It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation."
-- Rabindranath Tagore
"“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek
The second book was another small tome, The Wisdom of Gandhi. Deeply touched by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, I had read that Dr. King had been deeply touched by Gandhi. That was good enough for me. I poked my nose into the book. One of the first passages I read described an encounter between a British journalist and the Mahatma. When Gandhi was asked if he was a Hindu, he replied, “Yes I am. I am also a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist, and a Jew.”
It was only today, after a compelling experience yesterday, that I remembered that there was a third book that I bought that afternoon.
Connecting the Dots
If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you probably know that the Lojong teachings of Tibetan Buddhism have been part of my path for the past seven years. I've read and re-read a handful of commentaries, and spent countless hours in the study and practice of the 59 slogans that comprise this system of mind training. Each morning, I cast a slogan to focus on for the day. (See Your Courtesy Wake Up Call: Lojong:Training the Heart and Mind).
- 1. Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life.
- 2. Be aware of the reality that life ends; death comes for everyone.
- 3. Recall that whatever you do, whether virtuous or not, has a result; what goes around comes around.
- 4. Contemplate that as long as you are too focused on
self-importance and too caught up in thinking about how you are good or
bad, you will suffer. Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding
what you don’t want does not result in happiness. ( -- Pema Chodron in Lion's Roar)
I had no idea where that would lead.
Gently Down the Stream
The phrase "how sweet it is" had emerged in my mind stream as black and white images. Center stage in my mind's memory lane theater was comedian Jackie Gleason's sketch character Ralph Kramden and his wife Alice, played brilliantly by Audrey Meadows. Kramden was a bus driver in New York City whose bumbling macho bravado and perpetual scheming would invariably create some sort of hilarious havoc each week in The Honeymooners, a pioneering TV sitcom. Week after week, Alice, a rock solid blend of street smarts, patience, sarcasm, and unflinching assertiveness, would finally rein Ralph in -- and save the day. Sitting here pecking away at the keyboard, my heart glows again with the images of Alice delivering her wisdom and wisecracks, deadpan, with arms folded and toes tapping -- and the look on Ralph's face as he finally got it.
Within another few moments, my chest was heaving and tears of profound gratitude were flowing freely. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You!) Indeed!
Damn. I guess this admission blows my cover as a staid, solid, respectable practitioner of Mindfulness, huh!? Oh well. At least I am in good company.
Paths are Many. Truth is One.
Although it is true that the Practice for me has primarily focused on the teachings and meditative disciplines of the Buddhist tradition for the better part of fifty years now, I am well aware that Buddhism is not the only path to the Realization of the Sacred Oneness. I had felt the Truth of the One Love that exists within and beyond all that is as I read Gandhi's words long ago.
Over the years, I've studied the scriptures of many of the world's religions, participated in their rituals and services, and investigated a variety of spiritual techniques. I've touched the One in meditation during sesshin. I've communed with the One Love in the golden tones of dawn and as the pastels of sunset skies dissolved into vast and mysterious embrace of twilight. I've blissed out in the Bhakti of Kirtan Practice. I've danced with Sufi's, sweated in Native American lodges, ingested psychedelics with kindred spirits. I've had profound encounters with Jesus as well.
Yet, I've found that those peak moments of Essential Oneness come and go. Although one can be launched into a direct personal experience of the Divine, of Eternity, of Perfection, of Boundless Love and Absolute Truth, like everything on this place of existence, these experiences are impermanent.
We each live and breath amidst the day to day activities of family, work, and relationships, of washing dishes and taking out the garbage. Immersed in the mundane and ordinary moments of life as it is, embedded in a world full of both incredible beauty and excruciating suffering, we each travel this path from birth to death moment by moment. What the Practice offers is the deepening ability to embrace the Reality of each moment with a clear mind and an open heart.
Through time, effort, and patience -- on and off the meditation cushion -- the subconscious patterns that operate to separate us from ourselves and from one another are increasingly seen for what the are. As their energies are experienced directly they can be transmuted. They no longer dominate the way that we see and react to the world. Healing into our True Nature, we become Healers -- in whatever small way that we can. If you're paying attention, you'll notice -- and act. Sometimes, a simple smile may bring a soul out of hell. It's clear that the Practice needs to happen in the midst of our day to day lives. An open heart and clear mind are needed on Main Street not just in the Monastery.
Gently Down the Mind Stream
Oh. Where was I? Ah, yes...
Standing at the table in the park that day in the summer of 1965, I had picked up a third book.
Amidst those Moments yesterday, I remembered that I also bought Gitanjali (Prayerful Offering of Song) by the Hindu Mystic Sage and Poet, Rabindranath Tagore that day. I had no idea who Tagore was at the time, but this beautifully bound small book had an introduction by William Butler Yeats, who I'd heard of --and it was printed before WWI in London! It was a treasure, both antique and exotic!
I had no idea how this book, too, would open to touch what would lay between the covers of my own life story.
A working class kid at age 19, it would be years and years before I was exposed to the mystical poets, Rumi and Hafiz -- or even begin to understand a Walt Whitman that I had been required to read in high school. (I was more interested in the real leaves of grass outside the classroom window that day. LOL)
Yet, when I opened Gitanjali, I was deeply touched by the first poem. Although I didn't quite understand the Totality of what Tagore was pointing toward at the time, something deep within me stirred. I pulled out another dollar bill, put the third book in the bag, and walked home.
Still on my journey hOMe years fifty years later, having once again blissed out on the Grand Beneficence as I sat at the computer scribing this post, I surfed the web to look at the first poem that I read that day. It now makes perfect sense. It takes One to know One.