The follow was originally posted in December 2012 on a now discontinued website.
The Bright Field
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside, like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
R.S. Thomas, Collected Poems
Such illuminated moments may come to anybody, irrespective of religious/spiritual affiliations or lack of them. How could it be otherwise? R.S. Thomas was a Christian minister in Wales, and this poem refers to stories from the Bible. Similar ones illustrating the same points can be found in Buddhist writings, and no doubt in other religious and spiritual writings too. But what is the pearl of great price?
The answer perhaps can be found in that small field, those mini moments of clarity when the clouds clear, the sun shines and one simply knows, at a profound level, that life has a depth greater than our ordinary everyday perceptions. Some would call those moments proof of faith. I was talking to somebody the other day who spoke of a specific moment in his life. On waking one morning, he knew for certain what he needed to do and did it. The direction in his life, though not always easy, opened up. He had to my way of thinking enacted faith by following up on that illuminated moment. He could have chosen not to.
We forget those lit bushes, and perhaps that is as it must be in order to press ourselves into the winds our lives have us walk into. Along the way, in moments of stress and doubt, the small field the lit bush presents as a beacon of hope. Thus, faith is strengthened and resolve renewed.
And what is the price of the precious pearl? (That’s to return to the eternal moment, which is ever present?) Everything! A maddening idea to be sure. One reads about taking a leap of faith, and I puzzled about that a lot in my early years as a monk. Caught as I was in the mire of being centre stage on the trail to a better life, in the future. However, I’ve learned that the price to pay is offered constantly and seamlessly, not in one lump sum. I guess that’s the holding out of faith but not faith in an object, more just faith. There is spiritual merit in that, but that too is forgotten about along the way.
Just in case I have wrapped up my point too tightly,
The pearl is faith
is living it.
This post is offered to all those who are walking into the winds of life, who may doubt and struggle, but go on anyway.
14th January, 2023. Yes, all those who read this…go on anyway. I am. Mugo
The Uses of Sorrow (in my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness
It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.
We love; human love is essentially conditioned love, due to our functioning as we do within the world of subject and object, the everyday world of duality, Samsara. Our attachments are subject to change, as is everything. There is sorrow. There is love lost, and there is transformation. Attachment and detachment flow together throughout our entire lives.
Over time, we gain an appreciation of existence as a gift, (this too is a gift). And out of gratitude, we give gifts. We receive gifts, the gift of friendship for example, where exchanges can easily become a subtle ‘currency’ which we keep tally of – if we must! Too bad, our relationship with money is so linked to ‘paying for’ something. ‘One good turn deserves another’, ‘pay my way’, ‘mustn’t impose’, ‘pull my weight’, ‘be indebted to’… Guilt and shame follow.
“In my sleep I dreamed this poem…” Interesting, even in sleep teaching comes to us. Insights, which remain long enough to remember, and in this case, to be written down. As a way of letting them go, people sometimes write such insights down and offer them on their altar. Writing helps us move on past that which is so tempting to hang onto.
It is not unusual for people to have a deep insight into the way things are at a relatively early stage in their practice, and that can left foot/destabilize them. And those individuals sometimes recount (as adults) an expansive, ‘without edges’ level of appreciation; they perceive the ‘whole’ with themselves not apart from the whole. They may feel themselves to be not separate from chimney pots, or clouds! What they remember is less to do with discreet ‘insights’ or ‘understandings’.
One reason for this, (and there has to be a complex understanding around children’s perceptions) is the fact that children are usually less conditioned by their experience, compared to older people who have had more time to accumulate experience. Younger people will be more likely to encounter the world with fewer filters between themselves and the objects they encounter, that is, less colouration between a sense (eye) and its object ‘out there’. Less of a distinction between inside them and outside of them.
Coming back to the here and now: having been on retreat, doing lots of meditation, stilling the senses and having entered into the process of ‘undoing/letting go’, the senses become less grasping. Which means one’s mind encounters the world differently. Less ‘going out’ and more allowing sight, sounds, smells etc, to come in. Allow your eyes to see for you, your ears to hear for you.
Having a flash of insight into the way things are (sometimes referred to as ‘self-teaching’) occurs spontaneously when we are less preoccupied with our busy internal world and external world. Here for example is an insight which came to me in the early days of my monastic training – ‘we don’t train in order to be enlightenment, training IS enlightenment’. Such realizations are not the ‘whole truth’, or better put: ‘a complete turning around’. More a snapshot; an insight into the way things are; a clarification or reinforcement of the words of a Scripture. In my case, I remember clearly everything about that moment of clarity/insight – but I don’t carry it around in my head, repeating it. Obviously.
Remember from the explanation of the Skandhas, the 5th one is Consciousness: the eye, the object it encounters and that which is conscious, these make up our experience. Interpose a ‘filter’ between eye and object – a view, opinion, or as I’ve put it frequently ‘a label’ then on a certain level our view is ‘coloured’. In fact, our entire experience is coloured, we are conditioned beings. Our perceptions will always be coloured, and knowing that is the case can bring about humility ‘I could be wrong’, or ‘I could be right.
Here in the recording below is an example of somebody who had a vision, one of several, and was encouraged, by me, to write it down with a view to letting it go. Brenda speaks from the heart, with humility.