Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Dharma of Wildflowers

Searching for the Dharma
You’ve traveled up ten thousand steps in search of the Dharma.
So many long days in the archives, copying, copying.
The gravity of the Tang and the profundity of the Sung
make heavy baggage.
Here! I’ve picked you a bunch of wildflowers.
Their meaning is the same
but they’re much easier to carry.

~ Xu Yun ~

(From Empty Cloud: The Autobiography of the Chinese Zen Master, Trans. Charles Luck, ed. by Richard Hunn)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This is your brain on bliss

Perfect sincerity and transparency make a great part of beauty, as in dewdrops, lakes, and diamonds.
-- Thoreau, from the Journal (June 20, 1840)
OK, so it's hard to show you your brain on bliss. But that is certainly a tranquil picture (Crater Lake in Oregon), and that's how your brain can be as well -- very tranquil.

I read this excellent article by Matthieu Ricard. Ricard is the French translator for the Dalai Lama, a former scientist turned Buddhist monk, and a well-published author. The article demystifies meditation, and shows how it is simply training of the mind. Very wise training, perhaps, but simply training nonetheless.
Authentic happiness is a way of being and a skill to be cultivated. When we first begin, the mind is vulnerable and untamed, like that of a monkey or a restless child. It takes practice to gain inner peace, inner strength, altruistic love, forbearance, and other qualities that lead to authentic happiness.
Practice indeed. And an ability to detach ourselves from our emotions.
The point here is that you can look at your thoughts, including strong emotions, with a pure mindfulness that is not associated with the contents of the thoughts.
That's really the secret, isn't it? A detachment from our emotions. Not a numbing of them -- but an ability to recognize them, and -- more importantly -- recognize that we are distinct from them.

It's all really so very simple. But it does take realization. And it does take practice. And it sounds like it is worth cultivating to me.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It's just a Plumaria, right?

Can you see it -- there, in the picture. Look closely. Squint if you have to. Do one of those Magic Eye tricks where you focus "beyond" the picture. Look through it. Look into it. Look before it. Come on, tell me what you see.

Sunlight? Yep, I see that too. Rainwater? Well, actually I see an early morning dew. The gardener? Oh, he is a happy fellow, with light brown skin and old tattered sandals. He is gently pruning the plant, rushing a bit now, as the call to prayer has begun. Off like a shot, he's headed toward the mosque. It's only a few steps from the courtyard where this Plumaria grows.

It was tradition that moved him out of the garden. Only tradition. For surely he was visiting with God just a moment ago. You saw that too, didn't you? You see that when you look deeply into that photo, don't you? That is why I took it, and that is why I posted it here. And why you are visiting now.
God changes appearances every second. Blessed is the man who can recognize him in all his disguises. One moment he is a glass of fresh water; the next, your son bouncing on your knees, or an enchanting woman, or perhaps merely a morning walk.
-- Nikos Kazantzakis

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.
The strength of the fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,
they speak to me.
And my heart soars.

-- Chief Dan George

If you don't find God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further.
-- Mohandas K. Gandhi