Squeezing the Breast of Death

dea

In a world where death is an absolute certainty, we will all inevitably have to face what we fear the most. This certainty and fear lurks behind just about all our neuroses, delusions, and obsessions in this life.

We are obsessed with fulfilling our desires as quickly as possible, because we know we might die at any moment, and are afraid that, if we don’t seize them now, we will never get a chance to again. Because desires such as these are born of fear, they generally do little but generate more fear in the process, by making us obsessed with reaching for things that are beyond our current experiences.

The same can also be said of all our ambitions. We know our lifespan is limited, and so we want to do something meaningful with our lives, even though we’re often seldom certain of what shape such meaningfulness should take.

Even though we know we will all die, we still act as though we will not, and put it as far outside our perception as possible, coddled by comforting articles about how everyone will live to one hundred, and cryogenic freezing will make it possible for us all to live forever.

When someone dies, or something comes to an end, we often remark on what a ‘shock’ it is. But given the statistical certainty of it, how shocking can it be? Really, the truly shocking, miraculous thing is to wake up every morning and discover that anything is still here –that anything still vaguely possesses the same form! That is the miracle! That is the fragile delight we should celebrate and be amazed by!

Instead of ignoring death, the Buddhist approach is to embrace death and impermanence, and to factor that awareness into everything we experience. However lovely or painful something is, we remind ourselves that it too will pass, and so we cherish and appreciate it, whilst not making things more difficult for ourselves by foolishly clinging onto it, thinking it will last forever.

In this sense, meditation is very much like practising for death.

In meditation, we rest our attention in nothingness, and dissolve all our senses and perceptions into one. Unlike in our day to day activities, when our mind is usually focused on a set of specific sensory experiences, in meditation our consciousness rests nowhere in particular.

Because our consciousness rests in emptiness, it is experientially closer to death. This is why The Tibetan Book of the Dead is praised as a manual for both living and dying. By teaching us to prepare for and experience death whilst still living, it fundamentally enriches our sensitivity to life.

With enough experience, death and life no longer appear to be starkly contrasted poles, but instead a seamless continuity. We see death in life and life in death. We are aware that we are already dead whilst living, because we were never truly born to begin with.

When such an awareness becomes crystalline and informs our daily life, death truly loses its sting, and becomes something to rejoice in.

 

 

Tao Te Ching 80

sham

A small country

Has few people

 

Give them

A thousand different implements

And they’ll have no need to use them

 

They take death seriously

And do not treat it

As a distant thing

 

Even if they had

Boats and carriages

They would have no place

To ride them

 

Even if they had

Armour and weapons

They would have no fights

In which to use them

 

May the people

Rediscover the use

Of knotted cords

Take delight in their food

Beautify their clothing

Be at peace wherever they are

And take joy in their ancient ways

 

Neighbouring communities

Live in sight of one another

Their roosters and dogs

Bark and crow at one another

Yet people grow old and die

Without needing to come or go

 

TAO TE CHING 74

death

If people are not afraid of death

How can you threaten them with death?

 

If people always

Lived in fear of death

And those that acted

Perverse and unnatural

Could be seized and executed

Who would presume to be reckless?

 

There is always a master executioner

To kill such people

Truly, if someone were to try and kill

In place of the master executioner

It would be like trying to take the place

Of a master wood-worker

 

In trying to take the place of a master carpenter

There are few that would not

Cut off their own hands!

Animal Blog: Wild Robins and Domesticated Humans

robins

I was just in the garden, watching two robins fight, and fend off one another against their territories, when I was struck by a crucial difference in which animals relate to their world.

When observing wild animals in nature, we seldom see any genuine displays of clumsiness. Even though the fight must have come as a shock to both of the robins, and adrenaline must have been pumping, because all wild animals are thoroughly grounded in living states of constant vigilance and alertness, even shock is beautifully embraced and perfectly responded to as one of the perfect vicissitudes of nature.

After the initial explosive contact of the robins, both of them scattered on either side of my pool, and flitted about, upright and proud, ready for the next move. Everything in this display was so perfectly arranged and harmonized, it was almost like the whole thing had been pre-choreographed by some Grand Harmonizer, and the two fighting birds were following the dynamic of this pre-set structure.

The reason the two birds were able to respond with such agility and dignity, is because they have The Way. They live in accordance with the principles and methods of nature. They know their environment with an alarming and effortless thoroughness. They simply know how to respond to things, because their sense of involvement and integration with the world is exceedingly refined.

We do not see this refinement in domesticated animals, who have usually been separated from their environments, and been subject to such comfort and docility, that they begin to become clumsy, because that sense of relating to a living environment has gone.

We especially do not see this in Domesticated Humans who live in environments that have purposely been rendered null and dead. There is no sense of responding to what is in our environments, because most of what is in our environments is automated and man-made. It is expected to respond to us, and not the other way round.

Because of this, our sense of organic responsivity has become desiccated. Everything shocks and stresses us, because out artificial environments have tricked us into thinking that everything should be soft, comfortable, and capable of ordering and managing at the press of a button. Without the hardships of a living world to test and challenge us, our hardships become softships, which only render us winy, irritable and feeble. Comfy sofas, cinema-sized TVs, and mechanized espressos have taken all the physical and mental training out of life.

This is why the two things that people complain about the most are the weather and other humans. Amongst our world where we have ignorantly deceived ourselves into thinking we control all the variables, other humans, and the natural forces of our environment, are two things the majority are incapable of manipulating or controlling. We cannot change the attitude or actions of those around us just by briefly pushing a button. We must interact with them fully in order to understand and transform them, simultaneously transforming ourselves in the process, because there is no self and other. Other humans are the only things that still test our responsivity.

And, for this, we should always be grateful to them, no matter how belligerent, difficult, or challenging they are. Because, in a dead environment, interacting with other humans is the only thing that keeps us human. They are constant tester of our Integrity and Authenticity.

Thus I thought as I saw two robins fight on the edge of my pool.

Tao Te Ching 73

dragon

Having the bravery

To act recklessly

Leads to death

 

Having the bravery

To not be rash

Leads to life

 

Both of these approaches

Sometimes benefit

Sometimes harm

 

Who knows which one Heaven will hate?

 

Therefore The Sage

Is mindful of such troublesome ambiguities

 

The Way of Heaven

Does not compete

Yet skilfully conquers

Does not speak

Yet gives the best answers

Is not called

But comes of its own accord

Having a slow and patient nature

It lays the best plans

 

The Web of Heaven

Is a vast vastness

Completely open and spacious

Yet it never misses a thing

 

TAO TE CHING 72

coooo

When do people do not fear

The dreadful consequences of their actions

A dreadfully greater force

Is sure to approach them

Do not make their homes

Into prisons

Do not burden them

With oppressive lives

Truly, when you do not burden others

They will not become a burden to you

Therefore, the sage

Is self-aware

Without being self-obsessed

Loves his self

Without giving preference to his self

Rejecting one

He accepts the other

 

TAO TE CHING 69

fishiess

Military strategists

Have a saying:

“I do not play host

But act as guest

I dare not advance an inch

But retreat a foot”

 

This is known as

Advancing without advancing

Seizing without arms

Confronting without opposing

Controlling without weapons

 

There is no greater calamity

Than underestimating one’s enemies

Underestimate your opponent

And you come close to losing your honour

Therefore, when two armies

Oppose one another

The sides that wins, grieves

And the side that grieves, wins

 

TAO TE CHING TEACHINGS: A MOTHER’S HEART

colors

“Engendering and nurturing

Creating life without owning it”

These lines describe the maternal aspects of the Tao that we must work to practice in ourselves. In Buddhism, there is the quality of Bodhicitta – a heart filled with compassion and wisdom, driven to attain happiness and libertation from suffering for all beings.

When we develop this quality, we become as a mother to all beings. We regard all beings as if they were our children; looking upon them as Buddhas and wish-fulfilling jewels, always willing to bow to the divinity within them. This practice is the supreme way of feeling true love for all beings, and eliminating any of the negativity or attachment we might otherwise feel towards them.

Ultimately, it about cultivating Selfless Love – love that is  – not love that has. This is the distinction of the line ‘Creating life without owning it.’ If we love something, and expect to get something out of it in turn, then we have fallen into a pit. Merely feeling love for any being is a gift in and of itself – such a love does not need to be actuated or reified in anyway.

But, as soon as we expect something from the thing we love – expecting it to give something back to us, even though it has already given us the insurpassable gift of experiencing love – then this is like taking a shit on a shooting star. We have taken purity, and debased it, by making demands of it. Never ask how the thing you love can serve you – only how you can selflessly serve it.

TAO TE CHING 67

mon

Everyone Under Heaven

Says my Tao is great

And unlike anything else

It is great

Because it is unlike anything else

And beyond description and distinction

If it were like other things

And could be described

How quickly it would vanish

And become small!

I have three treasures

That I cherish and preserve:

One is the love of a mother

That knows no bounds

The second is moderation

The third is not presuming

To be foremost under Heaven

Love empowers one to be fearless

Moderation enables one to be generous

Not presuming to be first in the world

Enables one to be a perfect and lasting vessel

Nowadays, people forsake love

Yet expect to be fearless

Discard moderation

And thus cannot give

Refuse to be humble

And yet demand to lead

Such things are certainly doomed

But if you love deeply

You can fight and overcome anything

Defend through this love

And you will be strength itself

Heaven rescues and saves the people

By using unconditional love to protect them

 

Tao Te Ching Teachings: Shining Forth

rain.jpg

“Shine forth

Your pure enlightenment everywhere

Without doing a thing”

When we first set forth on the Way, helping and benefiting people is something that we have to actively try and do. It’s something that takes effort, and which has to be forced due to our conditioning. But, as we progress, and we become more and more enlightened, we find we help people not through doing, but through being. Our mere cultivation and vibrational rate benefits people – we do not have to consciously direct it.

There are plenty of stories like this in the biographies of holy men. Paul Ekman, the leading expert in body language, had long suffered from problems in anger management. But, after holding The Dalai Lama’s hand for several minutes during a Buddhist-scientific dialogue, his daughter reports that his temper was almost completely curtailed following the experience.

Striving soon becomes non-striving – benefiting through action eventually turns into benefit through non-action.