A most essential question
What convergence is there between the journey of the ascetic Tibetan yogi Milarepa and that of the little-known great French mystic of the Seventeenth Century, Madame Guyon ? between Ramana Maharshi and the famous sufi Al-Hallaj ? What is the common denominator between these extraordinary beings who, in such apparently dissimilar ways, climbed the rungs leading to the ultimate realization ? Is it not a question of the greatest importance, to conjecture about what is essential and what is of incidental value, about what is truly the core of a practice and what relates to a cultural context and epoch ?
Please put the attention on the breath for just a moment to become centred.
Take a look into your heart and see whether there is any worry, fear, grief, dislike, resentment, rejection, uneasiness, anxiety. If you find any of those, let them float away like the black clouds that they are…
Then let warmth and friendship arise in your heart for yourself, realizing that you have to be your own best friend. Surround yourself with loving thoughts for yourself and a feeling of contentment within you…
Now surround the person nearest to you in the room with loving thoughts and fill that person with peace and wish for that person’s happiness…
Now surround everyone here with loving thoughts…
Let the feeling of peacefulness extend to everyone here, and think of yourself as everyone’s good friend…
Think of your parents, whether they are still alive or not. Surround them with love. Fill them with peace and gratitude for what they have done for you, be their good friend…
Think of those people who are nearest and dearest to you. Embrace them with love, fill them with peace as a gift from you, without expecting them to return it to you…
Think of your friends. Open up your heart to them, to show them your friendship, your concern, your love, giving it to them without expecting anything in return…
Think of your neighbours who live near you, the people you meet at work, on the street, in the shops, make them all your friends; let them enter into your heart without any reservation. Show them love… .
Think of anyone for whom you have dislike or with whom you may have had an argument, who has made difficulties for you, whom you do not consider your friend. Think of that person with gratitude, as your teacher, teaching you about your own reactions. Let your heart go out to that person because he or she too has difficulties. Forgive and forget. Make him or her your friend…
Think of all those people whose lives are far more difficult than ours, who may be sick, in hospital, who may be in prison, in .an orphanage or in war-torn countries, hungry, crippled, blind, without friends or shelter, never able to hear the Dhamma. Open up your heart to all of them. Make them all your friends, show them love, wish them happiness…
Put your attention back on yourself. Feel contentment arising in you from making right effort, happiness which comes from loving and joy which comes from giving. Become aware of these feelings, experience the warmth they create in and around you…
May all beings be happy.
The thing is we say we want to be enlightened, but we don’t really. Only bits of us want to be enlightened. The ego which thinks how nice, comfortable and pleasant it would be. But to really drop everything and go for it! We could do it in a moment but we don’t do it.
And the reason is we are too lazy. We are stopped by fear and lethargy – the great inertia of the mind. The practice is there. Anyone on the Buddhist path certainly knows these things.
So how is it we’re not enlightened? We have no one to blame but ourselves. This is why we stay in Samsara because we always find excuses. Instead we should wake ourselves up. The whole Buddhist path is about waking up. Yet the desire to keep sleeping is so strong. However much we say we will awake in order to help all sentient beings we don’t really want to. We like dreaming.
TENZIN PALMO A cave in the snow p. 172
“If, by using certain exercises, the aspirant manages really to see what his eyes are looking at and really to hear what his ears are listening to, he will observe that a strange and silent inner presence, as well as consciousness of himself which is most unusual for him, will begin to manifest itself within him.
However, he will discover that he cannot, or rather, he does not want to maintain this state of consciousness which was hitherto unknown to him, because to maintain this consciousness of himself involves awakening; yet, paradoxically, despite everything he may think, he does not wish to awaken ! To awaken and, above all, to remain awake require a special and persistent effort at the beginning which one does not like to make. One prefers to sleep peacefully in oneself and daydream – which does not entail any price to pay – rather than going to the effort required for this essential awakening. Yet, without this awakening, there can be no possibility of objective and real choice for the human being. He will always be manipulated by the impulses of his mundane self and external forces, without being capable of realizing in what way he is at their mercy.”
Edward Salim Michael : Spiritual practice and inner awakening chap 10
“In reality there is only one truth and mystics of all ages have always found the same truth. There is universal consciousness and that can be experienced in meditation — the infinity of consciousness. (..)
Universal consciousness is not buddhist, but infinite. The infinity of space is not buddhist, but just infinity. ”
Ayya Khéma Walking on lotus Flowers from Martine Batchelor p 46
The techniques employed in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam have precisely one determining common point. Whether it is prayers, mantras, strict meditation, visualization, koans, all these means have the same end: to free the practicing individual from his preoccupations and customary daydreaming to bring him into the present in a sufficiently intense and prolonged manner, so that a transcendent state of order which Christians call God, the Hindus Self, and the Buddhists his Buddha Nature, may reveal itself to him.
Comprehension and expression of this experience which transcends the realm of the senses will depend on its intensity as well as the religious and cultural conditioning of the practicing individual. The more exalted the experience is, the more his expression will be identical to all epochs and in all countries; the less profound the experience, the more it risks being misinterpreted and reinforcing dogmas and beliefs.
« Each concert is a mystical experience, an ecstasy… it’s a form of grace »
Herbert von Karajan
An audience invariably makes great demands on an artist’s attention—demands that are generally beyond the capacity of the ordinary person—yet these demands create in the artist a certain tension that brings a special inner state with a very particular kind of force and energy that are not customary to him but which (apart from being the requisite “fire” giving life to his talents) help make him intensely vigilant and conscious of what he is doing. All this goes largely to free him from his habitual way of sensing himself and allows another aspect of his nature to rise to the surface of his being, elevating him and giving him the different taste and feeling of himself he needs—and which he intuitively values deeply.
Later, he is mysteriously impelled to want to find this heightened inner state and feeling of himself—the true source of which he is ignorant—again and again. It seems to him that he can only get it through repeatedly seeking and accepting the challenge of confronting this gigantic outer witness, the spectators in the auditorium, for the sake of the sensation it evokes in him each time he has the opportunity to perform in front of them.
The deeper the state of presence and concentration an artist is capable of mustering and maintaining in himself while on stage, the more he will be able to get away from himself; and the more he is able to get away from himself, the greater his art will be—for, without his consciously knowing it, something higher in him will at that moment come to the foreground of his being and work through him.
After he has mastered his craft, it is only in the degree that the artist can become distant from himself, forgetting his private self and becoming sufficiently free within (to permit another aspect of his nature to take over), that his artistic creation or performance will stand the test of the truth it seeks to express and have the power to elevate both himself and his audience, exalting and inspiring them both.
Edward Salim MICHAEL
The Law of attention – Chapter 47
One should recall that the primary goal of spiritual practice must be to recognize in meditation another state of being and consciousness which is independent from the tangible world and which can be found after death.
One will then realize that it is possible to exist without the support of a body and one will no longer have the same apprehension about losing one’s earthly envelope.
One makes excuses for oneself; lack of time in particular, is often mentioned; a pretext which does not hold up to examination because, if one wanted, judicious choice would eliminate, in favor of meditation, a great deal of secondary activities which are intrusive or pointless.
These activities, on reflection, may be seen as such… but one continues to do them nonetheless.
And so one sees some people who are accurately informed about Buddhism, who know well the need to unite morality, wisdom and mediation, smugly observing the rules of correct behavior, cultivating their intelligence by reading books and who nevertheless neatly refrain from practicing meditation.”
Jean Pierre Schnetzler
My hopes rose high, and I thought my evil days were at an end. I stood waiting for alms to be given unasked and for wealth to be scattered on all sides in the dust.
The chariot stopped where I stood. Your glance fell on me, and you came down with a smile. I felt that the luck of my life had come at last. Then all of a sudden you held out your right hand, saying, “What have you to give me?”
Ah, what a kingly jest was it to open your palm to a beggar to beg!
I was confused and stood undecided, and then from my wallet I slowly took out the least little grain of corn and gave it to you.
How great was my surprise when at the day’s end, I emptied my bag on the floor only to find a least little grain of gold among the poor heap!
I bitterly wept and wished that I had the heart to give you my all!
“Write the divine name opposite your bed so that in the morning, upon wakening, it is the first thing you see.
On rising, utter it with fervor and conviction, as the first word to leave your mouth and strike your ear.
In the evening on going to bed, once you have stretched out, stare at it as the last object you see before falling into slumber.”
Tierno Bokar (1875–1939) experienced calumny and persecution. His disciples were hunted down and imprisoned. And he had to face hostility from his own.
In the last days of his life, he said to the scarce few faithful who had not abandoned him:
“I advise you – and at the same time this is the last prayer I shall deliver individually and collectively to all those who are with me – not to curse or hate those who have attacked me and worked to condemn me. They were but the instruments of a Wisdom and force against which I could not have made a stand without blasphemy. What merit would there be if my life had passed without having made any enemies ?
Tierno Bokar (Théodore Monod – Terre et Ciel, Actes Sud p. 204)
“A sincere aspirant will not fail to notice to what point he is inhabited by all sorts of futile or harmful inner chatter, as well as by an interminable procession of worthless, negative or even destructive thoughts, aside from all the tricks his mind will think up to divert him from his goal. Hence, he might suggest to himself that this spiritual journey is too difficult and too thankless, or that because of health problems or important work which awaits him, it is not worth undertaking his spiritual practices for the moment and it is preferable to put them off to later, because the right time has not yet come to take up such a venture !
The seeker must realize that the right time will never come; he will always find good excuses for deferring to later the effort he should make in the present instant.”
Edward Salim Michael ”From the depths of the Mist”
“To see the world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour .”