Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Six Poems on Living in the Mountains

Six Poems on Living in the Mountains

I've got a little picture in my mind of a clean and quiet place.
Everywhere you look it's completely natural.
The house is made of plaited rushes.
There's a good half-acre for growing tubers and flowers.
Beautiful birds perch on cliffs
That encase a few clouds that hang around green peaks.
The world's red dust won't be able to get up here.
Simple elegance is better than saintliness or spirituality.

Can joy be found in the mountains?
Let me tell you. There's more joy in the mountains
Than anywhere else.
Pines and bamboos perform sacred chants.
The songs of Sheng flutes are played by birds.
In the trees, monkeys climb for fruit.
In the ponds, ducks cavort with lotus lilies.
This escape from the ordinary world
Month by month and year by year
Eliminates the hindrances to Enlightenment.

Don't try to stand tall in the courtyards of fame.
In the mountains such dreams fade away.
Your body stands on its own when it's up with the clouds.
Your heart pulls away from worldly attachments.
The moon that I love clears a path through the pines
And guides a stream right to the bamboo gate.
Naturally, this is nothing short of amazing.
How could you disparage it... or ever tire of the sight?

In the mountains there's nothing at all which prohibits
Dreams of cooking millet during afternoon naps.
If you're lazy by nature, you won't brood about problems.
You'll make light of the body and won't fear the cold.
Chrysanthemums grow by the three ancient paths.
A few planted plum trees make the whole yard fragrant.
Engagements are blessedly short.
Leisure is blessedly long.

Just wake up from an afternoon nap in a grass hut.
Drag a walking stick and let it bounce free and easy.
Lean on a rock and watch the clouds rise.
Listen to the pine saplings and hear the sound of waves.
When the forest is dense, no guests pass by.
When the roads are dangerous, they're only used for gathering firewood.
The place is so pristine and cool
How could it fail to quench my mind's furnace of cares?

People complain of a hard life in the mountains.
I don't think it's much different from the hardships of anywhere else.
A clay oven burning birch twigs,
A stone cauldron boiling wild sprouts.
It seems that you've only just picked the chrysanthemums
That grow in the three months of autumn
When it's time to view the flowers of March.
Pity more the moon that night after night
Is forced to entertain society.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Zen, Yoga, Gurdjieff- perspectives on inner work: Be the grass

This is an excellent blog post from a student/teacher of the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff - a Sufi Master who developed a distinctive Practice, a Way, to become One again with our True Nature. The title says it all so I will let this wonderful blog by Lee van Laer take it from here. Enjoy!


 ~ By  Lee van Laer, a member of the New York Gurdjieff Foundation

This morning, I was pondering the role of time, and ended up reading part of Dogen's Uji,  or, “existence–time.”

 In the Tanahashi translation (Shambhala, 2011), we hear:

“Know that in this way there are myriads of forms and hundreds of grasses [all things] throughout the entire earth, and yet each grass and each form itself is the entire earth. The study of this is the beginning of practice."
"When you are at this place, there is just one grass, there is just one form; there is understanding of form and beyond understanding of form; there is understanding of grass and beyond understanding of grass. Since there is nothing but just this moment, the time being is all the time there is. Grass being, form being, are both time. Each moment is all being, each moment is the entire world. Reflect now whether any being or any world is left out of the present moment.”

 Because Dogen routinely presents sophisticated ideas, and because his arguments appear to be dense and complex, one tends to be drawn towards abstract, or intellectual, analysis. So much of his work reads like an argument of this kind, one is perhaps tempted to be academic about it.

 Yet I think that the whole point of his arguments is to defeat such an approach. His ubiquitous, self-reflective dialectic isn't meant as a de facto call to complexity; rather, it is to point our own complexity out to us, calling our attention to the fact that we are perpetually trapped in dualistic complications. His words and statements, one after another, throughout his teaching, morph into koans. Each one tries to point beyond the dualism that we know, the affirming and denying, towards a third force–a force of reconciliation–that we are not sensitive to. Gurdjieff, one may recall, indicated that man is “third force blind.” We are unaware of this reconciling factor, which could otherwise make the world whole.

Sp there is nothing academic or intellectual about this brief passage. We are called, rather, to a sensitive emotional moment: in this translation, the point has been deftly realized by referring to grass. (The Nishijima and Cross translation,which has its own transcendental moments, does not quite rise to the occasion in the same way this time.) Associations are called forth: the green color of grass, the delicacy of grass, its tenderness, flexibility, suppleness. The way that grass cover surfaces gently, its movement in wind, the ability of grass to be composed of myriad forms (blades) and yet be one thing, acting together, seen together, experienced together.

Buried deep in this teaching- in all of Dogen's teachings- are body, blood, bones and marrow, not just of the intellect, but of an emotional opening.

We are called to a simple moment, a moment that has nothing to do with trying to figure things out. We are called to this immediate moment. We are called to a relationship with grass, to form-  to a relationship with both our inability to understand form and the existence of form itself. Our awareness becomes a bridge in which we inhabit both the condition and our failure to understand the condition. ( I am reminded of my conversation with my daughter last night, in which she pointed out that for Kant, the sublime– the quality of spiritual purity or excellence–begins with our failure, our inability, to comprehend... "the study of this is the beginning of practice."

We discover feeling.

 An emotional opening to the quality of grass and the existence of form brings us to a moment where wholeness is possible. Nothing is left out of the present moment. We are called to understand– and do not understand– the present moment, at the same time. Our understanding lies– as the understanding of Socrates lay– in being neither wise with our wisdom, nor stupid within our stupidity, but being just as we are.

"The wisest of you men is he who has realized, like Socrates, that in respect of wisdom he is really worthless." (Plato: The Collected Dialogues, Apology, p. 9, Hamilton & Cairns, Princeton University Press, 1989)

Hence we discover blades of grass that gather themselves together in a landscape: Zen Masters,  German philosophers, wise Greeks. All of them understanding that while we try, and while we fail, we still inhabit the wholeness of all the forms we know– and that this wholeness comprises an ineffable truth that cannot be denied.

Jeanne de Salzmann calls us back over and over to this act of seeing, this act of inhabiting the moment. Nothing is left out of the present moment. We do not need to change the present moment. The need is for the present moment to be seen.

It is not the present moment, its nature, or its content, that distracts us from experience and relationship; the present moment, its nature, and its contents are completely valid and true. They need not change; only our relationship to them must change.

Don't think about the grass... be the grass.

 I respectfully ask you to take good care. 

“There do exist enquiring minds, which long for the truth of the heart, seek it, strive to solve the problems set by life, try to penetrate to the essence of things and phenomena and to penetrate into themselves. If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter which path he follows in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself, and begin with the solution of the problem of what he is himself and what his place is in the world around him.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011



Here is Part III of Section IV.  From the Chinese Masters from the Manual on Zen Buddhism written by the late, great brilliant scholar and Zen Master D. T. Suzuki. This teaching is so important! In essence, it explains the absolute necessity for living in the Present without the dualistic nature of thought or words and actually Being the Truth within the words. You must let go of All dogma and actually Live the Oneness of our True Nature which can not be described. Just live the meaning of the word "BE"!

Everything happens for a reason and my writing this now and sharing these  great words of Wisdom from an ancient Chan, or Zen, Master, are directly related to a conversation I had earlier tonight about this very aspect of Wisdom. All I can say is, "WOW"! This IS the True Nature of Reality and is realized in everyday life by those who understand the One Truth. I am constantly in Awe of the workings of this One Truth as it reveals IT's Presence and settles the waves of our illusory duality back to Reality's natural Stillness to reveal the explicit grandeur of the Calm and Peaceful Oneness within us All! With great honor and sincere humbleness, I offer you this impeccable Teaching. Enjoy!

 Namaste' **




24. Mahaprajnaparamita is a Sanskrit term of the Western country; in T'ang it means "great-wisdom (chih-hui), other-shore reached". This Truth (dharma=fa) is to be lived, it is not to be [merely] pronounced with the mouth. When it is not lived, it is like a phantom, like an apparition. The Dharmakaya of the Yogin is the same as the Buddha.

What is maha? Maha means "great". The capacity of Mind is wide and great, it is like emptiness of space. To sit with a mind emptied makes one fall into emptiness of indifference. Space contains the sun, the moon, stars, constellations, great earth, mountains, and rivers. All grasses and plants, good men and bad men, bad things and good things, Heaven and hell-they are all in empty space. The emptiness of [Self-] nature as it is in all people is just like this.

25. [Self-] nature contains in it all objects; hence it is great. All objects without exception are of Self-nature. Seeing all human beings and non-human beings as they are, evil and good, evil things and good things, it abandons them not, nor is it contaminated with them; it is like the emptiness of space. So it is called great, that is, maha. The confused pronounce it with their mouths, the wise live it with their minds. Again, there are people confused [in mind]; they conceive this to be great when they have their minds emptied of thoughts--which is not right. The capacity of Mind is great; when there is no life accompanying it, it is small. Do not merely pronounce it with the mouth. Those who fail to discipline themselves to live this life, are not my disciples.

26. What is prajna? Prajna is chih-hui (wisdom). When every thought of yours is not benighted at all times, when you always live chih-hui (=prajna, wisdom), this is called the life of Prajna. When a single thought of yours is benighted, then Prajna ceases to work. When a single thought of yours is of chih, i.e. enlightened, then Prajna is born. Being always benighted in their minds, people yet declare themselves to be living Prajna. Prajna has no shape, no form, it is no other than the essence (hsing) of chih-hui (wisdom).

What is Paramita? This is a Sanskrit term of the Western country. In Yang it means "the other shore reached". When the meaning (artha in Sanskrit) is understood, one is detached from birth and death. When the objective world (visaya) is clung to, there is the rise of birth and death; it is like the waves rising from the water; this is called "this shore". When you are detached from the objective world, there is no birth and death for you; it is like the water constantly running its course: this is "reaching the other shore". Hence Paramita.
The confused pronounce [Prajna] with their mouths; the wise live it in their minds. When it is merely pronounced, there is at that very moment a falsehood; when there is a .falsehood, it is not a reality. When Prajna is lived in every thought of yours, this is known as reality. Those who understand this truth, understand the truth of Prajna and practise the life of Prajna. Those who do not practise it are ordinary people. When you practise and live it in one thought of yours, You are equal to the Buddha.

Good friends, the passions are no other than enlightenment (bodhi). When your antecedent thought is confused yours is an ordinary mind; as soon as your succeeding thought is enlightened, you are a Buddha.

Good friends, Prajnaparamita is the most honoured, the highest, the foremost; it is nowhere abiding, nowhere departing, nowhere coming; all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future issue out of it. By means of Great Wisdom (ta-chih-hui=mahaprajna) that leads to . the other shore (paramita), the five skandhas, the passions, and the innumerable follies are destroyed. When thus disciplined, one is a Buddha, and the three passions [i.e. greed, anger, and folly] will turn into Morality (sila), Meditation (dhyana), and Wisdom (prajna).

27. Good friends, according to my way of understanding this truth, 84,000 wisdoms (chih-hui) are produced from one Prajna. Why? Because there are 84,000 follies. If there were no such innumerable follies, Prajna is eternally abiding, not severed from Self-nature. He who has an insight into this truth is free from thoughts, from recollections, from attachments; in him there is no deceit and falsehood. This is where the essence of Suchness is by itself. When all things are viewed in the light of wisdom (chih-hui=prajna), there is neither attachment nor detachment. This is seeing into one's Nature and attaining the truth of Buddhahood.

28. Good friends, if you wish to enter into the deepest realm of Truth (dharmadhatu), and attain the Prajnasamadhi, you should at once begin to exercise yourselves in the life of Prajnaparamita; you just devote yourselves to the one volume of the Vajracchedika-prajnaparamita Sutra, and you will, seeing into the nature of your being, enter upon the Prajnasamadhi. It should be known that the merit of such a person is immeasurable, as is distinctly praised in the sutras, of which I need not speak in detail.

This Truth of the highest order is taught to people of great intelligence and superior endowments. If people of small intelligence and inferior endowments happen to hear it, no faith would ever be awakened in their minds. Why? It is like a great dragon pouring rains down in torrents over the Jambudipa: cities, towns, villages are all deluged and carried away in the flood, as if they were grass-leaves. But when the rain, however much, falls on the great ocean, there is in it neither an increase nor a decrease.

When people of the Great Vehicle listen to a discourse on the Vajracchedika their minds are opened and there is an intuitive understanding. They know thereby that their own Nature is originally endowed with Prajna-wisdom and that all things are to be viewed in the light of this wisdom (chih-hui) of theirs, and they need not depend upon letters. It is like rain-waters not being reserved in the sky; but the water is drawn up by the dragon-king out of the rivers and oceans, whereby all beings and all plants, sentient and non-sentient, universally share the wet. All the waters flowing together once more are poured into the great ocean, and the ocean accepting all the waters fuses them into one single body of water. It is the same with Prajna-wisdom which is the original Nature of all beings.

29. When people of inferior endowments hear this "abrupt" doctrine here discoursed on, they are like those plants naturally growing small on earth, which, being once soaked by a heavy rain, are all unable to raise themselves up and continue their growth. It is the same with people of inferior endowments. They are endowed with Prajna-wisdom as much as people of great intelligence; there is no distinction. Why is it then that they have no insight even when listening to the Truth? It is due to the heaviness of hindrance caused by false views and to the deep-rootedness of the passions. It is like an overcasting cloud screening the sun; unless it blows hard no rays of light are visible.

There is no greatness or smallness in Prajna-wisdom, but since all beings cherish in themselves confused thoughts, they seek the Buddha by means of external exercises, and are unable to see into their Self-nature. That is why they are known to be people of inferior endowments.

Those beings who, listening to the "Abrupt" doctrine, do not take themselves to external exercises, but reflecting within themselves raise this original Nature all the time to the proper viewing [of the Truth], remain [always Undefiled by] the passions and the innumerable follies; and at that moment they all have an insight [into the Truth]. It is like the great ocean taking in all the rivers, large and small, and merging them into one body of water -'this is seeing into one's own Nature. [He who thus sees into his own Nature] does not abide anywhere inside or outside; he freely comes and departs; he knows how to get rid of attaching thoughts; his passage has no obstructions. When one is able to practise this life, he realizes that there is from the first no difference between [his Self-Nature] and Prajnaparamita.[2]

30. All the sutras and writings, all the letters, the two vehicles Major and Minor, the twelve divisions [of Buddhist literature]-these are all set forth because of the people of the world. Because there is wisdom-nature (chih-hui-hsing), therefore there is the establishment of all these works. If there were no people of the world, no multitudinous objects would ever be in existence. Therefore, we know that all objects rise originally because of the people of the world. All the sutras and writings are said to have their existence because of the people of the world.
The distinction of stupidity and intelligence is only possible among the people of the world. Those who are stupid are inferior people and those who are intelligent are superior people. The confused ask the wise, and the wise discourse for them on the Truth in order to make the stupid enlightened and have an intuitive understanding of it. When the confused are enlightened and have their minds opened, they are not to be distinguished from the people of great intelligence.
Therefore, we know that Buddhas when not enlightened are no other than ordinary beings; when there is one thought of enlightenment, ordinary beings at once turn into Buddhas. Therefore, we know that all multitudinous objects are every one of them in one's own mind.[3] Why not, from within one's own mind, at once reveal the original essence of Suchness? Says the Bodhisattvasila Sutra: "My original Self-nature is primarily pure; when my Mind is known and my Nature is seen into I naturally attain the path of Buddhahood." Says the Vimalakirti Sutra: "When you have an instant opening of view you return to your original Mind."

48. The Great Master died on the third day of the eighth month of the second year of Hsien-t'ien (713 C.E.). On the eighth day of the seventh month of this year he had a farewell gathering of his followers as he felt that he was to leave them forever in the following month, and told them to have all the doubts they might have about his teaching once for all settled on this occasion. As he found them weeping in tears he said: "You are all weeping, but for whom are you so sorry? If you are sorry for my not knowing where I am departing to, you are mistaken; for I know where I am going. Indeed, if I did not, I would not part with you. The reason why you are in tears is probably that you do not yourselves know whither I am going. If you did, you would not be weeping so. The Essence of the Dharma knows no birth-and-death, no coming-and-going. Sit down, all of you, and let me give you a gatha with the title, "On the Absolute"[4]
There is nothing true anywhere,
The true is nowhere to be seen;
If you say you see the true,
This seeing is not the true one.[5]

Where the true is left to itself,
There is nothing false in it, which is Mind itself.
When Mind in itself is not liberated from the false,
There is nothing true, nowhere is the true to be found.
A conscious being alone understands what is meant by "moving";
To those not endowed with consciousness, the moving is unintelligible;
If you exercise yourself in the practice of keeping your mind unmoved, [i.e. in a quietistic meditation] [6]

The immovable you gain is that of one who has no consciousness.
If you are desirous for the truly immovable,
The immovable is in the moving itself,
And this immovable is the [truly] immovable one;
There is no seed of Buddhahood where there is no consciousness.
Mark well how varied are aspects [of the immovable one],
And know that the first reality is immovable;
Only when this insight is attained,
The true working of Suchness is understood.
I advise you, O students of the Truth
To exert yourselves in the proper direction;
Do not in the teaching of the Mahayana
Commit the fault of clinging to the relative knowledge of birth and death. [7]

Where there is an all-sided concordance of views
You may talk together regarding the Buddha's teaching;
Where there is really no such concordance,
Keep your hands folded and your joy within yourself.
There is really nothing to argue about in this teaching;
Any arguing is sure to go against the intent of it;
Doctrines given up to confusion and argumentation
Lead by themselves to birth and death.


** Please excuse the formatting problem resulting in all capital letters with my introduction and the following notes. My blogging skills are humorously lacking but after contemplating this situation, I concluded that the great Wisdom contained in this post should be hollered from the rooftops! :)




1. The Dunhuang copy, edited by D. T. Suzuki, 1934. Hui-neng = Daikan Enō; 637-712 A.D.


2. The text has "the Prajnaparamita Sutra" here. But I take it to mean Prajna itself instead of the sutra.


3. The text has the "body", while the Koshoji edition and the current one have "mind".


4. The title literally reads: "the true-false moving-quiet". "True" stands against "false" and "moving" against "quiet" and as long as there is an opposition of any kind, no true spiritual insight is possible. And this insight does not grow from a quietistic exercise of meditation.


5. That is, the Absolute refuses to divide itself into two: that which sees and that which is seen.


6. "Moving" means "dividing" or "limiting". When the absolute moves, a dualistic interpretation of it takes place, which is consciousness.


7. Chih, jnana in Sanskrit, is used in contradistinction to Prajna which is the highest form of knowledge, directly seeing into the Immovable or the Absolute.