the ten thousand things

To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.
– Eihei Dogen

If one is very fortunate indeed, one comes upon – or is found by – the teachings that match one’s disposition and the teachers or mentors whose expression strikes to the heart while teasing the knots from the mind. The Miriam Louisa character came with a tendency towards contrariness and scepticism, which is probably why she gravitated to teachers who displayed like qualities.  It was always evident to me that the ‘blink’ required in order to meet life in its naked suchness was not something to be gained in time.  Rather, it was clear that it was something to do with understanding what sabotages this direct engagement.  So my teachers were those who deconstructed the spiritual search – and with it the seeker – inviting one to “see for oneself.”  I realised early on that I wouldn’t find any help within traditional spiritual institutions since their version of awakening is usually a project in time.  Anyway, I’m not a joiner by nature.

I set out on my via negativa at an early age, trying on all kinds of philosophies and practices with enthusiasm and casting them aside –neti neti – equally enthusiastically.  Chögyam Trungpa wised me up to “spiritual materialism” in the 70s;  Alan Watts followed on, pointing out that whatever is being experienced is none other than ‘IT’ – the unarguable aliveness that one IS.  By then I was perfectly primed for the questions put by Jiddu Krishnamurti – “Is there a thinker separate from thought?” “Is there an observer separate from the observed?” “Can consciousness be separated from its content?”  It was while teaching at Brockwood Park that I also had the good fortune to engage with David Bohm in formal dialogues as well as private conversations.  (About which I have written elsewhere.)

Krishnamurti and Bohm were seminal teachers for me;  I also loved the unique style of deconstruction offered by Nisargadatta Maharaj.  As it happened though, it took just one tiny paragraph from Wei Wu Wei to land in my brain at exactly the right time for the irreversible ‘blink’ to occur.

I mention this rather august lineage because it explains why the writing of Robert Saltzman strikes not just a chord but an entire symphonic movement for me.  He is a mindshifter in the same tradition, a Manjushri for the moment.

We are peers;  we were probably reading the same books by Watts and Krishnamurti at the same time during the 70s and 80s.  Reading his book, The Ten Thousand Things, is, for me, like feeling my way across a tapestry exquisitely woven from the threads of my own life. I’m not sure that I can adequately express my wonderment and appreciation…

The candor, lucidity and lack of jargon in Robert’s writing are deeply refreshing. I also relish his way with words. He knows how to write. He also knows how to take astonishingly fine photographs, and these are featured throughout the book.

It’s been said that this book will become a classic, which is a pretty good achievement for someone who isn’t claiming to be a teacher and has nothing to gain by its sale. (The book sells for the production price.) He is not peddling enlightenment. He is simply sharing how it feels to be free from all the spiritual fantasies that obscure our seamless engagement with this miraculous thing called life, right now.

[I chose the excerpt below because it addresses the ubiquitous myth that freedom/awakening will deliver some imagined state of eternal happiness… ]


 

Photograph by Robert Saltzman

 

The only relief I know is the freedom one feels when finally the need for certainty comes to an end, replaced by a willingness to allow life to unfold as it does without knowing a damn thing about “cosmic” anything, either pro or con.

When I say “freedom,” I do not mean happiness.  Nor do I mean immunity from ordinary human suffering.  I mean the equanimity and peace of mind that emerge in the light of the comprehension that in this moment things are as they are and cannot be any different, including what I feel, and how I see and understand myself and the world.

Each of us sees a different world, and what each of us sees is oneself.  This does not signify as some people believe that the world is not real.  It means that what I see is not the same as what you see.  What you see is you, and what I see is me.  When this identity of seeing and seer is understood, freedom is obvious, for then there is no stand-in, no alternative, or substitute for the seeing what I see and being what I am in this moment.  All I can be is myself, and all I can see is myself.

From my perspective, following a spiritual path, a religion, or a guru serves primarily as a means of avoidance – a way of replacing what one actually is right now with a vision of what one could be.   This is the fallacy of becoming.  Those who purport to teach methods of “self-realization” or paths to “salvation” are not awake, I say, but hypnotized by fancy ideas they learned from previous epigones.  Then, having convinced themselves of their “attainment,” they regurgitate the nonsense they learned to imitate, hypnotizing their followers in the same fashion.

You are what you are here and now.  There is no “later,” and there is, I say, no path apart from one’s own suffering, one’s own confusion, and eventually, with luck, one’s own understanding.

– Robert Saltzman, The Ten Thousand Things pp266-267

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Robert Saltzman - The Ten Thousand Things, cover

Robert Saltzman, The Ten Thousand Things


Thank you, Robert, for giving the remaining dead leaves on this gnarled old tree a fatal shake.


 

your self-shining magnificence

This beautiful piece of wisdom was written by Michael A. Rodriguez, and published on his new website/blog at boundless awareness.com under the title One Bright Pearl. Please check out Michael’s site – his approach honours “both radical non-duality and the paths that emphasize the evolution of consciousness.” There’s a refreshing inclusivity, authenticity and articulate clarity about his writing. Highly recommended.


One Bright Pearl - http://www.boundlessawareness.org

One Bright Pearl

 
One of my favorite Zen sayings was by Hsuan-sha: “The whole universe is one bright pearl.” Another translation runs like this: “The entire world of the ten directions is a single shining [or ‘luminous’] jewel.” There are other versions, but I like these two variations the best.

I often think the entire dharma – and perhaps drama – is contained in this expression. It speaks to me. That statement could only have arisen from the awakened state, and in fact, most people are asleep precisely to the reality to which this statement points. If you could wake up to this one truth, you would wake up altogether.

Somehow, by the mysterious mechanism of memory, the unknowable self-luminous jewel of awareness seems to become shrouded by what we take to be the known. We essentially come to live in a claustrophobic prison of the known and do not see the absurdly obvious fact that the reality of boundless experience could not possibly be shining more luminously. As the writer Samuel Beckett once wrote, “habit is a great deadener.” Because of habit, which functions by way of the veiling power of memory, we start to live within the narrow confines of our routines and fall asleep to the radiance of Mind. Actually, Mind falls asleep and dreams within itself a limited world made of habit. It’s not personal. This falling asleep happens slowly over many years, and it begins to happen before we are conscious of the fact. Because of conditioning and education from the moment we’re born (and even before that in terms of cell memory), it creeps up on us below the threshold of conscious awareness and solidifies as cognitive structures of experience in exactly the same way that hypnotic suggestion works.

The other main problem is that you, boundless awareness, have been conditioned to dwell with your attention in the human world of limited concepts. To wake up to the fact that you are already limitlessly shining in all directions as one bright pearl, try taking your attention off the human realm and contemplate, instead, the fact that “the universe” literally has no beginning or end. Ever since I was a child, this contemplation has always produced in me a rapturous wonder. Just think about it. Right now, human beings are running around as though they know what this whole thing is, as though we exist in a limited world that has boundaries and borders and edges. But it doesn’t! I’m not speaking mystically or poetically here. It’s literal. How could there possibly be more freedom? The universe (from which your body-mind is not separate) does not begin or end somewhere. It’s immensurable in exactly the same way that a nighttime dream is immeasurable. How much “space” does a nighttime dream take up? I hope you got the point with my rhetorical question!

Now, whatever this is obviously has a self-aware quality that shines as the fact of conscious knowing. I say “self-aware” because since it does not have any limits, there can’t be anything “outside” it to be aware of it. The limitless totality, therefore, is simply self-aware and shining as the limitless totality of experience. In other words, it’s a limitless subjective experience to awareness itself that does not contain a single object. Not one. Why? Because “objects” have to have limits (otherwise they would not be knowable), but objects are inseparable from the limitless environment. “Objects” are illusions of memory.

The fact is that you only ever experience yourself as one bright pearl. You as boundless awareness are the most precious jewel that could ever be. Try contemplating this fact over and over again until you wake up to your self-shining magnificence. To say that “it’s not far from you” is a severe understatement; it is you.

– Michael A. Rodriguez


Image and text from boundlessawareness.org

Gratitude!


 

silence is our real nature

This morning, a beautiful offering from Jean Klein – Silence. It’s another gem from my mother’s folder. You may be familiar with it – it’s somewhat of a classic, but if you’re like me you’ll never tire of its wisdom-blessing.

Since every line is a meditation, I have taken some liberty with the formatting.

 

Rajasthan, India - Tantric painting

 

Silence is our real nature. What we are, fundamentally, is only silence.

Silence is free from beginning and end. It was before the beginning of all things.

It is causeless. Its greatness lies in the fact that it simply is.

In silence all objects have their home ground.

It is the light that gives objects their shape and form.

All movement, all activity is harmonized by silence.

Silence has no opposite in noise.

It is beyond positive and negative.

Silence dissolves all objects.

It is not related to any counterpart which belongs to the mind. Silence has nothing to do with mind.

It cannot be defined but it can be felt directly because it is our nearness.

Silence is freedom without restriction or center.

It is our wholeness, neither inside nor outside the body.

Silence is joyful, not pleasurable. It is not psychological. It is feeling without a feeler.

Silence needs no intermediary.

Silence is holy. It is healing.

There is no fear in silence.

Silence is autonomous like love and beauty. It is untouched by time.

Silence is meditation, free from any intention, free from anyone who meditates.

Silence is the absence of oneself. Or rather, silence is the absence of absence.

Sound which comes from silence is music. All activity is creative when it comes from silence. It is constantly a new beginning.

Silence precedes speech and poetry and music and all art.

Silence is the home ground of all creative activity. What is truly creative is the word, is Truth.

Silence is the Word. Silence is Truth.

The one established in silence lives in constant offering, in prayer without asking, in thankfulness, in continual love.

– Jean Klein


This short biography of Dr Jean Klein by Andrew Rawlinson is an excellent introduction to an extraordinary sage. [pdf]


Image – anonymous Hindu Tantric painting, Rajasthan, India.
Made using tempera, gouache, and watercolor on salvaged papers, these paintings from Rajasthan form a distinct lexicon dating back to the 17th century. They were/are used to awaken heightened states of consciousness. They are not produced for commercial purposes, but simply pinned up on the wall for use in private meditation.

See Franck André Jamme’s stunning book: Tantra Song: Tantric Painting from Rajasthan

when you know yourself

silence stillness simplicity serenity solitude

keep far away


 

please take these offerings

They often sneak up on me at this time of the year – a gaggle of words-wanting-shared. Yes, it’s birthday time – not a blog birthday, but another tick in the annual count for she-who-scribbles while her spacecraft steers itself around the sun…

Birthdays are a good time to reflect on one’s blessings, and to offer gratitude to our friends for their kindness and thoughtfulness. I always begin my birthday with a gesture of thanks to my mother, who not only gave me the miraculous opportunity for life, but also fostered, nourished and inspired the flourishing of that life in every way possible.

Now in my eighth decade, and delighting in life regardless of its curved balls, I feel to share some of the observations that have delivered me to this joy. It’s the best I can offer; may your mind and heart be able to receive.

Image source - https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/BoneStructure/

 

Life hurts.
But what you are never feels pain.

Everything changes.
But what you are remains unchanged, eternally.

You’re flat and exhausted and depressed.
But what you are is forever poised as equanimity.

You’re broke, stressed, squeezed dry, homeless and hungry.
But what you are is unaffected and impartial.

You’re smashed by disappointment, betrayal, abandonment.
But what you are is ever calm, accepting and unbroken.

You’re afflicted by physical and mental aberrations, abnormalities, imbalances.
But what you are never suffers for one second.

 

So what you are is clearly something with which you need to become very familiar. And it’s e-a-s-y to do so. You don’t need a formal introduction. You don’t need a manual or a map or a guide book. You don’t need to change your religion or your beliefs (although changes may well occur as a result). You don’t need a 12-step plan or a meditation practice.

What you are is more obvious and closer than the tip of your nose. It’s the one experience you can never escape, 24/7.

What would you call that? Your aliveness? Your awareness? Your presence? All these words come close, but none are ultimately true or exact. Why?

Because they aren’t yours. Or mine. Or anyone’s. Drop the personal pronoun, and there you are – radiant all-knowing alive presence. The Light of Knowingness, self-luminous, always-on, never-needing fuel or flint…

And that is what you are – free, fulfilled and flourishing as all you conceive, perceive and experience. All of it.

How wondrous that this is possible – that this primordial awareness is huge enough to hold the entirety of creation, excluding nothing – yet be unaffected and unmoved by any expression of its handmaiden, consciousness.

It is truly The Beloved, the Godhead of the saints and sages and poets.

And it is what you are.

 


Image source


 

the miracle of your beautiful stupidity

Leunig: Curly-Pyjama Letters

From the incomparable Michael Leunig– bless his awakened heart.

In case you find the text difficult to read, here’s a transcription:

TO VASCO PYJAMA
Dear Vasco,
I was delighted to receive your letter this morning and read the joyous news that you have finally embraced your stupidity and found such blessed relief. How very good for your heart Vasco. How marvellous! What a momentous achievement this embrace has been, and what a splendiferous liberation awaits you. What glorious songs the birds will now sing for you – great fugues of rapture, just you wait, as the miracle of your “beautiful stupidity” comes wobbling and clanking into your life and sets you free. My most extravagant congratulations Vasco and a warm welcome to the fold.
After I had read your letter I, straight away, seized my tin whistle and went up to the top field where I did a celebratory dance in your honor – a sort of weird jig. This was quite a stupid thing to do because the ground was slippery and muddy from the rain which was pelting down and I kept falling over and made quite a mess of my new corduroy trousers.
Still, I had a lovely bowl of soup for dinner this evening which was all the more delicious for me having fallen in the mud and I’ve never enjoyed a bowl of soup so much in all my life. It goes to show you, doesn’t it. I’d better hop into bed now because I’m feeling very pleasantly sleepy. The day is done. Goodnight Vasco,
Yours truly,
Mr Curly
xxx

are you so sure you are not awake?

Enza Vita writes with refreshingly ruthless clarity on the myth of “awakening” as an experience, a state or some kind of esoteric attainment which will guarantee unshakeable bliss and the end of all one’s undesirable failings and foibles . . .

 ~

“I know I am still not awake, and I have a tremendous longing to be free.”

 ~

Are you so sure you are not awake?  Are you sure you understand what “awake” is?
Why do you think that you are not awake?  What is this I that is in this unenlightened condition?

All questions contain and perpetuate certain assumptions that we see as the boundaries in life.  While thinking that you are not “awake,” you are believing that you are somehow lacking something.  That is what is played over and over again in your mind, and it causes you great suffering.  Do not fall into that trap!  Go to the root.  What is it that is aware of this statement?  Realize what is at the root of that experience of not being awake and it will free you from the assumed limitations.

You are already free; however, this is a freedom that has never known bondage and so cannot even be called freedom.  This freedom doesn’t come from some action to attain it, but from the realizing of a freedom that has never been constrained.  As the seeker you feel bondage because of your belief in a separate I, a separate ego, and this ego imagines that this freedom means a freedom to do whatever it wants.

Real freedom is liberation from the bondage of the ego.  When the concept of an I goes, the question of freedom is resolved.  Then you are free to be in harmony with what is, as it is.

You already are this freedom pervading everything and everywhere.  All boundaries and limitations are in your imagination only.  Like the space in a room, you are already free.  Just like the four walls cannot contain the space within it, so the body-mind cannot contain awareness unless awareness is imagining itself imprisoned.

You see clouds in the sky, and they may pass in front of the sun, but does this change the nature of the sun?  Perhaps the clouds are signaling a coming thunderstorm, but does a storm change the nature of the sun?  Your thoughts and feelings are like these clouds.  They sometimes seem to obscure the light of your inner self, but they do not change it.  First see what you are.  Understand your true nature.  Then you see that what dances in front of you does not affect you at all.  Focus on that sunlight, and not on the clouds!

~

Enza Vita
Source: Enza Vita’s Newsletter.  Sign up for it at http://www.enzavita.com – where you’ll also find information about her new book “Always Already Free”.

wounded, weary, and wideawake

The invasion was unexpected and uninvited; it happened
one numinous now
when the minder of memories had her back turned.

In crept wild wideawakeness, sleuthing
through this dormitory of sleeping stories,
slipping from cocoon to cocoon
dubbing each bedded-down memory
with its diamond dagger and pronouncing each one
an esteemed and luminous Member of the Matrix.

It lifted up the wounded and the weary,
the lost and lonesome, the betrayed
and the broken, saying

To know this pain, beloved
is to know That which is beyond time
for That alone has the capacity to be aware
and in your naked awareness of your pain
you are naturally ever-enlightened.

You imagine your enlightenment to be
other than this wretchedness –
you take it as proof that you
haven’t yet “made the shift”
yet how could pain (or pleasure) be known
if enlightenment were not fully present?

By what function of cognition
would you aware this knowing?
By both logic and experience it’s found
that the unlit light of awareness
is prior to every sensory perception.

Will you stay tucked up in your cocoon
dreaming of the mirage of your awakening
shimmering in some distant space and time
or will you blink now
and own up to your feral freedom?

I blinked
and
disappeared.