At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is.
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered, either movement from nor towards.
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
there would be no dance. And there is only the dance.
Burnt Norton, T.S.Eliot
Tomorrow I leave Mt. Shasta on a Greyhound bus heading towards Eugene Oregon. It has been a good stay at the monastery and now I’m heading back to England arriving mid February. Hopefully there will be space enough to make some posts here on Jade Mountains.
As with dogs, so with us humans? I’m prepared to run with this.
Attention is an intentional,
It asks what is relevant
and gears us up to notice
Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know
Horowitz introduces the reader to dogs’ perceptual and cognitive abilities and then draws a picture of what it might be like to be a dog. What’s it like to be able to smell not just every bit of open food in the house but also to smell sadness in humans, or even the passage of time? How does a tiny dog manage to play successfully with a Great Dane? What is it like to hear the bodily vibrations of insects or the hum of a fluorescent light? Why must a person on a bicycle be chased? What’s it like to use your mouth as a hand? In short, what is it like for a dog to experience life from two feet off the ground, amidst the smells of the sidewalk, gazing at our ankles or knees?
With a hat tip to Frank whose emails end with the Attention quote.
There are few things in life more inconstant and more elusive, both in the fist of language and in the open palm of experience, than happiness. Philosophers have tried to locate and loosen the greatest barriers to it. Artists have come into this world “born to serve happiness.” Scientists have set out to discover its elemental components. And yet for all our directions of concerted pursuit, happiness remains mostly a visitation — a strange miracle that seems to come and go with a will of its own. “Those who prefer their principles over their happiness,” Albert Camus wrote in contemplating our self-imposed prisons, “they refuse to be happy outside the conditions they seem to have attached to their happiness.”
The following poem titled happiness is copied from Brain Pickings where you can read the full post that came with this poem.
There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.
And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.
No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep mid afternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.
It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket-maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
Many thanks to Mark for the photograph.
25th October, 2017 at Shasta Abbey. As it would happen tomorrow is the day the community settles down for a ceremony called Renewal of Vows. Part of it is to recite the Bodhisattva Vows, and there are bows and the reading of the Precepts too.
I’ve been thinking about vows, in particular the Bodhisattva Vows. (See the formulation we use within the OBC at the end of this post.) Looked at in a certain kind of way they are an expression of the aspiration to continue practice and to make one’s life, all that one does, an offering for the benefit of the world and all beings. BIG vow.
While looking for references to the Bodhisattva Vows I came across this poem, below, by Katagiri-roshi. The final words of the poem This is living in vow. Herein is one’s peaceful life found are touching and telling. Endless training, living by vow/religious commitment is where fulfillment can be found. The poem is part of an article titled, Living a Life of Vow By Zenkei Blanche Hartman. It is well worth a read.
In 1988, two years before he died, Dainin Katagiri-roshi, founder and abbot of the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, wrote this poem:
Being told that is impossible,
One believes, in despair, “Is that so?”
Being told that it is possible,
One believes, in excitement, “That’s right.”
But, whichever is chosen,
It does not fit one’s heart neatly.
Being asked, “What is unfitting?”
I don’t know what it is.
But my heart knows somehow.
I feel an irresistible desire to know.
What a mystery “human” is!
As to this mystery:
Knowing how to live,
Knowing how to walk with people,
Demonstrating and teaching,
This is the Buddha.
From my human eyes,
I feel it’s really impossible to become a Buddha.
But this “I,” regarding what the Buddha does,
Vows to practice,
To be resolute,
And tells myself, “Yes I will.”
Just practice right here now,
And achieve continuity,
This is living in vow.
Herein is one’s peaceful life found.
The Bodhisattva Vows
However innumerable beings may be, I vow to save them all
However inexhaustible the passions may be, I vow to transform them all
However limitless the Dharma may be, I vow to comprehend it completely
However infinite the Buddha’s Truth is, I vow to realize it.