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29 September, 2007


In Japan there is an art form called Sumi Painting. Sumi painting uses just black ink and a brush. Black ink is black ink, but black ink is not black as a single colour. If you paint a pine tree with black ink, that one color creates many colors. Perhaps you have seen a sumi paintings; tiny boat, fisherman in the boat, ocean. And in the corner, just one tree; that's all. Can you imagine this? Just one tiny boat, and just one little tree, and no colours, just white. White in one color, but from white, space is created, and many colors. From this you can see the huge scale of the world; sunny days, cloudy days, oceans -- all this expressed in different ways. From sumi painting you can feel this, that is why in sumi painting black is not just black.

Another characteristic of sumi painting is that with sumi painting you have to listen to the rhythm of the universe, the rhythm of the world--the tree, the boat, the ocean. The ocean is white, but you have to have eyes to see, ears to listen to the rhythm of the ocean, the rhythm of the boat, the rhythm of the tree. This is very important. For instance, there is interesting poem composed by Ikkyu Zenji, a famous Zen master. It says:

And what is it, the heart?
It is the sound of pine breeze
There in the sumi painting.

According to Buddhism, mind is just like the sound of the pine breeze in the sumi painting. There, on the paper, is the pine tree, and the ocean, and the boat. And you can feel the breeze, and the sound of the breeze, from the painting.

In another poem a Zen master says:

The breeze in the sumi painting---
How cool it is!
Even oneness disappears
When culminating in not-two.

Two means the dualistic world. For instance, when you want to swim, there is the ocean and there is you. It is dualistic. "Culiminating in not two" means jump into the ocean. Ocean and you become one. That is the ultimate state of becoming one. In other words, oneness is not an idea of oneness. The oneness of the ocean and you is something active, something that leaves no trace of form. Activity is constantly moving from movement to movement. We do not realize it, but mind it always picking up activity right at the moment of activity. When you pick up activity, immediately immediately it is form or experience. But right in the midst of activity there is no form. All you have to do is just be there. This is oness.

Oneness is the rhythm of the sameness of ocean and you. And that time it is called "to swim." To swim is constantly to swim. If something is wrongly with the power of your body, you cannot swim. So your whole body and mind must be operating smoothly; that is "to swim." It is leaving no trace of my any form. That is why the Zen master says, "Even oneness disappears when culminating in not-two." That is the breezer in the sumi painting. It is not something dead. It is not something dead. It is something you have to realize. It is cool. "How cool it is" means you cannot explain, but you can feel how cool it is. that is most important. If you leave no trace of any form, experience becomes just like a breeze in the sumi painting.

In sumi painting, there is something painted by a brush, but even though you paint the pine tree on paper, that pine tree is not something painted. It must be something alive, something that is exactly the same as the pinetree living in nature. At that time, people are moved by the painting. When you really understand the pine tree, the pine tree becomes alive on the paper. You can feel the breeze moving in the pine tree. You can feel the sound of the breeze and how cool it is. You cannot explain it, but it is beautiful.
Source: RETURNING TO SILENCE: Zen Practice in Daily Life by Dainin Katagiri


"Neither defiled nor immaculate".

Defiled or immaculate. Dirty or pure. These are concepts we form in our mind. A beautiful rose we have just cut and placed in our vase is immaculate. It smells so good, so pure, so fresh. It suppports the idea of immaculateness. The opposite is a garbage can. It smells horrible, and it is filled with rotten things.

But that is only when you look on the surface. If you look more deeply you will see that in just five or six days, the rose will become part of the garbage. You do not need to wait five days to see it. If you just look at the rose, and you look deeply, you can see it now. And if you look into the garbage can, you see that in a few months its contents can be transformed into lovely vegetables, and even a rose. If you are a good organic gardener and you have the eyes of a bodhisattva, looking at a rose you can see the garbage, and looking at the garbage you can see a rose. Roses and garbage inter-are. Without a rose, we cannot have garbage; and without garbage, we cannot have a rose. They need each other very much. The rose and garbage are equal. The garbage is just as precious as the rose. If we look deeply at the concepts of defilment and immaculateness, we return to the notion of interbeing.

In the Majjhima Nikaya there is a very short passage on how the world has come to be. It is very simple, very easy to understand, and yet very deep. "This is, because that is. This is not, because that is not. This is like this, because that is like that."

Source: The Heart of Understanding Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra by THICH NHAT HANH


       Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, who were walking along a country mud that had become extremely muddy after heavy rains. Near a village, they came upon a young woman who was trying to cross the road, but the mud was so deep it would have ruined the silk kimono she was wearing. Tanzan at once picked her up and carried her to the other side.

       The monks walked on in silence. Five hours later, as they were approaching the loding temple, Ekido couldn't restrain himself any longer. "Why did you carry that girl across the road?" he asked. "We monks are not supposed to do things like that."

       "I put the girl down hours ago." said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?".

       Now, imagine what life would be like for someone who lived like Ekido all the time, unable or unwilling to let go internally of situations, accumulating more and more "stuff" inside, and you get a sense of what life is like for the majority of people on our planet. What a heavy burden of past they carry around with them in their minds.

       The past lies in you as memories, but memories in themselves are not a problem. In fact, it is through memory that we learn from the past and from the past mistakes. It is only when memories, that is to say, thoughts about the past, take you over completely that they turn into a burden, turn problematic, and become part of your sense of self. Your personality, which is conditioned by the past, then becomes your prison. Your memories are invested with a sense of self, and your story becomes who you perceive yourself to be. This "little me" is an illusion that obscures your true identity as timeless and formless Presence.

Source: Excerots from the book "A NEW EARTH" - 
Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by ECKHART TOLLE


When Alexander the Great visited India after conquering all the other countries in the world that were known to him, he wanted to see the strange Indians of whom he had been hearing so much. He was just led to a monk on the bank of the Indus river. The monk lay there on the sands, bare-footed, naked, wearing no clothes and not knowing where from his tomorrow's food was to come, just lying there and basking in the Sun. Alexander the Great, with his crown shining, dazzling with the brilliant diamonds and gems that he had got from Persia, stood beside him in all his glory. Beside him was the monk with no clothes on. What a contrast! The riches of the whole world represented by the body of Alexander on one side, and all the outward poverty represented by the saint on the other side!. But you have simply to look at their faces to be convinced of the poverty or riches of their true souls.

Here is the saint whose soul was rich; here is the saint who had realized the richness and glory of his Atman. Beside him stood Alexander the Great who wanted to hide his inner poverty. Look at the beaming countenance of the saint, the happy, joyful at the beaming countenance of the saint, the happy, joyful face of the saint. Alexander the Great was struck by his appearance. He fell in love with him, and just asked the saint to come with him to Greece. The saint laughed, and his answer was: "The world is in Me. The world cannot contain Me. The Universe is in Me. I cannot be confined in the universe. Greece and Rome are in Me. The sums and stars rise and set in Me."

Alexander the Great, not being used to this kind of language, was surprised. He said, "I will give you riches. I will just flood you with worldly pleasures. All sorts of things that people desire, all sorts of things which captivate and charm people will be in wild profusion at your service. Please accompany me to Greece."

The saint laughed, laughed at his reply and said, "There is not a diamond, there is not a sun or star which shines, but to Me is due its lustre. To me is due the glory of all the heavenly bodies. To me is due all the attractive nature, all the charms of the things desired. It would be beneath my dignity, it would be degrading on my part, first, to lend the glory and charm to these objects, and then go about seeking them, to go begging at the door of worldly riches, to go begging at the door of flesh and animal desires to receive pleasure, happiness. It is below my dignity. I can never stoop to that level. No I can never go begging at theirs."

This astonished Alexander the Great. He just drew his sword and was going to strike off the head of that saint. And again the saint laughed a hearty laugh and said, "O Alexander! never in your life did you speak such a falsehood, such an abominable lie. Kill Me, kill Me, Kill Me! Where is the sword that can kill Me? Where is the weapon that can wound Me? Where is the sorrow that can tamper with my happiness? Everlasting, the same yesterday, today and for ever, pure and holy of holes, the Master of the Universe, that I am, that I am. Even in your hands I am the power that makes them move. O Alexander! If this body dies, there I remain the power that makes your hands move. I am the power that makes your muscles move." The sword fell down from the hands of Alexander.

Here, we see that there is only one way of making people realize the spirit of renunciation. From the worldly point of view we become ready to renounce everything only when we become rich from the other point of view.

Source: In Woods of God-Realization by "Swami Rama Tirtha"


"The only major purpose of a book on mysticism should be to persuade the reader to ENGAGE in mystical practice".


kanno doko - Interacting communion

"To Paint the Portrait of the Bird" by JACQUES PREVERT

First paint a cage
with an open door
Then paint
something pretty
something simple
something beautiful
something useful
for the bird.

Then place the canvas against a tree
in a garden
in a wood
or in a forest.

Hide behind the tree
without speaking
without moving...

Sometimes the bird comes quickly
but he may take long years
before deciding.
Don't get discouraged.
Wait years if necessary.

How fast or how slowly the bird comes
has nothing to do with the success
of the picture.

When the bird comes
if he comes
observe the most profound silence
till the bird enters the cage
and when he has entered
gently close the door with a brush.

Then erase all the bars one by one
taking care not to touch any of the bird's feathers.
Then paint the portrait of the tree
choosing the most beautiful of its branches
for the bird.
Paint also the green foliage and the wind's freshness
and dust of the sun
and the noise of the creatures in the grass in the summer heat.

And then wait for the bird to decide to sing.

If the bird does not sing
it's a bad sign,
a sign that the painting is bad.
But if he sings it is a good sign,
a sign that you can sing.

So, then, so very gently, you pull out
one of the bird's feathers
and you write your name in a corner of the picture.