Tag Archives: Ramakrishna

2. Pay attention

One book of Jiddu Krishnamurti’s lectures refers to the Flame of Attention, pointing out that the meaning of the word “attention” is a reminder of the perils of constant watchfulness – you must be “at-tension”, so at any moment you can react in a myriad of ways to any number of encroaching or interrupting signals. This peripatetic vigil, if not conducted carefully, can result in a huge, and probably considering the likelihood of perilous events pretty low, mostly hyper-prioritized and undue stress on the attendee. There is always the danger of micro-managing, even oneself. The trick, I think – and probably both Montaigne and Krishnamurti would agree – is to be aware, rather than attentive. To be conscious, if not fully cognizant. The Buddha and so many other spiritual guides suggest the same: to be in the world, but not of it, you must be fully open to the information constantly being presented, but you must learn to observe it and let it go. The instant I discovered this in Montaigne, the word mindfulness immediately came to mind. There is however so much psychobabble currently about mindfulness (in theory and practice) that it is in danger of becoming a parody of itself.

Pay attention, but don’t get lost in the details. That’s a hard thing for an ADHD hunter-gatherer to accomplish, particularly in our “busyness is holiness” and “look busy, the boss might be watching” Protestant-driven culture of work for work’s sake. We spend a lot of time talking but very little effort thinking about just breathing. Just this morning, I said to myself, until you change the way you hear, you can’t change the way you listen. Until you change the way you listen, you can’t change the way you see. Until you change the way you see, you can’t change the way you think. And until you change the way you think, you can’t change the world.

One of the duties of a Bard, as traditional defined in Celtic culture, is serving as the historian, the memory, of your own culture. This includes not only where it is today, but where it started, how it traveled the path from there to here, and what indicators point to where it might be in the future. A lot of emphasis is placed on remembering things: verse forms, definitions, cultural events – the usual hows, whys and wherefores. As someone trained in that tradition (I first became associated with official Bardic business as a member of both the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) and Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) pagan (more accurately, neo-pagan) traditions. The ADF was not for me, but I did manage to digest and complete the OBOD’s Bardic grade lessons and complete the required initiation. Among a lot of pretty useless information (if only because it involved attempting to reconstruct a system based on a fantastic, romantic interpretation of a long-past reality, from a language and culture with which I had insufficient familiarity), there is at least the idea that someone is responsible for keeping an eye on everything that’s going on. This appeals to my distrust of cultural specialists; that the history of one thing should be detailed and kept “sacred” completely separately, and in isolation from, each other thing’s history – that there should ultimately be at the top a mere conglomeration, but no real sense of synthesis or, to borrow Buckminster Fuller’s term, synergy, has always seemed to fall flat.

Falling flat – now there’s an interesting concept. I immediately think of Hamlet’s mournful, “oh, how flat and unprofitable are the things of this world” and I want to say, “well, things are flat because you lack perspective.” Perspective, however, is not just the ability to see things from varying points of view. It is the desire to do so – and the belief that just as Ramakrishna put it, A lake has several ghâts. At one the Hindus take water in pitchers and call it ‘jal’; at another the Mussalmâns take water in leather bags and call it ‘pâni’. At a third the Christians call it ‘water’. Can we imagine that it is not ‘jal’, but only ‘pâni’ or ‘water’? How ridiculous! The substance is One under different names, and everyone is seeking the same substance; only climate, temperament, and name create differences.


Share This:

Water seeks its own level

Water seeks its own level,
on a quest to find the sea;
The answers we seek taste of metal,
our understanding like liquid drawn from a well
that finds the hard edges
of knowing, the galvanized pail
holding the essence of our being
in one place, in this world.

What is outside this frame of steel,
this skeleton that time binds to this space?
To where are we going?
From where did we come?

What can we know of answers,
we who will be one day poured from this bucket
into the ocean?

What need is there of questions then,
when we are part of the wave?

And to those who are still on the shore, separate,
how shall we describe
what is gained, what is lost?

“Wherever I look, I see men quarrelling in the name of religion —
Hindus, Mohammedans, Brâhmos, Vaishnavas, and the rest. But they
never reflect that He who is called Krishna is also called Úiva, and
bears the name of the Primal Energy, Jesus, and Âllâh as well — the
same Râma with a thousand names. A lake has several ghâts. At one
the Hindus take water in pitchers and call it ‘jal’; at another the
Mussalmâns take water in leather bags and call it ‘pâni’. At a third
the Christians call it ‘water’. Can we imagine that it is not ‘jal’,
but only ‘pâni’ or ‘water’? How ridiculous! The substance is One
under different names, and everyone is seeking the same substance;
only climate, temperament, and name create differences. Let each man
follow his own path. If he sincerely and ardently wishes to know God,
peace be unto him! He will surely realize Him.” — Sri Ramakrishna

21 DEC 2004

Share This:

Salt of the Earth

Imagine a person made completely out of salt.

If that person chooses to be immersed in the ocean, their very being is absorbed by the sea. Once their head is beneath the waves, no distinction can be made between their now dissolved form and the depths into which they have sojourned. Not even the ocean can separate itself again, saying “this minute portion of me is of that small salt doll, and the remainder is not”.

Such is the case, too, when a person approaches and begins to comprehend the infinite energy of the universe. Once an individual recognizes the eternal within themselves, the external sack of temporal cloth in which that eternal has been stored melts away, and only the infinite remains.

In either case, who is left to report, to return some answer to the question they originally set out seeking? And in what language could that answer be expressed, that those on the shore, whose toes scarcely dare to dip into the surf’s foam, would be able to understand?

Even the cleverest of parables fails. And to speak with the voice of the ocean itself is to be misunderstood as a overwhelming roar.

Share This:

Who cries for the gods?

Who cries for the gods, who watch
as their intelligent design
is torn and sundered into pieces,
reviled and maligned?

Who cries for the gods, who listen
to the clamour of our voices,
each using free will as excuse
for all our selfish choices?

Who cries for the gods, who linger
in our churches, isolated
from the whole of our daily lives,
their message denigrated?

Who cries for the gods, forgotten
in our rush for selfish glory,
reduced to simple figureheads
and stuff of childrens’ stories?

Who cries for the gods, who hears
the sob of divine separation:
creatrix from created split
for profit and sensation?

Who cries for the gods, who wait
for us to listen once again,
and have all of eternity
to miss what might have been?

for Ramakrishna

21 JUL 2006

Share This:

Roadside Attractions

If you see the Buddha by the roadside,
stop, and ask him how his day is going,
inquire if perhaps he might need a ride …
if you do not, there’s no way of knowing.

Give him a break, for a minute – don’t just
ask for yet another explanation,
without even smiling – you know, that must
make his a depressing situation.

After all, he’s here ’til we are all free –
judging by the state of things, a long time;
at night in his motel watching TV
does he shake his gold head and wonder why?

Of course, being beyond all the drama
helps; at least he’s not still just a lama…

(’cause nobody thinks they need hugs, either)

17 JUL 2003

But who cries for God? — Ramakrishna

Share This:

A Thought on Religious Tolerance

If you get drunk on a half bottle of wine, what do you care how many cases of other liquor the tavern holds? — Ramakrishna

Share This: