how extraordinary! how beautiful!

Please tell me this: how does it profit one to be convinced that everything one takes to be true and real – beliefs, body, belongings – is so, when at the end it all “becomes transparent”? How can we heedlessly march into that Great Transparency without unshakeable awareness of the pure Clear Light? How can we deprive ourselves of the extraordinary beauty it unveils?

Pir Elias Amidon reflects on these questions in the light of his own experience. How beautiful!

The Clear Light and the beauty of the world - Pir Elias Amidon


At the moment of our death, when the messages of our senses cease and the contents of our mind become transparent, The Tibetan Book of the Dead offers this instruction:

Remember the Clear Light, the pure Clear Light from which everything in the universe comes, to which everything in the universe returns; the original nature of your own mind….
Let go into the Clear Light, trust it, merge with it.
It is your own true nature, it is home.

When I first read that passage as a young man I was deeply moved and reassured — it assured me that the confusion and loneliness I felt as a twenty-two year-old would vanish one day in that great, final homecoming. I didn’t understand what this “Clear Light” was, but it didn’t matter — the certainty of the voice in the Book of the Dead comforted me. The Clear Light would come.

And meanwhile, I would just have to make the best of it. So in the years that followed — my twenties and thirties — I kept attempting to find or build some kind of substitute, metaphorical home in which I could belong during my exile here on earth.

I realize now that I had succumbed to the old polarity of my species: the sacred hereafter and the profane here, heaven and earth, light and dark. As far as I can understand it, this polarity has its genesis in our need to identify ourselves as individual beings separate from the other beings and objects of the world: me in here and all the rest out there. The dominance of the “me in here” sets up the added polarity of my suffering and incompleteness now versus the promise of redemption and homecoming in the future.

Of course, these kinds of polarities are understandable — we are two-legged organisms walking about, seemingly disconnected from the earth and sky, and anxious about avoiding any dangers that might be lurking on our path. It appears we are separate beings.

It took me a few decades of spiritual practice and inquiry — not to mention the normal sufferings life provides — to realize that the nature of reality only appears to be split into these dualities. As one of my teachers, Murshida Sitara Brutnell, once cryptically said, “There is no other.” This whole show is one magnificent Happening, one awesome Brilliance reflected in the infinite prisms of possibility. Which means that we — you and I right now, every humming atom of us, every thought and feeling, every movement — are inextricably part of this blossoming of spontaneous light.

Sufis call this wahdat-al-wujud, the Oneness of Existence. Nothing stands outside of its Oneness and Suchness — there is no other. The multiplicity of the phenomenal world is sometimes imaged by Sufis as a veil over the Absolute, though the veil and the Absolute are not seen as two different things, rather “the veil is the external epiphany of the Absolute.” Or, as the 14th century Persian Sufi Mahmud Shabastari wrote, “The whole world of Being is the beams of the Absolute Light. The Absolute remains hidden because it is so clearly manifest.”

Which brings us back to the Tibetan notion of the Clear Light, surely the same as Shabastari’s “Absolute Light.” The Clear Light is not, as I had first thought, something waiting out there to welcome me when I die. It is present now, right here, both as perceptible as all the apparent things and thoughts and feelings of this world, and as imperceptible, invisible, and transparent as the awareness in which these words appear to us right now. The “light” of awareness, the Clear Light, “the original nature of your own mind,” all indicate this same “light” that can’t be seen or located, though it is unmistakably, spontaneously present. “God’s Light is in the heavens and the earth,” says the Bible and the Quran. And the Quran adds, “whichever way you turn, there is its presence.”

When I die I imagine that one of my last feelings will be, “How beautiful!” I won’t be referring to the beauty of where I’m going (I have no idea about that), but how beautiful is where I’ve been, this astonishing earth, sky, and cosmos, this astonishing body and its capacity to know and love. As the mystic-philosopher Francois Cheng remarked, “The universe is not obliged to be beautiful, and yet it is beautiful.” How extraordinary!

The mystery of the Clear Light and the mystery of the beauty of the universe have become the central contemplations of my life. “Beauty” (I’m fond of repeating these words of Ibn ‘Arabi) “is the welcoming openness of the truth toward us.” Somehow the “truth” of the unchanging Clear Light is revealed by ever-changing beauty. “God is beautiful and loves beauty,” a hadith tells us. Spontaneous, ephemeral beauty — the beauty of a song, a kiss, a passing cloud, a glint of sunlight — each one a momentary revelation of the unborn Clear Light, our home.

– Pir Elias Amidon

Text and image sourced from The Open Path

The Tibetan Book of the Dead


the cosmic chirp

This Unlit Light - gravitational waves


Did you see the 2 black holes colliding? Spiralling inward and merging a billion years ago?

Did you hear the sound of the two becoming one?

If you haven’t heard it – listen here
For just the sound and the collision, drag the slider to 2:58

The shock wave was minuscule but measurable. Here, some flecks of the universe danced their way backward into the source. And we saw/heard it!

There was an audible chirp.

How marvellous!

(Well, it’s been happening all the “time”, but we caught this “one.”)

Usually what we experience is the one becoming two. Every morning we wake up. There is the moment before – the moment before formless being begins to differentiate itself into me and the bedroom, me and my list of today’s projects, or me and whatever. It might happen pretty fast, so we might miss it most mornings but, ultimately, duality gets the upper hand over eternity as the world comes into focus. We separate. We differentiate into seer and seen, witness and witnessed.

Now, consider by turning inward, the two universes – not just black holes, but whole universes – become one: the “Me Universe” (the Seer) AND the “Other Universe” (the Seen) – multiplicity coagulates into the Source.

And now, notice without noticing, it is happening, always, simultaneously, timelessly,

“…entering into the perfect fullness of I-Am,
merging with the everlasting pulsation,
the blissful effulgence of Being,
the play of the One and the many continues
in full knowingness in Her timeless cycle
of emanation and re-absorption.
Just This.”

– Pratyabhijñahrdayam, Verse 20, forthcoming translation

Yours unfathomably
– Joan

This splendid sharing of the vast view is from Joan Ruvinsky’s latest newsletter. You can sign up to receive it at her website: Doing so is a beautiful way to stay in touch with Joan, as she isn’t teaching these days due to her illness. Yet her wisdom is finding its way forth through the very circumstances that would appear to be undesirable. Unsptoppable Grace! I treasure the depth of her understanding and compassion: she is one wholly wideawake woman.

Image: Gravitational waves, sourced from

an innocent, dry-eyed, whole-hearted presence

[Although this little piece was written a month ago, circumstances around internet access have delayed its posting.  I’m three weeks late, but how relevant is time when it comes to love?]

Last month, on January 29, my mother Miriam would have celebrated her 100th birthday.

Looking back I find something quite remarkable:  I don’t EVER remember seeing her cry. *

I remember asking her about this; wondering if she’d intentionally decided to never again cry, as some do who have seen more than their fair share of life’s hard knocks.  She said that on the death of her little sister, Bessie, her grief was so enormous she thought it would kill her, but that by some kind of Grace she’d discovered a way of shifting the weight of her personal sorrow.  She would have hardly been in her teens at the time.

Her simple secret was to stop and look for something unexpectedly good about the apparently tragic, sad or crazy situation life was dishing up.  It was years before I understood the value of this – at first I saw it as an evasion of reality, a Pollyanna prescription, mere ‘positive thinking’.  During my years as a card-carrying member of the Thought Police I accused her of simply replacing one thought with another.  She’d never waste her energy in argument though; she seemed to quietly trust that eventually I’d come to understand the dynamics of thinking and figure it out for myself.  Compassion!

And I did.  I came to understand that thinking is always dual – polarized – and that you can’t simply turn a negative one into a positive one to any effect.  Pitting thought against thought is not an effective remedy for the relief of suffering.  Mum knew better than that.  She had found out for herself, however, that if you look for the opposite of the ‘bad’ in the news – playing a kind of game with your mind to release its death-grip on the certainty of tragedy – you eventually reach a space where the polarities cancel each other out, and given time, it becomes second-nature to abide in that spacious equanimity.  Note that the same dynamic applies to thoughts that insist on the ‘goodness’ of any news.

Mum’s natural response was seldom to comment from her own position.  She reflexively put on the moccasins of the ‘other’.  Here’s an example.  My Dad passed away just ten minutes before she arrived at the hospice.  I went to the door to tell her the news, expecting her to be sad that she had missed his last moments.  (They had, after all, been married for 73 years.)  She broke into the sweetest smile, raised her arms and said, “He’s free at last!”

Mum’s wisdom was not about right versus wrong or about passive complacency; it embraced an energized equanimity that lies on the other side of thoughts altogether.  She mightn’t have done much crying, but her heart was always poised at-the-ready to meet whatever life dished up.  Her quiet presence was often all the comfort a suffering soul needed:  her innocent, dry-eyed, whole-hearted presence.

Earth Mother

This Earth Mother image – scanned from a greeting card years ago – bears an uncanny facial resemblance to Miriam. And the symbolism couldn’t be more perfectly aligned with her virtues – from my perspective anyway!

On the 100th anniversary of her birth I’m taking a leaf out of her book and looking for the ‘good things’ about her departure.

  1. Like Dad a year earlier, she was “free at last” from her frail, weary, broken body.  Ninety six orbits of the sun were quite enough.
  2. I learned that I could carry forward the immense love and compassion she had for the world, and that I could slowly, with no little agony and humility, grow into her gracious wisdom.
  3. Thanks to her departure, this blog was born.  And that’s a very good thing because it honors and celebrates a great soul who, uneducated and without any personal need to promote her wisdom, left almost no trace in this world.


*  Although … when I first left home at 19, bound for Sydney (crying all the way across the Tasman Sea) she wrote that she had roamed the empty house weeping all day at the shock of my absence.  We were joined at the hip, Mum and I, and as she reminded me in the last hours of her life – “It never ends!”


Image: Scanned from a greeting card years ago. I vaguely remember that the artist was a New Zealand woman, living in Australia. If you know more, please advise me – I’d love to give credit.


the transcendent silence of ‘I’

There is a silence which transcends sound and silence. If I am not speaking, then some might say I’m keeping silent. If I am thinking, then some would say my mind is not silent.

Whether the voice is speaking, or the mind is thinking there is a silence which transcends both speech and thought and which is ever present to both of them.

It is the silence in which sound and silence take place. It is the silence in which speech and thought take place.

This silence is one’s true nature, and it is ever present, no matter what is going on.

This silence doesn’t walk or talk or think or make any noise at all.

It is That in which everything takes place. The recognition of That silence is called ‘self-knowledge.’

How is this silence described in relationship to spoken words and thoughts?

From the Upanisads:

“That [brahman] from which words return, not having reached, together with the mind.” (Taittiriya 2. 9. 1)

This statement might seem quite obscure unless explained.

The mind cannot ‘go’ there, as silence, (one’s true nature) is not an object to be cognized in the way that objects in duality are cognized.

The silence cannot be heard, touched, seen, tasted, or smelled. Thus it is not available for sense perception.

Nor is the silence an object of thought in the mind, like happiness, sadness, or any other thought at all.

We have no word which is adequate to describe this silence as all words initially point to something in duality.

Yet words handled appropriately lead one to recognize one’s very own self as this silence.

Not an object of cognition, yet known as my very svarupa, my very own nature.

Unavailable for hearing, touch, sight, taste, or smell,
yet known by the mind as ‘I,’ ‘I,’ ‘I,’ the silent changeless being
of all changing things, that ever present one, that one am I.

~ Dhanya

Read more of Dhanya’s writing on her blog at the Advaita Academy


Related posts on this blog:

the cathedral of emptiness

why you don’t really want to awaken

silence is the essence of us all

don’t look for me in my story

come sit with me

silence has found me


these words are clumsy feet

The one who grieves –
who finds it is their ‘work’

The one who’s sad –
who aches for yesterday

The one who awares –
who beams this unlit light

The one who woes –
who keens to love’s goneness

The one who weeps –
who melts in holy love

who – or what – is that One?


These words are clumsy feet
(dual by default)
dancing the dream

The  Beloved rests
in the wings
caps in lap:

choreographer, director
actor and audience

absorbed within
Its one-wo:man act
and never leaving Home
for even half a heartbeat

– miriam louisa

I am the life of life

I am not a Christian, I am not a Jew, I am not a Zoroastrian

and I am not even a Muslim.

I do not belong to the land, or to any known or unknown sea.

Nature cannot own or claim me, nor can heaven;

nor can India, China, Bulgaria.

My birthplace is placeless, my sign to have and to give no sign.

You say you see my mouth, ears, eyes, nose – they are not mine.


I am the life of life.

I am that cat, this stone, no one.

I have thrown duality away like an old dishrag,

I see and know all times and worlds as one,

one, always one.


So what do I have to do to get you to admit who is speaking?

Admit it and change everything!

This is your own voice echoing off the walls of God.

~ Rumi


the song of the sacred is your own heart’s song

Whatever inspires the mind

is of the perfume of my Beloved,

whatever fires the heart

is a ray from my Friend.

~ Rumi


Such a sweet verse from Rumi; a powerful teaching disguised as a love poem, in the great tradition of saints and mystics.  The language of duality – subject and object – is employed to point towards the inseparability of mind, heart and changeless Reality.

The belief that the Beloved (Lover – Reality – Awareness – Consciousness) is removed and remote from the functions of the mind is reflexive.  Yet upon scrutiny we find that it’s simply not our actual experience that mind is apart from, and independent of, Awareness, or whatever we like to call the Absolute.  Mind and all its miraculous activity appears within and by way of Awareness, and cannot ever exist elsewhere.  It’s simply illogical to presume otherwise.  So … and this comes as a shocking realization … mind’s dance is the dance of the Lover.  Hence Rumi can say, “Whatever inspires the mind is of the perfume of my Beloved …”

Whatever lights you up, whatever you are passionate about, whatever gives you that bliss Joe Campbell talked about – that’s Lover, heart-whispering.

“Whatever fires the heart is a ray from my Friend.”  A ray!  A ray of Light, unlit and unborn Light!  Yet how often do we rationalize the heart’s urgings as impractical, childish, too expensive or downright dangerous?  In the great race towards acceptance and worth – the “Like me! Like me!” syndrome, the heart’s quiet firings are left to splutter and die.

And that’s one reason I like that little video on “How to be Alone.”  At first glance it might seem superficial, an expression of ‘self’-survival, and a reinforcement of the illusion of separation.  But think about it: think about the fears and avoidances that go with ‘alone-ness.’  Might they not actually be fears and avoidances of one’s heart’s whisperings?  Might they not be a denial of Lover’s perfume and light?  How will you know?

Return to top.  Read Rumi again.  Your heart will tell you.  It knows when it is opening and flowing and flowering.  It knows when it’s being dumbed-down.  For she-who-writes, the best place for looking into heart-land is at ground zero – on the zafu.  We’re all different, but the task for all of us is the same: we must find our way back to our own heart’s song, and stop insisting that it is other than the Song of the Sacred.

What if the Beloved wants to live alone awhile?  To sit on a bench and knit and chat with complete strangers?  To dance unpartnered in a bar?  To write poetry (or a blog) that no one will read? To sit and gaze at a bare wall all day?  To say No or Yes when it usually says the opposite?  To paint or draw, or strum a musical instrument for hours?  To pull the phone jack out of the wall and turn off the computer and the Droid?  What if It wants to weep and grieve?  What if It wants to set out on a long solitary journey without any financial support?

What if It simply wants to be whoever You are, right now, doing whatever You are doing?  Wouldn’t that change everything?

~ miriam louisa