Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Welome to the Machine

Many people don't understand the dynamics of (Pink Floyd) Roger Water's impact on our Western Psyche. In my estimation he is a poet laureate in the tradition of the greatest philosophers and thinkers of the past few centuries, yet he was thrust in the midst of an interesting musical format which served to deliver his universal message. 

The imagery in this video, (not sure who assembled it but it is brilliant) is quite poignant referring to our images of perhaps the Wizard of Oz as in 'Don't pay attention to the man behind the curtain.' Also, too many of us are in awe of our complete lack of engagement in the death and destruction caused in the Warfare of our technologically modern age, that seems more and more like the violent video games that abound and keeps the participant somehow immune from the results of his or her actions. The 'killing fields' are far too remote and removed from the horror that was presented in Joseph Conrad's book the 'Heart of Darkness.'

In the movie 'Apocalypse Now' Marlon Brando's character says near the end of the movie in an altered state of confusion and depravity, 'The horror, the horror of it all.' We have lost this connection to the horror, the horror we perpetrate upon this earth. 

American's are quick to 'bitch' about '9/11' (and I by no means intend to demean or disparage what happened as wrong) but name me a handful of Americans who actually give a shit that during the Vietnam Conflict we dropped millions of bombs on Cambodia and Laos and about 30% of those bombs never exploded. We were not at war with Cambodia or Laos and our missions there were 'secret' yet we destroyed land and killed innocent people because we thought the 'communists' might be hiding there. My point is this, there are still hundreds of thousands, if not a million of un-detonated bombs in Cambodia and Laos and innocent people who were not even born during the Vietnam Conflict are now digging or plowing the fields of their land trying to eek out a living in these countries, accidently set off one of these American Presents and they lose a leg or an arm or both. Who in America is outraged that some 40 years later we are destroying innocent people's lives? We don't give a shit, because we are too removed for the cause and resultant effect of our actions.

It seems that today we can measure the change in the moon's orbit in relation to the earth by mere millimeters, because we setup mirrors on the moon during the Apollo missions and can now fire laser beams at them and measure the time it takes for the return signal to be read, but we have not spiritually or morally progressed since the time of the great teachings of the Veda's and the Bhagavad Gita some three thousand years ago. The ancients were warning us but we still have not heeded their warnings, how blind we are to our own frailty, and how much we ignore from the past because we think we are superior.

After the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima the project manager of the task force that created the first Nuclear Weapon stated this, "We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.” –J. Robert Oppenheimer

and now for Roger Water's take on it.

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine. 
Where have you been? 
It's alright we know where you've been. 
You've been in the pipeline, filling in time, 
Provided with toys and 'Scouting for Boys'. 
You bought a guitar to punish your ma, 
And you didn't like school, and you 
know you're nobody's fool, 
So welcome to the machine. 

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine. 
What did you dream? 
It's alright we told you what to dream. 
You dreamed of a big star, 
He played a mean guitar, 
He always ate in the Steak Bar. 
He loved to drive in his Jaguar. 
So welcome to the Machine

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A "Shelter" for Dharma Awakening in Korea

Ven. Song Hue
Shelter, Seoul, South Korea
Rapid socio-economic growth of South Korea has brought an unwelcome side effect that threatens to undermine its own cultural heritage as well as moral standards.

Worse yet, fierce - if not fanatical Christian evangelical onslaughts - have jeopardized the history and value systems of Korea, whose culture and way of life have harmoniously interlaced with Buddhism since its introduction in the year of 372 AD.

Under the seizure of bellicose evangelism, Buddhism in Korea has been painted as a misguided, superstitious cult, while Buddhists are openly abused as 'demons worshippers'. In some cases, physical and criminal assault were reported, such as temple-burning, insults openly hurled at Buddha images or statutes etc.

To compound this problem, dogmatic local Buddhists and the hypocrisy that prevails among the religious leaders, is not helping much to stem the losing tide of Buddhist adherents. By turning the other cheek on prevailing social problems, the behavior of such Buddhist leaders is farcical at best, resulting in the eventually decrease of Buddhists today, which is just about 50% of the country's total population.

However, pointing to ruthless evangelical challenges as a reason for the decline of Buddhism is one thing. More importantly, all those concerned with Korean Buddhism should first reflect with candid conscience and humility, upon their passive attitudes and easy-going negligence in their failure to propagate the Dharma effectively.

Playing a personal role to stem the tide of a fast receding Buddhist populace and moral decay in general, Ven. Song Hue founded "Shelter", a non-conventional Buddhist movement that aims to "Spread Dharma through Youth, by the Youth".

Based in Seoul, South Korea, Shelter's main object is to make full use of the entertainment circle - both at home and abroad - to bring the Buddha Dharma closer to Korean youths. It puts this into practice by sponsoring different kinds of get-together such as hip-hop concert, B-Boy performance, rock band performance, charity song contest and the like.

Shelter aims to produce and distribute study kits in the form of comics, cartoons, animations, DVDs etc. These media based products are targeted at younger Koreans, pre-teens inclusive. The study kits will carry simple Buddhist teachings and parables. The materials will be produced in a manner which children and their parents can enjoy reading or watching together, while making it easier for them to get familiarize with the Dharma.

These study kits will be also distributed among the military and police forces, especially for most Korean males in their early 20's participating in the 2-years compulsory national service program. Such materials will give these men a lot of support and courage, and may even help them to endure their hardship in service. Followed up programs will be initiated for these men so that upon their discharge from national service, they will be motivated to continue working on the path of Dharma and to be involved in charitable campaigns.

Unlike traditional Buddhist temples, Shelter aims to use the English Language as a medium to deliver basic Buddhist teachings. This approach differentiates it from other temples, which have been teaching the Dharma using Sutras written in old Chinese letters. This orthodox and traditional method is recognized as a factor which have dispelled the young and old alike from learning Buddhism. Given the current popularity of English, this approach appeals very much with the local populace, a strategy which have been applied effectively by the evangelists to spread Christianity.

Shelter also offers services for local college students and expatriates from European countries, Australia, USA etc., and conducts study groups using selected Buddhist Sutras. It will soon offer online Buddhist courses such as those supplied by Ashoka eDharma University.

For foreigners who wish to meditate or experience Buddhist rites and formalities, Shelter arranges separate temple-stay programs as well.

Ven. Song Hue is now planning to renovate Shelter into one-stop center for needy teens, and will include programs such as judo, computer lessons, practical studies and meditation. These activities will be assisted by local and foreign volunteers.

The center is currently being supported by funds raised among Ven. Song Hue's lay friends and followers.

Buddha teaches Suffering? by Song Hue Sunim

Song Hue Sunim
A very nice and concise discussion on an often misunderstood tenent of Buddhism, I highly recomend watchin

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Walking the Zen Christian Path

Fr. Thomas Hand, SJ, spent twenty nine years in Japan and was one of the first Western Catholics to practice Zen meditation under the direction of Yamada Koun Zenshin in the Sanbô-Kyôdan Order. After returning to the US he taught Christian and Buddhist meditation at Mercy Center in Burlingame, CA, as well as the Joseph and Mary Retreat Center in Rancho Palos Verde, CA. He was the author, together with Chwen Jiuan A. Lee, of A Taste of Water: Christianity Through Taoist-Buddhist Eyes.

Many years ago, a spiritual friend of mine, Dr. Victoria Dendinger recommended that I meet Fr. Tom Hand. I had the great privilege of sitting a few retreats with this great teacher at the Joseph and Mary Retreat Center in Rancho Palos Verdes which is a converted Convent located in the Southern California South Bay. It turned out that we shared a mutual friend, in the person of Ruben Habito Rōshi, who was also a Jesuit and received Transmission from Yamada Rōshi in 1988. I had several opportunities to sit retreats with Fr. Hand and learned much about equanimity and practice from him. His depth of understanding inside of religious experience was moving and helpful to me along this wonderful path of exploration and unfortunately he passed away in 2005.

Fr. Hand was known as Handō by his Japanese teachers and friends, and he loved reading, writing and teaching the Haiku form to his Western Students.

Cistercian Monastery

on the snowmass slope
even the magpies on the fence
sit in silence


The Life of Father Bede Griffiths

Bede Griffiths was a monk, a man in whom there was no guile, and was last to see the guile that may have been in any other. This monk with a universal heart was an icon of integrity and guilelessness. As John Henry Cardinal Newman once described them, Bede was one of those: who live in a way least thought of by others, the way chosen by our Savior, to make headway against all the power and wisdom of the world. It is a difficult and rare virtue, to mean what we say, to love without deceit, to think no evil, to bear no grudge, to be free from selfishness, to be innocent and straightforward... simple-hearted. They take everything in good part which happens to them, and make the best of everyone. (homily, Feast of St. Bartholomew)Such was Father Bede Griffiths, Swami Dayananda, who died May 13, 1993, barefooted and clothed in the color of the sun, in his thatched hut at Shantivanam in South India.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Suggested Buddhist Reading List

An Introduction to Zen Buddhism
By Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic;
Reissue edition November, 1991
ISBN: 0–8021–3055–0
Zen in the Art of Archery
By Eugen Herrigel and Daisetz T. Suzuki
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 0–3757–0509–0
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
By Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
Publisher: Weatherhill
ISBN: 0–8348–0079–9
Dropping Ashes on the Buddha –
The Teaching of Zen Master Seung Sahn
Edited by Stephen Mitchell
Publisher: Grove Press
ISBN: 0–8021–3052–6
Nothing Special – Living Zen
By Charlotte Joko Beck & Steve Smith
Publisher: Harpers San Francisco
ISBN: 0–0625–1117–3
The Compass of Zen Teaching
(Original Abbreviated Version)
By Zen Master Sŭngsan
Publisher: Before Thought Publications
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
Compiled and translated by Paul Reps et al.
Publisher: Tuttle
ISBN: 0–8048–3186–6

Advanced Study

Compass of Zen
By Zen Master Seung Sahn
Publisher: Shambhala Dragon Editions
ISBN: 1–5706–2329–5

Contemporary Book on Buddhism

Only Don’t Know
By Zen Master Seung Sahn
Publisher: Shambhala Dragon Editions
ISBN: 1–5706–2432–1
The Mind of Clover –
Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics
By Robert Aitken Roshi
Publisher: North Point Press
ISBN: 0–8654–7158–4
Open Mouth, Already a Mistake
By Zen Master Wu Kwang, Richard Shrobe
Publisher: Primary Point Press
ISBN: 0–9427–9508–3
Currently out of print.
The Roaring Stream–
A New Zen Reader
Edited by Nelson Foster and Jack Shoemaker
Publisher: Ecco,
ISBN: 0–8800–1511–X
Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism
By Choygam Trungpa Rinpoche
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 0–8777–3050–4

Women’s Buddhist Study

Meetings with Remarkable Women:
Buddhist Teachers in America
By Lenore Friedman
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 1–57062–474–7
Buddhist Women on the Edge:
Contemporary Perspectives from the Western Frontier
By Marianne Dresser
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
ISBN: 1–55643–203–8
Turning the Wheel:
American Women Creating the New Buddhism
By Sandy Boucher
Publisher: Beacon Press
ISBN: 0–80707–305–9
No Time to Lose:
A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva
By Pema Chodron
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 1–59030–135–8
When Things Fall Apart:
Heart Advice for Difficult Times
By Pema Chodron
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 1–57062–344–9
The Places that Scare You:
A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
By Pema Chodron
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 1–57062–921–8
The Wisdom of No Escape:
And the Path of Loving Kindness
By Pema Chodron
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 1–57062–872–6
Start Where You Are:
A Guide to Compassionate Living
By Pema Chodron
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 1–57062–839–4

Chinese Chán Buddhism

Transmission of the Mind Outside the Teachings
By Charles Luk
Publisher: Grove Press
The Original Teachings of Ch’ān Buddhism
Compiled and translated by Chang Chung–yuan
Publisher: Pantheon Books,
ISBN: 0–6797–5824–0
Ch’ān and Zen Teaching – Volumes 1, 2 & 3
By Lu K’uan Yu, Charles Luk
Publisher: Weiser
ISBN: 0–8772–8795–3 Vol. 1,
ISBN: 0–8772–8797–X Vol. 2
ISBN: 0–8772–8798–8 Vol. 3
The Story of Chinese Zen By Nan Huai–Chin
Translated by Thomas Cleary
Publisher: Tuttle
ISBN: 0–8048–3050–9
The Golden Age of Zen
by John Ching–Hsiung Wu
Publisher: Image Books,
ISBN: 0–3854–7993–X
Sayings and Doings of Pai Chang
Translated by Thomas Cleary
Center Publications, ISBN: 0–9168–2010–6
Currently out of print
The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma
Translated by Red Pine
Publisher: North Point Press
ISBN: 0–8654–7399–4
The Zen Teaching of Huang Po
Translated by John Blofeld
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 0–8021–5092–6
Swampland Flowers– 
Letters and Lectures of Zen Master Ta Hui
Translated by Christopher Cleary
Publisher: Grove Press
ISBN: 0–3941–7011–3
Currently out of print.

Korean Sŏn Buddhism

Only Doing It for Sixty Years
Publisher: Primary Point Press 
Currently out of print.
Thousand Peaks–Korean Zen Traditions and Teachers
By Mu Soeng
Publisher: Primary Point Press
ISBN: 0–9427–9502–4
The Way of Korean Zen
By Zen Master Kusan
Publisher: Weatherhill
ISBN: 0–8348–0201–5
Currently out of print.
Nine Mountains
By Zen Master Kusan
Publisher: International Meditation Center, Korea; 1978
Currently out of print.
The Zen Monastic Experience
By Robert Buswell, Jr.
Publisher: Princeton University Press,
ISBN: 0–6910–3477–X
Tracing Back the Radiance – Chinul’s Korean Way of Zen
By Robert E. Buswell
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press
ISBN: 0–8248–1427–4
The Korean Approach to Zen –  The Collected Works of Chinul
By Robert E. Buswell

Japanese Zen Buddhism

Shobogenzo– Zen Essays by Dogen
Translated by Thomas Cleary
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press
ISBN: 0–8248–1401–0
The Zen Master Hakuin–Selected Writings
Translated by Philip Yampolsky
Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press
ISBN: 0–231–06041–6
Bankei Zen–Translations from the Record of Bankei 
Translated by Peter Haskel
Publisher: Grove Press
ISBN: 0–8021–3184–0

Kōan Study

No Gate Checkpoint–English
The Gateless Barrier– The Wu Men Kuan
Translated with commentaries by Robert Aitken Roshi
Publisher: North Point Press
ISBN: 0–86547–422–7
No Barrier– Unlocking the Zen Koan the Mumonkan
Translated with Commentaries by Thomas Cleary
Publisher: Bantam
ISBN: 0–533–37138–X
Gateless Gate– The Classic Book of Zen Koans
By Koun Yamada
Publisher: Wisdom Publications
ISBN: 0–86171–382–6
Gateless Barrier– Zen Comments on the Mumonkan
By Zenkai Shibayama
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 1–57062–726–6
The World: A Gateway– Commentaries on the Mumonkan
by Albert Low, Huikai
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; 1st ed
ISBN: 0–80483–046–0

Bìyán Lù –Chinese;
Blue Cliff Record–English
The Blue Cliff Record
Translated by Thomas Cleary and J.C. Cleary
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 0–87773–622–7
Cōngróng Lù–Chinese;
Book of Serenity–English
The Book of Serenity– One Hundred Zen Dialogues
By Thomas Cleary
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 1–59030–249–4
The Book of Equanimity– Illuminating Classic Zen Koans
By Gerry Shishin Wick
Publisher: Wisdom Publications
ISBN: 0–86171–387–7
Iron Flute–English
The Iron Flute– 100 Zen Koans
By Nyogen Senzaki (Translator), Ruth Strout McCandless, Genro Oryu, Fugai, Steve Hagen
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
ISBN: 0–80483–248–X
Ten Gates–English
Ten Gates
By Zen Master Seung Sahn
Publisher: Primary Point Press
ISBN: 0–9427–9501–6
Currently out of print,
Whole World is a Single Flower–English
The Whole World is a Single Flower – 365 Kōans for Everyday Life
Edited by Jane McLaughlin, JDPSN and Paul Muenzen
Publisher: Tuttle
ISBN: 0–8048–1782–0
Zen: The Perfect Companion
(Perfect Companions!)
by Seung Sahn
Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
ISBN: 1–57912–279–5
Various Koan Collections
The Zen Koan as a Means of Attaining Enlightenment
By Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
ISBN: 0–80483–041–X
The Sound of the One Hand– 281 Zen Koans with Answers
By Hau, Yoel Hoffmann
Publisher: Basic Books
ISBN: 0–46508–079–0
Opening a Mountain– Koans of the Zen Masters
By Steven Heine
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0–19513–586–5
The True Dharma Eye– Zen Master Dogen’s Three Hundred Koans
By John Daido Loori, Kazuaki Tanahashi (Translator)
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 1–59030–242–7
Straight to the Heart of Zen– Eleven Classic Koans and Their Inner Meanings
By Philip Kapleau
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 1–57062–593–X
Bring Me the Rhinoceros– And Other Zen Koans to Bring You Joy
By John Tarrant
Publisher: Harmony
ISBN: 1–40004–764–1

Sutras for Chan Study

The Flower Ornament Scripture– A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra
By Thomas Cleary
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 0–8777–3940–4
The Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Hui-Neng
By A. F. Price, Wong Mou-lam, W. Y. Evans-Wentz
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 0–8777–3005–9
The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch
By Philip Yampolsky
Publisher: Columbia University Press
ISBN: 0–2310–8361–0
The Diamond Sutra– The Perfection of Wisdom
By Red Pine
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
ISBN: 1–5824–3256–2
A Buddhist Bible
Edited by Dwight Goddard
Publisher: Beacon Press,
ISBN: 0–8070–5911–0
The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti– A Mahayana Scripture
Translated by Robert Thurman
Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press
ISBN: 0–2710–0601–3

Zen Poetry

Bone of Space
By Zen Master Seung Sahn
Publisher: Primary Point Press
ISBN: 0–9427–9506–7
One Robe, One Bowl– The Poetry of the Hermit/Monk
and Zen Master Ryokan
Translated by John Stevens
Publisher: Weatherhill,
ASIN 0–8348–0125–6
Currently out of print.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Śūnyatā is a difficult and often misunderstood term, and because we have no direct word equivalent in the Western Languages it has been sadly misrepresented by the often used concept that we have labeled as ‘emptiness.’ In reality, śūnyatā signifies that everything we encounter in life is lacking an absolute identity, is impermanent, and does not support a personal self. This is because everything we experience is interdependent and mutually arising–the idea that anything can be wholly self-sufficient or independent is the primary delusion facing all of us as we pass through our lives. All things are in a state of constant flux where energy and information are constantly flowing throughout the natural world giving rise to and themselves undergoing major transformations with the passage of time.

The problem with using such a word as ‘emptiness’ as a substitute for śūnyatā is that it implies that somehow Buddhism is nihilistic. By misrepresenting a complex term like śūnyatā, as well as the other major mistranslation of duḥkha as meaning suffering gives rise to much confusion in the West about what Buddhism is fundamentally about. I have explored duḥkha on many occasions and for the sake of brevity, we can accept that duḥkha means roughly ‘unsatisfactorieness.’ (Yes, I know that is not a word.) I don’t know who those first scholars were who chose these inadequate translations, but I do hope in the future Buddhist Teachers will stop using these highly negative and loaded words, and choose ones that actually convey the meaning more appropriately in Western language.

In the book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II, he states; “The ‘enlightenment’ experienced by Buddha comes down to the conviction that the world is bad, that it is the source of evil and of suffering for man. To liberate oneself from this evil, one must free oneself from this world, necessitation a break with the ties that join us to external reality—ties existing in our human nature, in our psyche, in our bodies. The more we are liberated from these ties, the more we become indifferent to what is in the world, and the more we are freed from suffering, from the evil that has its source in the world.” I do not know what Sutra Pope John Paul was reading but maybe it was one of those translated in the nineteenth century. Buddha never said that life was bad, or that these attachments were ‘evil.’ This is typical of what happens in when such poor word choices are used to convey fundamental principles in Buddhism.

In the English language the word emptiness suggests the absence of meaning, as well as a personal feeling of alienation, however, in Buddhism the realization of the ‘boundlessness’ or ‘transparency’ of phenomena, at basic level, enables us to realize that all things which ultimately have no substance are trivial and not what we think they are, as our thinking is merely an overlay on top of experience. The fundamental nature of śūnyatā is before thought. Eventually, true realization of this doctrine will bring liberation from the limitations of form and appearance in this phenomenal world.

There are at least three ways in which śūnyatā can be experienced:

a) on an intellectual level

b) in meditation practice

c) as an explanation of the experience of before-thought

In theory, śūnyatā means that all constructs have no independent existence of their own, apart from reliance on other constructs. All constructs have no real, individual essences that distinguish them from all other constructs. In other words, everything in the world, both physical and mental, is interdependent with everything else in the world. The temporary existence of each is dependent on its relations with what is not it. There is no such thing as something existing entirely on its own, separate, and with no causal relation with anything else. That is, all constructs are empty of individual inherent being, also called ‘own-being’, ‘intrinsic nature’, or ‘self-nature’.

The five classifications of mind as set forth by Dòngshān Liángjie (807-869) one of the root teachers attributed with the founding of the Cáodòng House of Chan (Soto school in Japanese Zen). The study uses as its base the relative bifurcation of opposites know in the common consciousness of the delude masses. The opposites are: the absolute / the relative; the fundamental / the phenomenal; form / ground; one / many; etc.

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Clerics demand Korean President’s Resignation

Clerics from Korea’s four major religions have demanded that the country’s president withdraw support for a controversial river project or resign.

They say the way the government has pushed through the scheme of dams on the country’s major rivers is a challenge to democracy and religious values, ucanews.com reports.

Around 100 clerics, including 30 Catholic priests, fasted in protest against the Four Rivers Project from Oct. 4 to 6 in front of the Daehanmun Gate of Deoksugung Palace in Seoul.

They also decided to stage a boycott for products of companies involved in the project and warned elected officials favoring the project that they will face people’s judgment at the next election.

Some 50 clerics from Korea’s four major religions — Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Won-Buddhism then held a press conference on Oct. 6 and demanded the President Lee Myung-bak’s resignation if he continues to support the project.

“The river project is devastating the rivers. It violates life, insults and challenges religions that raise and protect it,” they said in a press release.

“President Lee Myung-bak pushes the project, ignores people’s opinion and avoids regulations. His administration disregards people and overlooks democracy. If he insists on going against the people’s will, we will definitely demand for his resignation,” they added.

Augustine Maeng Joo-hyung, coordinator of the Catholic Solidarity for Deterrence on the Four Rivers Project told ucanews.com on Oct. 6 that the statement is the result of discussions and reflections held during an earlier joint prayer rally. “There is no doubt that the solidarity among the major religions against the Four Rivers Project will continue,” he said.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Forty Verses on Reality By Sri Ramana Maharshi

Sri Ramana Maharshi (December 30, 1879 – April 14, 1950), born Venkataraman Iyer, was a Hindu sage. He was born to a Tamil-speaking Brahmin family in Tiruchuzhi, Tamil Nadu. After having attained liberation at the age of 16, he left home for Arunachala, a mountain considered sacred by Hindus, at Tiruvannamalai, and lived there for the rest of his life. Although born a Brahmin, after having attained moksha he declared himself an "Atiasrami", a Sastraic state of unattachment to anything in life and beyond all caste restrictions. The ashram that grew around him, Sri Ramana Ashram is situated at the foothill of Arunchala, to the west to the pilgrimage town of Tiruvannamalai.

Sri Ramana maintained that the purest form of his teachings was the powerful silence, which radiated from his presence and quieted the minds of those attuned to it. He gave verbal teachings only for the benefit of those who could not understand his silence. His verbal teachings were said to flow from his direct experience of consciousness (Atman) as the only existing reality. When asked for advice, he recommended self-enquiry as the fastest path to moksha. Though his primary teaching is associated with Non-dualism, Advaita Vedanta, and Jnana yoga, he recommended Bhakti to those he saw were fit for it, and gave his approval to a variety of paths and practices.

Verses 1-10

  1. From our perception of the world there follows acceptance of a unique first principle possessing various powers. Perceptions of name and form, the person who sees, the screen on which one sees, and the light by which one sees: one’s self is all of these.

  1. All religions postulate three fundamental realities, the world, the personal self, and (Brahmā or God or Dao or Buddha Nature or whatever your idea of a higher power is), but it is only the one reality that manifests itself as these three. One can say; “The three are really three” only as long as the idea of a personal self lasts. Therefore, to infer in one’s own being, where the “I”, or personal self, is dead, is the perfect state.

  1. “The world is real.” “No, it is a mere illusory appearance.” “The world is conscious.” “No. The world is happiness.” “No.” What use is it to argue thus? That state is agreeable to all, wherein, having given up the objective outlook, one knows one’s self and loses all notions either of unity or duality, of oneself and the personal self.

  1. If one has form, the world and Brahmā also will appear to have form, but if one is formless, who is it that sees those forms, and how are they perceived? Without the eye, can any object be seen? The seeing self is the eye, and that eye is the eye of infinity.

  1. The body is a form composed of the five senses; therefore, all the five senses are implied in the term, body. Apart from the body, does the world exist? Has anyone seen the world without the body?

  1. The world is nothing more than an embodiment of the objects perceived by the five sense-organs. Since, through these five sense-organs, a single mind perceives the world, the world is nothing but the mind. Apart from the mind can there be a world?

  1. Although the world and knowledge thereof rise and set together it is by knowledge alone that the world is made apparent. That perfection wherein the world and knowledge thereof rise and set, and which shines without rising and setting, is alone the reality.

  1. Under whatever name or form one may worship the absolute reality, it is only a means for realizing it without name and form. That alone is true realization, wherein one knows oneself in relation to that reality, attains peace and realizes one’s identity with it.

  1. The duality of subject and object and trinity of seer, sight, and seen can exist only if supported by the one. If one turns inward in search of that one reality they fall away. Those who see this are those who see wisdom. They are never in doubt.

  1. Ordinary knowledge is always accompanied by ignorance, and ignorance by knowledge; the only true knowledge is that by which one knows the self through enquiring whose is the knowledge and ignorance.

 Verses 11-20

  1. Is it not, rather, ignorance to know all else without knowing oneself, the knower? As soon as one knows the self, which is the substratum of knowledge and ignorance, knowledge and ignorance perish.

  1. That alone is true knowledge which is neither knowledge nor ignorance. What is known is not true knowledge. Since the self shines with nothing else to know or to make known, it alone is knowledge. It is not a negative construct and should not be looked upon as void or empty.

  1. The self, which is knowledge, is the only reality. Knowledge of multiplicity is false knowledge. This false knowledge, which is really ignorance, cannot exist apart from the self, which is knowledge-reality. The variety of gold ornaments is unreal, since none of them can exist without the gold of which they are all manufactured.

  1. If the first person, I, exists, then the second and third persons, you and other, will also exist. By enquiring into the nature of the I, the I perishes. With it “you” and “other” also perish. The resultant state, which shines as absolute being, is one’s own natural state, the self.

  1. Only with reference to the present can the past and the future exist. They too, while current, are the present. To try to determine the nature of the past and the future while ignoring the present is like trying to count without the unit.

  1. Apart from us, where is time and where is space? If we are bodies, we are involved in time and space, but are we? We are one and identical now, then, and forever, here, and everywhere. Therefore we, timeless, and spaceless being, alone are.

  1. To those who have not realized the Self, as well as to those who have, the word “I” refers to the body, but with this difference, that for those who have not realized, the “I” is confined to the body whereas for those who have realized the self within the body the “I” shines as the limitless self.

  1. To those who have not realized (the Self) as well as to those who have the world is real. However, to those who have not realized, truth is adapted to the measure of the world, whereas to those that have, truth shines as the formless perfection, and as the substratum of the world. This is all the difference between them.

  1. Only those who have no knowledge of the source of destiny and free-will dispute as to which of them prevails. They that know the self as the one source of destiny and free-will are free from both. Will they again get entangled in them?

  1. One who sees Brahmā without seeing the self sees only a mental image. They say that one who sees the self sees Brahmā. One who, having completely lost the personal self, sees the self, has found Brahmā, because the self does not exist apart from Brahmā.
 Verses 21-30

  1. What is the truth of the scriptures which declare that if one sees the self one sees Brahmā? How can one see one’s self? If, since one is a single being, one cannot see one’s self, how can one see Brahmā? Only by becoming a prey to the very construct.

  • The final sentence of this verse is less obscure in the following translation by K.C. Varadachari (in Golden Jubilee Souvenir, 3rd ed., Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, p. 279): “See thyself and see the lord. That is the revealed word and hard is its sense indeed. For the seeing self is not to be seen. How then is sight of the lord? To be food unto the lord, that indeed is to see the lord.” The idea here is that the personal self is sacrificed to Brahmā in the same way that food is offered in Vedic rituals. 

  1. The divine gives light to the mind and shines within it. Except by turning the mind inward and fixing it in the divine, there is no other way to know your true self through the mind.

  1. The body does not say “I”. No one will argue that even in deep sleep the “I” ceases to exist. Once the “I” emerges, all else emerges. With a keen mind enquire whence this “I” emerges.

  1. This inert body does not say “I”. Reality-consciousness does not emerge. Between the two, and limited to the measure of the body, something emerges as “I”. It is this that is known as Chit-jada-granthi (the knot between the Conscious and the inert), and also as bondage, personal self, subtle-body, personal self, samsara, mind, and so forth.

  1. It. comes into being equipped with a form, and as long as it retains a form it endures. Having a form, it feeds and grows big. However, if you investigate it this evil spirit, which has no form of its own, relinquishes its grip on form and takes to flight.

  1. If the personal self is, everything else also is. If the personal self is not, nothing else is. Indeed, the personal self is all. Therefore, the enquiry as to what this personal self is is the only way of giving up everything.

  1. The State of non-emergence of “I” is the state of being that. Without questing for that state of the non-emergence of “I” and attaining it, how can one accomplish one’s own extinction, from which the “I” does not revive? Without that attainment, how is it possible to abide in one’s true state, where one is that?

  1. Just as a man would dive in order to get something that had fallen into the water, so one should dive into oneself, with a keen one-pointed mind, controlling speech and breath, and find the place where this “I” originates.

  1. The only enquiry leading to self-realization is seeking the source of the “I” with in-turned mind and without uttering the word “I”. Meditation on “I am not this; I am that” may be an aid to the enquiry but it cannot be the enquiry.

  1. If one enquires “who am I?” within the mind, the individual “I” falls down abashed as soon as one reaches the heart and immediately reality manifests itself spontaneously as “I-I”. Although it reveals itself as “I”, it is not the personal self but the perfect being, the absolute self.

Verses 31-40

  1. For one who is immersed in the bliss of the self, arising from the extinction of the personal self, what remains to be accomplished? One is not aware of anything (as) other than the self. Who can apprehend his state?

  1. Although the scriptures proclaim, “thou art that”, it is only a sign of weakness of mind to meditate “I am that, not this”, because you are eternally that. What has to be done is to investigate what one really is and remain that.

  1. It is ridiculous to say either “I have not realized the self” or “I have realized the self”; are there two selves, for one to be the object of the other’s realization? It is a truth within the experience of everyone that there is only one self.

  1. It is due to illusion born of ignorance that seekers fail to recognize that which is always and for everybody the inherent reality dwelling in its natural heart-centre and to abide in it, and that instead they argue that it exists or does not exist, that it has form or has not form, or is non-dual or dual.

  1. To seek and abide in the reality that is always attained, is the only attainment. All other attainments (siddhis) are such as are acquired in dreams. Can they appear real to someone who has woken up from sleep? Can they that are established in the reality and are free from maya, be deluded by them?

  1. Only if the thought “I am the body” occurs will the meditation “I am not this, I am that,” help one to abide as that. Why should we forever be thinking, “I am that”? Is it necessary for one to go on thinking “I am an individual”? Are we not always that?

  1. The contention, “dualism during practice, non-dualism on attainment”, is also false. While one is anxiously searching, as well as when one has found one’s self, who else is one but the tenth human?

  1. As long as a seeker is the doer, one also reaps the fruit of their deeds, but as soon as one realizes the self through inquiry as to who is the doer, this sense of being in the doer falls away and the triple karma is ended. This is the state of eternal liberation.

  1. Only so long as one considers oneself bound, do thoughts of bondage and liberation continue. When one inquires who is bound the self is realized, eternally attained, and eternally free. When thought of bondage ends, can thought of liberation survive?

  1. If it is said, that liberation is of three kinds, with form or without form or with and without form, then let me tell you that the extinction of three forms of liberation is the only true liberation.

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