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 timemaster@thenagain.info. 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 mhttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifeditation. 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