TAT FOUNDATION

The TAT Forum: a spiritual magazine of essays, poems and humor.

December 2005

Essays, poems, opinions and humor on seeking
and finding answers to your deepest life-questions

This month's contents:

Pink Rose  

Zen, Spiritual Steps & Spiritual Systems (part 2) by Richard Rose | Is There Any Material Universe? Jesus to John | On Direction by Bob Fergeson | Starting with the Goal by Mike Conners | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Nowhere to Go by Shawn Nevins | Finding a Teacher by Anima Pundeer | Something & Nothing by Art Ticknor | Nothing & Everything by Art Ticknor | Humor

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Zen, Spiritual Steps & Spiritual Systems
~ From a 1974 talk in Cleveland, Ohio—Part 2 (cont'd from Part 1)
by Richard Rose

I wanted to give you something of a chart of the search [Figure 1]. You just get a rough idea here of Faith or Logic, of a condition of Mentally Subjective and Mentally Objective, Change of Being, Mind Expansion on up to a No-Ego System or a No-Mind System.

Figure 1. Charting Faith through No-Mind/No-Ego. Figure 1

And this becomes almost a chart of my life, in that I started out with an extremely subjective approach, which was faith. And we become not wiser, but rebellious. And I said, "That's it. Out!" Then I continued with an extremely objective, logical system. This is when I studied psychology because I considered that to be objective—to take histories of behavior patterns, statistics, and come up with some great new discovery.

By rejecting neither, but not accepting them completely, I believe that I combined what I call common sense with the faith in myself. It doesn't pay to have faith except in yourself. And if you don't have that, regardless of how foolish it is—in other words, a person who is trying to be absolutely factual or honest with himself would even deny faith in himself. But this can in turn become a rationalization for laziness. It's no point to be just a heap of clay.

When you get clear up on the top of the ladder, they talk of dropping the egos. And as soon as they see an ego, there's an accusation by some other student of Zen to say, "Oh, you have this ego." Well, I maintain that you can't drop them all, and you shouldn't try to drop them all. The catch in this thing is knowing which ones to drop. Because survival is an ego. Physical survival is an ego, and spiritual survival is an ego. You drop those two, and you'll never reach any exaltation of any sort. You may wind up in a winery, a beer joint, a dope den. Of course there'd be no point in doing that either, but you'd take possibly some path of least resistance.

So we must have faith in ourself, and we must increase that faith in ourself. I always say you have to fatten up the head before you chop it off. This is one of the paradoxes of this thing.

But by going in this direction, then, we move out. And everyone does. I maintain that there's no way up but up. The human race has no place to go but up. I maintain that everyone looks for the truth. I've worked in steel mills, in factories, in all walks of life, and I've found people that would ask you, "What do you think happens to you after you die?" Maybe in-between beers they talk about it. But everybody is curious.

I maintain that all forms of life, even animal life, is looking for the truth. There's an apprehension. The cattle approaching the slaughterhouse—they know there's some question that's going to be answered rather shortly, and they're apprehensive about it.

The amoeba is curious, they claim. I've never talked to an amoeba, but they claim by watching them underneath a microscope that they manifest signs of curiosity. They explore—not for food alone. When fully fed, they continue to explore just to see what's out there.

This is a strange aspect of our makeup. These are implants. We have no choice except to be curious. It's chemically a part of our system; it's implanted. If it were not there, the young calf wouldn't find its first meal, the almost totally instinctive animal would not find food. It has to be curious enough to wander beyond the perimeter perhaps of its parents.

So that all we have to do to become philosophers is to encourage that which is naturally implanted within us. But where does our curiosity generally go? It goes down the drain. We get curious about what's playing at the theater, and is it pornographic or isn't it pornographic—and what can we learn from that?—instead of what's down at the library, or what's down in somebody's head.

Figure 2. Gurdjieff's steps of instinctive, emotional, intellectual, and philosophic man. Figure 2

We eventually get into a mental path, if we ever rise above the instinctive levels. Of course I put a lot of weight on the life works of Gurdjieff. I think he had some good points—his talk of man number one, two, three, four—instinctive, emotional, intellectual and philosophic man [figure 2]. These are evidently steps that we cannot help but climb. There are some people who remain on certain ones, but most people at least seem in their lifetime to take one step. They at least go from the instinctive up to the emotional—sometimes two or three steps.

[Break in tape] ... from the mentally subjective, the mentally objective, as we go up this thing we are still hanging onto the objective—because we have to. There's no sense in immediately trying to get totally subjective. And I think that this is one of the things that some people do in the business of meditation—that they think they can assume a certain mental pose without doing anything physically. And then there are people who do it all physically. They go into what I call gimmicks and rituals—and this doesn't do.

It's a combination again. For instance, the mentally objective or phenomenal studies. And I went through a tremendous lot of these—for instance, materializations, certain wisdom schools, magic, numerology, and those things.

The mentally subjective part is the introspection, meditation, development of intuition. Because you're starting in a terrain that has no railroad tracks, you have to develop a guide, and the logical mind will not guide you. Confusion follows the logical mind. You have to develop something else, a new faculty. It isn't really new, because a child has it. But we lose it when we cease to be children. That's the reason it's said that Christ said you have to become as a little child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

We go from there up another step to another category. As I said, when I was twenty-one I came to a conclusion that if I were to find anything, it wouldn't be to find or to learn, it would be to become. And people sooner or later get this idea: "Well, I've studied all these books, and if I could study all the rest of them, and talk to everybody, it would take two hundred years, and we don't have that time. There must be a direct path."

Zen is a direct path. It goes directly to the mind; it goes directly to the self. But—we're still not up to Zen yet.

As I said, we go into mind-expansion systems and change of being systems. And these change of being systems—there are traces of them in all your organized religions, systems of piety, the realization that you have to change yourself to be worthy of God.

The mind expansions as you know are certain disciplines, such as raja yoga, that purport to make you ready for a hierarchy of great minds, where you're going to become first a Master, then a Bodhisattva, a Dhyan Chohan, or something. These are objective hopes, built up by some training that's going to bloom your mind out to where you're recognized by all the cosmic forces as a spiritual leader.

And we go again, up through the subjective aspect of that category, we get to what I call systems that advise no-ego or hint that you will arrive at no-mind. And again, this is not a province of Zen alone. The Zen system is more psychologically describable, let's put it that way. The people who have arrived by it are perhaps not as vocal as the ones who have arrived at some exaltation by Christian mysticism. Another category that is somewhat vocal is the school of Indian mysticism.

I mentioned before that I try to avoid exotic terms. I think the truth can be said very simply. I don't think it can be said—I don't believe it can be proven, that is—but if you have something you want to say, you can say it simply. You don't have to use Asian terms. The truth is here—the truth is not there. It's there, too, but I mean it's not there for us. The truth is where you are; it's in yourself, so to speak.

I have a little book I picked up by accident. I don't know how many of you have seen it. I don't know who the man is. Sometimes you run into a book that's well publicized and it has nothing in it, and you find some little, obscure book that has quite a bit more in it. This man's name was Ramana Maharshi. This is put out by Shambala Press. I found it at a rummage sale.

As I said, just because something happens to you doesn't mean you can describe it. The language—just to be able to speak to people on esoteric terms—is quite a labor because so many new words are coined. There's an abundance of grandiose terms beings thrown out on the market, so to speak, as if they're saying, "Here's what we are doing for you."

Well, one of those terms of course permeates Zen literature, and that's the word satori. Satori means nothing. But it is exotic, and it sounds different, so why not have that? Enlightenment is an English word, and it's like candy, but satori is like divinity fudge. It gives you a feeling you're in a little better class of people.

As I said, I studied for a while with a Zen teacher from Connecticut, and he used to make the remark that the biggest part of this stuff is baloney. He said they had in some monasteries in Asia—China or Japan—they used to have as many as three thousand people. Richard Bucke, in his book Cosmic Consciousness, presumed that only one in a million—the statistics, if such were available—would reach cosmic consciousness, now, not enlightenment.

Now we have all these words thrown at us, and people think they're all synonymous, but they're not. If you look into the history of the things that Bucke describes as cosmic consciousness, they are not quite the same as those which are described by people who reach enlightenment. There are exaltations, and the manner in which you distinguish between them is the connotation they hold of either an absolute condition or a relative experience.

So that when someone talks to you of bliss, he's talking of a relative experience. You do not have a state of no-mind and bliss. Bliss is a describable, relative experience. The words "no-mind" have no meaning; it's just an attempt to tell you it's not describable. Unfortunately, a lot of the students, say in Asia, were running around prattling about arriving at no-mind, and being "closer to no-mind," and this is absurd because they wouldn't know what no-mind was until they reached it—a totally egoless state, or a state in which the mind was dead, the mind was killed.

I found one of the biggest difficulties in talking about Zen was this idea of defining—or meeting somebody else who wanted to argue, for instance, about what he thought enlightenment was, or what he thought was the proper method.

We have methods of finding satori. For instance, there's one school that employs a physical system. Sure, it's a tension-producing system, but the results are, in my estimation, then dependent on that. If you use physical means or formulas to bring about a thing, or even visualize—this is the difficulty in meditation—if you meditate and visualize, your mind may well create that which results.

That which is produced in any genuine experience should be spontaneous. And nearly all of the real experiences [i.e., enlightenment experiences] I have encountered in my lifetime—which are very few; I could count them on one hand—were spontaneous. The experiences came upon them suddenly. They didn't see step by step by step or with each little muscular exertion or drop of sweat or crack on the back that they were closer and closer to satori or enlightenment.

keisaku So there are schools that profess to take you to these exalted states by cracking you on the back [see Philip Kapleau's Three Pillars of Zen for comments on the technique of keisaku]. Also, they do a land office business in selling rugs, mats, benches to sit on, and other things.

[Break in tape] ... that there is an exaltation that occurs whenever a man graduates from one level to another. He graduates with a burst of joy, so to speak, and a feeling of intense accomplishment.

Anyhow, when you become tired of the instinctive level, you generally are taken away from it, or you graduate from it, by an emotional attachment. And the emotional attachment may be to a person of the opposite sex, in which you fall in love, and in so doing make yourself the equivalent of zero. You pledge your life and your ambitions and your vanities and everything for the benefit of the mate and the children that result. And this becomes an emotional growth.

And when that occurs, they talk of it as a love experience, when a person is in love. The person may in turn become in love with a figure such as Jesus Christ, or the guru. And by making themselves zero, or meaningless, and putting this teacher or Christ up as the most meaningful person, they attach themselves emotionally to them, and the result is an exaltation called salvation or rapture.

After people linger in that for ten or twenty years sometimes, they find that they were again the victim of emotion instead of definite proof of what they are. And they gravitate toward intellectual pursuits to try to answer things—magic, statistics, numerology or fundamentalism—start analyzing scriptures and try to find some meaning in them.

But regardless, there's an exaltation that occurs between the emotional and the intellectual state, and that exaltation is the wow! experience. The thing that when you're studying algebra and you have this sudden illumination that bursts upon you, and you say, "Wow, I've got it!"—the entire thing is manifestly clear to you from that point on. Now this is a microcosmic idea of the exaltation, but it's very similar to what I found described in the satori experiences—where somebody under an extreme period of tension comes up with "wow!"

We were talking before the meeting, and we thought it was amazing, or quite unusual, that there were not a tremendous lot of satori experiences in Hitler's prison camps. Because he created a tremendous lot of tension—people were faced with death, and that sort of thing—and if anything, that would have certainly brought it about.

But I don't think it would have brought them clear to enlightenment because it was strictly that—it would have been an exaltation as a result of relief, relief from intense pressure.

We go from there on up to the philosophic stage, and the exaltation there is cosmic consciousness—the described ecstasy of the mystics; now this is still in the relative world experience—or what is known as kevala nirvikalpa samadhi [see "Ramana Maharshi Excerpts" in Profound Writings, East & West].

The phrase sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi better expresses the aim of Zen than does the word satori. So let me read to you [from Profound Writings] the difference of when you branch over, or grow from the relative experience of cosmic consciousness and take the next step. Using sleep as a point of comparison:

  1. In sleep, the mind is alive. We still can think sometimes or dream in sleep.
    In kevala samadhi, the mind is alive.
    In sahaja samadhi, the mind is dead. Now there is a clear-cut difference.
  2. In [deep] sleep, the mind is sunk in oblivion.
    In kevala samadhi, the mind is sunk in Light. This accounts for all these stories of the city of Montreal bursting into rose-colored light [see Bucke's experience in his Cosmic Consciousness book] or the cell of St. John of the Cross bursting into light—so much so that he could read a book by it.
    In sahaja samadhi, the mind is resolved into the Self. Now that's the capital-s Self, not the mundane self.
  3. In kevala samadhi, it [the mind] is like a bucket tied to a rope and left lying in the bottom of a well.
    In sahaja samadhi, it is like a river discharged into the ocean and its identity lost. You don't know who you are. The identity that you had previously doesn't matter.
  4. In kevala samadhi: it can be drawn back out of the well. You can come back and appraise the incident.
    In sahaja samadhi: a river cannot be redirected from the ocean. Once you become a part of that ocean, you are eternally a part of that ocean.

Continued in part 3...

© 1974 by Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved. See TAT's web page on Richard Rose books or the video page for DVDs by and about Richard Rose.


Jesus to John

Owl on pine branch - Hiroshige John said: "Master, is there any material universe?"

Jesus answered: "No."

John asked: "Is there a material body?"

Jesus hesitated a long time and finally said: "Saints believed that their bodies were fashioned of clay and this believing brought them death."

Jesus said: "Let not him who seeketh cease from seeking until he hath found:
"... and when he hath found, he shall be amazed.
"... and when he hath been amazed, he shall reign.
"... and when he shall reign, he shall have rest.
"... the Kingdom of Heaven is within you and whoever shall know himself shall find it.
"... strive, therefore, to know yourselves and ye shall know that ye are in the City of God, and ye are the City."

~ This dialogue was said to have come from a manuscript found in Oxyrynchus in Egypt on the back side of a land-surveyor list of measurements. It appeared in the TAT Journal Vol. 2, No. 1 (issue 6)—see the Journal archive—and was believed to reside in the British Museum, which apparently wasn't true. There were three papyrus fragments in Greek found during archeological excavations on the site of an ancient library at Oxyrhynchus in 1897-1903. The Nag Hammadi discovery in 1945 of a complete version of the lost "Gospel of Thomas" in Coptic made it possible to identify the fragments as coming from a Greek edition of Thomas. You can see the twenty sayings from those Oxyrynchus fragments on the gnosis.org site.


On Direction
by Bob Fergeson

"In the modern world the child tends to grow out of his direct
awareness of the one Ground of things...." —Aldous Huxley

"I tell you that no one can experience this birth (of God realized in the soul) without a mighty effort.
No one can attain this birth unless he can withdraw his mind entirely from things." —Meister Eckhart

There is a story a westerner tells of his first visit with a tribe of Native Americans. He was sitting in a home, watching a toddler play about while the adults talked. Noticing that the child was having trouble opening a heavy wooden door, he sprang to help, but was stopped by one of the residents. He reacted in disbelief, for he could not see how helping the child push the heavy door was not something anyone would not jump to do. The resident explained that they would rather let the young one figure it out on his own, for this would make him more reliant and resourceful, and not dependent on others. The visitor eventually came to a personal understanding of the wisdom behind this story, and later came to see how it affected his so-called civilized society and its members as well.

Photo by the author: Grand Canyon South Kaibab Trail. Photo by the author:
Grand Canyon South Kaibab Trail

Huxley tells us of a perennial philosophy, a path leading within to a common Ground or reality beneath all religions and paths. This Ground, he says, is found within, as in the biblical saying of the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet, as we are, we are turned only outward into the world of form and illusion, trained to be dependent and needful of a world that has no stability, only change and flux. The very idea of "within" is frowned upon, or else mistaken for unquestioned belief systems we have unconsciously adopted. We come to forget the way within, and even its existence. This dependence on outer support, only, leaves us dependent and unable to intuit our own way. While it may be of use in the outer world of business and society, even then, we can only go where we are led. This might not be ultimately desirable or in our best interest.

When we become dependent on outer sets of rules and behaviors for our model, we run into a trap of duality. If we are honest in our observations, we find things do not always go according to the plan we have bought, and are thus placed in a dilemma. Since the outer plan we have adopted cannot be wrong, it being counted on for our very existence, and since we have traded our intuition and inner guidance in favor of it, we are left with having to place the blame for the discrepancy in action and results somewhere else. The usual method for rationalizing the failure of the plan's perfection is to blame the operator, either ourselves or someone else. Even in the Bible, the word for making a mistake, taken from an archery term for "missing the mark," has been mis-translated into "sin."

This trap of looking without to find the blame for the plan's failure to provide heaven is the hell of the perfectionist. He is trapped by that most slippery of all nets, his own ego. The ego has an uncanny ability to divide itself whenever it makes a mistake or doesn't get what it wants. This splitting enables it to separate into two parts: one plays the part of the good guy, who would have heaven if it wasn't for that other part, the bad guy, on whose head all blame is placed. This splitting can also be played with one part in our own head, and the other in the body of another. Our ego does not see a difference in where the bad guy lives, whether in our head, or out. We are led continually outward and about, into illusion and duality. Thus, whatever training we had, in whatever plan we have bought, is kept intact.

Now, why would we be kept in such a dilemma? And by what? Something seems to want us to look only outward, and not to question our motivations, fears and desires. If we are kept helpless, distracted, led ever farther into complex obsessions, and deprived of the mental energy needed to develop our intuition and ability to question, we will never be able to figure out how to get the door open on our own. If it doesn't open at first try, and no one springs to open it for us, we fall back on our negative emotional training, and begin to play the blame game within the fractured realm of our "self."

Huxley also speaks of a certain lifestyle conducive to the search, one of simplicity and purity. To be again as a little child, but with the wisdom of experience. With this lifestyle of containment and simplicity comes patience and energy. Then, if it takes us time and effort to open the door, so be it. The trap of looking for someone else to do our work, whether outer or inner, leads us to a lifetime of dependency. Whether this is under a guru, a job, a system, or another person as love-object, we still cannot open the door, for we will not give ourselves the chance. Now, this does not mean we should shun contact with others, but that we do not count on them to do our thinking, searching or understanding for us. We cannot help others if we are not free and independent ourselves. We take information and guidance from those our intuition says have gone farther down the road than us, but we find the proof of this ourselves by walking the walk, on our own. We are guided, but not carried, and form friendships, not co-dependencies.

In the end, we find we are only One, and no duality really exists. By turning within, in true Self-reliance, we may come to know this before it's too late, as old age and lethargy rob us of any chance to see the trap of duality and dependence, much less escape it. If we push on far enough, we come to the place of Paradox: where by losing our self, we find our Self, and find that only by exhausting all efforts do we finally see the door has been open all along. As we walk through the ever-open door into the Kingdom Within, we realize we never really left.

~ See Bob's web sites, The Mystic Missal, NostalgiaWest, and The Listening Attention.


Effortless Meditation: Starting with the Goal
by Mike Conners

Self inquiry begins when we wonder, "What am I?" "Am I my body?" "Am I my thoughts, feelings, memories?" "Am I who I remember myself being!?" "Am I my conscious mind?"

The mind can be compared to an iceberg. What we see on the surface is small compared to what is hidden beneath. All mental activity actually begins below the surface, in the immense, usually unconscious regions of our mind.

In The Nature Of Consciousness, you can read of an experiment conducted in 1985 by Benjamin Libet. Electrodes of an EEG machine were placed on the scalps of subjects to detect the onset of mental activity. The subjects were then instructed to spontaneously flex their hand, and to note the time of perceiving the urge to do so according to a clock. The results of the data collected showed that the brain began action, referred to as mental potential, about half a second before the subjects experienced the urge to flex, and three quarters of a second before the flex occurred. I have heard of similar experiments which produced the same result. What subjects experience as a conscious urge to act was shown to be an after the fact product of previous, usually unconscious, mental activity. Who is the actor?

If we're to have full knowledge of the underlying reality of ourself, we will have to look below the surface of what we think of as "my mind," into the immensity below, our cosmic mind.

How do we look beyond our conscious mind, since we must use that mind to do the looking? Can we use the tool to work on the tool? Without some experience of what lies beyond or deeper than our conscious mind, we will be confused and not know how to begin.

Just as a bit of light dispels darkness, an experience of the deeper, essential nature of our mind will dispel this confusion. In the search for our true self, it will be of great help if we begin with some experience of the goal, the cosmic level of our consciousness.

Lake Erie at Benedictine, Listening Point hermitage Lake Erie at Benedictine
"Listening Point" hermitage

Part of the mind's essential nature is that perception is automatic and mechanical. Our perception of an object is caused entirely by deeper, automatic mental processes. We open our eyes, and seeing happens. Perception requires no effort. Whether perception is of outward or of inward objects, thoughts, it is automatic, spontaneous, and effortless.

The experience we call "thinking" is really the perception of thoughts and feelings. The perception of a deeper, fainter level of a thought requires less mental activity than the perception of a more concrete, superficial level of that thought. We will experience that it feels effortless. It is easier, more relaxed and pleasant. The perception of the deepest, faintest level of a thought is nearly mental silence. Beyond the faintest level we find stillness: silent, peaceful awareness.

Here we find a way to use the mind to lead the attention beyond the mind: effortless thinking or meditation. The effortless, spontaneous and pleasant perception of fainter and fainter levels of a thought will automatically lead the attention deeper and deeper into the mind. Repeated regularly, twice a day, this effortless practice of no-doing will automatically bring the self-realization we seek.

The best thought for effortless meditation will be short, and attractive to the mind as a faint idea. As such it will be easy to think spontaneously and will not tend to lead the attention off into other thoughts.

It can be the "I am" thought used by Sri Nisargadatta. Saint Teresa of Avila called hers a "prayer of recollection," recalling that everything came to her from God. Many spiritual traditions use the various names for God, and some use special words, or sounds. All can be called mantras.

Whatever you decide to use, stay with it. The longer you practice with a faint idea, the deeper it will lead the attention. If you have already been meditating for some time, stay with what you've been using, but effortlessly. Don't switch every so often to "freshen it up." Don't say it out loud or post it on the fridge. It is to lead the attention inward, not outward. Don't use it to name your cat.

The primary instruction for effortless meditation is: don't try to meditate. We begin by sitting comfortably, with our eyes closed, just taking it easy for a minute, not doing anything.

Any thought we have will come to us spontaneously, with no effort at all on our part. Our perception of the thought is entirely automatic, and effortless.

Because we are sitting with the intention to meditate, we will automatically remember the thought we have chosen, as a faint idea. We do not try to think it clearly. We do not try to hold onto it, or to keep thinking it. It will go, just as automatically and effortlessly as it came.

After a while we will find we've been engaged with other thoughts, and again our faint idea will come, and go. This is the automatic cycle of effortless meditation.

We sit like this, not doing anything, effortlessly aware of our faint idea, coming and going, for fifteen or twenty minutes.

When we want to stop meditating, we continue to sit with our eyes closed, just taking it easy for two more minutes. We don't jump up and rush into activity. It is very important to take a minute to begin, and to take two minutes to come out of meditation.

Establish a regular, twice a day practice. Meditate in the morning, before breakfast if possible, and in the evening, before supper. To avoid skipping one, we can meditate any time, anywhere, but a regular time and place is easiest, and best.

This regular practice of effortlessness, or non-doing, will automatically bring progressively deeper insight, and Self-realization.

Cover of Beyond Mind, Beyond Death DVD ~ This material comes from Mike's presentation at the April 2005 conference. See the July 2003 and February 2001 TAT Forums for Mike's earlier articles on effortless meditation.


Poems by Shawn Nevins

You know who he was.
A wizened old man whispers the memory of his life.
Memory lingers
like the life given to a child's toy
lingers
long after he left it for other loves.
It is, as well,
the familiar scent of a forgotten room,
the ssshing sound of wind slipping among white pines.

You know who you were.
Today's memory was yesterday's reality.
Today's reality is yesterday's memory.
That is,
the life in a little child's eyes that brings tears to yours.
You are, as well,
lingering whispers of memory,
lonely, lolling words.

*

I did not know
before
that grace is in the eye;
the senses, the gateway to God.
That diffusion is a property of God
and osmosis that of the soul.
Ecstasy is only the edge
of something more—
greater in its bareness than any experience.

Words wander all over this moment.
Avert your eyes.
Without distractions,
a cloud lifts inside.

*

"The Inner Light"

Crystalline water or shimmering mirror?
Looking deeper,
I see,
I see.

*

Our lives are gleaming castle walls,
stone towering
above the white mist of dreams.
So real, yet ….

I turn from my love,
knowing,
she and I will always be
somewhere within this empty place.

*

Death is turning to face
where you are not,
where you will be,
and where you are.
You've been there all along.
You are not ship's captain.
You are Magnetic North,
the current,
the North Star,
and that deep darkness in which it rides.

*

I am waves of rain
rolling through again and again—
one sound, one substance.
There is no need to be
other than this
that rolled through another me
many nights before.


Nowhere to Go
by Shawn Nevins

It is winter 1994, and I am living on Richard Rose's farm. It seems I've left behind all that matters in life—500 miles from friends in North Carolina and 300 miles from Kentucky family—yet I've left nothing. My past is an empty glass that can not fill a need to know—to know what I am, if there is any part of me that is solid, eternal, or if I am only a passing cloud of flesh and thought. Such is the disgruntled core of my spiritual search.

Richard Rose farmhouse in winter There is little finding occurring, however. My days are an endless round of reading, meditation, and conversation with a few other fools and friends living here. Between these rounds, we split wood for the stove, cook, clean, and otherwise consume the days. Our lives are very simple—think, look within, survive—and the winter is very gray.

Simple and gray is a particular life and light that reveals uncompromising facts: that life is without meaning until you find solid ground within; that finding such certainty is seemingly impossible.

This is depressing. Time to go see the guru, I say. The next day, I spy Mr. Rose's brown van parked at the farmhouse. I trudge down the hill determined to present my undeniable case of frustration.

He probably knew something was eating at me. Let's take a walk, he says, so we plunge across a field thick with a foot and a half of snow. We don't say much other than huff and puff, till we reach the shelter of a building.

I begin a fragmented recounting of my ills, following Mr. Rose around the building as he examines various decrepit pieces of furniture and equipment. I'm not sure he's even listening as I explain my frustrations, my lack of hope, and sense of helplessness. It doesn't matter. As I'm speaking, it becomes clearer and clearer the answer is already in my possession. As my inner tension evaporates, I blurt out the last terrible truth, "If I could think of someplace to go, I would. I'd leave."

I have exposed my great doubt to the teacher. He doesn't even look at me. He sort of chuckles lightly, as to himself, and keeps looking over his collection of clutter.

In that moment, I knew there was nowhere to go, nothing other than this search. Every place and effort was empty. That in itself is the finding of a truth.

It is winter 2005, and I don't remember for sure, but I think that I smiled a bit at that realization. Looking back, I see Mr. Rose's chuckle was the perfect response, that any action other than seeking is laughable, and you know this.

Life is simple and gray, whether or not you are a seeker. It is colored and complicated by forgetfulness, by misplaced love.

If you will live simply and not deny the starkness that surrounds you, you will find the strength to discover what you truly want.


flower

Finding a Teacher
by Anima Pundeer

  • You know you have found a Teacher when:
  • It doesn't burn holes in your pocket when you need to see him
  • Will take two steps towards you when you take a step towards him
  • You'll know that helping you is the only interest he has in you
  • Will know you and see you better than you see yourself
  • You'll see the honesty and selflessness
  • Will not build/massage your ego
  • You'll have not much argument with what he has to say
  • Is available to you when you need him
  • Will not hold your hand or try to give you the Answer
  • Will point you in a direction
  • Will encourage you to walk your own path


Something
by Art Ticknor

Calculation by numbers vs. abacus

I recently became acquainted with a man who was in the final stage of lung cancer.

When talking about one of his daughters, who had a natural talent for math and computer programming, he mentioned something about himself that I'd never heard anyone talk about. It was that as a child learning math, something he was taught didn't sit right with him—jarred him—and he could never reconcile it with his feelings. The concept was that when you multiply something by nothing (i.e., zero) the result is nothing.

The concept of a mathematical zero apparently came to the West from Hindu thinkers via an Arabic mathematician. It's quite a leap in abstract thinking from counting (which is another giant leap in abstraction) such things as apples and oranges. If we have three apples and take away (eat, sell, etc.) one, we have two remaining. When we have one apple left and dispose of it, we have no apples left—zero apples—an apple void.

Multiplication, when you stop to think about it, is a short-hand way of adding something to itself. For example, multiplying 5 by 2 means adding two 5s together; multiplying 5 by 3 means adding three 5s, etc. Multiplying some number by zero is equivalent to adding some number to itself zero times— a highly abstract way to arrive at zero by never getting started. This is akin to non-manifestation. Unbroken bliss. No happiness and no unhappiness.

The other way to arrive at zero is by subtracting something from itself. We begin with something that has manifested, such as ourselves. Death may provide an automatic subtraction or demanifestation, but it leaves us in the dark, so to speak. The path to liberation is through nirvana, a subtraction of identification with manifestation while the manifestation remains. This blowing out of the individuality-conviction occurs when we realize our true identity—which is pre-, post- and beyond manifestation.

 

Nothing & Everything

The seed of wisdom did I sow
And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;
And this was all the harvest that I reaped—
I came like water, and like wind I go.
~ Omar Khayyam, The Rubáiyát

The individual comes out of nothing and returns to nothing ...
Nothing remains ...
Nothing remains unchanged ...
Nothing is that which really is ...
Self-aware


Thorny Humor...

Red Rose Inn - Jennersville, PA An elderly couple had dinner at another couple's house, and after eating, the wives left the table and went into the kitchen. The two gentlemen were talking, and one said, "Last night we went out to a new restaurant and it was really great. I would recommend it very highly."

The other man said, "Great—what's the name of the restaurant?"

The first man thought and thought and finally said, "What is the name of that flower you give to someone you love? You know ... the one that's red and has thorns."

"Do you mean a rose?"

"Yes, that's the one," replied the man. He then turned towards the kitchen and yelled, "Rose, what's the name of that restaurant we went to last night?"



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