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.


 

imperishable, unnameable, the unknowing

words from my treasured teacher 4

 

J Krishnamurti

 

On July 20, 1961, Krishnamurti wrote an extraordinary account in his journal of the ineffable and unknowable as It was experienced through his body-mind. He struggles to find the appropriate words … the outpouring is, to my mind, pure poetry:

The room became full with that benediction. Now what followed is almost impossible to put down into words; words are such dead things, with definite set meaning and what took place was beyond all words and description. It was the centre of all creation; it was a purifying seriousness that cleansed the brain of every thought and feeling; its seriousness was as lightning which destroys and burns up; the profundity of it was not measurable, it was there immovable, impenetrable, a solidity that was light as the heavens. It was in the eyes, in the breath. It was in the eyes and the eyes could see. The eyes that saw, that looked were wholly different from the eyes of the organ and yet they were the same eyes. There was only seeing, the eyes that saw beyond time-space. There was impenetrable dignity and a peace that was the essence of all movement, action. No virtue touched it for it was beyond all virtue and the sanctions of man. There was love that was utterly perishable and so it had the delicacy of all new things, vulnerable, destructible and yet it was beyond all this. It was there imperishable, unnameable, the unknowing. No thought could ever penetrate it; no action could touch it. It was “pure”, untouched and so ever dyingly beautiful.

All this seemed to affect the brain; it was not as it was before. (Thought is such a trivial thing, necessary but trivial.) Because of it, relationship seems to have changed. As a terrific storm, a destructive earthquake gives a new course to the rivers, changes the landscape, digs deep into the earth, so it has levelled the contours of thought, changed the shape of the heart.

– J Krishnamurti,  Krishnamurti’s Notebook

It was coming upon such clearly authentic writings about the inescapable presence of the Unknowable that led me to Brockwood Park, the school Krishnamurti founded in Hampshire, England. I was a teacher and I found my perfect niche in this unbelievably rich and stimulating environment, where students are guided towards both academic excellence in their studies and deep inquiry into the workings of their thinking.

I revisit these words decades later with delight, and with inexpressible gratitude I can say, “Yes. It is exactly so: the shape of the heart is changed. And there is no way back.”


Other posts featuring Krishnamurti’s writing:

try it, do it

keep far away

words from my treasured teacher 1


Find a comprehensive selection of Krishnamurti’s books at the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust website.


 

try it, do it

This is another extract from my mother’s file of inspirational clippings and notes, which I first wrote about in the post keep far away.  She has taken some time to copy the last three paragraphs from a book called The Quest of the Quiet Mind: The Philosophy of Krishnamurti by Stuart Holroyd.  In these final lines, the author is summing up Krishnamurti’s take on meditation.

Earlier parts of the chapter make it clear that K held a very emphatic position on what meditation isn’t – not “the repetition of a word, nor the experience of a vision, nor the cultivation of silence … not wrapping yourself in a pattern of thought, in the enchantment of pleasures.” He would have added that it is not prayer – which is rooted in the illusion of separateness, and it is not a way or a path to anything – certainly not to freedom, for freedom is the precondition of meditation.

– – –

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flame_from_a_Burning_Candle.JPG

The basis of meditation, then, is watchfulness, both of the objective and the subjective worlds. It is ‘seeing, watching, listening, without word, without comment, without opinion – attentive to the movement of life in all its relationships throughout the day.’ It is the continual emptying of the mind of thought and experience, allowing the stream of consciousness to flow freely without thought seizing on any of its elements; it is living and dying from moment to moment.

Another paradox about it is that although it is not a thing you can deliberately set out to do, it nevertheless demands hard work and ‘the highest form of discipline – not conformity, not imitation, not obedience, but a discipline which comes through constant awareness, not only of the things about you outwardly, but also inwardly.  Just watch and be aware of all your thoughts, feelings and reactions, without judging, comparing, approving, condemning or evaluating them in any way, Krishnamurti says. Try it, do it, he urges, and you will find that there is a tremendous release of energy, there is the opening of the door into spaciousness, there is the awakening of bliss.

In a telling image he likens the bliss of meditation to a pure flame, and thought to the smoke from a fire which brings tears to the eyes and blurs perception.  In meditation the mind penetrates and understands the entire structure of the self and the world that thought has put together, and the very act of seeing and understanding the structure confers freedom from it, for mediation ‘destroys everything, nothing whatsoever is left, and in this vast, unfathomable emptiness there is creation and love.’

– Stuart Holroyd, The Quest of the Quiet Mind: The Philosophy of Krishnamurti


Find a comprehensive selection of Krishnamurti’s books at the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust website.


Image source


keep far away
words from my treasured teacher


keep far away

Today marks the fifth anniversary of my mother’s departure to the Cosmic Recycling Agency. Which means this little blog is now nearly five years old. To celebrate the memory of Miriam’s quiet yet influential life and all those who have contributed to the blog, I thought I’d post something that held special significance for Mum. I found it while sifting through cartons stored since my parents’ departure – an exercise in time-travel, like watching an excruciatingly intimate movie unfold before one’s eyes. There’s everything from bank statements and medical bills to little notebooks filled with their personal jottings and daily chores. If I rest my mind on any one item, I can so easily reconstruct the whole scenario – the context, the weather, the players, the feelings – and I can melt into the thusness of that place and time. Which is, of course, right here and now!

One folder is particularly compelling for me. It’s a simple clearfile with no cover or title. I probably gave it to Miriam years ago, to file her correspondence. In the front pocket she has placed a little breathscribe blessing – a painting I sent her years ago when I was working in England. And inside she has gathered up a mixed and marvelous collection of writings that inspired her (including some of my own). In her last years, she kept this folder beside her bed. It was her own little Bible, she said.

I intend to share some of the things that are tucked into this treasure of a folder – starting today with this rather odd poetic piece from J Krishnamurti. I say odd, because the style of writing seems quite different from K’s usual pragmatism. It’s a style, however, to which Mum’s ears were attuned – and the message is profound. In spite of first appearances, he’s not talking about running away from the world, society and one’s responsibilities. He’s not talking about separation in time or space.

His insistence is that one must keep “so far away that even you cannot find yourself”. Or “others”. That one must keep beyond the reach of all that would condition the mind – education, religion, philosophy, nationalism and stray renegade thoughts. That one must keep safely anchored in the unassailable purity of one’s own perfect Presence.

 

Milford Sound, Aotearoa New Zealand - http://www.amazingnz.com/8Days-English.html

 

You should never be here too much; be so far away that they can’t find you, they can’t get at you to shape, to mould. Be far away, like the mountains, like the unpolluted air; be so far away that you have no parents, no relations, no family, no country; be so far away that you don’t know even where you are. Don’t let them find you; don’t come into contact with them too closely.

Keep far away where even you can’t find yourself; keep a distance which can never be crossed over; keep a passage open always thorough which no one can come. Don’t shut the door for there is no door, only an open, endless passage; if you shut any door, they will be very close to you, then you are lost.

Keep far away where their breath can’t reach you and their breath travels very far and very deeply; don’t get contaminated by them, by their word, by their gesture, by their great knowledge; they have great knowledge but be far away from them where even you cannot find yourself. For they are waiting for you, at every corner, in every house to shape you, to mould you, to tear you to pieces and then put you together in their own image. Their gods, the little ones and the big ones, are the images of themselves, carved by their own mind or by their own hands. They are waiting for you, the churchman and the communist, the believer and the non-believer, for they are both the same; they think they are different but they are not for they both brainwash you, till you are of them, till you repeat their words, till you worship their saints, the ancient and the recent; they have armies for their gods and for their countries and they are experts in killing.

Keep far away but they are waiting for you, the educator and the businessman; one trains you for the others to conform to the demands of their society, which is a deadly thing;* they will make you into a scientist, into an engineer, into an expert of almost anything from cooking to architecture to philosophy.

Keep far, far away; they are waiting for you, the politician and the reformer; the one drags you down into the gutter and then the other reforms you; they juggle with words and you will be lost in their wilderness.

Keep far away; they are waiting for you, the experts in god and the bomb throwers: the one will convince you and the other [show you] how to kill; there are so many ways to find god and so many, many ways to kill. But besides all these, there are hoards of others to tell you what to do and what not to do; keep away from all of them, so far away that you cannot find yourself or any other. You too would like to play with all of them who are waiting for you but then the play becomes so complicated and entertaining that you will be lost. You should never be here too much, be so far away that even you cannot find yourself.

– J Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti’s Notebook

* They have a thing called society and family: these are their real gods, the net in which you will be entangled. [Krishnamurti’s insertion in the full text edition]

Find a comprehensive selection of Krishnamurti’s books at the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust website.


Image Credit – Milford Sound, Aotearoa New Zealand


Last year’s celebratory post: a light with no source


this luscious luminosity

A selection of favourite word-weavings on the theme that underpins this blog, beginning and closing with beloved Rumi.

I drank that wine of which the soul is its vessel.
Its ecstasy has stolen my intellect away.

A light came and kindled a flame
in the depth of my soul.

A light so radiant that
the sun orbits around it
like a butterfly.

– Rumi

 

Light-Moth. Source - Amrita Nadi

 

I, the light of pure Knowing, can never be seen as an object or known as a state,
and yet all objects and states shine with My light alone.

– Rupert Spira


The great, shining light of divinity is not a light you can see;
it’s a light that sees.

– Adyashanti


Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent
and the divine is shining through it all the time.

This is not just a nice story or a fable,
it is true.

– Thomas Merton


Such love does
the sky now pour,
that whenever I stand in a field,

I have to wring out the light
when I get
home.

– St. Francis of Assisi


Meditation is that light in the mind which lights the way for action;
and without that light there is no love.

– J Krishnamurti


You are the light of the world.
You are the consciousness that illuminates the world.
Know yourself as that, and that’s freedom, liberation, awakening,
the end of suffering and madness.

– Eckhart Tolle


Vast is That, and self-luminous, of unthinkable form, and subtler than the atom.
It shines forth, farther than the far, and yet It is very near, for those who see,
residing in the shrine of the heart of every being.

– Mundaka Upanashad


The lamps are different, but the Light is the same.

So many garish lamps in the dying brain’s lamp-shop.
Forget about them.

– Rumi


and this Light does know all other light as its shadow


Image credit and first Rumi poem – Amrita Nadi on Facebook


words from my treasured teacher 1

I wanted to write, “words from my perfect master” – recalling the film by that title.  But Krishnamurti would have balked at the “master” moniker, and thrown out the notion of perfection as well.  Still, there’s no arguing that K was a hugely significant mindshifter for me, and that the years spent working at the schools he founded around the world were the highlight of my career as an educator in art and design.  They are also remembered as incomparably rich, in terms of inquiry into the mechanism of thought and the construct of the “self”, in the company of some of the most brilliant minds on the planet.

We have, if we are lucky, more than one great teacher as we dance along the days of our lives.  Krishnamurti was what Buddhists would call my “root” teacher; he meticulously prepared the ground for the understanding that would come later – the eye-popping brain-bending Knowing that would revisit his words, and smile.  Yes.  Just so.

J Krishnamurti at his desk

August 4, 1961

Woke up very early in the morning; it was still dark but dawn would soon come; towards the east there was in the distance a pale light.  The sky was very clear and the shape of the mountains and hills were just visible.  It was very quiet.

Out of this vast silence suddenly, as one sat up in bed, when thought was quiet and far away, when there wasn’t even a whisper of feeling, there came that which was now the solid inexhaustible being.  It was solid, without weight, without measure; it was there and besides it, there existed nothing.  It was there without another.  The words solid, immovable, imperishable do not in any way convey that quality of timeless stability.  None of these or any other word could communicate that which was there.  It was totally itself and nothing else; it was the totality of all things, the essence.

The purity remained, leaving one without thought, without action.  It’s not possible to be one with it; it is not possible to be one with a swiftly flowing river.  You can never be one with that which has no form, no measure, no quality.  It is; that is all.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti’s Notebook


silence stillness simplicity serenity solitude

How wondrous that the words most intensely meaningful for me at present – in my mountain hermitage – all begin with the letter ‘s’.   Aren’t these words delicious?  Can’t you feel the way each one somehow lifts you by the heart-strings, delivering you into the mystery beyond words?

Longtime readers of this little blog will be familiar with my abiding love of retreats of any kind.  Oh, the sublime depth of noble silence, the absence of encroachment by mind-fueled noise!  In the days of Great Busyness my torpedo-like life needed the balance gifted by formal retreat.  Here on Kiels Mountain I relish each of these words and I smile, recognizing that my appetite for retreat has manifested a full-time “retreat lifestyle”.

Slow motion opens the mind.
Smooth motion opens the heart.
Slow smooth motion
turns on
the inexplicable delight.
– Paul Reps

This post is a smorgasbord of offerings from some favorite writers and sages.

.

Ura-Senke: approach to the Tea House, Kyoto, Japan

Silence and spaciousness go together.
The immensity of silence is the immensity of the mind in which a center does not exist.

– J Krishnamurti

*

Stop talking, stop thinking, and there is nothing will not understand.

Return to the root and you will find the Meaning.

Persue the Light, and you will lose its source.

There is no need to seek Truth: only stop having opinions.

– Seng-ts’an / Sosan

*

Silence is not acoustic.  It is a change of mind, a turning around.

– John Cage

*

Silent and serene, forgetting words
Bright clarity appears before you.

When you reflect it, you become vast.
Where you embody it, you are uplifted.

Solitary and shining, a river of stars,
Snow covered pines,
Clouds enveloping the peak.

In darkness it is most bright,
While hidden all the more manifest.

The crane dreams in the winter mist.
The autumn waters flow far in the distance.
Endless kalpas are totally empty,
All things completely the same.

When wonder exists in serenity,
all achievement is forgotten in illumination.

Only silence is the supreme speech,
Only illumination the universal response.

Responding without falling into achievement,
Speaking without involving listeners,
The ten thousand forms majestically glisten
And expound the dharma.

– Wanshi Shogaku

*

It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them…. Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.

– Thomas Merton

*

In my travels I spent time with a great yogi.
Once he said to me.

“Become so still you hear the blood flowing
through your veins.”

One night as I sat in quiet,
I seemed on the verge of entering a world inside so vast
I know it is the source of
all of
us.

– Mirabi

*

That’s all you have to do – just abide in that stillness.

If you know how to be with that stillness without looking for anything else then that stillness is no longer just a stillness and that stillness is the Buddha Mind, it is the luminous awareness.

In that stillness you are going to discover your true nature.

The discovery of your true nature is the true liberation, is the bodhi, is the great awakening.

– Tulku Thubten Rinpoche

*

I teach silence
in all languages
through intensive examination of:
the starry sky,
the Sinanthropus’ jaws,
a grasshopper’s hop,
an infant’s fingernails,
plankton,
a snowflake.

– Wislawa Szymborska
Classifieds

*

… full understanding can come to you only through an inexpressible mystery.

The approach to it is called the Gateway of the Stillness beyond all Activity.

If you wish to understand, know that a sudden comprehension comes when the mind has been purged of all the clutter of conceptual and discriminatory thought-activity.

Those who seek the truth by means of intellect and learning only get further and further away from it.

Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.

– Huang Po

*

In the end it’s all very simple.
Either we give ourselves to Silence or we don’t.

– Adyashanti

*

This is not magic.  It’s not mysterious.  Sit down in a chair or on your couch and don’t make a decision when to get up, and just feel.  And all of sudden it will become obvious.  Your body will start to move with the feeling and you’ll just be getting up.  Try it sometime.  It’s interesting.

Spend a day like that; just feeling, not moving until you feel.  If your mind is asking you, “is this the right feeling?” you’ll never get it.  It’s like thirst.  When you’re thirsty, you’re thirsty.  That’s knowledge, that’s direct knowing.  What would you say to somebody if they said, “how do I know when I’m thirsty?”  Well, you’ll feel the flow of it.  But if a mind was involved, the mind might even feel thirsty and the mind would go, “how do I know that that’s thirst?  How do I know?”

But on the inside, in quietness, thirst and reaching for the cup would be just one movement.  Thirst and the cup: simple.

– Adyashanti

*

The power of the Divine works in the silence.
People want lectures; I give them silence.

Words you can get anywhere.

In silence one can receive more
because all one’s activities become concentrated at one point.
There is only one real rhythm; in silence you hear it.
When you live to the rhythm of this silence, you become it…

– Mother Meera

*

Life is this simple.  We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through all the time.

This is not just a fable or a nice story.  It is true.

If we abandon ourselves to God and forget ourselves, we see it sometimes, and we see it maybe frequently.

God shows Himself everywhere, in everything – in people and in things and in nature and in events.

It becomes very obvious that God is everywhere and in everything and we cannot be without Him.  It’s impossible.  The only thing is we don’t see it.

– Thomas Merton

*

Immobility and silence are not inactive.
The flower fills the space with perfume, the candle – with light.
They do nothing yet they change everything by their mere presence.

– Nisargadatta Maharaj

*

Above all things, love silence. Out of your silence will arise something that will draw you into deeper silence. If you practice this, inexpressible light will dawn upon you.

– St Gregory of Nyssa

*

Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self.
– Henri J M Nouwen

*

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

– T S Eliot

*