A family recipe, a childhood memory, a Depression-era handout
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In the pursuit of learning one knows more every day, in the pursuit of the Way one does less every day. One loses every day until one does nothing at all, and when one does nothing at all there is nothing that is left undone. It is always through not meddling that the empire is won. Should you meddle, then you are not equal to the task of winning the empire.
There was a city in which all the inhabitants were blind. One day a king arrived with a great elephant. As the inhabitants did not know what an elephant was, some of the sightless went forth to find out. They did this by each touching part of the elephant. Each thought that he knew what it was, because he could feel a part.
When their fellow citizens asked about the shape of the elephant, each one who touched it spoke. The man who touched the ear said, “It is a large, rough thing, wide and broad, like a rug.” The one who had felt the trunk said, “It is like a straight pipe: hollow, awful, and destructive.” The one who had felt its leg said, “It is mighty and firm, like a pillar.”
Each had felt one part of many. Each had perceived it wrongly. No mind knew all: knowledge is not the companion of the blind. All imagined something, something incorrect.
The eye of sense perception is only like the palm of the hand: the palm has not the power to reach the whole of the elephant.
The eye of the Sea is one thing, and the foam another: leave the foam and look with the eye of the Sea.
“Love” is a word of many meanings because love itself has as many phases as there are grades of consciousness. Now, consciousness is the divine life in us, and the particular phase of consciousness we are “in” at any moment of time is determined by the degree of our awareness of that life which, in turn, determines the quality of our love.
A realization of this is necessary to any understanding of the mystery of love, of all mysteries most profound: a bottomless abyss, a heaven piercing peak, and at the same time a “path” from that depth to that height which everyone must tread — for the path of love is not other than the path of life.
Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
To know Tao is not as good as to love it, and to love it is not as good as to practice it.
What is important in meditation is the quality of the mind and the heart. It is not what you achieve, or what you say you attain, but rather the quality of a mind that is innocent and vulnerable. Through negation there is the positive state. Merely to gather, or to live in, experience, denies the purity of meditation. Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end. The mind can never be made innocent through experience. It is the negation of experience that brings about that positive state of innocence. Meditation is the ending of the thought, not by the meditator, for the meditator is the meditation. If there is no meditation then you are like a blind man in a world of great beauty, light, and color.
Wander by the seashore and let this meditative quality come upon you. If it does, don’t pursue it. What you pursue will be the memory of what it was — and what was is the death of what is. Or when you wander among the hills, let everything tell you the beauty and the pain of life, so that you awaken to your own sorrow and to the ending of it. Meditation is the root, the plant, the flower and the fruit. It is words that divide the fruit, the flower, the plant, and the root. In this separation action does not bring about goodness: virtue is the total perception.
Reading about enlightenment is like reading about nutrition when you are hungry. Will that fill your belly? Obviously not. Only when you taste, chew, and swallow the food do you feel satisfied, and this is comparable to enlightenment, or awakening. But even then the food you have taken will not nourish you until digestion takes place. In the same way, until you have integrated into your daily life what you have perceived, your awakening is not working for you yet — it will not transform your life. And just as the final step in nutrition is elimination, so one must eventually rid oneself of the notion, “I am enlightened.” Only then can you “walk freely between heaven and earth.”
Now suppose your foot itches. Does it feel better to scratch your bare foot or to scratch the itch through your shoe? Reading about enlightenment is like scratching an itch through your shoe.
To learn the lesson of how to live is more important than any psychic or occult learning.
When I am in Love, I am ashamed of all I have ever said about love. Although a commentary in words makes things clear, Wordless Love is yet clearer and more illuminating. . . . Like the pen which was busily writing, until it came to Love, and then split apart.
A conventionally-minded dervish, from an austerely pious school, was walking one day along a river bank. He was absorbed in concentration upon moralistic and scholastic problems, for this was the form which Sufi teaching had taken in the community to which he belonged. He equated emotional religion with the search for ultimate Truth.
Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by a loud shout: someone was repeating the dervish call. “There is no point in that,” he said to himself, “because the man is mispronouncing the syllables. Instead of intoning YA HU, he is saying U YA HU.”
Then he realized that he had a duty, as a more careful student, to correct this unfortunate person, who might have had no opportunity of being rightly guided, and was therefore probably only doing his best to attune himself with the idea behind the sounds.
So he hired a boat and made his way to the island in midstream from which the sound appeared to come.
Sitting in a reed hut he found a man, dressed in a dervish robe, moving in time to his own repetition of the initiatory phrase. “My friend,” said the first dervish, “you are mispronouncing the phrase. It is incumbent upon me to tell you this, because there is merit for him who gives and him who takes advice. This is the way in which you speak it.” And he told him.
“Thank you,” said the other dervish humbly.
The first dervish entered his boat again, full of satisfaction at having done a good deed. After all, it was said that a man who could repeat the sacred formula correctly could even walk upon the waves: something that he had never seen, but always hoped — for some reason — to be able to achieve.
Now he could hear nothing from the reed hut, but he was sure that his lesson had been well taken.
Then he heard a faltering U YA as the second dervish started to repeat the phrase in his old way.
While the dervish was thinking about this, reflecting upon the perversity of humanity and its persistence in error, he suddenly saw a strange sight. From the island the other dervish was coming toward him, walking on the surface of the water.
Amazed, he stopped rowing. The second dervish walked up to him and said, “Brother, I am sorry to trouble you, but I have to come out to ask you again the standard method of making the repetition you were telling me, because I find it difficult to remember it.”
Therefore if a heart is to be ready for Him, it must be emptied out to nothingness, the condition of its maximum capacity. So too, a disinterested heart, reduced to nothingness, is the optimum, the condition of maximum sensitivity.
There is only one thing to be gained in life, and that is to remember God with each breath; and there is only one loss in life, and that is the breath drawn without the remembrance of God.
Abu Hashim Madani
I won’t teach a man who is not eager to learn, nor will I explain to one incapable of forming his own ideas. Nor have I anything to say to those who, after I have made clear one corner of the subject, cannot deduce the other three.
Once Hotei was approached by another Zen master who asked him, “What is the significance of Zen?” Hotei immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent answer. “Then,” asked the other, “what is the actualization of Zen?” At once the Happy Chinaman swung the sack over his shoulder and continued on his way.
I consider the positions of kings and rulers as that of dust motes. I observe treasures of gold and gems as so many bricks and pebbles. I look upon the finest silken robes as tattered rags. I see myriad worlds of the universe as small seeds of fruit, and the greatest lake in India as a drop of oil on my foot. I perceive the teachings of the world to be the illusion of magicians. I discern the highest conception of emancipation as a golden brocade in a dream, and view the holy path of the illuminated ones as flowers appearing in one’s eyes. I see meditation as a pillar of a mountain, Nirvana as a nightmare of daytime. I look upon judgment of right and wrong as the serpentine dance of a dragon, and the rise and fall of beliefs as but traces left by the four seasons.
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