The gift of silence

•November 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

“Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is in all.”

Thoughts in Solitude, Thomas Merton


•November 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment

summer night
even the stars
are whispering
to each other

– kobayashi issa

Haiku is the speech of pure vibration. Unsullied by human desire, perceived by total receptiveness, it exists when one does not. It is the description of the world before a human set foot on it. The world before man trampled upon its flowers to search for his gold. The world as it is at the far expanses of the universe, infinitely frightening, terribly silent, unfathomably tranquil. It is beautiful because it is directly rooted in creation, having not yet severed its link to the sacred source of all that is. It is terrifying because no human being exists in it, and hence it lasts only a few moments, before human self assertion regains its domination.


•November 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

not knowing the name of the tree
i stood in the flood
of its sweet smell

– basho

Before language, before ideas, there is experience. It is unimaginably intense. It is the sweet smell of the unnamed tree; it is the stunning silence of a winter night; it is the deep, warm, stilling sorrow of loss; it is the loving caress of the intimate lover, joyful in every little movement.

This experience is only available to direct perception. It is not available to thinking, imagining, desiring, but only to a complete surrender to what is. Then, one does not know the name of what is, but one stands in its sweet smell.


•November 3, 2016 • Leave a Comment

“Having no destination, I am never lost.”

– Ikkyu, Japanese Zen master.

Destinations exist in the world of ambition, self-assertion. Without ambition, there is no destination. There is only where one is right now. Without destination, there is no being lost.

One perceives what is here, rather than what one is ambitious about. One speaks to what is here, rather than to one’s destination. Perception, speech, action – all acquire a different colour.

The light is not at the end of the tunnel, but right here. The fire that burns to create that light burns in one’s own heart, and not in the far distance. There is neither hope nor despair.

The modern world is build upon destinations. To get to the moon, to get to a position in life, to get to happiness, to get to anywhere other than what is now. It is all a play of destinations. And hence, it is all a play of being lost.


•October 31, 2016 • Leave a Comment

the bell fades
the fragrance of blossoms remains
this quiet evening

– basho

The winter is here

•October 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The winter is here.

The morning brings the first intimations of the cold days to come. Even as the temple blares its uncouth music at a distance, the blades of grass, the birds, twittering and walking on that grass, the benign, quiet tree above – they all know that a new presence as arrived in our midst. The ant crawling on one’s clothes knows. The air, seemingly more dense, more misty than it was in many yesterdays, knows.

As one breathes in the air, its coldness is felt in one’s chest and the whole body responds joyfully to the slight chill. It rejoices in this intimate touch of nature.

The sun will appear late, for it is obeying its shifting role in the rhythms of nature. It is now to arise late, and set early. The nights – eerie, silent – will be long; the days – dimly lit, condensed – will be short.

This new presence in our mist, a stranger, is most beautiful. Despite the cacophony of the world, it is beautiful. As you write this, a small bird flies across the visible sky with youth and vigour, and ornaments the beauty of the moment.

Enveloping all this is our guest. Or are we her guests?

The ancients sang to nature. They called her a beautiful woman who blesses us with her splendour. Surely, they beheld a vision similar to this. They gave her names. When she arrived in the morning, they called her Ushas. When she arrived at night, they called her Ratri. At other times, she was Sandhya and Nisha. And in her entire movement, she was Rita – supreme order.

The less you are, the more it is. The more you become part of it, the less you are. You cease to be, and like the bird perched on the high pole, who surveys everything in complete serenity, you become part of creation, part of this eternal flux.

The galaxies are you, the exploding stars are you. The tiny leaf on the earth is you. The sparrow’s song is you.

And when you meet the chaos of the world, you do not deny all this. It stays.

A hermit in the mountains

•October 27, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Wu Li was a student of the Tao. He lived in the Zhongan mountains in central China. 35 years of age, Wu Li lived alone in his hurt. He awoke with the call of the birds who began their song before the first rays of the sun reached the hills. Wu Li would go out and absorb the song of the birds. The misty landscape would gradually become visible as the rays of the majestic sun lit up the hills. The hills were green. Far away, rocky, barren hills could also be seen, where no vegetation grew, for it was too high there and the air was too thin. Like other hermits, Wu Li lived in the lower hills of the Zhongan. The higher mountains, freezing cold and unhospitable, were meant to be witnessed rather than grasped – a sign of the eternal Tao that was available in everyday life, at every moment and yet, distinct from it.

Wu Li was a painter. He would sell his paintings in the town which was a two hour walk away from the hills. On his way back he would pick up things he needed for his hut. A little food and a few clothes were all he needed.

Every painting he drew was an expression of Wu Li’s heart. When he withdrew attention from the outer world, his heart came alive, as if burning in a golden fire whose sparks gave warmth to his entire being. On the outside, Wu Li was an ordinary man who lived like anyone else, but alone. He slept, awoke, cleaned, cooked, worked, walked out in the hills, and at night, went to sleep again. On the inside, Wu Li has a fire burning inside him – a fire that gave the warmth of meaning to his life, but also a fire that burnt away all that was unnecessary.

Today, Wu Li was drawing a portrait of Master Chuang Tzu. Chuang Tzu had lived when Wu Li was a small child. Gentle in his demeanour, almost as if floating in the air, Chuang Tzu had been a picture of compassion and quietude. But most of all, he was a man of wonder. One day, Chuang Tzu had told Wu Li, who was only 8 years old then, that he had dreamed that he was a yellow butterfly. The butterfly flew from one flower to another, drinking in the nectar. When Chuang Tzu had awakened, he wondered if he was Chuang Tzu who had dreamed that he is a yellow butterfuly, or if he was a yellow butterfly who was now dreaming that he is Chuang Tzu.

The dream-like quality of life was never lost on the master. Through sharing his experience of the dream, the master – or the butterfly – had shared something essential about life with Wu Li, something that had always remained with him. Like a man aware that he is in a dream, Wu Li lived with a great sense of wonder about the splendours and the terrors of this world of dream, and also without taking anything in this world too seriously. A sense of lightness and wonder marked the little smile on his face which complemented the peace of his demeanour.

Today, Wu Li drew a portrait of the master. He saw the misty morning through his window, remembering the master’s ways. The master walked as if he was part of nature, slowly gliding with the air, moving effortlessly like the plants in the wind, yet with a dignity and nobility that were his marked features. Wu Li’s painting captured some of that lightness and ease.

He walked out and looked at the sun, now long risen up from the horizon. A new day had begun. Like everyday, the sun was rising as if for the first time ever and the darkness was perishing as if for the first time ever. And like everyday, Wu Li was living another day in his life, but new and fresh, as if he was witnessing life for the first time ever.



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