26 September 2010

On Feeling Full

That is full; this is full;
     Fullness comes forth from fullness;
When fullness is taken from fullness,
     Fullness remains.
-- from the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 

It's all energy, baby.  It's all good.  It's all right there. Just hold that paradox up to the sun and have a look at infinity.  Make yourself at home in what poet James Berry calls " a mighty nest full of stars."  

15 September 2010

Emily's Zen Beginner's Mind

In Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Suzuki-roshi explores this koan:

In the beginner's mind there are many
possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.

I spend my days working in academia, an environment where expertise is the coin of the realm.  People build entire careers around their reputations as experts.  For many of us it's easy to get caught up in the notion that one is one's expertise.  Thank goodness for Suzuki-roshi.  And Emily Dickinson, who also appreciates beginner's mind.

I dwell in Possibility --
A fairer House than Prose --
More numerous of Windows --
Superior -- for Doors --

Of Chambers as the Cedars --
Impregnable of eye --
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky --

Of Visitors -- the fairest --
For Occupation --This --
The spreading wide my narrow hands --
To gather Paradise

The more I read Emily Dickinson, the more I think she was probably a Zen Master disguised as a reclusive 19th century poet.

06 September 2010

What I Meant To Say Was...

Jump in and let go.  Not hang on.  Let go. So, I made a rather poor word choice for the title of my last entry, though I intended the "jump in and hang on" idiomatically, as in "Listen and follow what I'm saying here, boy. Take the plunge into another way of being."   What Krishna is actually telling Arjuna is that this warrior living in The World needs to LET GO of desire, of ambition, of attachment, not hang on at all.  For instance, have a look at the following passage from Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Bhagavad Gita.  Krishna says:

If a man keeps dwelling on sense-objects,
attachment to them arises;
from attachment, desire flares up;
from desire, anger is born;

from anger, confusion follows;
from confusion, weakness of memory;
weak memory -- weak understanding;
weak understanding--ruin.

But the man who is self-controlled,
who meets the objects of the senses
with neither craving nor aversion,
will attain serenity at last.  (2.62-64)

This detachment from the world of the senses, from desire and ambition, expressed here reminds me of a rather famous Wordsworth sonnet, "The World is Too Much With Us."  In it the poet mourns the dominance of materialism and ambition in the Christian west and expresses a Romantic notion of another world view, one in which Gods are manifest in Nature. Arjuna, meet William.  William, Arjuna.
The world is too much with us, late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
Are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything we are out of tune;
It moves us not.  Great God!  I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So I might, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

02 September 2010

Jump In, Hang On, Krishna Riffs

Suzan-Lori Parks is one of my favorite contemporary playwrights.  A few years back, she published a collection of short plays, 365 Days/365 Plays; she wrote a play a day for a year!  When she was done, selections from the plays were performed by theatre companies all over the country.  One can't help but admire the dedication with which Parks practiced her art every day, and the results are pretty remarkable, like one long improv jazz suite.  One of my favorite plays in the collection is the first, Start Here, in which the characters, Krishna and Arjuna, have a conversation about the illusion of free will and what it means to let go of our attachments in order to take up an unfamiliar path.  As in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is the wise one, Arjuna the sometimes reluctant student.  While the characters are derived from an ancient text and the theme itself is eternal, the groovy language of the play is all Parks':  Check out this excerpt in which Krishna riffs, encouraging Arjuna to take the plunge into a new reality:
Krishna: Yr having 2nd thoughts.  I understand.  Everything you own, everything you are, everything you know is back there, right ? Yr not prepared, you think.  You forgot to pack yr toothbrush.  You forgot to lock the front door.  You forgot to turn on the machine.  You forgot to turn off the stove.  You may have left the bathwater running.  You dont speak the language of --wherever it is we're headed.
Arjuna: Right.
Krishna:  Hear that sound?
Arjuna: Sounds like leaves moving in the wind.
Krishna: Its the sound of writing. Theyre writing yr name in the Book.
Arjuna: My name?
Krishna: Why not yr name?
Arjuna: Im afraid. A little.
Krishna: Good.
At the start theres always energy.  Sometimes joy. Sometimes fear. By the end, youll be so deep in the habit of continuing on youll pray youll never stop. Happens all the time. But dont take my word for it. Lets go and youll see for yourself.
Get up. There you go. Breathe. Okay. Come on.
Doesn't Parks just make you want to jump in and hang on? Keep going! Remember to breathe!