2. Subtleties of Daily Life
One day Shih-t’ou said, “I’ve come to visit you. What have you been doing?”
The Layman said, “If you’re asking what I do every day, there’s nothing to say about it.”
Shih-t’ou said, “What did you think you were doing before I asked you about it?”
The Layman made up a verse:
What I do every day
Is nothing special:
I simply stumble around.
What I do is not thought out,
Where I go is unplanned.
No matter who tries to leave their mark,
The hills and dales are not impressed.
Collecting firewood and carrying water
Are prayers that reach the gods.Shih-t'ou approved, saying, “So, are you going to wear black or white? *
The Layman said, ''I will do whatever is best.”
It came to pass that he never shaved his head to join the sangha.
... ... ...
* Black robes were worn by monks, and white robes were worn by laypeople.
(--from, The Sayings of Layman Pang, tr. by James Green)
The old monk wrote poetry.
Can the Creator of all lure poetry out of a stone?
Or cause a stirring of Divine Love in a human heart?
All is possible for the Creator of all,
Who loves to manifest the impossible
In endless configurations.
(—Thomas Keating, “Out of a Stone”)
And the rest of we elderly monastics think about reheating coffee and toasting English muffin spreading organic peanut butter and cherry preserves from France.
The non-dual heart/mind abandons the dueling heartless mind to it’s necessary demise and it’s disintegration/reintegration into selfsame oneness.
Perhaps we've been looking at the current American administration and the Corona Virus pandemic from too narrow a perspective.
It might need a philosophical analysis to register the import of the man and the virus.
The reason why Nishitani, in his middle period, likened emptiness to the all- transcending empty sky is because he sought to understand emptiness in relation to the problem of how to overcome nihilism. Nihilism is not prior to religion. Rather it is an event in history that comes after the age of religion – one which, moreover, denies any possibility of gaining salvation through religion. It nullifies all the various philosophical endeavors (of which religion is the supreme example) that humans have engaged in to overcome the nihility confronting them. Nihilism was born from the midst of religion, and has the same sublime loftiness as religion. At the same time, it can be likened to a new virus that burst forth into the world, bearing the power to invalidate all previous religions and incapable of being cured by any religion. It is characterized by a complete negativity and self-enclosure (heisasei 閉 鎖性) that no human-centered religion preaching the quest for inner meaning can resolve. There is no way to deal with nihilism from the outside.
(--in Nishitani’s Philosophy of Emptinessin “Emptiness and Immediacy” by Hase Shōtō)
The nihilism that has erupted from the highest office of American government cannot be overcome from the outside.
And those on the inside are, it seems, too smitten with the boons of ill-gotten gain to bite the hand that feeds them.
The perversity is staggering.
The upcoming election looms.
There was a zoom gathering this morning on Men and Loss.
Grief resounds and will continue to for the next few weeks of uncertain outcome
(by Joy Harjo)
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
We pray that it will be done
(--Joy Harjo, “Eagle Poem” from In Mad Love and War. Copyright © 1990 by Joy Harjo, in Poetry Foundation)
[GM had been writing about 'dueling' in prison.]
Apart from some spelling and grammar bandaids needed, I really like this paper. It serves well as a prompt for further conversation and deliberation. Nicely done!
Your focusing on dueling in the place wherein you dwell lifts the subject from dim historical intellectual ‘entertainment’ and plops it down into an intensively felt and lived environment. You represent your opinions well and you describe the everyday duel with the eye of a participant observer.
I want to retrieve your words: "When I said that human nature is naturally evil I truly meant it." They lead me to look again at ‘evil’ and its interpretation. Aside from the awfulness of the repercussions of evil, I ask myself an originary question — whence does it come? I’ve heard many of the mythic stories, the theological stories, and the speculative thinking about evil — but I am also interested in the philosophical origin of it. Here’s my current take:
There is word in Sanskrit, Avidyā:
Avidyā (अविद्या) is a Vedic Sanskrit word, and is a compound of "a" and "vidya", meaning "not vidya". The word vidya is derived from the Sanskrit root Vid, which means "to know, to perceive, to see, to understand". Therefore, avidya means to "not know, not perceive, not understand". The Vid*-related terms appears extensively in the Rigveda and other Vedas. Avidya is usually rendered as "ignorance" in English translations of ancient Indian texts, sometimes as "spiritual ignorance".
The word avidyā is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *weid-, meaning "to see" or "to know". It is a cognate of Latin vidēre (which would turn to "video") and English “wit". (Wikipedia)
In the yogic sense, avidya means something that goes far beyond ordinary ignorance. Avidya is a fundamental blindness about reality. The core ignorance we call avidya isn't a lack of information, but the inability to experience your deep connection to others, to the source of being, and to your true Self. (Yoga Journal)
So here’s the question for me — Are we by nature good or evil? Or, is there a permeating ignorance that covers, shields, and deflects our attention from what is core, caring, and connecting in the realm of being and existence?
This attention or awareness is what, in my opinion, philosophy and spirituality assists in uncovering and making present to us. I’d go further and say that, it seems to me, this attention or awareness once awakened does not look at some “thing” that is good or evil, as through good and evil were some object or objective state that exists in and of itself. Rather, when you or I begin to see through the permeating ignorance within and without ourselves, it is our ‘seeing’ itself that carries with it, in its very action or activity of seeing, what we have come to call ‘good’ or ‘evil’.
In plain talk — we are plagued by ignorance.
We experience it in people, in. institutions, in history, and, yes, in ourselves. Seeing, knowing, or understanding — all of which seem fundamental in the process of approaching what we call ‘love’ — these three activities seem to be in constant conflict with blind reactivity, cultivated erroneous opinion, and intentional misinterpretation of another’s actions or words.
So, is there evil? Yes, there are innumerable examples of unkindness, cruelty, and separating-out behavior. Is there good? Yes, there are innumerable examples of kindness, healing, and connecting behavior.
But, (in my opinion, for conversation’s sake) good and evil are not a ‘thing’ nor a ‘person’. They are activities of mind and body that either hold on to ignorance or break through it to seeing, knowing, understanding, and — a worthwhile wish — to loving connection with what is within and that which surrounds us.
Thanks for the prompt!
May she remain a good Catholic, good mother & wife, good scholar & judge, & a good person.
Unless she withdraws until after election, she will always be seen as Trump’s folly, McConnell’s lie, Graham’s cynicism, & Republican dishonesty. A painful brand!
Too bad. She seems nice.
Desire is not good nor bad, just unnecessary.
(Someone takes umbrage at these words. More must be said.)
We reach out our hand. There is, we think, something we desire to have.
We desire, we think, someone, something.
We are, I submit, not yet thinking.
‘Not yet’ is God’s name, is (let’s consider) what is God.
Why say this?
Because we are desire itself.
And there is nothing else. Nothing not what and who we are.
Our misapprehension is believing what we desire is other than us.
What we actually want is to be at peace with who and what we are.
That mind, the Christ mind, the Buddha mind, sees everything and everyone as-it-is.
See through desires until you see yourself, desire itself.
Originary vitality tension vibrantly arising up through all being all beings.
Empty of self, emptiness itself, whole and entire, as itself throughout creation.
Let it go.
Let it be.
Itself, no other, as it is.
Theodore Roethke’s final three lines of his poem The Manifestation are wonderful:
What does what it should do needs nothing more.
The body moves, though slowly, toward desire .
We come to something without knowing why.
They are koan to me.
What is equally wonderful is the whole poem:
(—from The Far Field: Last Poems, by Theodore Roethke)
Or maybe it is the final stanza of his poem In a Dark Time that asks for last say:
Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind….
The annoyance of what is not yet here.
Cold air through morning open windows.
"Wherever there are others there is a self.
Wherever there are no others there can be no self."
— Wei Wu Wei
There’s an election in early November.
Grinding coffee beans in kitchen.
God is realizing Itself in all things manifestly present.
Looking around. Can we see what is here?
First there’s Mandy and wife Kathryn:
Then there’s this response to opinion piece in The New York Times from:
Are there Guardian Angels? Do we have Guardian Angels?
A pious belief? Or something beyond our perception and understanding?
From The Physics of Angels:
"RUPERT: Do you think there are practical ways of making friends with the angels? For example, in various Jewish ceremonies there are invocations of the archangels Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel as the guardians of the four directions. And Christians in the Catholic tradition have a particular opportunity to make friends with the angels at Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael and All Angels, on 29 September. Do you think there are things we can do apart from being more open to God, and the spirit of truth and justice, specifically to invoke the angels?
"MATTHEW: Yes, there are rituals and invocations that are present already in church traditions, and some that have to be resurrected. And we need new rituals to invoke angels; I think that these will come as we allow our minds to wander more into the living cosmos. Technology could play a great role in helping us envision the angels — for example, the wonderful photographs we now have of stars being born and galaxies spiraling. But I don't think we should underestimate the path of the struggle for justice and truthfulness. This is about inner work. Certainly truthfulness is. Hildegard is saying that where there is inner work, it does indeed open the communication with angels.
"The same is true in struggling for justice. Remember that angels often visit people in prison. St. Peter was liberated from prison by an angel. Sometimes I think that Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and other great souls that have spent time in prison have found angelic support there.
"So the struggle for justice is not an abstraction. It's a way of learning and a way of opening the heart. I know one Catholic sister, for example, a very fine and holy woman, who tells me her greatest mystical experience is being taken away in the paddy wagon by police when she protests at military bases and nuclear power plants — that is when she most feels the presence of spirits and the angels.
"So the struggle for justice is a path that opens our hearts up and allows angels to rush in. The struggle, certainly around ecological issues, is going to get more intense in our lifetime, and we need to see these struggles as rituals. And angels come to healthy and authentic rituals.
"RUPERT: That's an exciting prospect, the struggle for justice and the struggle for a new relationship with the environment taking place in alliance with the angels and with their help. It gives it a bigger dimension. It is an empowering thought, because otherwise it's just a handful of people fighting against huge vested interests and economic and political powers. We need all the help we can get.
"MATTHEW: And surely then guardian angels of children must be awfully interested in the ecological crisis. The children's future depends on a healthy planet."
(--Guardian Angels Day, October 2, in, Spirituality and Practice,, quoting Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake)
That we are not alone, in ways we cannot even fathom.
The world is not only stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can imagine.
German mathematical physicist and philosopher Werner Heisenberg’s words were these:
“Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.” (― Werner Heisenberg,
Russian philosopher Nicholai Berdyaev said that “God created the world by imagination.”
German philosopher Martin Heidegger said: “The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking.”
And, finally, the nursery rhyme:
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream,
Merrily merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream.
Science and spirituality share a common unknown:
All the stars, planets and galaxies that can be seen today make up just 4 percent of the universe. The other 96 percent is made of stuff astronomers can't see, detect or even comprehend.
These mysterious substances are called dark energy and dark matter. Astronomers infer their existence based on their gravitational influence on what little bits of the universe can be seen, but dark matter and energy themselves continue to elude all detection.
"The overwhelming majority of the universe is: who knows?" explains science writer Richard Panek,... "It's unknown for now, and possibly forever."
Some message beckons.
An angelos, an angel, messenger, Greek Original Word: ἄγγελος, ου, ὁ .
We continue to be uncertain whether to look at the finger pointing to the moon, or look to the moon itself.
What we are capable of is the looking.
We look through the nothing that is there and the something that is not there.
Ludwig Wittgenstein in Philosophical Investigations suggests we “Don’t think, Look!”
Perhaps poetry best captures the sad and chilling experience of listening to and watching the president of the United States in the debate last night.
No place at last is better than the world. The world
is no better than its places. Its places at last
are no better than their people while their people
continue in them. When the people make
dark the light within them, the world darkens.
(—from A Poem On Hope, by Wendell Berry)
Berry began his poem with the line: “It is hard to have hope. It is harder as you grow old”.
The "els" have it today:
1. Micha'el -- מִיכָאֵל -- who is like God
2. Gabri'el -- גַבְרִיאֵל -- strength of God
3. Rapha'el -- רָפָאֵל -- healing of God
They are recounted as spiritual, non-corporeal beings -- immaterial, individual, and immortal.
Hard for we mortal, material, time-grasped beings to acquaint.
When I walk in cemeteries there are frequent depictions of angels about. It is an aspect of mysterious belief not easy to ground.
"Cemeteries are the only definitively calm places around." (
Why There Is No 'Happily Ever After, The School of Life, )
It's like the grammar school joke remembered:
Q: Why are there walls and gates around cemeteries?
A: Because people are dying to get in.
I wish you likeness, strength, and healing today, along with associated peace, as you walk here to there.
Just because you are depressed doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.
What’s right with you is that you feel. Which becomes a burden.
Those who don’t feel are not depressed because they don’t care.
To care you have to feel.
If you don’t care, everything is just fine.
No burden bothers.
Don’t vote for someone who can’t be bothered.
“G’mar chatima tova” is the customary greeting on Yom Kippur. In English, it means “May you be sealed in the Book of Life.”
... ... ...
It is Yom Kippur
... ... ...
(One might say)
To One’s source
... ... ...
[T]he central theme of the High Holiday season is teshuvah (תְּשׁוּבָה), a word often translated as "repentance," though it's more accurately understood as turning (shuv) to God in response to His call. Indeed, teshuvah can mean both these things: turning and answering... A related Hebrew word is nacham (נָחַם), which literally means to "sigh" as a way of expressing regret or sorrow, usually in response to something in the past. Sometimes nacham is used to express the idea of comfort, in the sense of consolation for something lost. The ancient Greek translation of the Bible (i.e., LXX and NT) generally used the word strepho (στρέφω) for the word shuv, and the word metanoia (μετάνοια) for nacham.
—Teshuvah of the Mind, Being Transformed by God’s Truth)
There is serious concern that the election will be the moment of decision everyone points to as the way democracy chooses their president.
If that exercise cannot be trusted, we are in a difficult and dangerous circumstance.
Impotence and skepticism hang out on front stoop and step up to knock at doors.
I cannot imagine what will happen when the front door is opened and despair looks these visitors in the eye.
Buddhist practitioner reminds us at Tuesday Evening Conversation that emptiness, impermanence, and no-self are the absolute reality grounding all existence. Not relative truth, but absolute truth. Shunyata, anicca, and anatta.
No separate existence, no permanent and fixed reality, no self that is isolated from everything that is.
The reality is that we are in this together.
Not seeing this is not seeing what is real.
Hence the condition of our country and world.
We must practice what is real and true so as to be what is real and true.
Pray that the illusory and the false fade and disappear.
Pray and practice, the fellow in Augusta said.
If you are a nihilist, this is a good time for you.
If you used to be a citizen of the United States, I welcome you to what was once the United States.
If you don’t know where you are, you are in the middle of a bad movie starring diseased actors propped in front of podiums megaphoning nothing recognized as true.
Pack your rucksack, grab hiking sticks, take snacks, don’t bother locking your door.
We’re all refugees now. We have no country, and no other country will have us. There’s no place to call home and no leaders interested in you.
Where to go?
Here’s a hint.
Go inside. Go within. Go where no one can track you down.
When you enter that transparent and invisible center, dwell there.
The world doesn’t turn there. There is where everything is the still point.
It is a place where no fools can enter.
Don’t be fooled.
Don’t be anybody’s fool.
Find yourself there.
Alone with everyone.
From The Fantastics:
Love! You are love!
Better far than a metaphor
Can ever, ever be.
Love! You are love!
My mystery of love!
If the world was like an iceberg,
And everything was frozen,
And tears turned into icicles in the eye!
And snow came pouring
And sleet and ice
Came stabbing like a knife!
Then you are heat!
A fire alive with heat!
A flame that thaws the iceberg with its heat!
You are heat!
Ah ah ah ah aaaaaaaaaaa!
Love! (I am love!)
You are love! (I am love!)
Better far than a metaphor
Can ever, ever be.
Love! (I am love!)
You are love! (I am love!)
My mystery (His mystery)
(Excerpt from Metaphor lyrics, The Fantasticks)
And this from e.e.cummings:
the great advantage of being alive
—by ee cummings
the great advantage of being alive
(instead of undying)is not so much
that mind no more can disprove than prove
what heart may feel and soul may touch
— the great (my darling)happens to be
that love are in we, that love are in we
and here is a secret they never will share for whom create is less than have
or one times one than when times where —
that we are in love,that we are in love:
with us they’ve nothing times nothing to do
(for love are in we am in i are in you)
this world(as timorous itsters all
to call their cowardice quite agree)
shall never discover our touch and feel
–for love are in we are in love are in we;
for you are and i am and we are(above
and under all possible worlds)in love
a billion brains may coax undeath
from fancied fact and spaceful time–
no heart can leap,no soul can breathe
but by the sizeless truth of a dream
whose sleep is the sky and the earth and the sea.
For love are in you am in i are in we