Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Discovering the Space Inside and Out

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...
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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)


*****

Sunday, 6 September 2015

For Kindness Sake

Leunig

"When in doubt,
It is better to err on the side of kindness..."

The immediate reaction of many upon seeing the cartoon above might be, 'oh, here we go again, another moralistic lecture...'

Potent images in the press and media of previous days have flooded cyber space. In a world where the senses are overwhelmed by 'bad news' and where mass and tragic outcomes, which are often caused and then exacerbated by a relatively small group of selfishly motivated, greedy individuals, can cause the mind to shut off and tune the 'noise' out. There is always something going on. Recently i heard a new phrase, 'compassion fatigue...'

However, every now and then one image will emerge which will cut through all the indifference, through all the debate and all of the noise.

If there is a saturation point at which the mind's ability to cope with and embrace demands upon our 'conscience' then those which touch us directly at the level of the heart, have the capacity to summon an inmost and boundless compassion. That fount taps into an inexhaustible ocean of grace which can swiftly bring all the other barriers down in one great crash.

Suddenly the excuses, the arguments, the ignorance and the indifference dissolve.

Like a bottomless spring that bubbles up, seemingly, from 'nowhere,' spontaneous acts of kindness spring from the depths of our being. They are not contrived, nor are they limited.

Imagine a world in which beings could exist without this?
Would you or i want to live there?

There is a favored spot where i often go to watch the sunset and enjoy that final hours of daylight. It is on a small stretch of road some miles from the town. It lies in a rural area among rice paddies and open fields and has been slightly elevated. The only source of shade on this stretch is one isolated Tamarind tree of considerable age. It's generous branches have sheltered many a wayfarer over years and decades...

Yesterday i ventured there for a little respite from the noise and dust of the road and town and to my dismay found it had been cut down!

Little pieces of it remained scattered about. It felt to me, as though a senseless murder had just been committed. What has taken years to grow had be hacked down in just a few miserable minutes.

The scene of this 'crime' is now completely changed. The 'tree of refuge' which had harmlessly and silently  abided in this place for so many years, was, no more. Gone the gentle atmosphere of shade and refuge; in its place a shade less expanse, strangely empty and now entirely at the mercy of the relentless tropical sun.

In contrast to this and not far away, the careful and back breaking work of planting numerous Banyan trees goes on afoot. The vision of a few far sighted souls who may never personally enjoy the shade or grace that these trees will bestow, but who, nevertheless are sowing the seeds that future generations will enjoy.

The effort required to plant and nurture each and every sapling is considerable and yet it is going on in striking contrast.

Every day we can witness acts of kindness if we make it our business to notice such things. Even when they may express themselves in the smallest of gestures they still belie something deep and fundamental to our inmost being.

There is much misery in this world; the sort that is often caused by careless, thoughtless destruction, yet the very same hands that are the cause of the destruction are equally capable of bringing about the most amazing transformations.

We need be in no doubt at all as to how important and crucial are the collective and small individual thoughts and doings of each one of us.

The fact of our very existence must, in time give rise to the awareness of what we all 'create.'  A single thread in the great tapestry of life may seem unimportant and yet each thread is crucial to holding the whole great mosaic of life together.

So even if we feel overwhelmed at times by senseless acts and by the suffering and sadness which engulfs so much of this world, there is also much that each and every one of us can do to offset it, at least within our own small orbits.

We cannot know the power of our good will and intentions until and unless we believe in them utterly. Herein
lies our true strength and ultimately, our joy!

In knowing that we can BE the change; that we can plant that tree, or extend that hand, be the listening ear,  or the shady bower. That we can be anything and everything we want is the springboard to true and actual freedom.

We are never separated from this freedom in our inmost being yet amid the clamor of the world one can forget.

As for 'the world,' the words of Nisargadatta Maharaj are something to aspire towards. "You don't have to change anybody; you just have to love them."

In concluding, there comes to mind the final words in the classic Middlemarch, by George Eliot;


"But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on un-historic acts and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in un-visited tombs."