I find myself surprised and moved by this writing as an Awakin passage. I relate to Moyo's deep desire to in some way be useful or of service to life; his protest to not have his organs poisoned during a lethal injection process so that they can be donated to others...just strikes at the heart. Disarming sincerity and heart-cracking volition.
I remember thinking many years back that if I didn't seem to be making much of my life in my standard context, that at the least I could go to any place that had apparent needs and just volunteer, make some use of my life. That's kind of a strange thought for a college-age kid in some ways, but in others maybe not. I have since come to see other angles of that thought: that in many ways it is myself that I want to serve, my own sense of peace that I want to find ways to keep cultivating.
Moyo acknowledge an important part of his practice: to see things clearly, as they are. I recently heard (and someone please correct/amend if you know better) the literal translation of a Pali word "panna", typically called wisdom, is something like "to see things from multiple angles." Part of what's so touching to me in Moyo's sincerity is his acknowledgement of multiple angles: e.g. his cell as different from a monastery cell but at the same time affording some similar opportunities. I wonder if he sees/can get the feedback from the angle of his art and writing touching others.
His drawing looks to me like a kind of E.T. Buddha. :) Haha, I like it very much. Thank you for sharing Moyo.
Loved this passage, thank you for sharing it, and Jerry for writing it. I recently went on a long walk, about 50 miles over a few days. Along the way I came across a diversity of situations, including many opportunities for sadness and reverence at misfortunate circumstances.
One of those stories comes to mind: In the midst of a materially rich neighborhood, an older man stood in the meridian between two busy roads. He held a sign that read something like "anything helps" and had a forlorn yet somehow at-peace look on his face. I was intentionally traveling without money, so that wasn't an option to give, but another obvoius inspiration came to mind, which was to offer some grapefruits that I had earlier gleaned from a tree a few neighborhoods back.
From across the street, I made eye contact with the man and shouted across "do you like grapefruit?!" He didn't hear at first so my friend who was traveling with me pulled one out, held it up and pointed at it, smilingly, as I repeated "Do. You. Like. GRAPEFRUIT?" :) The man understood in a flash, and smiled and nodded. At the next red light, my friend and I crossed the street and offered a few grapefruits to the grateful man. It was a heartfelt connection, just for a moment. We all knew it wasn't meant to solve any long-term problem there, but I sensed we all valued the human connection for that brief time.
But what struck me most was what happened just outside of our little interaction: as we scampered back across the street before traffic started to move again I caught a glimpse of the faces in the car windshields, waiting at the red light. This one woman in her car had the sweetest smile on her face that spoke of both sadness for the situation and happiness for whitnessing that moment of joy. I think more than the interaction itself, that whitnessing, that reverence touched me.
And what a beautiful closing line: "With inspiration rippling through the collective, the heart of the world grows unalterably stronger."[Hide Full Comment]
Catherine, those strike me as some deep and personal questions. Rilke said (essentially) that we must *live* the questions, until we find ourselves, one unexpected day, living the answers. Perhaps there are only so many times we can *ask* the question with words, before we start living the questions. For me, it eventually comes back to self knowledge. And I think meditating is a beautiful way to gain self-knowledge. There are many ways to gain self-knowledge and many ways to approach meditation -- here's one. And yes, may light be shed in the dark corners and rooms of all of our minds!
In discipline + responsibility I heard a new term emerging to try to encapsulate the immense human capacity that is conveyed in all this.
I love the perspective on discipline of "becoming a disciple unto yourself" -- deeply examining your actions, words, thoughts throughout life and constantly learning, growing. And the meaning of responsibility invoked was not only one of actions we can (and are called to) take, but also a level of awareness of the effects of our actions.
It occurs to me that when one cultivates values of truth, equanimity, love, beauty, kindness, compassion, this level of action, self-reflection, and awareness begins to arise naturally. Discipline and responsibility as words, then, don't easily convey this depth, especially as those words are used in a slew of other contexts, diluting their potency.
So I thought back to Gandhi needing a new term for nonviolent civil disobedience (which was incorrectly viewed as "passive") and holding a naming contest :) which eventually birthed the term "satyagraha" -- commitment to truth.
Then why not "value-graha" -- commitment to values? Satyagraha meant that you could take a beating from someone and still look him in the eyes with love. What if we took this sense of responsibility and discipline and applied it to whatever we find ourselves in front of? Not in a forced way that the term discipline sometimes implies -- I imagine you can't force yourself to wish well one who delivers a blow to you, it either naturally arises from a deep commitment to values or it doesn't -- but in a self-regenerative way of acting from deeply cultivated values and constantly self-reflecting, self-reflecting to continue deepening into them, and then again acting...
Very grateful for the recap of Bhikkhu Bodhi's talk, thank you Somik. I didn't get to attend myself, but I did happen to serendipitously see Bhikkhu Bodhi speak the following night. He joked that the very act of thinking can sometimes seemed to be discouraged within Buddhist circles -- "just thoughts arising and passing away" :) -- but that coming from a Western Philosophy background himself, he is prone to big-picture thinking. :) Along those lines, one thing in particular stood out to me. He stressed the need for balance between upward and downward pulls in one's spiritual approach. Especially for meditation-heavy practices, transcendence is often stressed above all. To stay connected to the real world which we inhabit in the here and now, Bhikkhu Bodhi said that ought to balance this with a descendent path of spirituality -- one which focus on practical, down-to-earth service. He cited the "four immeasurables" as qualities that help us stay grounded and serve in tangible ways that makes this world better: loving-kindness, compassion, altruistic joy for others, and equanimity (or impartiality as he said it might also be translated). The "earth scholar" Thomas Berry expressed a similar sentiment when he stressed the need to not be carried off one's feet by the transcendent path or sink into the ground via the descendent path, coining the term inscendence.
And to follow up on the Pancho-Mona momentum, I was inspired last week to leave some tomatoes and zucchini in a bag with a smile :) on the doorstep of our neighbor. Honoring those connections, even if invisibly.
What is sincerity? seemed to be a central question to the discussion. I loved Somik's take on it, which I heard as basically: authenticity is manifesting your truth in each moment, and sincerity is what keeps that from harming others.
Pavi shared in her always-beautiful opening the latin etymology of the word 'sincere': without (sine) wax (cera), which apparently comes from sculptures, which if done right, did not need wax to cover up any mistakes. I love this idea that presenting ourselves sincerely is a practice of total openness and acceptance and needs no cover-up.
Pavi also shared after the circle that in fact there has been a past ijourney passage on the very topic of sincerity and authenticity! (and a deep inquisition into the matter from literary critic Lionel Trilling, but I'll let her share about that :)) An excerpt
"Another way to approach this is to look at the huge difference between sincerity and authenticity. Sincerity, while it's lovely, is necessary but insufficient, because you can be sincere with just one zone of your heart awakened. When many zones of the heart are awakened and harmonized we can speak of authenticity, which is a broader and more complex notion."
For a simple amalgamation of authenticity and sincerity, my brother used to say to me when we were little: say what you mean, and mean what you say. Adding Somik's reflection above it might become: say what you mean, and mean what you say, but don't say it mean...ly.
What came to my mind during the circle was some wise words I once heard (from whom I can't remember): "You can't pretend to be more mature than you actually are." I heard this as encouragement to be just what we're talking about here: sincere and authentic -- and furthermore the subtle message that sometimes this doesn't mean shouting our truth from the rooftops, but rather, like those silent warriors that Nipun acknowledged, engaging in deep listening.[Hide Full Comment]
I loved this passage. We're presented with these omnipresent challenges to staying present in everyday life -- and then left to figure out for ourselves how to counterbalance them! It's a wonderful implicit challenge. Of course we truly respond by the way we live, but it's fun to talk about it as well. :)
First, I think it's helpful to consider these words in the context of "early Christian Elders in the Egyptian desert." Unfortunately, the terms like "Christian" and "Jesus" have been so loaded with baggage by now that it becomes difficult to find the true value in them, amongst the noise. But this early Christianity which the author references was probably MUCH unlike most of what we see today. Before any institution called a church even existed. From reading the texts sometimes referred to as the "Gnostic Gospels" (ow.ly/1KOdg) we can surmise that these early Christian Elders were true seekers, looking within for wisdom, not to an external authority figure -- monks cultivating the contemplative solitude of monastic life. There we'll find mystical and powerful words attributed to Jesus: "If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." In effect: know yourself (more on that later). Elaine Pagels has done excellent historical research into this long-lost chapter of early Christianity, and Tucker Malarkey wrote a wonderful historical fiction novel called "Resurrection" that tells the riveting story of the unexpected discovery in mid 1900s of the early Christian texts in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and the quest to share them with the world.
With that in mind, it may at first seem less than relevant to apply these teachings to our modern day, hustle and bustle life. But looking deeper, we can each see the seeker within us and recognize the wisdom of identifying these three blockages -- anger, laziness, lust -- to staying present as we progress on our path.
There were some wonderful reflections in the circle this Wednesday. Neil opened with thoughts on the many other obstacles to presence! :) -- while noting their impermanent nature :) -- and held wonderful space for the rest of the circle, including a touching mother's day reflection to close. Around the circle, a gentleman shared a wonderful image of an open mind as an open sky, to which Steve later poetically painted on passing clouds of emotion; Pancho offered his perspective on the "most powerful force" of ahimsa, or nonviolence; another gentleman shared a great insight that to enter into these states of mind in front of others we must first have a feeling of superiority over whomever may be in our present company ... Amidst reflections on when anger, for example, might be appropriate, Ripa reminded us of the wonderful saying: "between suppression and expression lies observation." Some say depression is anger turned inward, and along those lines, Aumatma recounted a time when one of her patients began feeling angry for the first time in while and her recognizing that as a step along the healing path; Ayush complemented that nicely, musing on the need for balance and knowing when to step into anger and when to come back out. Auntie and Uncle blessed us, as always, with peaceful, wise words and of course, the gift of the opportunity to share our journeys in this sacred way. I loved Auntie's final reflection: "I noticed that simply sitting still can be a remedy to each of these three forces."
Finally, I mentioned the implicit challenge in this passage to come up with our own responses to these three great forces of anger, lust and laziness, and in that spirit I will offer what came to my mind. And as a preface, let me gratefully acknowledge the numerous perspectives that were offered last night in favor of honoring our beautifully imperfect humanity, which means we need not be dogmatic or holier-than-though (superior ;)) in addressing these very normal phenomena....
For laziness, live your gift. Laziness implies a lack of motivation to do something. Last night I shared that of all the four types of external motivators, positive rewards are most effective (negative rewards, positive punishers, and negative punishers being the other three), so find your own best positive reward of living a meaningful life. But I'll take it a step further here: to counterbalance laziness at the root, go beyond external motivators and find your own intrinsic motivation. (with a hat tip to Alfie Kohn: ow.ly/1KObn) This requires deeply knowing oneself, and this is what leads us to the true gifts that we have to offer. That which brings us most alive; that which is in abundance for us, and offering it to another loses us nothing but only enriches both lives. Nipun shared a great quote from his recent trip to Japan: "The purpose of life is to discover your gift; the meaning of life is to give your gift away." At that point, perhaps the joy of giving your gift away beats out the lure of laziness. :)
For anger, awareness. As we mentioned in the circle, anger is often vilified as a "bad" emotion, but it comes up in all of us at one point or another, and how can we pre-judge its purpose? As we also pointed out, becoming consumed in anger does not serve anyone. Awareness will always serve us when anger is arising, and keep us rooted in the unfolding present. As Ripa was also sharing: what does anger feel like on my body? Why is it arising now? These are questions that have subtler and subtler answers that will aid us in knowing ourselves. And to complete the counter-balance of awareness, I would add in a healthy does of acceptance. :) If we do not accept what is, we are stuck with it, but once we accept, we can begin to move and flow with it.
And last but not least :) for lust, impermanence. Lust is an interesting word to use here, and has a very Buddhist ring to it -- attachment to something that is not present. Craving for what is not yet our organic reality. So let's counterbalance with a quintessential teaching of Gautama Buddha: anicca, impermanence, or the ever-changing nature of all things. With that, let me thank you for your attention, and pass. :)[Hide Full Comment]
On Aug 30, 2018 chris wrote on Bedrock On Which We All Stand, by J. Krishnamurti:
I really enjoyed this passage, and the awakin circle discussion around it last night. Here is a recent story to add to the mix:[Hide Full Comment]
Last weekend I found myself in a frustrated moment--by back bike wheel has been stolen couple days prior, and the bus driver had just denied my entry onto the bus, which I was planning to take to a community bike shop to fix it up. Definitely plenty of separateness in that moment, you could say. :) As I trudged down the street with my bike, thinking over plan B and C, a little flash of realization occured: that this thinking feels myopic. Yes I want to take care of my bike somehow, but I don't want to do it whilst curling into a discontented shell within myself and forgetting the world around me.
As it happens, the sounds of some folks yelling at each other caught my attention as I walked by a small street that was one-way blocked off to cars adjacent to the bigger street I was walking on. It took me a moment to make senes of the scene: a young-ish couple, man and a woman, were unloading their small pickup truck and placing large pieces of junk--old boxspring, tattered couch, etc--on the street, tucked up against the one-way road block signs; and pursuing them angrily was an older man, maybe 60s, expressing his thorough discontent, "Don't dump your stuff (not exact words) on my street!" Huh! Not something you see everyday.
I approached the two men just as things were startig to get heated, with the older man getting angrier as they would not heed his warnings, and the younger man stepping defensively in between this man and his wife. I'm generally fairly soft-spoken, so my first attempt to reason with the two men--"Hey guys, I'm sure you're both decent people; this is a sticky situation, but we don't need to escalate it like this"--got their attention for all of .5 seconds before they were back in each other's faces, with the older man beginning to make mild gestures to hold them back.
Longer story short, the yelling started bordering on physical aggressiveness, and the young couple, now done unloading, was getting back into their truck to take off. It was clear no resolution was going to come in this moment, yet the older man, now more frustrated, continued yelling at the young couple (after the young man expressed in his own frustration how that approach "made him care even less").
Calm words weren't working, and physical intervention didn't seem like a good idea (nor would anyone recommend that for me ;))...I decided to yell myself. (And though I didn't think it through fully consciousy in that moment, in retrospect I think it was out of caring, for all of them, not out of negativity.) I raised my voice, directing it at the older man, saying that's enough, this is not cool, you may have a point but this is not the way to convey it (in a yelling voice, that is). It seemed to reach the older man just enough to stun him out of the moment, at least briefly. The young couple pulled away in the truck. And then it was the older man and myself, looking at each other from across a gap the width of a truck. Huh...now what? Will his anger spill over to me? Is this the part where we awkwardly scratch the back of our heads and kind of shuffle away? Will we take a moment to debrief what in humanity just occured here?
Thankfully it turned out to be the latter. "Phew. Maybe you're right; I did get a bit heated there," said the older man. "Yea, you were running pretty hot..." I agreed. "But isn't that outrageous?! Dumping their dumpstuff (again not exact words) like that?!" his frustration returning. "I mean, what would you do??" I echoed the inquiry, "Yea, what *can* you do when trying to confront a wrong?" [or an apparent one] We held the question together, and I ended up empathizing with my own situation--my one-wheeled bike still slung over my shoulder that whole time--sharing the experience of processing an unfortunate situation and wondering what to do next.
And this is where the passage talking about relationships as a bedrock, and moving towards wholeness struck a chord for this microcosm story. All of a sudden the older man snaps his fingers and says, "Come with me! I think I have an extra wheel in my shed." How striking and almost graceful it was, his shift from venting to helping. Part of me was hesitant, but another part recognized his positive intentions and felt good about supporting them. Plus, I did need a wheel. We walked towards his shed and kept talking through this thread of inquiry.
The story with him went on, including the wheel, connecting around the same professional field that had just retired from and I'm just entering, further reflecting on human nature & relationships and each of our subconscious blind spots, etc. Part of the story was certainly relationships leading the way towards wholeness (my bike regained wholeness too! after some days and couple more shop visits). At the same time fragmentation still remains, even from this microcosm--not being able to connect with this younger couple, the seeming chasm of understanding between folks coming from different places, just to name a couple. I'll leave it there for now; thank you for your attention.