The Ten-Thousand Things

There once was a greybeard who looked at the world
“The ten-thousand things!” he spake, lips unfurled

He knew that his number was silly and trite
but a Truth he embedded in his verbage that night

Every bit of nature has presence in its time
but the ten-thousand things change their shape..
as a rhyme

The leaf that today is trod underfoot
in a day might be burned and turned into soot

But the leaf is a leaf for today and all time
and the soot will be soot in its day..for all time

The learned might name the greybeard a dunce
but every leaf, every frog
is ten-thousand things..
All at once

The Proxy

Call me the proxy
I’m a fiddle with strings

Contemplation is the luthier that makes me to sing

Of all the thoughts, impressions, and trifling things
spinning round my head
in constant concentric rings…

There’s not a one may boast on any account
Mighty God alone is the prodigal fount

God’s Basin is like an imperceptible abyss
When I receive naught from that ocean, I know something’s amiss

And the moment I attribute His Grace to myself
it is then I abuse my spiritual health

The Hidden World

At the wonders I gaze
and what do I seek?
I plumb their depth for some insight

There’s something I yearn for
a feeling inferred
but the mind is darkness, like midnight

Perhaps it is man
his intellect sole
that requires a contoured definition

Well and good
in its place, let reason abound
used wisely, with sobriety and discretion

But the Earth itself must remain ill-defined
the stars in the firmament, mysterious

Once the pen writes off all phenomena in kind
the mind is a thing, become delirious

More than We Seem

Here in the shade, so thankful are we

I sit with the one called Yeshua

and he frolics with me

Many would name my intuition a fraud
but here, I seek glory that comes only from God

Few words does he speak
the heart of my soul
yet his language is subtler than words can unfold

The Muse is his spouse
and the universe, his raiment

As he heralds new song
I am freed from each ailment

My constant companion is the cosmic Nazarene
The infinite Logos
the Self without seam

Through this single form
this personage
this force
I seek the hidden life
the knowledge of my source

Evry piece of life
emerges from that soul

In evry solid rock
is consciousness untold

The core of each one’s mind is surely destined to ascend
I seek to know the greater whole, through Yeshua
my friend

The Peerless Art

What do I expect, O glimmering surface?
My expectations are blind

The Earth might whisper unthinkable secrets
if not for this educated mind

Among the deep waters and among the great stones
I search for notions implanted

Pursuing a thought, I miss the stark truth
of life as it is, enchanted

A new skill must be learned, as thinking is worn
a skill that is peerless in property

Held dear to the heart by those who are wise
this skill is itself a monopoly

Possessed by the moment, as I stand on the bank
the waters will assuredly glisten

Let us name it, this skill, of peerless design
the art of the wise is to listen

Univocal Reality

It becomes increasingly clear to me that complete repose of the faculties is needed to experience the truth: reality as it is, and not as we define it. In the moment we begin to define reality according to categories of human knowledge, we (at best) reduce the truth of our experience to a crude, blunt form, or (at worst) malign it into a complete fantasy of the intellect. Let us say, for example, that you experience a tree through the medium of your faculties. You may regard the tree according to a mythological interpretation or an impression of childhood; but even if you regard the tree according to precise taxonomy, your mental conception remains arbitrary and subjective. Again, even if you think to yourself “the tree is composed of atoms”, you can do nothing more than muse remotely about what an atom actually is. And yet we know by reason that atoms and trees exist independent of the various ways in which people conceive of them. Therefore, it must be worthwhile to ask a single, odd question: Can reality be known in a vital, authentic, objective sense, without the medium of thought? Let us pursue.

The active, human mind is weighted under the unfortunate compulsion to rationalize. This compulsion serves us well in many respects, but it truncates our vision with regard to the truth. It is far easier to conform the nature of reality to one’s notions (whether they be “scientific” or not) than to let it speak for itself in its unfathomable subtlety. The intellect would become frantic if it could not reduce the objects of its perception into conceptual forms; by doing so, it has ensured the survival of our species. But to experience the truth of reality, rather than the “idea” we conceive it to be, the intellect must be entirely recollected: made unable to replace pure experience with a mere definition. To this end, the imagination must be recollected as well, for it too must needs regard reality according to the finite knowledge of the mind in which it resides. The pure experience, achieved by those few with perseverance enough to learn the willful recollection of their faculties, has been described as “mystical”; but this term has accrued an unjust stigma.

In the west, mysticism is regarded with amusement at best, and oftentimes, wicked contempt. It is deemed “unscientific”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Precise in nature are the ascetic techniques by which mystics learn to recollect their faculties, and the results of recollection are replicable in all who undertake the disciplines with determination. To quote Dr. Michael N. Nagler, Professor Emeritus at University of California, Berkeley: “there is a path to this truth, and it has been taken by saints and sages who went before us. We do not invent it, or go it alone.” Though it is rational in practice, devotees undertake the contemplative path, at the outset, because of their belief in a vital, objective experience of reality. Without such faith, they could never persevere and attain the pure, vital experience, untainted by the biases and truncation of a conditioned perspective. Their faith is negative and positive at the same time: negative because they do not presume (before attainment) to comprehend the nature of the vital experience. Positive, because they believe in its existence. This is why contemplation has been described as a way of “unknowing”. The mystic must not substitute his own conception in place of the experience itself; and this is precisely why he must learn to recollect his faculties (namely the intellect and imagination). They mustn’t, as it were, “get in the way.” Without rational reduction or imaginative fantasy, the mystic is able to perceive reality “as it is”; and thanks to the profound agreement had between spiritual masters, we know this perception to be objective in nature. They all agree, the truth of reality cannot be comprehended by the intellect, cannot be delineated by categories of human knowledge. And yet, its nature is univocal from one man of realization to the next.

To Gautama Buddha, the true nature of reality was known as “Dharma”, the “law of life” (See The Dhammapada, vs. 38). He stated: “The disciples of Gautama are wide awake and vigilant, absorbed in the Dharma day and night…”(The Dhammapada, vs. 297). Gautama did not consider himself unique. Any man or woman who has become “absorbed in the Dharma” is a Buddha his/herself. Of the Buddha’s unseen nature, Gautama had this to say: “How can you describe him in human language- the Buddha, the awakened one, free from the net of desires and the pollution of passions, free from all conditioning…” (The Dhammapada, vs. 180). Consonantly, to St. Paul the apostle, the preeminence of reality was known as “Christ”, in whom “all things hold together” (See Colossians 1:17). And just as, by virtue of the Dharma, Gautama did not consider himself unique, neither, by virtue of Christ, did Paul consider himself to be so: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…” (See Galatians 2:20). In the absence of an identity defined by human notions and concepts, St. Paul was aware only of this reality he called “Christ”. By virtue of realization, St. Paul had “become” Christ, and Gautama had “become” a Buddha. On the nature of Christ, Paul addressed the burgeoning Ecclesia as follows: “may you have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…” (See Ephesians 3:18-19). The love of Christ “surpasses knowledge”, and yet we have within us the “strength to comprehend”. The Buddha’s nature “cannot be described in human language”, and yet it is possible to be “absorbed in the Dharma day and night”. Encouraging as they are, we have yet to demonstrate in what way these consonant realizations are correlated to the “unknowing” process of mystical contemplation. Thankfully, the threads are not difficult to weave together. 

A Buddha becomes “free from conditioning” when the fires of Dharma incinerate his biases and finite notions; yet to behold Dharma in the first place, the aspiring Buddha must recollect the faculties that give rise to such obstructions. He must “unknow” all that his intellect has persuaded him to cling to: personal identity, opinions, doctrines, likes and dislikes. Such is essential to recollection. Thanks to Galatians 2:20, it becomes clear that St. Paul had achieved this very caliber of Buddhahood, for he surrendered to Christ the most treasured possession of human ego: personal identity. Furthermore, the apostle considered himself to be free (by virtue of Christ within him) from the truncation of all human doctrines: “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some…” (1 Corinthians 9:19-22). Lastly, it will be worthwhile to consolidate my position by demonstrating that St. Paul had learned to “unknow” the duality of “likes and dislikes”: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need…” (See Philippians 4:11-12). To attain such a state is, of course, the command of the Buddha: “Don’t get selfishly attached to anything, for trying to hold on to it will bring you pain. When you have neither like nor dislikes, you will be free…” (The Dhammapada, vs. 211). 

For the seeker who studies earnestly, it becomes increasingly evident that these two masters had the same methods, received within themselves the same results. Only one question remains to be answered: is Gautama’s preeminence of reality (vital experience) equivalent to that of St. Paul’s? Is Dharma equivalent to Christ? As we learn from St. Paul, the commodity of Christ is boundless love. It will therefore be proper to ask, can the same be said of those who are “absorbed in the Dharma”? Gautama’s answer is unequivocal: “day and night, the Buddha shines in radiance of love for all…” (See The Dhammapada, vs. 387).

My case has now been well founded, and founded on these principles: that true reality is both immanent and transcendent. Immanent, because it is ready for us to behold if only we will undertake to lift the veil, step from the cave to the light. Transcendent, because it cannot be attained to by the intellect or any other limited faculty. As the Mundaka Upanishad proclaims: “The Lord of Love is the source of love and may be known through love, but never through thought.” To prove reliable the claims here propounded, it has been shown that the greatest among men of realization, sundered by space and time, received a univocal bodhi of ultimate truth. That we may, in a word, impart the Spirit of Gautama and St. Paul, it will be fitting to again quote Vedanta: “To be united with the Lord of Love is to be freed from all conditioning. This is the state of Self-realization, far beyond the reach of words or thoughts…” (See the Tejobindu Upanishad).

 

Journey through Darkness

Christian mysticism is born of a theological crisis. This theological crisis is precipitated by the very nature of faith. For faith, which is at the heart of contemplation, makes use of concepts and yet transcends them.
-Thomas Merton (The Ascent to Truth, p.107)

The mind can only be kept one- pointed in faith; and faith, without presuming to know the true nature of reality, is itself, darkness. Of course, it believes in certain concepts, but these only out of necessity. The contemplative aspirant seeks a veiled path, a journey through darkness sustained only by faith and illuminated only by reason. Essential to contemplation is meditation, and it is perilous to impose expectations on the experience of its practice. In doing so, the aspirant will strive to encounter his expectations (which are imaginary) rather than seek to be illumined by the truth (which is unknown). Expectations are biased and diminutive, but pure faith (composed of trust) allows for the most profound sort of transformation.

A man of faith will seek illumination by relegating the influence of his own biased intellect. We must remember, though intellect is the vehicle of reason, it is not reason itself; and the humble action that darkens the intellect with regard to spiritual reality is an act of reason. Reason recognizes the truncating limitations of the intellect and seeks a vital experience of reality beyond the intellect’s ability to comprehend. The more one can surrender the intellect (I do not mean abstain from its use), the more one- pointed the mind can be made. Pride of intellect always assumes it can structure knowledge into belief that is objective. Faith comprehends the folly of such thinking.

As one begins to understand the diminutive nature of his own mind and the sheer probability of error in personal reasoning, he cannot but have faith (unless he opts for madness). If he places ultimate truth within the reach of his own personal conceptions, his mind will never be one- pointed; for these conceptions about reality will shift day-by-day, being at the mercy of many forces (and reason isn’t one of them). Take note, I do not mean to say that we should replace personal conceptions of ultimate truth with doctrinal ones (though scripture is here for our benefit); rather, we must affirm that truth transcends the very realm of conceptions. The intellectual paradox here (and paradox for the intellect only) is that truth can still be gotten- at. Once the assumptions of the intellect are darkened through faith (and humility), the mind can be made one- pointed, directed at a destination neither perceived nor understood, but always groped for in darkness.

Words Ripened

Mute Contemplation

The truth so clear
with words we shear
down to a barren crop

The facts arrayed
are bleak they say
Life surely comes to naught

In narrow pride
man does decide
the world, his mind can pin

The only fact
forsook with tact
the world, his mind is in

Approach therefore
the animate score
with laud, abreast each form

We may be taught
when every thought
is free from deadly scorn

So on this day
from life’s bouquet
shed not the merest quarks

The truth of a whole
is never so low
as to be the sum of its parts

Spellbound

Four friends in all
we loped among the cliffs

Marveling
our every step
at bones within the mist

Yet bones of such a kind
no creature bore in breast

The pylons of a goddess
there loomed in primal rest

Atop those bones, we sat enthroned
our peace without compare

The very girth of Mother Earth
held us spellbound there