Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Overcoming Ignorance.....continued......Part II

Please start with Part I......

This essay is amazing in it's detail and unbridled in it's clarity of the Truth. I have followed my Taoist path for many years and have never come upon such an intuitive and gifted teacher as the author of this essay, Jos Slabbert. I sincerely hope that all who choose to read this are as impressed and appreciative of this dynamic and engrossing essay as I am. There is, however, one topic in this section of his essay that conflicts with my years of study and understanding. I have a different perspective of Karma - a subject that goes to the very core of the Truth. Karma is extremely complex in it's simplicity and Mr. Slabbert's perspective is very accurate and well defined but I believe that there have been and will be the one in a billion or more individuals who have in the past and will in the future overcome Karma.
I will explain my position separately at another time in the very near future and the reader can then decide which to believe. Be well. Be happy. Be!


C. Aspects of ignorance

1. Lack of right knowledge
Our society is saturated with ignorance. It is close to impossible to escape ignorance and its shackles. This ignorance is often based on a gross lack of the most basic knowledge of matters of the spirit.

Society is rife with falsities, superstitions and misunderstandings. People often spend many years of their lives totally immersed in an illusionary, deceptive world. This causes them to suffer, and even worse, to cause suffering to others.

There are many falsities that must be identified and discarded before one could even start developing oneself properly.

What follows is a list of some of these false assumptions and superstitions which bind one to a world of illusion.

Illusions and Superstitions

* The illusion of static permanence

As long as one believes that one is part of a world of permanent things, one will never understand even the most rudimentary aspects of the spirit.

The sage knows
the shade of the tree
is more real
than the tree.
He stares into the mirror
to see only
staring back at him.

People unwilling to face reality cling to the concept of a static world, which is incredibly ignorant, for the world abounds with proof that the world is a perpetually dynamic and transient process. Spiritual stagnation is the inevitable result of holding on to the illusion of static permanence.

* The illusion of solidity - materialism

Believing in permanence is the basis of materialism, in which one sees concrete things as more real than the spirit, and therefore the only things worth living for. When one believes this, material possession is seen as the way to satisfy the spirit, and one becomes greedy for material things in order to find fulfilment and peace.

drowning in the flood,
he clings to
his imaginary branch
instead of swimming for the shore.

* The illusion of "I" - a permanent soul

There is absolutely no doubt that the illusion of a permanent "I" causes the most confusion and harm. It is the basis of egotism, which is to serve a false self created by one's own mind. It corrupts even spiritual life, for it often takes the form of serving an ego-soul which uses religion as a bridge to reach its own selfish aims.

Why do I cling to myself
as if I really exist?
I refuse to accept with joy
what I will enter through suffering.

(The Tao is Tao, 34)

* The superstition of salvation through an external source

In all religions, there are people who tend to search for an easy route to salvation or enlightenment, which does not involve changing themselves in the process. They will cling to superficial ritual and form, believing that these rites would do for them what they refuse to do for themselves. They try to create the illusion that they could get the article without paying the price for it. It is a terrible superstition causing stagnation and suffering.

You and you alone can salvage your life.
You and you alone can walk the path.
No one else can do it for you.

Many Christians, for example, wrongly believe that if they have faith in Christ as a kind of miraculous icon, they would find salvation for their souls without following Christ's actual path. Christ has pointed at the path they should take, but they have confused his finger with the path. Christ is not a comfortable shortcut. He has given us a perfect example of a way to salvation, a way that can only be followed by the very bravest, for it involves sacrificing the self even to the point of crucifixion. It is living in the spirit of Christ that gives Christianity vitality, not ritual pretense of sacrifice, or prostrating oneself before some icon.

In the same way, many Buddhists would perform what would be symbolic rituals to build up merit. Rituals are no shortcuts to spiritual development. Symbolic acts isolated from real life do not move your spirit forward. Chanting other people's words of wisdom without application is like pretending to move forward on the path while you are in fact waiting for someone else to take you there. The spiritual essence of the Buddha gives Buddhism vitality and energy, not ritual imitations of virtue.

* The superstition of escape from karma

Many charlatans have made fortunes out of selling people what they claim to be forms of escape from the inescapable forces of karma. In the Medieval Age, the church even sold absolutions from sins to naive people. Often, holy men or women or relics, are presented as agents neutralizing the effects of your actions.

One thing is clear. There is no way to escape the inexorable law of karma. The law of cause and effect operates as relentlessly in the world of the spirit as it does in the physical realm. You shall reap what you have sown. Your deeds will come back to haunt you. Even a Buddha does not escape the relentless fairness of causality.

Only a real change in your mind, thoughts, speech and action will change your karma, for karma is nothing but your own action: it is in fact you. Only when you are not serving an ego will you live without creating more sorrow and suffering for yourself and for others.*

The ignorant
live in fear and anger of
the inescapable laws
of cause and effect.
They try to ward off Karma
as if it were some beast that could be slain.
They grovel before the gods
as if their favor
could render Karma ineffective.
the wheel of birth, life, suffering and death,
runs over them,
leaving them in tatters.

The Taoist sage
Karma is inescapable,
yet he lives free from dread,
for he knows
he is Samsara,
and the wheel cannot run over itself.

The person in close harmony with the Tao
lives without anger,
for he understands
Karma is but himself:
there is nothing to be angry with.

The Taoist sage lives
as if
the inexorable justice of Karma
and the relentless inevitability of Samsara
do not touch him,
he is liberated from himself.

(The Tao is Tao, 39)

* The illusion of an explicable god

The Tao is silence
cannot capture.
The Tao is emptiness
not even
can embrace.

(The Tao is Tao, 2)

Many religions will define their god, and present their definition as "The Truth" to their members, forcing them to subscribe to their specific concepts. By doing this, they gain power over the minds of people. In this way, religion has often been perverted from a liberating experience into one of captivity.

The illusion that god can be defined can be destructive.

* The superstition that knowledge is progress

The ignorant
try to escape suffering
by accumulating knowledge,
in this way increasing
their ignorance.

(The Tao is Tao, 47)

A surprising number of people still subscribe to this naive superstition. Tens of thousands of universities, institutions, agencies and projects gather information in the belief that the stockpiling of knowledge is progress.

Of course, as history has shown us in so many graphic examples, knowledge can also lead to what can hardly be interpreted as progress in terms of civilization. The Hiroshima bomb is an example of the destruction knowledge can bring. Our systematic destruction of our environment is proof of how thoroughly technology can be embedded in the worst form of ignorance, namely greed.

Not knowledge, but our harmony with the Tao determines whether we truly progress or not.

Our true development does not lie in the ingenuous inventions and innovations of technology, or in the gigabytes of data stored in vast databases, but in the realms of the spirit, for the spirit defines the direction knowledge takes.

* The illusion of "wisdom" without compassion

There is no such thing as wisdom without compassion. People with cold hearts posing as wise men are the true false profits of our age. Often their "wisdom" is utilized to enrich themselves materially, or to gain power and fame.

"Wisdom" isolated from compassion is a treacherous form of ignorance. It is destructive. It gives false hope only to betray in essence.

Wisdom can never be in service of greed. It cannot serve power. It does not exist in the company of the callously affluent.

Mere cleverness may solve many problems, but it will never solve the essential problems of the world, which lie in the realm of the spirit.

* The illusion of "compassion" without wisdom

No matter how much you love someone, your love will be of little value if it is not guided by wisdom that will transform your love into compassion.

Love not guided by wisdom often leads astray, increasing instead of relieving suffering. Love without wisdom easily turns into a destructive force serving the ego.

It is only when love turns from a cheap emotion into real commitment that wisdom has a chance to become its guiding force. Compassion, like all aspects of spirituality, lies beyond the merely intellectual or emotional. It lies in the sphere of commitment and experience.

Love without wisdom is a form of ignorance. Compassion guided by wisdom is the greatest force in the world.

For more information on this aspect, read the article "Wisdom and Compassion: Two Sides of the Same Coin" at

* The illusion that action is progress

This illusion seems to predominate in the modern world, where "men of action", impatient and impetuous, in the service of greed, manipulate and change without regard for the natural processes of our planet. Never has there been a time in history where the virtue of action has been more overestimated and has become an end in itself.

2. Lack of faith

is not
a lack of knowledge,
but a lack of faith
in the unknowable.
The ignorant
cling to knowledge
as if knowledge can explain
the inexplicable.
The Taoist sage
in harmony
with the mysterious.

(The Tao is Tao, 46)

Faith is our effort to deal with the mysterious. Once something has lost its mystery and we understand it, we do not need faith to deal with it.

The Tao as well as our spirit will forever lie in the realms of the mysterious, and will therefore always require a great deal of faith from us.

Faith means trust and acceptance:

True faith
complete trust
without understanding:
It is to accept

(The Tao is Tao, 22)

There are many unprovable aspects that will just have to be accepted by us. We need the faith of a child to do so. Of course, our critical rational faculties will object vehemently against this gagging of our intellect. But we have no choice. If we refuse to take this upon ourselves, we will never be able to enter the spiritual realm.

To step into the realm of the spirit
is to abandon thinking.
Can you step over the precipice,
not knowing what is below?
Life starts this way.

(The Tao is Tao, 17)

Particularly at the beginning of our development, we obviously need a lot of faith, for we have not yet experienced on a spiritual level the revelations that will turn surmise into certainty.

Until experience has confirmed our beliefs, we need faith.

3. Lack of application

Too few people practice what they believe. Too many people are content with being armchair philosophers. Too many people today are addicted to intellectual excitement. Their effort to understand then often becomes an egotistical preoccupation with thrills of the mind. They will cling to the intellectual, which will then become a handicap and not a help on the way to harmony with the Tao. As long as you do not progress beyond the merely intellectual, you will never reach harmony with the Tao. In fact, intellectual analysis without the commitment to application ultimately confuses and increases disharmony and agitation.

Moving towards the Tao is not only an intellectual exercise. It is real movement which finds fulfilment only in the experiential sphere. It is not only talking about compassion; it is practicing it as well. It is not just discussing wisdom; it is also living it. It is not merely considering theoretical possibilities; it is to be in the thick of life, acting intuitively where there is the need to act, and to refrain from action where it is wise to do so. It is to speak out when compassion compels you to, and to shut up when wisdom demands it.

Theory is cheap. A life of the spirit is real, and demands its price.

The Buddha warned against accepting any so-called "spiritual truth" unless you have tested it yourself and found it to be true. Wiser advice has never been given.

Once you have started on your way, never give up. Be patient and resilient, no matter what happens to you, and no matter how many setbacks you suffer. Never turn back. Show grit. Have courage. Have faith. Never give up.

4. Egotism

Egotism is certainly the main stumbling block in destroying ignorance and becoming wise. The belief in a permanent "I" and in the permanence of things combine to form a terrible obsession, in which the main aim becomes the glorification of self. This self, however, is a false one, a contrived image of who you are supposed to be. It enslaves its believer and often drives him to hyperactivity and distress.

5. Dualistic thinking on a spiritual level

Many people allow their rational faculties to interfere with their spiritual life. This causes many problems. The rational separates, whereas the spirit strives to unite. The rational spotlights differences, the spirit emphasizes sameness and identity.

As long as you limit the rational and the analytical to its own sphere, where it has a legitimate and essential function, no problems will occur. Problems ensue when your discriminatory faculties intrude upon matters of the spirit.

The discriminatory faculties tend to undermine faith. For example, trying to explain the inexplicable causes confusion and not clarity. We have already mentioned what happens if you want to define god: you then turn god from a source of spiritual power into something that can be packaged and sold by organizations to increase their own power.

There is quite simply a limit to our rational abilities. There is a point in our spiritual development where only faith and commitment will allow us to progress.

A terrible byproduct of dualistic thinking on a spiritual level is the belief that things are really separate. We start believing that the "reality" created in our minds is real. We lose sight of the fact that separation is artificial and does not exist.

In a state of ignorance, we tend to be unaware of the confusing influence that language has on our ability to progress. For example, we tend to think that the "spiritual" and "material" levels are two separate levels, and we do not realize that it is our thinking that separates these two aspects. What we fail to see is that, in fact, the spirit and our bodies are identical. Not realizing this can lead to much confusion and suffering.

To be continued........

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Overcoming Ignorance.....Part I

I want to share this wonderful and informative essay with you because this is what I do and who I am. Ignorance is not a derogatory term or state because we are all ignorant about many things. I know that I am. Ignorance is actually the state we are all in before the spark of wisdom ignites and illuminates a path previously hidden. The timing of this occurrence is not in our hands any more than the day of our birth was. It will happen when it happens. I sincerely hope that something I post here will be the flint that ignites your spark. The wisdom is here for anyone able to "hear". I hope this helps those of you already on your Path with Heart and possibly helps to awaken one or two of you who are starting to question the illusion of the status quo.

"The only thing I know is that I know nothing."
~ Socrates

Overcoming Ignorance.....Part I

A. Introduction

One could ask why one should write about ignorance at all. People who are truly ignorant are not aware of their ignorance - not being aware that one does not know is a defining quality of ignorance. The ignorant will not really read this kind of article, for they will not know this is applicable to them. So why "preach to the converted"?

Ignorance seems to be a universal condition. In some way and to some degree, we are all ignorant. To a certain extent, we are all victims of illusion. This essay is designed to give readers some guidance on how they could assess their own "degree of ignorance", and how they could overcome it.

Becoming aware of one's own ignorance is the first step towards getting rid of ignorance. It is a thinking process, but also one of taking concrete steps in real life. It is an act both of analysis and commitment.

No matter how wise or compassionate one is, there is always room for improvement. Becoming wise and compassionate is a never ending quest.

B. The root of suffering

Ignorance is the root of suffering. Hinduism, Taoism and all schools of Buddhism, including Ch'an and Zen, but also many Christian schools of thought, agree on this.

Ignorance is more than just the absence of knowledge, even though a lack of knowledge is often part of the condition. It is the negative opposite of wisdom: the absence of qualities associated with wisdom. Ignorance also implies a lack of compassion, and as such it constitutes a self-centered attitude and its subsequent destructive approach to life. It is a life of greed and hatred instead of compassion and wisdom. It is to fall victim to illusions of permanence and materialism - the inability to distinguish between the real and the fake, and the failure to choose priorities correctly.

In Zen, ignorance is seen as the antithesis of enlightenment. Enlightenment is to be freed totally from ignorance.

Ignorance in Taoism is often described as disharmony with the Tao. It is a state of control by the ego, a restless condition of volatility dominated by illusion and destructive emotions. This state of disharmony with the Tao can only be overcome when one manages to strip oneself of a false sense of self, illusion and pretense. To be freed from ignorance is an awakening process - often gradual, but with brilliant moments of keen insight - and it entails the discovery of the true self and the transformation that accompanies it. It is a movement from disunity towards unity with all of creation.

Ignorance is the source of most suffering, yet it is "curable". It is a state of mind anyone - even the wise - can fall prey to, but it is a condition anyone can be liberated from - even those who seem to be inextricably enmeshed in it.

We live in a world promoting ignorance, vivifying the illusionary, and ignoring, even denying, the true essence of things. Fighting ignorance has therefore become a constant vigil against negative influence, which can take the form of peer pressure, the group mind, government propaganda, or subtle and brash forms of an omnipresent advertising industry. Our consumer society is focused on evoking greed and inflating the ego, and it is difficult to isolate ourselves from its negative influences. Governments often fan the flames of blind patriotism. Often, our professions, social pressures and education promote and demand an egotistical life style which runs contrary to a compassionate and wise approach to life. Many people seem to have no alternative but to follow life styles which strengthen their own egos and ignorance.

In this environment hostile to the spirit, it is difficult to rid oneself of ignorance and to move with the freedom only harmony with the Tao, and compassion and wisdom, can bring.
To be continued....
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Secrets of Inner Peace

"No price is too great to pay for inner peace. "

- Sri Chinmoy

Consciously or unconsciously we are all searching for inner peace. Inner peace is the foundation of lasting happiness, and satisfaction. Without inner peace, man can not know, either himself, or be at peace with the world.

1. Inner Peace is a Choice.

It is our own thoughts that will either bring us peace or restlessness. If our mind is clear of useless, undivine thoughts, we can experience inner peace in abundance. When we lose our inner peace it is because of our own thoughts. It is tempting to blame our problems on the world and other people. However, a man of inner peace will not allow the outer world to disturb his inner mind. If we maintain equanimity and detachment to events of the world, inner peace will remain a permanent feature of our mind.
God has not forgotten
To give us peace.
He is just waiting for us
To ask for it.

- Sri Chinmoy [1]

2. Inner Peace is to be experienced Here and Now.

It is a mistake to feel inner peace will be achieved in the future, when circumstances are more favourable. Inner peace can only be felt in the present moment. If we live only in the here and now, we will not worry about the future, or speculate on the past. If we live only for the present moment we can learn to understand the immediacy of inner peace.

3. Inner peace and Oneness are inseparable.

If we live in the critical mind and are constantly judging others, we will never experience real inner peace. When we judge others we try to assert our superiority over others, but this can never bring inner peace. When we are flooded with inner peace, we feel others are an extended part of our reality; the imperfection of others actually seem our own imperfections, just in another body.

4. Inner Peace is in the heart not the Mind.

To find inner peace in the mind, is difficult. The nature of the mind is to think, analyse and create problems. The nature of the heart is oneness, love and joy. If we can bring to the fore the qualities of the heart, we will find peace. It is also in the heart, that our Soul resides. The Soul is the divine part of our being, and is inundated with peace.

"To come back to the secret of inner peace, our questioning and doubting mind is always wanting in peace. Our loving and dedicated heart is always flooded with inner peace."

- Sri Chinmoy [2]

5. Inner Peace is Dynamic not Passive.

Inner peace energises us. When we have a connection with inner peace, we spontaneously have a positive outlook on life. Inner peace is not a passive quality, it embodies great energy.

6. Inner Peace and Meditation.

If we feel inner peace remains a far cry, we should not despair. If we sincerely pray and meditate for inner peace we can achieve it. Our sincere aspiration for inner peace, is the most powerful tool for making it a living reality. We cannot expect to be flooded with inner peace if we make no effort to attain it.

"To hope to achieve peace without spirituality or meditation is to expect water in the desert." [3]

7. Peace does not Require an Escape from the world.

Inner peace does not require us to live in an himalayan cave. Inner peace can be experienced in the hustle and bustle of the world. What is important is the state of our mind, not the outer circumstances.

By: Richard Pettinger, Sri Chinmoy Centre, Oxford


[1] Excerpt from Peace: God'S Fragrance-Heart, Part 2 by Sri Chinmoy.

[2] Excerpt from Eastern Light For The Western Mind by Sri Chinmoy. - The Secret of Inner Peace

[3] Excerpt from Eastern Light For The Western Mind by Sri Chinmoy. - The Secret of Inner Peace
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Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Thief and His Son: A Lesson in Wisdom

Following one's path toward self-mastery is a personal journey and everyone's experiences are as different as their individual perspectives. As I have mentioned before, knowledge and wisdom are two very different aspects of learning. Usually one studies to gain knowledge but until one internalizes this knowledge through direct, mindless experience, it just remains an abstract concept. Learning martial arts makes for an easy example. Your Sensei teaches you a kata, or form, then you spend months practicing it from start to finish until you can do it lightening fast, without mistake, without thought, with softness and hardness, as you withdraw in defense of your adversary's attack and respond to neutralize the threat. You have then transformed knowledge into wisdom. You do not need to think about doing it. You just do it. This is called,"It is already done before you do it". It is as much a part of you as your breath is. Such is the same in gaining the wisdom to master yourself. Below is a good explanation of gaining wisdom.

The Thief and His Son

by Derek Lin

To explain the study of Zen and Tao, the Fifth Patriarch told this story: "The Zen we have here is like an old thief who led his son into a mansion and instructed him to go into a walk-in closet to steal some clothes. As soon as the son went into the closet, the father closed the door and locked him in. He then ran through the hallway banging on doors and walls, making a loud racket before fleeing into the night. "The residents got up, looked around and realized that there might still be a thief in the house. They banded together, lit a candle, and started searching room by room. "The son, still trapped in the closet, was in a bad situation. Out of desperation, he made mouse noises, which attracted the searchers' attention. The master of the mansion ordered his servant to unlock the closet. The young man sprang out, blew out the candle, pushed the servant aside, and ran for his life. The residents regrouped and gave angry pursuit. "The young man couldn't shake them, but suddenly he saw a well up ahead and got an idea. He pushed a large rock into the well, and ran in a different direction. The residents heard the loud splash, assumed he fell in or jumped in the well, and went looking for him there. "Thanks to this ploy, the young man was able to get away cleanly. He returned home to tell his father what happened. After he completed his report, his father said, 'You're ready to be a thief now.'" Okay. What was the point of this rather long-winded story? What did the Fifth Patriarch mean when he said Zen was like these characters above? Think about it for a few moments before you read the next paragraph. Can you guess the meaning of this story? The main point is that ultimately, Zen and Tao are concepts for each person to grasp individually. A student of Zen and Tao is like the young man in this story, and the master is like the father. A true master will provide a certain amount of guidance and lead the student along the path to a personal trial. For every piece of wisdom one gains, there is a corresponding trial which takes place in one's heart as well as the mind. When you undergo this process, you start out just like the young man, trapped, alone and in the dark. The lock that keeps you trapped isn't a physical lock. Rather, it represents an obstacle to comprehension, and you need the key of insight to unlock it. In this critical juncture, it is entirely up to you to make a breakthrough. No one can help you. Now why is that? By the above we have described the process, but not the reason. Why is this something that you must do by your lonesome? By their very nature, Zen and Tao are highly personal. If someone were to explain them to you, all you'll get is a version of his understanding, expressed through the imperfect medium of his words. It still won't be your own understaning, because something is always lost in the transition, and his understanding is tied to his intuitions and perceptions, which are not and can never be your intuitions and perceptions. The only way to make Zen and Tao uniquely your own is to find a way out of this maze in the heart and make your escape to realization and oneness. During this mental flight, your pursuers are the forces of ignorance and misconception, and when you succeed in getting away from them, understanding dawns, and a light bulb comes on in your mind. You experience that golden "eureka" moment and win another piece of the Truth. That's what the study of Zen and Tao is all about - personal breakthroughs leading to personal enlightenment. In the context of our story today, it's all about qualifying to be a thief… which, in turn, means taking another step toward becoming a true master.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Secret of Death

Then Almitra spoke, saying, "We would ask now of Death."

And he said:

You would know the secret of death.

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;

And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.

Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?

Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Words for the Soul

Original Mind

As a leaf which in landing
creates ripples on a pond,
so sense perceptions flutter about us
bidding the mind to follow -
deep inside,
like the pond's placid nature
the mind is unmoved
able to reflect a garden's beauty
or the waste in a garbage can without absorption.


Drowning out the silence.
The deafening roar of scattered thoughts
drum behind blinded eyes..

Returning me,
once again
to my breath.

One breath...
speaks of
one love...
one heart...
one mind.

No soul to be found
in this endless sea of "I".
No third eye
with which to navigate

I seek refuge in her arms.
I seek solace at her breast.
I seek escape from my "self".

bodhi svaha.

Gone beyond the silence
and into the awakening,
Which "I" can see lies just ahead...

Leveling of All Things into One

Only the truly intelligent understand the principle of the leveling of all things into One. They discard the distinctions and take refuge in the common and ordinary things. The common and ordinary things serve certain functions and therefore retain the wholeness of nature. From this wholeness, one comprehends, and from comprehension, one to the Tao. There it stops. To stop without knowing how it stops -- this is Tao.

But to wear out one's intellect in an obstinate adherence to the individuality of things, not recognizing the fact that all things are One, -- that is called "Three in the Morning."

What is "Three in the Morning?" A keeper of monkeys said with regard to their rations of nuts that each monkey was to have three in the morning and four at night. At this the monkeys were very angry. Then the keeper said they might have four in the morning and three at night, with which arrangement they were all well pleased. The actual number of nuts remained the same, but there was a difference owing to subjective evaluations of likes and dislikes. It also derives from the principle of subjectivity. Wherefore the true Sage brings all the contraries together and rests in the natural Balance of Heaven. This is called following two courses at once.

Beyond the limits of the external world, the Sage knows that it exists, but does not talk about it. Within the limits of the external world, the Sage talks but does not make comments. With regard to the wisdom of the ancients, as embodied in the canon of Spring and Autumn, the Sage comments, but does not expound. And thus, among distinctions made, there are distinctions that cannot be made; among things expounded, there are things that cannot be expounded.

How can that be? The true Sage keeps his knowledge within him, while men in general set forth theirs in argument, in order to convince each other. And therefore it is said one who argues does so because he cannot see certain points of view.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pivot of Tao

Tao is obscured when men understand only one of a pair of opposites, or concentrate only on a partial aspect of being. Then clear expression also becomes muddled by mere wordplay, affirming this one aspect and denying the rest. Hence the wrangling of Confucians and Mohists; each denies what the other affirms, and affirms what the other denies. What use is this struggle to set up "No" against "Yes," and "Yes" against "No"? Better to abandon this hopeless effort and seek true light! There is nothing that cannot be seen from the standpoint of the "Not-I." And there is nothing which cannot be seen from the standpoint of the "I." If I begin by looking at anything from the viewpoint of the "Not-I," then I do not really see it, since it is "not I" that sees it. If I begin from where I am and see it as I see it, then it may also become possible for me to see it as another sees it. Hence the theory of reversal that opposites produce each other, depend on each other, and complement each other. However this may be, life is followed by death; death is followed by life. The possible becomes impossible; the impossible becomes possible. Right turns into wrong and wrong into right - the flow of life alters circumstances and thus things themselves are altered in their turn. But disputants continue to affirm and deny the same things they have always affirmed and denied, ignoring the new aspects of reality presented by the change in conditions. The wise man therefore, instead of trying to prove this or that point by logical disputation, sees all things in the light of direct intuition. He is not imprisoned by the limitations of the "I," for the viewpoint of direct intuition is that of both "I" and "Not-I." Hence he sees that on both sides of every argument there is both right and wrong. He also sees that in the end they are reducible to the same thing, once they are related to the pivot of the Tao. When the wise man grasps this pivot, he is in the center of the circle, and there he stands while "Yes" and "No" pursue each other around the circumference. The pivot of Tao passes through the center where all affirmations and denials converge. He who grasps the pivot is at the still-point from which all movements and oppositions can be seen in their right relationship. Hence he sees the limitless possibilities of both "Yes" and "No." Abandoning all thought of imposing a limit or taking sides, he rests in direct intuition. Therefore I say: "Better to abandon disputation and seek the true light!"

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Oneness of Friendship

Those truly linked don't need correspondence. When they meet again after many years apart, Their friendship is as true as ever.

In the distant past, there was once a young and wealthy statesman who was on a diplomatic mission. Pausing by a river at night, he heard the haunting sounds of a lute. A passionate musician himself, he took up his own lute and eventually found a goatherd sitting on an old ruin. In those days, an aristocrat would not associate with a commoner, but the two men struck up a friendship through their music. Their playing was as smooth and natural as flowing water.

Once a year, the ambassador and the goatherd would renew their friendship. Though they had the chance to play their music with others during the rest of the year, each man declared that he had found his true counterpart.

The ambassador tried for many years to lift the goatherd out of his poverty, but his friend steadfastly refused. He did not want to pollute their friendship with money.

Years later, when the ambassador was gray haired, he went to the appointed spot, but his friend was not there. He tried to play alone, but his melody was forlorn. Finally someone came to tell him that his friend had starved to death during a recent famine. This news made the ambassador despondent. He was caught in the irony of knowing that he had the money to save his friend, and yet he understood the man's values as well. In sorrow, the ambassador broke his lute. "With my friend gone from the world, who will I play my music for?"

True friendship is a rare harmony.
- 365 Tao

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Zen Poetry


The Zen Masters teach that the pure mind is the eternal Buddha - nature. To attain enlightenment, to be aware of one's own Buddha - nature, it is necessary to go beyond our ordinary thoughts. When we are free from our own projections and ideas, we can be aware of the Buddha Reality which is all pervading.

" Confused by thoughts,
we experience duality in life.
Unencumbered by ideas,
the enlightened see the one Reality."
- Hui - Neng

Zen quotes are inherently paradoxical, because the goal of Zen cannot adequately be described in words. Great Zen Masters often appeared to be talking in riddles as they tried to point their students towards their Buddha nature - A consciouness that is all pervading yet eludes our grasp.

" It is present everywhere.
There is nothing it does not contain.
However only those who have previously
planted wisdom - seeds will be able
to continuously see it."
- Dogen

Zen teachings are noted for their compact and terse nature. This is because enlightenment cannot be attained by studying complex scriptures, enlightenment comes through inner practise.

- Note: Transformation of knowledge in wisdom

" I have not heard of a single Buddha, past or present,
who has been enlightened by sacred prayers
and scriptures."
- Bassui

From Poet Seers

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Taoist Perspective: Shīfu Zhàng's Mysterious Cane Points the Way

"Mayoku walked around his old Zen friend, Shifu Zhang, three times and then thumped his staff on the ground.
Shifu Zhang stood up, walked around Mayoku once, tapped his cane three times on the wall, and said "The power of the wind can topple trees and is gone by morning. My cane can cut through the wind."

Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku asked his Daoist friend, Shifu Zhang, "Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?"
Shifu Zhang picked up his beautiful cane in one hand, and then quickly tapped it eight times on the floor.
Hakuin Ekaku smiled and said, "Indeed, Shifu Zhang's cane is louder than the sound of one hand, but it must be sanded and polished more."

Zen Master Baqiao told his old friend, "If you have a staff, I will give you a staff; if you have no staff, I will take your staff away."
His friend, Shifu Zhang, replied "I have a cane and you don't. Would you like to borrow yours?"
Baqiao replied, "Shifu Zhang, you will have to walk into Hell!"
Shifu Zhang raised his eyebrows and said, "Well, Baqiao, then I will need to borrow my cane for the long hot walk. Sorry, but I can't lend yours to you."

Gathering together in an orchard of blooming sweet lime trees, the students waited for their esteemed teacher, Kasyapa. Slowly walking down the dirt path, relying on his danda walking staff for balance, Kasyapa joined his students. He sat quietly for a long time, enjoying the fragrance of the lime blossoms. Finally, he raised his danda staff. Everyone stared at Kasyapa - serious, intent, focused, and silent. Only Shifu Zhang smiled, and then lifted his cane. Kasyapa pointed his danda at Shifu Zhang. Another transmission was completed. The sacred thread remained unbroken.

Zen Master Seung Sahn held up his staff in front of old Shifu Zhang, and said "Then, what are this staff, this sound and your mind? Are they the same or different? If you say "same," I will hit you thirty times. If you say "different," I will also hit you thirty times. Why?"
Shifu Zhang lifted his cane slowly and pointed it at Seung Sahn's face, and then he said "Don't know! Same or different, nobody can hit the sound of our minds."

Zen Master Shuzan held out his short staff in front of his Taoist friend, Shifu Zhang, and said "If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality and are clinging. If you do not call it a short staff, then you ignore the fact. Now what do you wish to call this?"
Shifu Zhang smiled, dropped and pointed to his cane, and said "Yesterday it was a wooden walking stick that helped without speaking. Tomorrow it may become firewood, crackling in the flames."

Zen Master Yunmen Wenyan and Shifu Zhang were walking together in the hills behind the monastery one cloudy autumn afternoon. It began to rain steadily on the two old friends. Yunmen said, "My staff has changed into a dragon and is swallowing up the heaven and earth. So, my friend, where do mountains, rainfall, rivers and the great earth come from?"
Shifu Zhang was quiet for awhile, stopped on the trail, and then held his cane in his hand with the tip pointing to the sky. He said, "Yunmen, as for the source of their coming, the tip of my cane points to the fecund depths of vast emptiness, the crook end to the endless inter-marriages of ten thousand realities, and my hand grasps the heartwood of the ordinary mind. So, my friend Yunmen, where are they all going?"

Master Tung Kwo asked Sifu Zhang, " Show me where the Tao is to be found."
Sifu Zhang replied, "There is no place my cane or my mind goes or rests where it cannot be found."

Zen Master Ummon held up his staff in front of his Zen friend, Shifu Zhang, and said "This staff leapt up to the Eighth Heaven into the hands of the lame Zhong Kui who used it to awaken the Green Dragon in the Eastern Sea."
Shifu Zhang said, "Ummon your poetry is lovely, but my cane cannot hear you."

Toju Zenchu brandished his staff before Daoist Shifu Zhang and challenged him "Speak and you get Nanten's staff. Do not speak and you still get Nanten's staff."
Shifu Zhang stood, lifted his cane in defense, and quietly said, "Hush, Nanten! Your staff appears broken. I am leaving now to take my evening walk. Goodbye."
- Michael P. Garofalo, Way of the Short Staff

"To regard the fundamental as the essence, to regard things as coarse, to regard accumulation as deficiency, and to dwell quietly alone with the spiritual and the intelligent -- herein lie the techniques of Tao of the ancients."
- Chuang-Tze

Look, it cannot be seen - it is beyond form.
Listen, it cannot be heard - it is beyond sound.
Grasp, it cannot be held - it is intangible.
These three are indefinable, they are one.

From above it is not bright;
From below it is not dark:
Unbroken thread beyond description.
It returns to nothingness.
Form of the formless,
Image of the imageless,
It is called indefinable and beyond imagination.

Stand before it - there is no beginning.
Follow it and there is no end.
Stay with the Tao, Move with the present.

Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of Tao.
- Lao-Tse

A Zen Moment

Opening bell
echoes from the canyon walls --
raindrops on the river.

The sounds of rocks bouncing off rocks;
the shadows of trees traced on trees.

I sit, still.
The canyon river chants,
moving mountains.

The sermon spun on the still point:
dropping off eternity, picking up time;
letting go of self, awakened to Mind.

- Michael P. Garofalo

To what shall I compare this life of ours? Even before I can say it is like a lightning flash or a dewdrop it is no more.
- Sengai

Well versed in the Buddha Way, I go the non-Way Without abandoning my Ordinary person's affairs. The conditioned and Name-and-Form, All are flowers in the sky. Nameless and formless, I leave birth-and death.
- Pang Yun

As flowing waters disappear into the mist We lose all track of their passage. Every heart is its own Buddha. Ease off ... become immortal. Wake up! The world's a mote of dust. Behold heaven's round mirror. Turn loose! Slip past shape and shadow, Sit side by side with nothing, save Tao.
- Shih-shu, 1703

Two come about because of One, but don't cling to the One either! So long as the mind does not stir, the ten thousand things stay blameless; no blame, no phenomena, no stirring, no mind. The viewer disappears along with the scene, the scene follows the viewer into oblivion, for scene becomes scene only through the viewer, viewer becomes viewer because of the scene.
- Seng-ts'an, 600

The Buddha Mind contains the universe. In this universe there is only one pure substance, One absolute and indivisible Truth. The notion of duality does not exist. The small mind contains only illusions of separateness, of division. It imagines myriad objects and defines truth in terms of relative opposites. Big is defined by small, good by evil, pure by defiled, Hidden by revealed, full by empty. What is opposition? It is the arena of hostility, of conflict and turmoil. Where duality is transcended peace reigns. This is the Dharma's ultimate truth.
- Maxims of Master Han Shan Te'Ch'ing, # 76, 1600