As Miserable As Ever


A master announced that one of the young monks had attained enlightenment.  This created a great buzz around the temple; and naturally aroused the curiosity of many of the young monk’s peers.  He was asked:

“We hear you have attained enlightenment?”

“Yes”

“How do you feel?”

“Still as miserable as ever.”

This beautiful tongue in cheek parable tells us that enlightenment is not something to be attained; it is our natural state and we are always that.  When we talk of “attaining”, it is simply for the sake of using vocabulary that can be understood in discussion.  From the perspective of the ego, there most certainly is something to attain.  But, this parable is telling us that when we “attain” enlightenment, it is nothing more than the realisation that we are already enlightened, always have been and always will be.  It is the dissolution of the ego, the removal of ignorance, revealing what was always there.

Here are three more examples that say exactly the same thing.  Firstly, there is this lovely ancient Chinese proverb:

Before enlightenment

Chopping wood, carrying water

After enlightenment

Chopping wood, carrying water

 

Secondly, one of my favourite sages, Ramana Maharshi reminds us that:

“You are already that which you seek”

 

And finally, this very eloquent quote from Sri Sathya Sai Baba:

“When the road ends and the Goal is gained the pilgrim finds that he has travelled only from himself to himself, that the way was long and lonesome, but, that the God whom he reached was all the while in him, around him, with him, and beside him! He himself was always Divine. His yearning to merge in God was but the sea calling out to the ocean!” 
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He Who Knows


The title of my forthcoming book has changed already!  It is now called “The Road to Nowhere – embracing the totality”, and here for your pleasure (I hope) is another extract to be…

A group of disciples were in the temple one morning awaiting the arrival of their master, Lao Tzu.  As they waited, they pondered the meaning of one of the great master’s teachings:

He who knows

Does not speak

He who speaks

Does not know

 

When their master appeared, they asked him to elaborate on the meaning. Lao Tzu responded by asking them if they had ever experienced the fragrance of a rose.  Every single hand went up.  He then asked the question, “who among you is able to explain it to us?”  No hands went up.

And this lovely little parable aptly demonstrates, that for some things, there is simply no explanation.  Just how would anybody describe the fragrance of a rose to any degree of accuracy?  There are simply no words in the dictionary to describe such beauty.  The same can be said of enlightenment, which for me is the meaning contained within this teaching.  I do not for one minute claim to be a fully realised soul.  However, I am going through a tangible awakening process that has been happening to me in stages for some years now.  There are copious amounts of words that I could use in order to describe my experience; emergence, awakening, eureka moments to name but a few, but none of them would come anywhere near an apt description.

I have heard people use the expression, “I am awake”.  But ultimately, this is only the ego speaking.  To make the statement “I am awake”, or “I am enlightened”, implies the existence of opposite states of being asleep or unenlightened.  This is duality.  In consciousness there is no duality; there is only One, therefore, a truly awakened individual would not offer any explanation of being awake or otherwise.  They would simply abide in the one true state of consciousness.

Ramana Maharshi also has a take on this, which I find quite beautiful.  He said that “truth has no words” and that “silence is the eternal flow of language, obstructed by words”.

This Too Will Pass


I’m off on my travels again in a few days.  As I’ve got a bit of time on my hands before I go, I thought I would try to rattle off a couple more blog posts keeping with the Zen parable trend of late.  This is another one destined to grace my up coming book…

There was once a king who lacked confidence and was constantly worried that an army would one day come and take his kingdom.  He heard that there was a great Zen master in the region and he sent one of his servants to go and bring him to the palace. Sure enough, the master did as the king requested and he accompanied the servant to the palace.  The king said, “I have heard that you are a great Zen master and I want you to make me as wise as you”.  The master said, “that is impossible your majesty, I can’t do that.  However, I would like to help you but it means that I have to return tomorrow”.

The master was true to his word and he duly returned the next day.  He produced a small wooden box from his robe and on giving it to the king said, “what is contained in this box is so important that you must never open it unless you find yourself in dire circumstances with all hope lost”.  The king thought it rather strange, but nonetheless he thanked the master, who went on his way.

Time passed and the king’s greatest fears were realised.  A rival army did indeed attack and take his kingdom, and the king had to flee for his life.  He took to the forest and ran for all he was worth.  As he ran he could hear the sound of the chasing soldiers on their horses.  As the horses gained ground on him he could hear the sound getting steadily louder.  He kept on running, but suddenly; to the king’s horror, he was faced with a ravine, which was as deep as it was wide.  He had nowhere to run, and as he contemplated his fate, he suddenly remembered the small wooden box that the master had given him.  He took it out of his pocket and opened it.  Inside, underneath the lid, was an inscription of four words, which the king read to himself, “this too will pass”.  He stared at the inscription, and trying to understand what it meant, repeated the words in his mind, “this too will pass, this too will pass”.

The king suddenly realised that he had been so engrossed in contemplating the inscription, he hadn’t noticed that the sound of the galloping horses was fading into the distance.  He couldn’t believe it; the chasing soldiers must have taken a wrong fork in the road and were now long gone.  The king lay low for a few days and then traced his tracks back and found an alternative route.  He travelled for many weeks, foraging for food on the way, until he came to a village.  Nobody knew him as a king and the villagers were friendly, inviting him to stay.  He settled down, and as time went by he eventually married and had a couple of children.  He was extremely happy and contented.

One day, after some years had passed, the former king was sorting through some of his belongings.  He came across a small wooden box that looked vaguely familiar.  Out of curiosity he opened it, and underneath the lid he saw the inscription, “this too will pass”.

This parable is a reminder of the impermanent nature of the world.  The only thing that never changes is change itself.  We live in a world that is in a constant state of flux; that is forever moving in cycles.  It is a reminder that we ourselves are not these forms that we call bodies, but rather the substratum on which “the dance of life” is played out.  The parable is not telling us that we should not enjoy the dance, but simply reminding us that we shouldn’t get too attached to the things that we perceive to be “nice”.  What rises up must surely one day dissolve away.  Enjoy the adventure, whilst at the same time understanding that life is like a river constantly flowing towards the ocean and that, “this too will pass”.

 

The Ten Fools


Well, I’ve started work on my next book; much quicker than I anticipated.  If all goes to plan, it will be a pocket-sized book of 12 Zen parables, set out in my own words and with my own spin.  I wanted to call it, “Zen for Cockneys”, because it is aimed at ordinary salt-of-the-earth people (like me) who are not exactly what you would call intellectual and do not want rambling philosophies, but simple and easy to understand literature that speaks volumes in its simplicity.  Then I thought to myself that a lot of people might take the title literally and think, “I’m not a Cockney, so this book can’t be for me”.  So, as things stand, I’m looking to call it, “Twelve Steps for the Pathless Path”. As with my last offering, I’m going to showcase it here on my blog as I write it and then put it into book form.  So, ladeeeeeez an’ gennelmen… I give to you… The Ten Fools.

Ten fools were on their way to a neighbouring town.  They came to a river, which was quite fast flowing, and had to cross it in order to reach their destination.  When they got to the other side, one of them decided it would be a good idea to do a head-count; just to make sure they were all safe.  He counted, one, two, three etc. and only counted nine; forgetting to count himself in the process.  Alarmed, he shouted, “I can only account for nine of us”.  Another shouted, “let me count, just to make sure”.  He also forgot himself and only counted nine.  They all did the same and became very distressed at having “lost” one.  In their distressed state they tried to work out which one of them had been swept away, As they did so, a sympathetic traveller happened along.  Seeing their distress, he enquired as to what was wrong.

As they blurted out their tale of woe, the traveller immediately saw what the problem was.  He said, “OK, I have an idea.  I want you all to count yourselves individually”, and he got them all to line up in front of him.  He said, “I will go along the line and give each of you a blow on the head”.  “As I do so, I want you each to shout, one, two, three etc as we go; this way we make sure that nobody is counted twice”.  So, the traveller went along the line, delivering a blow to each one as he did so.  When he got to the end the last man shouted “TEN”.  They were all so relieved and couldn’t thank the traveller enough.

The ten fools were the cause of their own grief.  They were always ten, but their ignorance led them to believe that one of them had been swept away and drowned.  This is classic egoic behaviour.  They did not gain anything new when they realised no one was lost.  We are always pure, infinite being and have no reason to suffer.  But we impose imaginary limitations on ourselves by losing sight of our true nature, and then complain when these imaginary limitations cause us pain and suffering.  We then engage in spiritual practise in order to attain something that we already have.  Ironically, the spiritual practises themselves have to affirm the limitations in order to function.  It is a case of the blind leading the blind, with the ego being the only winner.

We are always pure consciousness, existing in a state of infinite bliss.  The letting go of the idea that we are not, is an end to suffering.

A Truly Delightful Soul – Part Two


It never fails to amaze me how things happen in this wonderful adventure we call life.  Within a day of me writing my last blog post, A Truly Delightful Soul, I received an insight; one that I already had but was ignoring.  I was reading (for the third time) an Osho book, entitled “Zen – The Path of Paradox”.  I was on the penultimate chapter when I received the aforementioned insight.  I had to laugh, because not only was this insight unashamedly brutal in its delivery, but it was 100% Zen to the core.  It was immediate, it took no prisoners and I was left in no doubt whatsoever that I was skating on thin ice if I was REALLY serious about this spirituality caper, but equally, and true to the paradoxical nature of Zen, it showed me that my experience had indeed served a relevant purpose.  I shall explain… But first, for the sake of continuity, I will post my previous article again below.

A Truly Delightful Soul

The plot continues to thicken with regard to my astral adventures. I have now had the pleasure of the company of a truly delightful female soul, not once, not twice… but three times! As usual, I have no clue what it is all about or what purpose it serves, but I have had much worse experiences in my life, I can tell you! Being an advocate of the teachings of Ramana Maharshi and Rupert Spira, I know that the development of attachments to relationships such as these will do my long-term spiritual growth no good whatsoever. However, it is also true that Zen teaches the importance of embracing the totality. So, if this experience has come my way in the last few months, I’m going to accept it.

At first, she seemed quite excitable and a bit too playful; to the extent that I was questioning it. But the two subsequent times we have astral travelled together she has been much more disciplined. I’m presuming that we know each other from way back, but I don’t honestly know. What I do know is that she is a really lovely and very affectionate soul. I’m looking forward to sharing more adventures with her, if that is how we are going to roll; in fact, I’m hoping that even as I type, she is perusing the astral travel brochures and planning our next trip!

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So… there I was people, knowing that embracing this kind of experience will do more to hinder me spiritually than to help me, but actually quite enjoying it; when the inevitable happened.  I would like to share here the full transcription of what I read, but if I do that I will be infringing copyright laws, so I’m going to use my own words and give you a condensed version.

It is said that when an individual is very close to enlightenment, that they may have visions pertaining to the particular pathway they have been following.  For example, a Christian may have visions of Christ or a Buddhist may have visions of Buddha.  The passage went on to say that a Hindu may start having visions of Krishna and the Gopis*, will then “fall in love” with the Gopis and forget Krishna.  There was also reference to the Zen master Hui Neng, who apparently said, “If you meet Buddha on the way, kill him immediately.  If you see the patriarch, Bodhidharma, on the way, kill him immediately

The above statements give us warning as to just how cunning the mind (ego) is.  Having such visions does nothing but perpetuate the illusion of duality.  The ego knows it’s on borrowed time and will do absolutely anything to prolong its illusory life; hence the spectacular visions to tempt us away from the inner reality.  Hui Neng’s instructions to, “kill Buddha immediately“, if we see him along the way, is our reminder that as long as we maintain attachments to Gods and gurus we are affirming the existence of the separate self and will remain on the treadmill of birth and rebirth.

But what a beautiful way for the totality to remind me of the importance of understanding this.  “Hmmmm, what shall I do?  I know, I’ll send Richard a delightful soul to remind him of the importance of not developing attachments to delightful souls”.  This is why I absolutely love the “pathless path” of paradox that is Zen.  The delightful soul may not have been in the form of a Buddha or a Krishna, but she was still representative of a separate self.  Also, just because the experience occurred astrally, it was still nothing more than a projection of consciousness.  What rises up out of consciousness must also dissolve into consciousness and is therefore ultimately an illusion.

The essence of Zen is simply letting go.  Our pathless journey is from No-thing-ness to No-thing-ness.  In the middle we pick up mind-constructed “stuff”.  Zen is simply giving up the mind-constructed stuff in order to realise the inner reality; that is in fact neither inner nor outer, but the ONLY reality.

*Gopis = The female cowherders who danced to Krishna’s flute in the Bhagavad Ghita.

A Truely Delightful Soul


The plot continues to thicken with regard to my astral adventures.  I have now had the pleasure of the company of a truly delightful female soul, not once, not twice… but three times!  As usual, I have no clue what it is all about or what purpose it serves, but I have had much worse experiences in my life, I can tell you!  Being an advocate of the teachings of Ramana Maharshi and Rupert Spira, I know that the development of attachments to relationships such as these will do my long-term spiritual growth no good whatsoever.  However, it is also true that Zen teaches the importance of embracing the totality.  So, if this experience has come my way in the last few months, I’m going to accept it.

At first, she seemed quite excitable and a bit too playful; to the extent that I was questioning it.  But the two subsequent times we have astral travelled together she has been much more disciplined.  I’m presuming that we know each other from way back, but I don’t honestly know.  What I do know is that she is a really lovely and very affectionate soul.  I’m looking forward to sharing more adventures with her, if that is how we are going to roll; in fact, I’m hoping that even as I type, she is perusing the astral travel brochures and planning our next trip!

The Court Jester


Here is another Zen parable for you.  As with my previous post, I’m putting my own spin on it.

A king became exasperated with his court jester, who simply wouldn’t stop jesting.  Seemingly every minute of every day, the jester would be cracking jokes and playing the fool.  Eventually, the king decided he’d had enough and he condemned the jester to be hanged; ordering that he be taken to the dungeon to await his fate.  The day of the execution arrived and the king started to have second thoughts.  He felt that good court jesters were hard to come by, and after all, the poor bloke had only been doing his job.  But the king also felt that he couldn’t go back to the way things were, so he wrote out the royal pardon on official parchment and added the condition that the jester was not allowed to ever crack a joke again.  He put the royal seal on it and gave it to one of his courtiers to take to the executioner.  The courtier ran to the gallows, and arrived in the nick of time to see the jester already standing on the trap door with the noose around his neck.  The courtier blurted out that the king had changed his mind and that the execution should be halted; he then proceeded to read out the pardon.  As the reading of the pardon came to an end, the jester just couldn’t contain himself and quipped, “no noose is good news”.  He was hanged.

Of course that rather amusing story isn’t actually true, but it aptly explains how we function in accordance with our conditioning, as opposed to our true nature.  When we are born into this world, we are pure, open and still aware of the love that we are.  Gradually, as the years pass, we become conditioned; we are told that we are good or bad, beautiful or ugly, intelligent or thick etc, etc; and we become what we believe (or at least we THINK we have become what we believe).  Then we enter adulthood and we get a job or career, adding that to “who I am” as we go along.  In the case of the jester, “jestering” was what he did, it was not who he was.  However, he was not able to drop the egoic belief that, “I am a jester”, so when the opportunity arose, he couldn’t resist the quip and was promptly executed.

Whether you are an ugly professor, a beautiful cleaner or a good retail assistant, the professor, the cleaner and the retail assistant are what you DO, they are not who you are.  As to whether you are ugly, beautiful, good or bad, these are only judgements made by other people that you may or may not believe.  They are also not who you are and do not have to define you.  So, in life don’t be a silly jester; or the joke will be on you!

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