perceives it. Mere perception and practical utility cannot prove the reality of the world. For even in dreams there is perception and practical utility – water in a dream can quench the dream thirst as much as real water can quench real thirst. The waking state is on par with the dream state, and both are real within their own order -- that's important to recognize. But from the ultimate standpoint, both are unreal.

Reality is the pure Essence of Self – the ultimate subject, which is radiant consciousness. It is not the empirical self, because that which has empirical existence cannot be ultimately real. The real is pure consciousness, awareness itself, which is immanent in both the subject and the object and yet transcends them both. It transcends the trinity of the knower, known and knowledge. It has neither attachment nor connection nor relation to anything else. It is self-proved, self-existent, innate and uncaused. Even to say that it is the “unborn” is valid only from the empirical standpoint – for it is beyond the intellect.

The self-luminous Source, by the power of its own illusion (Maya), imagines itself by itself and it is this Self which cognizes the ephemeral diversity of the world, with all its drama and shifts and upgrades and downgrades, and so on to infinity. Just like a rope, which is mistaken for a snake, the Self is mistaken to be the individual subjects, the mental states and external objects that constitute our 3-D take on what's what. And just as when the rope is known, the imagined snake vanishes, likewise when the non-dual Self is realized, the duality of subject and object disappears.

The non-dual Self is realized when the individual self (soul) passes the tests it has established for itself in the 3-D program and is awakened from its amnesia. The Absolute is unborn, dreamless, sleepless, motionless. It's "where" all the categories of the intellect are merged, where all duality finally ceases. There’s neither going to nor coming from it. It is the "Lord" immanent in the universe, abiding in the hearts of all. It is realized by the sages who know the essence of reality, and are free from greed, envy, hatred, delusion, and attachment to any dreamy outcome arising from virtual causes and conditions.

The Absolute is like space, and souls are like space placed in containers of various sizes, shapes, and descriptions. When the bottle is broken open, the space in the container merges into the open space. Likewise, when ignorance is destroyed through direct recognition, the soul merges into Source. Spaces in bottles may differ in form, function and name, but still there’s no difference in space. Likewise though the souls may differ in form, function and name, yet still there’s no difference in Source. All elements, subjective as well as objective, are by their nature serene from the beginning, unborn and merged in the Absolute. They are so because they are nothing else than Source itself, which is unborn, uncaused -- only. In truth, there is only "This". All else is ignorance, delusion -- virtuality.

So what constitutes the "prison", this container, which is the apparent cause of our seeming bondage? The container is nothing but ignorance, including the belief that we are the body-mind organism. The test is to see through that delusion. Duality is the product of the intellect and when the intellect is transcended, duality disappears. What’s left is pure awareness, devoid of all thought determinations and imagination. It is the serene eternal Light behind the mind. It is incomprehensible bliss, which transcends happiness and misery. It is indescribable, unborn, changeless and non-dual.

If I was to cut to the bottom line, I'd say . . .

"It's You!"

"We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all."

~Kalu Rinpoche

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Little Han Shan

Some might laugh at my poems but no matter --
they’re fine just as they are, and fun besides!

They need no commentary, no studious explanation,
not even any signature.

Who even cares if they're read or not --
certainly not me!

The pine just sprouts needles,
the wind just blows.

I have no literary pretense, no wordy ambition,
but still, these poems can offer a taste of light.


If you would read my poems,
prepare yourself well: be pure of mind.

Open your tight-fisted heart; flatter none
but honesty with your authentic voice.

From the bag of Self, unpack selfishness;
refolding what remains, your Buddha-body.

This is your first assignment. Do it now,
and quickly. I speak the law of what's true.

In our hearts, I'm not the same as you --
if in your heart you should become like me,
then you can reach the core of it too.

I choose to bray at the cock-eyed moon,
to dance through mountain clouds at dawn.

Why bury my hands in my sleeves,
place a lock on my tongue, tie legs in knots
and sit like a stone?

My hair flows and cascades!

Among the winding creeks and towering crags
there lives a happy hermit of a man.

In daylight he wanders freely 'round the mountain,
intoxicated by the mere existence of anything.

At night he sleeps wherever he pleases,
at home in any cave or pine needle nest.

Let all the springs and summers pass themselves,
selfless peace and serenity wrap around him
like a robe of comfy light.

What a great and indescribable pleasure -
Real Freedom!

Suchness sometimes means just sitting,
relaxing, in a cool autumn stream.

On Tien-Tai Mountain I make my home,
clouds and fog keep the tourists away.

This very life is a magic picnic
laden with oodles of bliss!

Tzon Tze said:

`The good death you are having
makes the earth and sky your coffin.'


The Unborn is prior to this world --
it has no form, health or disease.

It's the master of all things,
following nothing, at rest in all.

Climbing Cold Mountain --
the path forward never seems to end.

In the long stream there are many stones;
on either shore the grass is the same.

White clouds silently drape the hillside,
the peaks are obscured in the morning mists.

Building my hut was easy enough -- just borrowed
some light from essence of moonshine.

Wild deer make an excellent audience!

A man beyond both existence and non-existence,
I thoroughly enjoy this beautiful life!

Birth and death are just like water and ice.
Water becomes ice and ice turns to water.

There is nothing otherwise.

Han Shan-Tze,
Ever Thus!

Living alone --
no birth, no death!

I stand on the peak, lit by bright sunshine,
gazing out at the clear blue sky.

Crane and friendly clouds fly by, beckoning me
to pick flowers down by the lovely riverbank!

We play till dusk, watch wind rising, waves rippling,
water birds lifted on wings of flight.

Afloat in this boat my mind expands --
no place to hide, essence of space!

Now the old year is gone, the spring has come.
Flowers smile at the stream, cliffs dance
playfully in clouds and mist!

Butterflies seem so glad, while
fish and birds are sporting like mad!

Our friendship is endless, I am so happy
I can no longer sleep!

How sublime is this nature --
creation with no creature therein!


The Tao is like a stream from nowhere,
yet there is water in every mouth!

I gaze far off at Cold Mountain's summit,
alone and aloft above the crowding peaks.

Pines and bamboo sing in the swaying winds,
sea tides wash beneath the shining moon.

I gaze at the mountain's green borders below
and ponder philosophy with the puff-ball clouds.

In the wilderness mountains and forests are fine, but
I yearn for my companion to delight in this Way.

Han Shan was a Chinese hermit who lived in a world called Cold Mountain in the T'ien-t'ai Range that spans the coast of Chekiang Province, south of the Bay of Hangchow, in the late eighth or early ninth century. Mostly what we know of him originates from a mysterious intuition that is shared by that which is Free in all of us, and from a preface, written by a T'ang Dynasty official named Lu-ch'iu Yin, for Han Shan's collected Cold Mountain Poems:
"He looked like a tramp. His body and face were old and beat. Yet in every word he breathed was a meaning in line with the subtle principles of things, if only you thought of it deeply. Everything he said had a feeling of the Tao in it, profound and arcane secrets. His hat was made of birch bark, his clothes were ragged and worn out, and his shoes were wood. Thus men who have made it hide their tracks: unifying categories and interpenetrating things."
Lu-ch'iu Yin sent clean clothes and incense to Kuo-ch'ing Temple, near Cold Mountain, asking that the gifts be delivered to Han Shan and his friend Shih Teh. But on the approach of the messenger, Han Shan disappeared inside a mountain cave. Shih Teh vanished too. Lu-ch'iu Yin then asked the monks to collect any of the poems they left behind.
Many claim that Han Shan was the incarnation of the Bodhisattva Manjusri. People say a lot of things, but Han Shan paid little mind to the opinions of dreamers and interpretations of myth-makers, choosing instead to play among the peaks and white clouds of his beloved Cold Mountain, and leave the world behind.