Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ayin: Mystical Nothingness

Ayin, nothingness, is more existant than all the being of the world. But since it is simple, and every simple thing is complex compared with its simplicity, it is called Ayin.

The inner power is called Ayin because thought does not grasp it, nor reflection. Concerning this, Job said, "Wisdom comes into being out of ayin."

The depth of primordial being is called Boundless. Because of its concealment from all creatures above and below, it is called Nothingness. If one asks, "What is it?" the answer is, "Nothing", meaning: No one can understand anything about it. It is negated by every conception. No one can know anything about it -- except the belief that it exists. Its existence cannot be grasped by anyone other than it. Therefore its name is "I am becoming."

You may be asked: "How did God bring forth being from nothingness? Is there not an immense difference between being and nothingness?"

Answer as follows: "Being is in nothingness in the mode of nothingness, and nothingness is in being in the mode of being." Nothingness is being and being is nothingness. The node of being as it begins to emerge from nothingness into existence is called faith. For the term "faith" applies neither to visible, comprehensible being, nor to nothingness, invisible and incomprehensible, but rather to the nexus of nothingness and being. Being does not stem from nothingness alone but rather, from being and nothingness together. All is one in the simplicity of absolute indifferentiation. Our limited mind cannot grasp or fathom this, for it joins infinity.

Arouse yourself to contemplate, to focus thought, for God is the annihilation of all thoughts, uncontainable by any concept. Indeed, since no one can contain God at all, it is called Nothingness, Ayin. This is the secret of the verse, "Wisdom comes into being out of ayin."

The beginning of existence is the secret concealed point, primordial wisdom, the secret conceptual point. This is the beginning of all the hidden things, which spread out from there and emanate, according to their species. From a single point you can extend the dimensions of all things. Similarly, when the concealed arouses itself to exist, at first it brings into being something the size of the point of a needle; from there it generates everything.

Contemplate this: When the emanation was emanated out of Ayin, all things and all sephirot were dependent on thought. God's secret existence emerged from this single point. That which abides in thought yet cannot be grasped is called wisdom: Hokhmah.
What is the meaning of Hokhmah? Hakkehmah. Since you can never grasp it, hakkeh, "wait", for mah, "what" will come and what will be. This is the sublime, primordial wisdom emerging out of Ayin.

Think of yourself as Ayin and forget yourself totally. Then you can transcend time, rising to the world of thought, where all is equal: life and death, ocean and dry land. Such is not the case if you are attached to the material nature of the world. If you think of yourself as something, then God cannot clothe himself in you, for God is infinite. No vessel can contain God, unless you think of yourself as Ayin.

From: 'The Essential Kabbalah' - Daniel C. Matt

Jewish wisdom-story tells about an advanced student in Jewish mysticism who traveled to a secret institution which housed the most enlightened beings of the time. This student wanted desperately to gain admittance so that he could grow in his wisdom. But he had to pass a test to be accepted by these learned people, who were called the Masters of Concentration.

One of the elders said to the young man, "My son, you are on the right path and your goal is admirable. But to join our community you must have reached a level of equanimity (hishtavut). Can you say to us that you have achieved equanimity?"

The young man had not expected such a question. He asked the elder, "Master, please, explain what you mean by equanimity."

The old man said, "My son, if you know one person who honors and praises you, and another person who depises and insults you, are both of these people the same to you?"

The young man sat quietly for a while, carefully investigating his own feelings. Then he replied, "Master, clearly I derive pleasure and satisfaction from the person who honors me, and pain from the one who insults me. But I can say in all honesty that I do not feel any sense of wanting revenge, nor do I bear a grudge. So I believe that I have attained equanimity."

The elder shook his head. "No, my son, you have not attained equanimity by our measure. The fact that your soul experiences the pain of an insult means that you will not be able to attach your thoughts entirely to God. Our level of concentration requires that you cannot waver, even for a moment. Therefore, go in peace until you become truly equanimous so that you will be able to concentrate."

The entrance requirements for this this mystical academy seem quite rigorous. Is it not enough that we are able to overcome our disturbing thoughts? Can we actually reach a state of mind in which such thoughts never arise in the first place? The Jewish sages say yes, as do major teachers in most spiritual traditions.

The state of mind that we need to attain is called ayin, Nothingness. We have to be nothing in our own eyes, and therefore nonreactive. As we have just seen, we can achieve the level of ayin through the contemplative practice of bittul ha-yesh, the path of selflessness. Thus, selflessness is a precondition for equanimity.

In the state of ayin, we discover an entirely different relationship with questions such as: Who am I? What am I? Where am I? Am I a name? Am I a relationship with my family? Am I something distinguished by an address, driver's liscense, social-security card, library card, or telephone number? From the perspective of selflessness, we realize that although we may be indentified by and associated with objective symbols, our essential souls are something else, something that transcends names, numbers, measurements, or other common forms of identification.

Who am I? I am nobody. There is no I. There is only that which enables the question to be asked in the first place. Who is asking? God-ing is asking through this body, this mind. Who is thinking? Who is reading these words?

Herein is the mystical secret that holy sparks are raised when we fully realize that we are nothing but vessels for the Divine Will. Paradoxically the vehicle itself has its own free will. When the conductors (you and I) of this free will believe that we are separate identities, we limit and detach ourselves from the source of life, and the sparks thereby cannot be returned to their root. When we appreciate that we are empowered by a central force, then our free will is used for the benefit of this central force, and the holy sparks are returned to their root.

The merging of our free will with the will of the Divine causes a new "sustenance" to flow in the universe. That is, this combination raises sparks and brings about a new level of consciousness in all the universes of this creation. This is the product of attaching Thought, the mind, to Nothingness, the center of creation.

Thus, we practice the path of equanimity, which involves attaining the mind-state of selflessness, for much more than personal enlightenment. It is viewed as the path of true wisdom, and it is the process by which new consciousness is raised throughout the universes.

From: 'God is a Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism' - Rabbi David A. Cooper

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Way of Chuang Tzu

The Breath of Nature

When great Nature sighs, we hear the winds
Which, noiseless in themselves,
Awaken voices from other beings,
Blowing on them.
From every opening
Loud voices sound. Have you not heard
This rush of tones?

There stands the overhanging wood
On the steep mountain:
Old trees with holes and cracks
Like snouts, maws, and ears,
Like beam-sockets, like goblets,
Grooves in the wood, hollows full of water:
You hear mooing and roaring, whistling,
Shouts of command, grumblings,
Deep drones, sad flutes.
One call awakens another in dialogue.
Gentle winds sing timidly,
Strong ones blast on without restraint.
Then the wind dies down. The openings
Empty out their last sound.
Have you not observed how all then trembles and subsides?

Yu replied: I understand:
The music of earth sings through a thousand holes.
The music of man is made on flutes and instruments.
What makes the music of heaven?

Master Ki said:
Something is blowing on a thousand different holes.
Some power stands behind all this and makes
the sounds die down.
What is this power?

In My End Is My Beginning

In the Beginning of Beginnings was Void of Void, the Nameless.
And in the Nameless was the One, without body, without form.
This One --- this Being in whom all find power to exist ---
Is the Living.
From the Living comes the Formless, the Undivided.
From the act of this Formless comes the Existents,
Each according to its inner principle.
This is Form. Here body embraces and cherishes spirit.
The two work together as one, blending and manifesting
Their characters. And this is Nature.

But he who obeys Nature returns through Form and Formless
To the Living.
And in the Living
Joins the unbegun Beginning.
The joining is Sameness. The Sameness is Void.
The Void is infinite.
The bird opens its beak and sings its note
And then the beak comes together again in Silence.
So Nature and the Living meet together in Void.
Like the closing of the bird's beak
After its song.
Heaven and Earth come together in the Unbegun,
And all is foolishness, all is unknown,
All is like the lights of an idiot, all is without mind!
To obey is to close the beak and fall into Unbeginning.

From: The Way Of Chuang Tzu, by Thomas Merton

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Simple Life

The Simple Life, No Call Waiting

No cell phone, no caller id, no
cable, no Tivo, no Ipod, no
blueberry, no notepad, no laptop, no
riding mower, no leaf blower, no weed eater,
no digital clock, no air conditioner, no new car;
I live in another country, a different century.

I ride my 3-speed bike to work, because
it helps the Earth and eases the body more gracefully
into its dying; it makes the body work hard and
it likes work, likes to do sweat-labor depsite
the avalanche of labor-saving technology whose function
is to drain us of our life force.

I write by hand in a notebook because
I like to see where I've been, follow my tracks back
through the snow to where I started, see how things
work out on the page, where I went wrong,
how to begin again, nothing deleted.
I don't want to know who's calling or

who has called. I've lived 65 years and I have
never gotten a phone call that made a difference.
If you reach me, that's fine, but if you don't
nothing is lost.
Most people are slaves.
That's the way they like it.

After all these years of heartbreak and disappointment,
of treachery and betrayal, are you so far gone
that you believe the next phone call will be the one
that saves you? When Death comes for you,
you can't say, Would you mind holding?
I've got a life on the other line.

- Red Hawk -

I Keep A Different List

My neighbor counts his loses and gains,
but I keep track of raindrops when it rains;
he makes note of coins and dollar bills
while I am watching ants upon their hills;
while he is in the office making money,
I go out among the bees to gather honey,
and when he comes home tired and goes online,
I am in the backyard drinking wine.
My wife and I sit in the gathering dark
and watch the lightning bugs and bright stars spark
until we disappear, are covered up with night,
while my neighbor plots his life by computer light.

- Red Hawk -

To find the Universal elements enough;
to find the air and water exhilarating;
to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter...
to be thrilled by the stars at night;
to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring --
These are some of the rewards of the simple life.

- John Burroughs, American Naturalist -

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Know Thyself

The Teaching

It is as old as the stones.
It came with Humans to the Earth
and it offers them a way out
of the web of sorrows
but at a price:
we must observe ourselves,
our behavior, our
inner and outer responses,
objectively. This means
without taking a personal interest
or doing anything about
the horror
which self-observation uncovers:
like a bad boy with a stick
overturning a stone
and finding a mass of crawling things
beneath, but
he refrains
from stomping on them.

Know Thyself

Socrates exhorted His disciples to do so;
every Master including Jesus, who called it witnessing,
has taught his disciples to observe themselves,

so they might come to know themselves. On the other hand,
I am no Master and I say, Don't do it, for God's sake!
They never tell us the terrible trouble it brings,

how we will never sleep easily again
in our unconscious selfish mad habits, how
what is now unconscious, hidden in us

will be revealed, like
opening a locked cellar door, turning on
the light and what you find down there

is the county asylum crawling with inmates,
some wrapped in torn filty sheets, others
naked and drooling; they are crawling and scratching

to gain position on the stairs, to escape, and
standing calmly in their midst, dressed
in robes of Light, is an Angel around whom

most of them huddle weeping, whose gentle touch
upon their fevered brows calms and soothes them.
This is what I am warning you about: never mind

the swarming lunatics, they are everywhere, but
once you have seen that Angel in your midst
the sorrow and longing will tear at you and

trouble you all the days of your life.

- from the book, Self Observation: The Awakening of Conscience - An Owner's Manual
by Red Hawk

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Struggle to Awaken

"A modern man lives in sleep, in sleep he is born and in sleep he dies.....He cannot stop the flow of his thoughts, he cannot control his imagination, his emotions, his attention. He lives in a subjective world of 'I love', 'I do not love', I like', 'I do not like', 'I want', 'I do not want', that is, of what he thinks he likes, of what he thinks he does not like, of what he thinks he wants, of what he thinks he does not want. He does not see the real world. The world is hidden from him by the wall of imagination. He lives in sleep. He is asleep......Only awakening and what leads to awakening has a value in reality.

How can one awaken? How can one escape this sleep? These questions are the most important, the most vital that can ever confront a man. But before this it is necessary to be convinced of the very fact of sleep. But it is possible to be convinced of this only by trying to awaken.

Man's possibilities are very great. You cannot conceive even a shadow of what man is capable of attaining. But nothing can be attained in sleep. In the consciousness of a sleeping man his illusions, his 'dreams' are mixed with reality. He lives in a subjective world and he can never escape from it. And this is the reason why he can never make use of all the powers he possesses and why he lives in only a small part of himself.

Man as we know him is a machine......In speaking of evolution it is necessary to understand from the outset that no mechanical evolution is possible. The evolution of man is the evolution of his consciousness.

It has been said before that self-study and self-observation, if rightly conducted, can bring man to the realization of the fact that something is wrong with his machine and with his functions in their ordinary state..... Self-observation brings man to the realization of the necessity for self-change. And in observing himself a man notices that self-obsevation itself brings about certain changes in his inner processes.

What may be called the 'astral body' is obtained by means of fusion, that is, by means of terribly hard inner work and struggle. Man is not born with it.

The evolution of man can be taken as the development in him of those powers and possibilities which never develop by themselves, that is, mechanically. Only this kind of development, only this kind of growth, marks the real evolution of man. There is, and there can be, no other kind of evolution whatever.

Evolution is the result of conscious struggle.

Only extraordinary efforts count.

The evolution of man is the evolution of his consciousness, and 'consciousness' cannot evolve unconsciously.

The evolution of man is the evolution of his will, and 'will' cannot evolve involuntarily.

The evolution of man is the evolution of his power of doing, and 'doing' cannot be the result of things which 'happen.'

We must srive for freedom if we strive for self-knowledge. The task of self-knowledge and further self-development is of such importance and seriousness, it demands such intensity of effort, that to attempt it in any old way and amongst other things is impossible. The person who undertakes this task must put it first in his life, which is not so long that he can waste it on trifles."

                   - Gurdjieff - from Ouspenky's, In Search of the Miraculous -

Ah, but we can't be too serious, now can we?

Just to save us from the curse of old Grey Face, here's a humorous take on the above thoughts from Monty Python's, The Meaning of Life.


"Item 6 on the agenda, the meaning of life. Now Harry, you've had some thoughts on this."

"Uh, yeah, that's right, I've had a team working on this over the past few weeks and what we've been able to come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts:

1) People are not wearing enough hats.

2) Matter is energy. In the universe there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source and act upon a person's soul. However, this soul does not exist ab initio as orthodox Christianity teaches, but has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation. However, this is rarely achieved owing to Man's unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia."

"...........What was that part about hats, again?"


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

Little by little the night turns around.
Counting the leaves which tremble at dawn.
Lotuses lean on each other in yearning.
Under the eaves the swallow is resting.

Set the controls for the heart of the sun.

Over the mountain, watching the watcher.
Breaking the darkness,
Waking the grapevine.
One inch of love is one inch of shadow
Love is the shadow that ripens the wine.

Set the controls for the heart of the sun
The heart of the sun, the heart of the sun.

Witness the man who raves at the wall
Making the shape of his question to heaven.
Whether the sun will fall in the evening
Will he remember the lesson of giving?

Set the controls for the heart of the sun
The heart of the sun, the heart of the sun.