Dec 28, 2008

the man of God

The man of God remains drunk without wine,
The mand of God is replete without meat.

The man of God is distraught and confused,
The man of God is hungry and fatigued.

The man of God is a king in pauper's clothes,
The man of God is a treasure in a ruin.

The man of God is neither air nor earth,
The man of God is not fire nor water.

The man of God is a boundless ocean,
The man of God rains pearls on a clear day.

The man of God has countless moons and skies,
The man of God has unnumbered suns.

The man of God draws wisdom from truth,
The man of God learns without books.

The man of God is beyond belief and religion,
To the man of God right and wrong are the same.

The man of God has escaped from un-being,
The man of God is waited on in glory.

Wild One, the mand of God is in hiding,
You look for the man of God everywhere!


ın Rumi's Dıvan of Shems of Tabriz, a new interpretation by James Cowan

this transcription is dedicated to Ihsan, a man of God

Dec 25, 2008

do this

The altruism of bodhichitta is the path of all beings of great potential. Therefore train yourself in the deeds of bodhisattvas, and do this on a grand scale! Shoulder the responsibility of freeing all beings from samsara. Of all the eighty-four thousand sections of the Buddha's teachings, none is more profound than bodhichitta.

Dudjom Rinpoche

in Counsels from my Heart, Shechen Publications, New Delhi 2004

above: Great Bodhisattva, Gupta period, Ajanta caves, Indıa

Dec 18, 2008

miracle of each moment

Let the thread appear and disappear.

Kazuaki Tanahashi, in Brush Mind (Parallax Press, 1990)

above, one-brush paint by Kazuaki Tanahashi; to see more from this artist please refer to:

Dec 6, 2008

ah, when to the heart of man

Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last long aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question 'Whither?'

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

Robert Frost
, Reluctance, from the book A Boy's Will (Published/Written in 1913); to read more of this poet please refer to:

Photo ©Richard&Joanne Friday

Nov 28, 2008

but it is

We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.

We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.

Tao Te Ching, chap. 11

as translated by Stephen Mitchell, quoted in Endless Vow: the zen path oh Soen Nakagawa, Shambala Publications, 1996

above, Sun ın an empty room, painting by Edward Hopper; to learn more please refer to:

Nov 22, 2008

dusty affairs

Looking for serenity
you have come
to the monastery.

Looking for serenity
I am leaving
the monastery.


Stop running about seeking!

The dusty affairs of the world
fill the day,
fill the night.

Soen Nakagawa

ın Endless Vow - The Zen Path of Soen Nakagawa, Shambala Publıcatıons, 1996

Nov 20, 2008

that light

I asked a child, walking with a candle,
"From where comes that light?"
Instantly he blew it out.
"Tell me where it is gone - and I tell you where it came from".

Hasan of Basra

The Sufis, Idries Shah (Anchor Books, 1971/1990)

Nov 16, 2008

the knower and the knowledge are one

In meditation we learn to still the mind and the senses so that we can directly experience the inner reality of the heart. One friend had a dream that gave her a glimpse of the sweetness beyond the mind:

I am sitting with the group and the teacher silently speaks to me, saying, "I will show you what this meditation can offer you." The group begins to meditate and when I fall into meditation I hear the sound of the most beautiful chord of music whose notes become louder and whose vibration fills my whole being until its essence absorbs me in an intense sweetness and bliss which I can only describe as a glimpse of heaven. The notes cease as the meditation ends.

Such bliss is the substance of the Self which cannot be experienced on the level of the mind. The mind is known as the "slayer of the Real," for it separates us from spiritual Truth which is found within the heart. While the mind understands through duality, the differentiation of subject and object, Truth is always a state of oneness: the knower and the knowledge are one, the lover and Beloved are united. Meditation is a technique to take us from the world of duality to the oneness within the heart. Muhâsibî, a ninth- century Sufi from Baghdad, stresses its importance:

Meditation is the chief possession of the mystic, that whereby the sincere and the God-fearing make progress on the journey to God.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, The Sufi Meditation of the Heart; if youd' like to read more please refer to:

Photo: Leaf on Concrete©

Nov 11, 2008

of the soul

At dawn a moon appeared from the waves
And ascended, gazing down at me. Then,

Like a falcon snatching a bird in flight,
It snatched me up and flew away.

When I looked up I no longer saw myself:
Into that moon my body had eased, by grace

Of the soul in which I travelled, moon-driven
Until the secret of God's revelation halted me.

Nine spheres of Heaven had emerged in that moon;
And the sea washed over the slip of my being,

Breaking against me in waves. Again Wisdom's
Voice boomed; as it happens so it occurs.

At every foam-fleck of the ocean a figure
Emerged and slowly disappeared, just as

My foam-flecked body, receiving a sea-sign,
Melted within and slowly turned to spirit.

Without the regal power of Shems of Tabrız,
Holdıng the moon or becoming the sea are dreams.


in Rumi's Dıvan of Shems of Tabriz, a new interpretation by James Cowan

Nov 9, 2008

reflecting my heart

sky and water
reflecting my heart

Soen Nakagawa

(in Endless Vow - The Zen Path of Soen Nakagawa, Shambala Publications, 1996)

Photo: Shapes in shades of green, through the clear sea water close to Fethiye, Turkey -

Nov 8, 2008

your gaze commands

Your gaze
commands the sun
the tree, the river - Love
to rise, to grow, to flow
- to rise, to grow, to flow

dedicated to Richard and Ihsan, Dear Brothers on the Path of Love

Nov 7, 2008

we can write cantatas

I once stood by three countrymen at the deathbed of their mother. There was grief, of course. For the second time the umbilical cord was cut. For the second time, the knot that binds two generations was unfastened. Those three sons were discovering that they were alone, with everything to learn, with no family table now where they could meet at festivals, with no pole of self-recognition. But in that moment of severance I was also discovering that life can be granted for a second time. Each of these sons would in turn become the head of a family, a rallying-point and a patriarch, until the time when they would pass on the leadership to that little group of children now playing outside the door.

I looked at the mother, that old peasant with her firm and peaceful face, with her tight lips and her face that was now a mask of stone. And I saw it in the faces of the sons. That mask had served to mould their faces. That body had served to mould their bodies, those fine examples of men. And now she lay there broken, but like a matrix after the precious metal had been extracted. Sons and daughters in their turn would mould their children in the image of their flesh. No one died on that farm. The mother is dead, long live the mother!

There was grief, yes, but that picture of the lineage is so clear and simple. On its way it casts off those white-haired outer skins one by one, as it travels on towards its own unknowable truth, through all its metamorphoses.


What was thus being transmtited from generation to generation, at the slow pace of a tree’s growth, was life itself, but it was also consciousness. An ascension filled with mistery! From flowing lava, from the unformed substance of a star, from a miraculously germinated living cell we have emerged and have risen little by little until we can write cantatas and weigh galaxies.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars (Terre des hommes, 1939) Penguin Classics

Nov 6, 2008

give me freedom

Give me freedom to fly without a shadow,
Give me freedom to sing without an echo,
and to love without leaving traces.

This is the entrance page to The Golden Sufi site; to have access to it please refer to:

Nov 2, 2008

trying to become

When the wild ducks pass in the migrating season, they cause strange tides to rise in the lands beneath them. As if magnetized by the great triangular flock, the farmyard ducks try clumsily to leave the ground. The call of the wild has awakened some vestige of the wild within them, and for a moment they have turned into birds of passage. In those hard little heads normally filled with simple images of the pond, of worms and ot their roosting-house, now stretch vast continents, the taste of the ocean winds and the shape of the seas. The creature never knew until now that its brain could contain such marvels, and it beats its wings in contempt for seed and worms, trying to become a wild duck.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars (Terre de Hommes, 1939), Penguin Classics

Oct 28, 2008

reach the sea

When you arrive at the sea, you do not talk of the tributary.

Hakim Sanai, The Walled Garden of Truth

quotation by Idries Shah in The Sufis (Anchor Books 1990)

Oct 24, 2008

to lords and ladies of Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Sailing to Byzantium, William Butler Yeats, from The Tower, 1928

(*)Note: ok, I am not sailing to Byzantium, but actually flying to Istanbul -- and could think of nothing else to post upon my return to Turkey.
If you'd like to read more poems of W. B. Yeats, please refer to:

Image: Woman from Byzantium, by Mersad Berber (Bosnia and Herzegovina); if you'd like to see more fine works from this artist please refer to:

Oct 23, 2008

my flight

I leave no trace of wings in the air,

but I am glad I have had my flight

Rabindranath Tagore

If you like to read more about birds and flights from this author, please refer to:

Oct 19, 2008

the source

a poem by Rabindranath Tagore

The sleep that flits on baby's eyes
--does anybody know from where it comes?
Yes, there is a rumour that it has its dwelling where,
in the fairy village among shadows of the forest
dimly lit with glow-worms,
there hang two shy buds of enchantment.
From there it comes to kiss baby's eyes.

The smile that flickers on baby's lips when he
sleeps--does anybody know where it was born?
Yes, there is a rumour that a young pale beam of
a crescent moon touched the edge of a vanishing autumn cloud,
and there the smile was first born in the
dream of a dew-washed morning
--the smile that flickers on baby's lips when he sleeps.

The sweet, soft freshness that blooms on baby's limbs
--does anybody know where it was hidden so long?
Yes, when the mother was a young girl it lay
pervading her heart in tender and silent
mystery of love--the sweet,
soft freshness that has bloomed on baby's limbs.

If you'd like to read more poems by this author, please refer to:

Photos ©karen glassford; more to be seen at:

Oct 16, 2008

new life

"And when the body grows weak through old age, or becomes weak through illness, at that time that person, after separating himself from his members, as a mango, or fig, or Pippala-fruit is separated from the stalk, hastens back again as he came, to the place from which he started, to new life. . .

"Then both his knowledge and his work take hold of him and his acquaintance with former things.

"And as a caterpillar, after having reached the end of a blade of grass, and after having made another approach to another blade, draws itself together towards it, thus does this Self, after having thrown off this body and dispelled all ignorance, and after making another approach to another body, draw himself together towards it.

"And as a goldsmith, taking a piece of gold, turns it into another, newer and more beautiful shape, so does this Self, after having thrown off this body and dispelled all ignorance, make unto himself another, newer and more beautiful shape. . .

"Now as a man is like this or like that, according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be: a man of good acts will become good, a man of bad acts, bad. He becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds.

"And here they say that a person consists of desires. And as is his desire, so is his will; and as is his will, so is his deed; and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.

"And here there is this verse: 'To whatever object a man's own mind is attached, to that he goes strenuously together with his deed; and having obtained the consequences of whatever deed he does here on earth, he returns again from that world . . . to this world of action.'[1]

"So much for the man who desires. But as to the man who does not desire, who, not desiring, freed from desires, is satisfied in his desires, or desires the Self only, his vital spirits do not depart elsewhere--being Brahman, he goes to Brahman.

"On this there is this verse: 'When all desires which once entered his heart are undone, then does the mortal become immortal, then he obtains Brahman.'"

* * *

"Now as a man, when embraced by a beloved wife, knows nothing that is without, nothing that is within, thus this person, when embraced by the intelligent Self, knows nothing that is without, nothing that is within. This indeed is his true form, in which his wishes are fulfilled, in which the Self only is his wish, in which no wish is left--free from any sorrow.

"Then a father is not a father, a mother not a mother, the worlds not worlds, the gods not gods, the Vedas not Vedas. Then a thief is not a thief, a murderer not a murderer, a Kandala not a Kandala, [2] a Sramana not a Sramana, [3] a Tapasa not a Tapasa.[4] He is not followed by good, not followed by evil, for he has then overcome all the sorrows of the heart."

[1] This is the law of karma.
[2] The kandalas were the lowest of all the pariahs, those without caste.
[3] A holy beggar.
[4] A person atoning for sins.

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, from the translation by Max Mueller, The Upanishads, in Max Mueller, ed., The Sacred Books of the East, 50 vols. (Oxford; Clarendon Press, 1879-1910), vol. 1, pp. 92, 104-105 and vol. 15, pp. 173, 175-177, 168-169 passim. Introduction and e-text copyright 2005 by David W. Koeller All rights reserved.

Photo ©Zeynep Kanra; to see more photos by Zeynep Kanra please refer to:

Oct 13, 2008

constant flux

Buddhism holds that everything is in constant flux.
Thus the question is whether we are to accept change passively and be swept away by it, or whether we are to take the lead and create positive changes on our own initiative...

His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Photo and quotation from Rick Gunn's travel journal, that has been a great source of inspiration and encouragement to me, to be read at:

Oct 12, 2008

a simple path

Today I would like to share a video with S. N. Goenka lecturing about his Vipassana method, so that you have an idea of the retreat I have just undertaken. This is part 3 of the video entitled A Simple Path.

If you'd like to, you can watch part 1 by clicking:

Part 2 is to be found at:

Thank you.

Oct 8, 2008

when we experience this truth

continuation from the last post:

The more one practices this technique, the more quickly negativities will dissolve. Gradually the mind becomes free of defilements, becomes pure. A pure mind is always full of love—selfless love for all others, full of compassion for the failings and sufferings of others, full of joy at their success and happiness, full of equanimity in the face of any situation.

When one reaches this stage, the entire pattern of one's life changes. It is no longer possible to do anything vocally or physically which will disturb the peace and happiness of others. Instead, a balanced mind not only becomes peaceful, but the surrounding atmosphere also becomes permeated with peace and harmony, and this will start affecting others, helping others too.

By learning to remain balanced in the face of everything experienced inside, one develops detachment towards all that one encounters in external situations as well. However, this detachment is not escapism or indifference to the problems of the world. Those who regularly practice Vipassana become more sensitive to the sufferings of others, and do their utmost to relieve suffering in whatever way they can—not with any agitation, but with a mind full of love, compassion and equanimity. They learn holy indifference—how to be fully committed, fully involved in helping others, while at the same time maintaining balance of mind. In this way they remain peaceful and happy, while working for the peace and happiness of others.

This is what the Buddha taught: an art of living. He never established or taught any religion, any “ism”. He never instructed those who came to him to practice any rites or rituals, any empty formalities. Instead, he taught them just to observe nature as it is, by observing the reality inside. Out of ignorance we keep reacting in ways which harm ourselves and others. But when wisdom arises—the wisdom of observing reality as it is—this habit of reacting falls away. When we cease to react blindly, then we are capable of real action—action proceeding from a balanced mind, a mind which sees and understands the truth. Such action can only be positive, creative, helpful to ourselves and to others.

What is necessary, then, is to “know thyself”—advice which every wise person has given. We must know ourselves, not just intellectually in the realm of ideas and theories, and not just emotionally or devotionally, simply accepting blindly what we have heard or read. Such knowledge is not enough. Rather, we must know reality experientially. We must experience directly the reality of this mental-physical phenomenon. This alone is what will help us be free of our suffering.

This direct experience of our own inner reality, this technique of self-observation, is what is called Vipassana m In the language of India in the time of the Buddha, passana meant seeing in the ordinary way, with one's eyes open; but vipassana is observing things as they actually are, not just as they appear to be. Apparent truth has to be penetrated, until we reach the ultimate truth of the entire psycho-physical structure. When we experience this truth, then we learn to stop reacting blindly, to stop creating negativities—and naturally the old ones are gradually eradicated. We become liberated from misery and experience true happiness.

To read the entire text, based upon a talk given by Mr. S.N. Goenka in Berne, Switzerland, please refer to:

Oct 5, 2008

the other side of the coin


An ordinary person cannot observe abstract defilements of the mind—abstract fear, anger or passion. But with proper training and practice it is very easy to observe respiration and body sensations, both of which are directly related to mental defilements.

Respiration and sensations will help in two ways. First, they will be like private secretaries. As soon as a negativity arises in the mind, the breath will lose its normality; it will start shouting, “Look, something has gone wrong!” And we cannot scold the breath; we have to accept the warning. Similarly, the sensations will tell us that something has gone wrong. Then, having been warned, we can start observing the respiration, start observing the sensations, and very quickly we find that the negativity passes away.

This mental-physical phenomenon is like a coin with two sides. On one side are the thoughts and emotions arising in the mind, on the other side are the respiration and sensations in the body. Any thoughts or emotions, any mental impurities that arise manifest themselves in the breath and the sensations of that moment. Thus, by observing the respiration or the sensations, we are in fact observing mental impurities. Instead of running away from the problem, we are facing reality as it is. As a result, we discover that these impurities lose their strength; they no longer overpower us as they did in the past. If we persist, they eventually disappear altogether and we begin to live a peaceful and happy life, a life increasingly free of negativities.

In this way the technique of self-observation shows us reality in its two aspects, inner and outer. Previously we only looked outward, missing the inner truth. We always looked outside for the cause of our unhappiness; we always blamed and tried to change the reality outside. Being ignorant of the inner reality, we never understood that the cause of suffering lies within, in our own blind reactions toward pleasant and unpleasant sensations.

Now, with training, we can see the other side of the coin. We can be aware of our breathing and also of what is happening inside. Whatever it is, breath or sensation, we learn just to observe it without losing our mental balance. We stop reacting and multiplying our misery. Instead, we allow the defilements to manifest and pass away.

fragments a text based upon a talk given by Mr. S.N. Goenka in Berne, Switzerland, continued from the last post, and yet to be continued.

Oct 2, 2008

explorers of inner truth

In India, as well as in other countries, wise saintly persons of the past studied this problem—the problem of human suffering—and found a solution: if something unwanted happens and you start to react by generating anger, fear or any negativity, then, as soon as possible, you should divert your attention to something else. For example, get up, take a glass of water, start drinking—your anger won't multiply; on the other hand, it'll begin to subside. Or start counting: one, two, three, four. Or start repeating a word, or a phrase, or some mantra, perhaps the name of a god or saintly person towards whom you have devotion; the mind is diverted, and to some extent you'll be free of the negativity, free of the anger.

This solution was helpful; it worked. It still works. Responding like this, the mind feels free from agitation. However, the solution works only at the conscious level. In fact, by diverting the attention you push the negativity deep into the unconscious, and there you continue to generate and multiply the same defilement. On the surface there is a layer of peace and harmony, but in the depths of the mind there is a sleeping volcano of suppressed negativity which sooner or later may erupt in a violent explosion.

Other explorers of inner truth went still further in their search and, by experiencing the reality of mind and matter within themselves, recognized that diverting the attention is only running away from the problem. Escape is no solution; you have to face the problem. Whenever negativity arises in the mind, just observe it, face it. As soon as you start to observe a mental impurity, it begins to lose its strength and slowly withers away.

A good solution; it avoids both extremes—suppression and expression. Burying the negativity in the unconscious will not eradicate it, and allowing it to manifest as unwholesome physical or vocal actions will only create more problems. But if you just observe, then the defilement passes away and you are free of it.

excerpt of a text based upon a talk given by Mr. S.N. Goenka in Berne, Switzerland -- to be continued in the next posts.

Photo ©Sean Unruh

Sep 30, 2008

soul's horizons

How boundless might his soul's horizons be,
How vast, yet of what clear transparency.

Matthew Arnold, A Summer Night

Sep 28, 2008

you yourself

You can search through the universe for someone who is more deserving of love and affection than yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.


I thank this photo and quotation to Rick Gunn and his beautiful, heartfelt photos, and inspiring travel journal, to be read at:

Sep 27, 2008

but there indeed it is

Chandogya Upanishad

There lived once Svetaketu. . . To him his father Uddalaka . . . said: "Svetaketu, go to school; for no one belonging to our race, dear son, who, not having studied, is, as it were, a Brahmin by birth only"

Having begun his apprenticeship when he was twelve years of age, Svetaketu returned to his father, when he was twenty-four, having then studied all the Vedas,conceited, considering himself well-read, and stern.

His father said to him: "Svetaketu, as you are so conceited, considering yourself so well-read and so stern, my dear, have you ever asked for that instruction by which we hear what cannot be heard, by which we perceive what cannot be perceived, by which we know what cannot be known? "

"What is that instruction, Sir?" he asked. . .

"Fetch me . . . a fruit of the Nyagrodha tree."

"Here is one, Sir."

"Break it."

"It is broken, Sir."

"What do you see there?"

"These seeds, almost infinitesimal."

"Break one of them."

"It is broken, Sir."

"What do you see there?"

"Not anything, Sir."

The father said: "My son, that subtle essence which you do not perceive there, of that very essence this great Nyagrodha tree exists.

"Believe it, my son. That which is the subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and you, . . . Svetaketu, are it. "

"Please, Sir, inform me still more," said the son.

"Be it so, my child," the father replied.

"Place this salt in water, and then wait on me in the morning."
The son did as he was commanded.

The father said to him: "Bring me the salt, which you placed in the water last night."

The son having looked for it, found it not, for, of course, it was melted.

The father said: "Taste it from the surface of the water. How is it?"

The son replied: "It is salt."

"Taste it from the middle. How is it?"

The son replied: "It is salt."

"Taste it from the bottom. How is it?"

The son replied: "It is salt."

The father said: "Throw it away and then wait. . .on me.

He did so, but the salt exists forever.

Then the father said: "Here also, in this body, . . . you do not perceive the True, my son; but there indeed it is.

"That which is the subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and you, Svetaketu, are it."

The Upanishads are the principle texts of what is often regarded as the Hindu religion. Compiled between 800 and 500 BC, they are the result of meditations on many of the themes found in the Vedas, but brought to a new philosophical and spiritual level through the introduction of the concept of Brahman or universal spirit (India, the Vedic Era).

Sep 26, 2008


magic carpet
flying me
in and out of pain
in and out of bliss
I surrender

Sep 24, 2008

what do Hindus teach their children about God?

In many Hindu families children are taught about one supreme God who is in everything. They are shown a glass of water and told the following story:

Svetaketu always came proudly home from school each day.
One day his father asked him about God but Svetaketu didn’t know anything. His father sent for a glass of water and asked Svetaketu to put some salt in it. The next day he asked where the salt was. Svetaketu could not see the salt but he could taste
it in the water in the glass.
‘That’s a bit like God in the world’, said his father. ‘God is invisible, but is there in everything.’

Photo ©Superhero Journal

Sep 18, 2008

when will it ever end?

To me the goal or destination of a trek, or the spiritual path for that matter, is of secondary importance. Each step, the journey itself, is the interesting part, the important part, the crucial part, the practice. If our mind is in the future, if we are unmindful, careless, any step could mean disaster. Only thinking about the goal will not get you there. It helps, it motivates you, but you have to keep walking. When you are struggling up a steep section, tired and hot, muscles aching, heart pounding, the thought, “When will it end?” is the distant future. It is not real.

Each step is real; the aching of bones, the sweat, the shortness of breath is real, the present moment. Wanting it to end, the jump to the future, is like a mirage; it can bring more suffering. When you finally reach the top and rest a bit, soon the misery of the climb disappears, like the mirage, and the pain is forgotten. You now have the next destination, the path in front of you, until the next up hill. On the Himalayan trails there is always another hill – when will it ever end?

It is important to pick a trail, a destination that is not too easy, which is just beyond our reach, to stretch our limits. Otherwise we will not increase our stamina, develop our strength, or know what is possible, what lies beyond. It is like the carrot and the stick edging the donkey forward. To face our fears, loneliness, to go without our creature comforts, not knowing what is around the corner, stretching the threshold of pain, even to face death. This brings us face to face with our deeper self, to deal with it right there, not avoiding it, not masking over it with superficial amusements that make us feel comfortable.

Choosing a guide, knowing the right path is important in the beginning. It is a necessary help to get our bearings, become familiar with the terrain, and learn how to detect dangers. However, ultimately, especially on the spiritual path, no one can take us there. Moreover, this is where the metaphor breaks down. We have to walk alone, leave our companions behind, because it is an inner journey, not an outer journey; a journey of the mind, and not of flesh; an individual journey, not a group trip. No one can come with us. Everyone must go on their own way according to their karma. Guides only point the way.

The Himalaya are your own mind. When you have traversed the peaks and valleys, going beyond pleasure and pain, gain and loss, like and dislike, explored the caves of sadness, loneliness, fear, unfulfilled hopes, walked the slippery slopes of desire and lust, pride and conceit, and ultimately crossed the glacier of the ego, this is the end of the trail.

Preface from Traversing the Great Himalaya, a Photo Documentary by Yogavacara Rahula, published by Bhavana Society, 2001 -- though the photos in this post are not from the book.

Sep 13, 2008

on a trek

For a Buddhist, spiritual practice means purifying the underlying forces of attachment/greed, aversion/hatred, and the selfish ego/delusion in one’s mind. It is weakening the habitual patterns of clinging to security (as the known), of fearing the unknown, on of protecting the ego’s boundaries. It is also cultivation of compassion and loving kindness for oneself and all beings. I know of no better place to do all that than on the trails of the Himalaya in India.

A Himalayan trek is a metaphor for life itself. On a trek we are searching for a majestic peak or high plateau, a beautiful stream or waterfall, or a shrine or monastery. The destination or goal serves to quench our thirst, our desire. It provides a short respite from the rigors of the trail, a brief “One Night’s Shelter”. Then we have to descend, to move on. We cannot stay there.

Preface from Traversing the Great Himalaya, a Photo Documentary by Yogavacara Rahula, published by Bhavana Society, 2001.

Photo below © Delwa, more from this traveler to be read and seen at

Sep 11, 2008

the law of our being

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.

Mahatma Ghandi

Photo (top) of Ladakh's 16th-century Phyang Monastery and (bottom) Puja call at Ladakh's 15th-century Tikse Monastery ©Steve McCurry/National Geographic; to see more photos please refer to:

Sep 9, 2008

to conquer

It is not the mountains that we conquer, but ourselves.

Sir Edmund Hillary

Sep 6, 2008

the same water

Rain, hail and snow,
Ice too, are set apart,
But when they fall, --
The same water
Of the valley stream.

from Zen and Zen Classics - Volume One by R. H. Blyth, The Hokuseido Press/Heian International, San Francisco, 1982

if you would like to read more excerpts from this book please refer to:

Photo: trekking in Ladakh

Sep 4, 2008

man's stripe is inside

The inhabitants of 'Little Tibet," who have turned the wasteland like the elephant's skin into the oasis like a bright green gem. The way that they express time is also peculiar like this: 'after the sun sets,' 'when the sun is suspended on the mountain top,' 'at the singing time of the birds before the sun rises.' Helena Norberg-Hodge, a Swedish linguist, writes in as following:

"The most important thing for Ladakhi people is to build community without avarice and to coexist with nature. They brew the beverage from food left out after a meal, feed the animals wash water, use the animal excrement as compost, and help others after finishing their own work."

Tzering Dolma, a country girl asks the author,
"You said that other people are not happy like us?"

Ladakh lacks a lot of things. It is short of natural resources, oxygen, and water. Nevertheless, they have turned the shortage into abundance by practicing a simple and plain life in insufficiency. So they are poor but their minds are not poor. There is a famous saying in Ladakh: "The tiger's stripe is outside, while man's stripe is inside." It means that one's inside or personality is more important than one's appearance.

excerpet from Delwa's travel journal; more to be read at:

Photos: top, fields and mountains around Leh, Ladakh ©Oriental Travels; bottom, young monk ©Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre in Ladakh

Sep 2, 2008

use your imagination...

can you spot me on the terrace shown above, mindfully drinking water (for that is all you should drink here, due to the high altitude...) and looking at the mountains? Or practicing walking meditation in these beautiful gardens? Use your imagination, because that's what I did to get here, at this Shangri-lah on Earth...

if you'd like to see more of Omasila Hotel, please refer to:

Sep 1, 2008

I see that instant I fall in love with

The night is black and the forest has no end;
a million people thread it in a million ways.
We have trysts to keep in the darkness,
but where or with whom- of that we are unaware.
But we have this faith- that a lifetime's bliss
will appear any minute, with a smile upon its lips.
Scents, touches, sounds, snatches of songs brush us,
pass us, give us delightful shocks.
Then peradventure there's a flash of lightning:
whomever I see that instant I fall in love with.
I call that person and cry:
'This life is blest! For your sake such miles have I traversed!'
All those others who come close and
moved off in the darkness -I dont know if they exist or not.

On the nature of love - I see that instant I fall in love with by Rabinder Nath Tagore, translated from Bengali by Ketaki Kushari Dyson from Chaitali (1896)

If you'd like to read more by this author, please refer to:

Photo: rush hour in central Delhi -- where I am today...

If you'd like to see some more pictures of India and its people (though not the one above) you can check those by Karen Glassford at:

Aug 29, 2008

I only observe

Omou koto
nakute mimashiya
to bakari ni
nochi no koyohi zo
tsuki ni nakinuru

Without a thought,
for a while, I only
but later this evening
I will shed tears under
the moon.

Rai Shizuko , or Baishi (1760-1842)

print by Terukata Gyokudo

Poem and image taken from one of my favorite blogs, precious Japonisme.

Aug 26, 2008

working meditation

Laundry anguish:
I cannot wash
off the suffering
Our hearts

(A dirty linen
I cannot wash
your heart
so I'll try mine)

Aug 23, 2008

before i go out again

Now that i have entered
this holy place
i must use the sacred medicine
to enlighten my spirit
before i go out again.

taken from Fragrance of Tea Flower, by Sr. Dang Nghiem (December 12, 2005). If you'd like to read more, please refer to:

Photo ©Deer Park Monastery

Aug 18, 2008


Petals drop
thoughts and tears

(Plum Village, Summer 2008)

Aug 17, 2008

no trace

When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.

Shunryu Suzuki

Photo: paper lanterns, Plum Village, Summer retreat 2006 ©Denise Kato

Aug 8, 2008

quietly there

PWM: "You will be 80 this year. Do you plan to retire as a spiritual teacher at any point?”

TNH: In Buddhism we see that teaching is done not only by talking, but also by living your own life. Your life is the teaching, is the message. And since I continue to sit, to walk, to eat, to interact with the Sangha and the people, I continue to teach, even if I have already encouraged my senior students to begin to replace me in giving Dharma talks. In the last two years, I have asked Dharma teachers, not only in the monastic circle but also in the lay circle, to come up and give Dharma talks. Many of them have given wonderful Dharma talks. Some Dharma talks have been better than mine. I see myself in my continuation, and I will not retire. I’ll continue to teach, if not by Dharma talks then in my way of sitting, eating, smiling, and interacting with the Sangha. I like to be with the Sangha. Even if I don’t give a Dharma talk, I like to join walking meditation, sitting meditation, eating in mindfulness and so on. So don’t worry. When people are exposed to the practice, they are inspired. You don’t need to talk in order to teach. You need to live your life mindfully and deeply. Thank you.

An answer of Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh to Questions from Publishers Weekly Magazine, 2006

if you'd like to learn more about zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (pictured above), please refer to:

Aug 6, 2008


The leaf tips bend
under the weight of dew.
Fruits are ripening
in Earth's early morning.
Daffodils light up in the sun.
The curtain of cloud at the gateway
of the garden path begins to shift:
have pity for childhood,
the way of illusion.

Late at night,
the candle gutters.
In some distant desert,
a flower opens.
And somewhere else,
a cold aster
that never knew a cassava patch
or gardens of areca palms,
never knew the joy of life,
at that instant disappears-
man's eternal yearning.

Thich Nhat Hanh

to read more poems by Thich Nhat Hanh please refer to:

Jul 30, 2008

wake-up call

Heart to heart,
that is how I would speak with you.

Words are not necessary
in the language of the Heart.
And yet, the mind at times needs words
to understand what only the Heart knows
beyond words.

I would speak to the Totality of who you are,
mind and Heart, body and Spirit,
with words and in Silence.

Creature of the Earth,
you are not the self
you suppose yourself to be.
Child of the Cosmos,
you are more than the self
you think you are.


It is time to remember and awaken
to the Truth of Who You Are.

I Am
What You Will Be,
What You Are,
What You Have Always Been,
only you have forgotten,
only you have simply to remember.

I Am the Awakening.
I Am the Voice of your Heart.
My Word is the vibration of
every atom and every star,
the Light of all beings in the Universe.

Listen to the Voice of Awakening,
the Truth of your Heart.

It is time now,
time to listen and remember.

This is your Wake-Up Call:


A Message from the Buddha, by Br. Chi Sing - January 2005

Photo: Bell pagoda at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, June 2006 ©Richard&Joanne Friday