Maybe…


There was once a simple farmer who kept a horse in his field.  One day the horse got loose and ran away.  A neighbour heard this news, and on crossing paths with the farmer said, “such bad news about your horse.”  “Maybe”, said the farmer.  A few days passed and the horse returned, bringing with it two more wild horses.  Again the neighbour heard this news and on meeting the farmer in town said, “fantastic news about the horses.”  “Maybe”, said the farmer.

One day a few weeks later, the farmer’s son was breaking in one of the new horses and it threw him, fracturing his leg in the process.  The neighbour came to visit and on hearing what had happened said, “such bad luck with your son’s broken leg.”  “Maybe”, said the farmer.  Soon after this incident some officials from the military came calling.  They were drafting young men into the army to go and fight in a war.  On seeing the son’s condition they didn’t bother with him and went away.  Again the neighbour heard and on seeing the farmer exclaimed, “such great luck that your son does not have to go to war.”  “Maybe”, said the farmer.

This lovely little parable aptly illustrates several things that can be the cause of pain and suffering if we remain unaware of our true nature (consciousness).  The farmer was obviously accepting of “what is.”  He also understood that good and bad are simply personal judgements, and that the nature of the phenomenal world is cyclic.

He did not judge each situation as it occurred.  He simply accepted each scenario in the understanding that the natural flow of nature would soon carry it on its way.  Had he not accepted the seemingly unfortunate events exactly as they were, and instead formed a judgement that they were “bad”, the story playing out in his mind would have caused him to suffer.  Equally, had he allowed the seemingly good fortune of events to carry him off on the crest of a wave, the judgement made by the egoic mind when the fortunes were reversed would have also caused him to suffer.  In consciousness there is no relativity, no phenomena, nothing to judge.  Instead of becoming embroiled, the farmer remained “the witness” to the dramas playing out before him on the stage we call life.

 

 

May Your Dreams Not Come True


A rather brash young student heard that there was a very wise Zen master in the region and went to seek him out.  He located the master in a mountain temple and turned up there one day asking for council.  The young man was shown into the garden by one of the monks, where the master sat in peaceful contemplation.  “I am very ambitious and I want you to tell me how I can fulfil my dreams of a successful life”, said the young man.  Without looking at him, the master replied, “may your dreams not come true.”  The young man became angry, “what do you mean, what kind of answer is that?  I came here asking for your guidance, and that is all you can say to me; it seems that you are just an old fool.”  Still angry, the young man turned and left.

Years passed and the brash young student became a brilliant architect; well respected in his field.  He’d never forgotten his visit to the temple and what the master had said to him; in fact, it had played on his mind all through his studies and working life.  It got to the point where he couldn’t stand it anymore and he decided to take a trip back to the region, seek out the master, and tell him exactly what he thought of him.  He made the journey to the temple and demanded to see the master, who by now was quite old.  He was shown once again into the garden where the master sat in peaceful contemplation.  The man launched into his speech, “I came to see you many years ago to ask your guidance on my future, but you said, “may your dreams not come true.”  I went away and studied and now I am a successful and well respected architect.  Had I listened to you I would have achieved nothing, what do you think of that?”

The master looked at the man, smiled and said, “yes, I remember you.  So, you are now an architect are you?  Successful and well respected you say?  It seems that the only thing you are the architect of is your own bitterness.”  In that moment, the man suddenly realised what the master had meant all those years ago, and bowing his head in gracious humility, he apologised for his rudeness and left.

This story, at first glance, doesn’t appear to make any sense; why would anyone not follow their dreams?  Did the man not become very successful in his chosen profession?  However, the beauty of such stories is that they are very profound, and the reader has to dig much deeper in order to find the truth contained within them.  When we focus on outer goals, while at the same time neglecting the inner, we are only strengthening the ego.  The man in the story illustrates this by having held on to his bitterness for so many years.  The soul, however, contains unlimited possibilities, so by focusing our attention on one worldly goal we are blocking those possibilities.

When we focus on the inner, we are allowing life to open up to us in countless ways.  Had the man in the story not been so headstrong, he could have been a successful and well respected architect whilst at the same time enjoying all the unlimited opportunities that life offered.  Instead, his success (which was only relative) came at a price; the bitterness that poisoned his soul, until the penny finally dropped and he understood the master’s teaching.

The Other Side


My plan for my next book was to put 20 mainly Zen-based parables together as a sort of “pocket companion”.  I set about putting my document together and realised that I’d miscounted; I’d only written 19.  So, here is number 20!

A monk was taking the long journey home to visit his family and inadvertently took a wrong path.  He came to the point where he faced a wide river that was fast-flowing.  He looked up and down and could see no way across.  He puzzled over his predicament for several hours.  As he was about to give up and turn back, he saw an old mendicant passing by on the opposite bank.  He cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted across, “Sir, Sir, can you tell me how to get to the other side?”  The old man stopped and looked across.  He paused for a moment and then shouted back, “my child, you are already on the other side”.

How apt to end my project with another little reminder that we are already where we need to be.  The journey itself is the destination.  Consciousness is eternal and constantly evolving, so even when we make a plan, set a goal or take a journey, it is only one of an infinite number of experiences that we encounter in our own individual evolution.  The torrentially flowing river is the mind (ego) that puts imaginary obstacles in our way.  When the veil of delusion is removed there is the realisation that there is only the One timeless Self; there never was an ego, but the false belief that there was (“I am the body” identification) enabled us to take a journey within time and space that was ultimately the means by which we realised the truth of our being.

In the end we will all come to know that the path was actually pathless, that the road travelled was a road to nowhere, to the eternal bliss of nothingness that we all are.

Zen For Cockneys


This post will comprise the first chapter of my upcoming book.  I still haven’t decided on a definite title yet, but it looks very likely to be “The Road To Nowhere“, with the sub-title “Paradise for the ungodly“.  I originally wanted to call the book “Zen For Cockneys“, the reason being that I wanted to aim it at ordinary down-to-earth people (like me), and cockneys* are generally regarded to be real “salt-of-the-earth” people.  I changed my mind in the end because I felt that potential readers might take the title literally and think it wasn’t for them if they were not cockney.  However, I have kept with the idea of a pocket-sized book that can be conveniently carried around; it’s something I’ve been thinking about for several years.

I have taken 20 parables that are mainly Zen in nature, but a few have their origins in Tao and Buddhism, and I have written them in my own words and interpreted them in accordance with my own understanding and influences.  I’m sure there will be many armchair philosophers out there thinking, “who does he think he is?”  “What a massive ego!”  But wait…

In line with my “salt-of-the-earth” theme, ordinary folk like me don’t want to be blinded by philosophical ramblings.  So, I came up with the idea of a small pocket-sized book of Zen-based parables written in a reader-friendly manner.  I may not be a fully realised soul, but I have experienced several tangible awakenings; a sort of step by step awakening over a number of years.  In other words, Zen has “happened” to me (which it does) so I feel able to unleash this book into the world in the knowledge that it comes from the heart.

Zen is not a belief system like other religions; Zen literally finds you, you are not required to believe anything.  Now, I’m not one for stealing other people’s words, but I can’t think of any better description of what it means to be a Zen person than the one used on many, many occasions by Osho.  He used to say you “drop” everything.  But to elaborate on that, it is not dropping as in something that you do as a conscious action.  It is the automatic dropping of things that no longer serve you; it happens, Zen finds you and it happens.  You suddenly find that things, which have always been a big part of your life, no longer have any use or meaning; they no longer serve you so you just automatically drop them without even giving it much thought.  This is the true meaning of renouncing and repenting.  It is not a forced thing, as in Western religion, that you do out of fear.  This is why so many Christians struggle; because they give up (renounce) things that they are not spiritually evolved enough to abstain from.  They indulge; then guilt takes hold and they feel that they have to repent their sins.  Nonsense!

Back in the 1980s I had a brief flirtation with the Financial Services Industry, and my old branch manager used to say that if you wanted financial advice, the last place you should go is to a bank.  Because they don’t want to give you sound financial advice, they only want to sell you their products.  The same can be said if you want spiritual guidance; the last place you should go is to the clergy/church.  They are only going to perpetuate the delusion; they are not going to tell you the truth, that you are powerful beyond your imagination.  They want to spin you a yarn; think about it… First the church tells you that you are a sinner.  Then its preachers tell you that if you blindly believe in their imaginary friend, you will be saved and attain eternal paradise in the future.  Now, read that last sentence again…

It’s going to happen in the future, not now.  “Now” is all we have, whereas “future” is nothing more than a series of thoughts in the mind.  When the future arrives it is not the future, it is NOW; this is why I referred to an imaginary friend, because the Christ that is pedalled by the church is a completely different Christ to the one who walked the earth.  The real Christ would have nothing to do with the church if he was here in flesh today (except maybe to tell it a few home truths). It is also no coincidence that the clergy refer to their churchgoers as a “flock”, because you literally have to be a sheep, follow the crowd, be everything that Christ wasn’t, be an Anti-Christ.  The real Christ was an agitator, an activist; he went against convention.  Hence, feathers were ruffled.  He did not advocate a God or deity that exists as an all-powerful entity, separate from the rest of creation; a God who was judgemental and angry.  His message was very Zen, it was all-embracing.  He spoke of our true nature of infinite consciousness, that “Ye are all Gods”, “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you”, not somewhere where we might be lucky enough to go to in the future if we are good.

To the church of the time he was a very dangerous man, and the establishment of today continue to use him and his name as the central character in a story that contains little, if any truth.  But organised religion is very clever (and I can only really speak for the UK here).  It is one of the richest, if not the most rich, organisation in the UK, but if there is a hole in the church roof they get YOU to pay for its repair!  You have to admit, it’s absolute bloody genius!

All the great souls who have ever graced the earth all carried the same message; YOU are Divine NOW; not in the future and not by blindly following religious dogma and doctrine.  The Buddha, Lao Tzu, Jesus etc; they all bucked the trend and all ruffled feathers.  If you take Jesus as a prime example and the church’s line that, “the messiah is coming”, what if he did come?  That would put the church into a bit of a predicament in that they wouldn’t be able to pedal the story of a future messiah.  In all likelihood he would be accused of blasphemy!

It goes without saying that there are many good Christians in the world, but it does not alter the fact that the story is simply not true, and that the church is nothing more than a tool used by the establishment to control people.  The paradox here is that it is only the ungodly that experience paradise (heaven), because until we drop all attachments to Gods, gurus and messiahs we will remain on the treadmill of birth and rebirth.

As you read the parables, you will gain a deeper understanding of Zen.  You will probably find that some of them overlap and that some messages are repeated, but this should not detract from what I hope will be an enjoyable reading experience for you.

Remember, you are unique, you were meant to shine, so don’t be a sheep.  Better to be one of the great unwashed than one of the great brainwashed.  Flourish sweet soul!

*Cockney – A Londoner specifically born within earshot of Bow Bells, the bells of St Mary-le-Bow in the Cheapside district of the City of London.

Without Blinking An Eye


A long, long time ago in Japan, it was quite normal for marauding armies to ransack villages, with the villagers having to flee or be killed.  In one such village an old Zen master sat peacefully in his very humble abode as chaos reigned outside.  All of a sudden, a fearsome soldier kicked the master’s door open and stood menacingly in the doorway; the master was unmoved.  The soldier sneered and said, “what are you still doing here, are you not afraid?  All of the villagers are either dead or have fled, yet you remain here.”  The master replied, “what have I to fear, and besides, where would I go?”  The soldier became angry, and drawing his sword raged, “don’t you know that I am a man who can run you through without blinking an eye?”  The old master looked at him and said, “don’t YOU know that I am a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?”

With a body or without a body; it is all the same to one who has realised.  Live or die; the master knows there is no death and therefore remains unmoved.  There is also the paradox here between the polar opposites of “doing” and “being”.  The soldier wants to “do” (kill) the master, but that in itself is a fruitless task, as the most he can achieve is to be the cause of the master’s body evolving (effect) into a different form.  You cannot kill anything in reality as all is consciousness and is in a constant state of flux.  What would happen to the body?  If buried it would eventually decompose and merge with the earth.  If cremated, the cremation process would cause the flesh to evolve into heat energy and be absorbed back into the total energy mass.

The master remained in a state of pure knowing, enlightenment, awakening, bliss or whatever description you wish to use; all are just terms for “Being”.  The master remains blissful regardless of which action the soldier chooses to take.  He says, “besides, where would I go?”  Indeed, where would the master go?  There is only here and now; it is all we have.

 

The Servant


Word spread across the countryside about the wise Holy Man who lived in a small house atop the mountain.  A man from one of the villages nearby decided to make the arduous journey up the mountain to consult with him.  When he arrived at the house he was met by an old servant who greeted him, “I’ve come to see the wise Holy Man”, said the villager, “I wish to have his counsel”.  The old servant smiled and nodded, and gestured for the man to step inside.  As the servant led him into the house, the man looked around in great excitement and anticipation, awaiting his first glimpse of the Holy Man.   Before he knew it he had been led right through the house and out the back door.  “But I want to see the Holy Man”, he exclaimed.  “You already have”, said the old servant, and he promptly shut the door…

Everyone we meet is a “Holy Man”, and there are a few ways of looking at this one.  From the perspective that the world is a mirror, there is always something to observe and glean from everyone who crosses our path.  The totality is present in all, not just a chosen few, and the recognition of this is always handy, especially when we encounter people that we may have difficulties with.  It is far easier to judge than to look beyond the surface, which is what the villager did when he was greeted by the old man.  But all is the Self, as Ramana Maharshi would say, and in truth nothing else exists; all is the “whole”, all is the “Holy”; therefore we are all the “Holy Man”.

 

 

 

 

The Man With No Shirt


Photograph by Ray Bilcliff of Pexels

There was once a king, he had everything that anybody could ever have wished for; a wonderful queen, wonderful children, riches, the finest food and wine and a kingdom that stretched for miles.  He had everything… except… happiness!  He was so troubled because of this, he would just sit on his throne for hours on end, day after day, looking miserable.  In the end, he summoned the greatest physician in the kingdom and said, “I am not happy and I want you to make me happy, if you succeed I will give you great wealth, but if you fail I will cut off your head”.  The physician knew that there was no medicine that could make the king happy, he also knew that the king in his troubled state would most certainly carry out his threat of beheading.  Thinking quickly, the physician said, “Sire, I must go and meditate and consult the scriptures and medical books, I shall return in the morning”.  The physician meditated and consulted scriptures and books throughout the night, but just as he suspected there was nothing available to make the king happy.  Then he had an idea…

In the morning he went back to the king and said, “Your Majesty, I have the solution, all you need to do is find a happy man and take his shirt; wear the shirt of a happy man and you shall be happy.”  The king found this very pleasing and sent his highest ranking minister out to find a happy man and take his shirt.  The minister first of all went to a very rich man.  He explained the situation and asked for his shirt.  The rich man said, “I’m not happy; but you are welcome to as many shirts as you want.  Thanks for the remedy; I’ll send my servants out to find me the shirt of a happy man as well.”  The minister went throughout the kingdom but nobody was happy.  Everyone was prepared to give their shirt, but no one was happy.  Eventually, the minister realised that the physician had played a trick in order to save his skin.  But now the minister himself was worried; he knew that he would get the blame.

He was pouring out his tale of woe to a friend who said, “don’t worry, I’ve got an idea, there is happy man who plays the flute in the night down by the river; you must have heard him.”  “Yes, I have”, said the minister, “occasionally in the middle of the night I have heard those notes; they are so beautiful.  But who is he, where can we find him?”  “We will go tonight”, said the friend, “we will go down to the river and look for him”

That night they headed off towards the river.  As they made their way down they could hear the flute in the distance; it was the most enchanting and blissful music.  They soon approached and the man stopped playing, “what do you want”, he said.  The minister said, “are you happy?”

“HAPPY?  Am I happy?”, said the man, I am blissfulness personified, I am ecstatic; I am in paradise.”  The minister jumped for joy and said, “give me your shirt!”  The man said nothing.  “Why are you silent?  Give me your shirt!” said the minister, “the king needs it.”  “The king would be welcome to my shirt”, said the man, “if only I had one.  You cannot see because it is dark, but I am here naked; I have no shirt.”

“How can you be happy then”, said the minister.  The man replied, “I am happy because I lost my shirt, along with everything else I owned; indeed, I have nothing, I am not even playing this flute, I am empty; it is the totality that plays through me, I am nothing, no-thing, a nobody…

The thing with parables is; especially Zen and Tao parables, that the stories themselves are quite often nonsensical, as this one illustrates.  But, what makes them so beautiful is the story behind the story; the deeper meaning.  There is always a sub-text, and in this parable of, The Man With No Shirt, the sub-text was right there in the king’s words to the physician; “I am not happy”.  The “I” (ego) was the obstacle to happiness.  The happy flute player was in a state of pure being; he was beyond the transient happiness that is subject to relativity.  He was happy because he “lost his shirt”; in beingness there is no-thing to accumulate and become attached to, there is “no-body” who declares “I am this” or “I am that”.  This is also the deeper meaning of “nakedness”.  The man was naked in terms of worldly attachments; therefore he was happy.