|The Way the Leaves Shine|
Discovering the space which is within us and which surrounds us is a delicate matter that requires nothing more than a very simple shift of attention. If you can stay with the moment 'between thoughts' a whole world of infinite existence and beauty will begin to emerge as naturally as the sun rises bringing on the dawn...
In the early 1990,s I spent several months in a retreat centre which was located near a pilgrimage place called Asura Cave in Parping, a small village on the southern fringes of the Kathmandu Valley. This cave was said to be the place where the great Master, Padmasambava meditated and realized the state of ‘Mahamudra.’(That which is unchanging)
Day after day I would climb up the hill behind the cave. In the still, early afternoon air, which throbbed with heat and sleepiness, one seldom met anyone on the way. Indeed many were taking a nap during those very hours.
Each day, at the same time, I would walk past the cave and take a small dirt track up the hill behind. It wound its way steeply between rocks and shrubbery. The scent of ash from countless sticks of incense filled the air with a peculiar pungency which could almost be intoxicating at this time of the day. It was this smell, which rose in the heat from a large incense burner, which I associated with the place, the time and with the atmosphere.
At a certain point after climbing up the path the way opened out to a magnificent view which swept down the valley, across unfolding fields of rice paddy and on into the descending, dusty distance. Occasionally one could even spot the glistening spires of Himalayan peaks far, far away to the north.
Even though I knew those peaks were always there, it was only very infrequently that one could gaze upon the snowy summits from this vantage point and be thrilled by the spectacle of those distant giants.
A few more steps and one arrived at a small terrace like plot of earth which rested directly above the ancient cave. There were a few scrubby trees here and there. These had somehow escaped the knives of the women who came to gather fodder for their cattle and goats. The limbs of all the trees had been hacked and chopped so relentlessly, over the years, that they never grew beyond a certain height. Between these small trees were hung line upon line, and row upon row of colorful prayer flags that fluttered and waved in the breeze.
I would invariably turn my back on the grand view that swept down into the valley of Kathmandu, in favor of a less spectacular vista which opened out onto a small group of hills which were dotted with tiny hamlets, nestled here and there between the folds of undulating, bare earth, greenery and layered rice terraces.
One friendly branch offered some welcome shade from the heat and glare of the westering sun and there I would sit, motionless.
At that time of the day the light would appear to glitter on the leaves of a distant Bodhi tree at the base of a nearby hill. This rather ordinary and innocent reflection would invariably and very quickly engross my attention and still the wandering, restless mind.
I cannot say why a few shimmering leaves could hold my attention enthralled hour after hour, day after day, but come noon, the irresistible pull of that one spot on the hill would draw me from the dusky interior of my room and out into the light of day.
In the stillness of those hours there was a silence so full and so overpowering that thought was not even possible. In the absence of thought came a spaciousness that would give wings to the current of life within.
The happiness and peace of those silent hours could assuage even the sharpest anguish, restlessness or pain that might appear at other times. If I happened to climb the hill with a heavy heart, burdened by the transient but nevertheless, sharp worries of the world, within minutes of arriving there, all would be swept away in the blessed glitter of those distant dancing leaves of light.
The eyes were open and yet unseeing, the breath came and went less and less. There was a sense of merging towards the hub of a gigantic turning wheel. While the world spun on its way, all that had been previously scattered, drew in and focused itself to a potent point that had no circumference.
Grace flowed like an intoxicating balm into the weary waters of the mind.
In stillness, wisdom arises spontaneously to reveal the space inside and out.The one that ‘sees’ and ‘knows’ and ‘thinks’ ceases to be and there is only the being itself, only the seeing itself…
(This is an excerpt from my up and coming book
Who Lives? Who Dies? What We Need to Know Before We Go)