Jul 29, 2007

drink your tea

Drink your tea slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves
- slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future;
live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.

Thich Nhat Hahn

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Jul 28, 2007

the voice of conscience

There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, i.e. the voice of conscience even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being.

The human voice can never reach the distance that is covered by the still small voice of conscience.

Mahatma Gandhi

photo © Lars Ihring

Jul 19, 2007

and yet

I've grown accustomed to her face
She almost makes the day begin
I've grown accustomed to the tune
She whistles night and noon
Her smiles, her frowns,
Her ups, her downs
Are second nature to me now
Like breathing out and breathing in
I was serenely independent and content before we met
Surely I could always be that way again
And yet
I've grown accustomed to her looks,
Accustomed to her voice,
Accustomed to her face...

(Words and Music by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe from the Broadway musical "My Fair Lady" - excerpt)

Photo © Tijen Inaltong

Jul 15, 2007

some days

Because some days living hurts more than others.

Jul 11, 2007

the elder brother

From the beginning in Colombia everything, everything remained as it was among us, the native people; the same belief, the same mask, the same dance. Everything well organised, in order, a terrace for every animal.

'Younger brother was permitted in other places, other countries. There was a dividing line, the sea. He said, 'Younger Brother that side, Elder Brother this side. You cannot cross it.' Because this Colombia was the heart of The world, Of the whole universe.

'But Younger Brother came from another country and immediately saw gold and immediately began to rob. There were golden images, golden oracles. The Mama prophesied with golden Bowls, he had a golden tuma, he had everything and Younger Brother took it all to another country.

'Now the Mama grows sad, he feels weak. He says that the earth is decaying. The earth is losing its strength. Because they have taken away much petrol, coal, many minerals.

'A human being has much liquid inside. If the liquid dries up we fall with weakness. This same thing can happen to the Earth. Weakness makes you fall, weakness.

'So the earth catches diseases of all kinds. The animals die. The trees dry up. People fall ill. Many illnesses will appear and there will be no cure for them. Why?

'Because the Younger Brother is among us, Younger Brother is violating the basic foundation of the world's law. A total violation. Robbing. Ransacking. Building highways, extracting petrol, minerals.

'We tell you, We the people of this place, Kogi, Asario, Arhuaco: that is the violation. So the Mamas say, please BBC, no one else should come here, no more ransacking because the earth wants to collapse, the earth grows weak, we must protect it, we must respect it, because he does not respect the earth, because he does not respect it.'

'Younger Brother thinks,'Yes! Here I am! I know much about the universe!' But this knowing is learning to destroy the world, to destroy everything, all humanity.

'The earth feels, they take out petrol, it feels pain there. So the earth sends out sickness. There will be many medicines, drugs, but in the end the drugs will not be of any use.

'The Mamas say that this tale must be learnt by the Younger Brother.'

from the documentary From the Heart of the World - The Elder Brother's Warning, by Alan Ereira (director), 1991 , BBC

Photo: Children from the Kogi Tribe that live in the Nevado de Santa Marta, Colombia © Oshry Chageg

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Jul 6, 2007

when you reach the sea...

Float down this river…
float down in this old boat…
every river reaches the sea…
where upstream and downstream meet…
reaches the darkening sea…
is left as a crust of white salt on the shore.

So float down the river…
eyes closed… lips shut…
every scrap of dharma set aside.
Float down alone…
winds will blow…
night will fall and float down with you.
When you reach the sea…
there is no one in pain…
anywhere in this world.

from the book Little Pilgrim by Ko Un, Parallax Press, Berkeley, 2005

photo: Dead Sea Sunset

Jul 2, 2007

not pleasant yet wonderful

This is from one Question and Answer Session with Thich Nhat Hanh on 20th of July 1998, in Plum Village:

(Thay reads a question.) I hear you say that the present moment is a wonderful moment. What if the present moment is just despair... a desert of emptiness and loneliness, meaninglessness, sickness, a feeling of loss and despair? Most of the time when I stop I find myself there.

When the Buddha gave his first Dharma talk, he spoke about ill being, dukkha. Of course the feeling of loneliness, meaninglessness, sickness, despair, all belong to dukkha, ill being. The Buddha talked about it first of all. That was the first topic of his Dharma talk. According to the spirit of that Dharma talk, you should not try to run away from your ill being, try to escape, because if you do, you have no chance to get out of it. If you know how to embrace your pain and look deeply into it, and if you really care to look deeply, you will find out how it has come to be: the roots of your ill-being. And only with that kind of insight will you be able to get out of the situation. Therefore the attitude of running away from your suffering is not a wise attitude. In fact the first truth, namely, ill being, suffering, has been described as a holy truth, because the first Dharma talk given by the Buddha was about the Four Holy Truths. First of all, ill being. The second truth is the cause, the roots of ill being. The third truth is the possibility of overcoming ill being and restoring well being, and the fourth is the way out of ill being and arriving at well being. Not only are the two last truths described as holy, but also the first one and the second one. Why do we call pain and suffering a holy truth? It is because, thanks to it, we can find the way to overcome suffering and ill being.

If we know how to handle our suffering, then we can learn a lot from it and we can discover the way out. But if we don’t know how to handle it, we will be overwhelmed by it, crushed by it, and the only thing we will want is to get away from it. But how to get away? That is why even suffering is described as holy, wonderful. "Wonderful" does not mean pleasant alone. "Wonderful" means that there is a depth that we have to discover, and that looking into this, we can discover that also. The fact is that happiness is not possible without suffering. Those of us who have not experienced any kind of suffering would not be capable of identifying happiness, this is my experience. If you have never been hungry in your life, you do not know exactly the joy of having something to eat. If you have not suffered as a homeless person, you would not be able to identify the joy of someone who has a house to live in. That is why happiness cannot be identified without the background of suffering. That is why when someone says, "Come with me—I will show you a place where there is only happiness," please don’t believe him or her. Without the background and the remembrance of suffering, of pain, you cannot enjoy the happiness you are having now. That is why not only happiness is wonderful, but your non-happiness is also wonderful.

Suppose you have a depression and you want to get away from it. How can you get away from it? You have to embrace it and look deeply into it and identify the causes that have brought it to you. Then you can learn from your depression, and then you can enjoy the non-depression, the well being that you can afford to have. If you know how to cut the source of nutriment that has brought on your depression, then you are on your way to emancipation, and you begin to enjoy your non-depression. It is like your toothache. I hope that in this moment you don’t have a toothache, yet you don’t enjoy your non-toothache until you have a toothache. Suffering from your toothache you get enlightened: you say: "It’s wonderful not to have a toothache." So, how to enjoy your non-toothache? Just remember the time when you had a toothache. Suffering plays a very important role in helping you to be happy. That is why even what you call suffering, loneliness, meaninglessness, sadness, fear and despair can be wonderful, because it is thanks to them that you have an opportunity to discover what freedom, stability, friendship, interbeing and love are.

So let us not run away from our garbage; we should learn the art of making compost. Using that compost we will grow a lot of flowers. Don’t think that without compost you can have flowers. That is an illusion. You can have flowers only with compost. That is the insight of interbeing — look into the flower and you will see the compost. If you remove the compost that became the flower, the flower will disappear also. What you are looking for, freedom, joy, and stability, you know that suffering plays a very important role in it. So be aware that we cannot just run away from our problems. In fact, we have to go back to our problems. The practice of calming, of concentrating, of embracing, of looking deeply into the nature of our pain, is absolutely necessary for us to get the transformation, the healing that we need so much.

Foto: Thich Nhat Hanh portrait © Plum Village site