Monthly Archives: October 2007

Living a Lie

Living a Lie

Tyranny of Reasons

Tyranny of Reasons

    In an age of materialism we give an undue weight and consideration to reasons and logic. When others don’t listen to us we would say that they are unreasonable and yet all of us do things for one reason or another.  If we do things for no apparent reason we would be branded as a nutcase.  Walking in the rain is considered as mindless stupidity. Spontaneity and just the mere joy of living in the moment are considered as insanity. 

    So all of us do things with carefully thought out reasons….many just cook up those reasons on the fly.   Some do it for reasons best known to themselves and this true reasons are never revealed but instead we are very clever at giving politically correct and socially acceptable reasons. Whether these reasons are true or not are immaterial.

    I remember once being given an advice by my boss that we can do anything we want as long as we can come up with a convincing reason – whether the reason is true or not is less important.  I’m glad I did not learned that lesson.  

    When reasons become our sole pre-occupation our hearts and mind will be pre-occupied with being socially acceptable in all the reasons that we give. We even think up clever reasons and pat our selves on the back. When we do we can never know the love in our hearts. We can never know how this love longs for expression. 

     Once I visited a nun and it was around noon and they were about to have their meal.  I was cordially invited to partake of the lunch that they were having. One of the nuns proudly proclaimed that this is the tradition of the Franciscan Order.  At the back of my mind I was wondering if that was not a tradition in the Franciscan Order would she had offered me lunch  ?   I’m not ungrateful but do we really need to do things based on socially determined reasons ?  If there’s real joy in sharing then there’s no need for any reason to share. The joy of sharing is reason enough.  If we have to tell ourselves that "sharing is joyful and therefore I’ll do it" is again a reason coming from the outside, from some self-imposed expectation.  If a person’s heart is moved to share and from it arose that pristine joy , that sharing becomes meaningful and spiritual.

      I was a christian once and I know how many went through mental contortion and rationalisation to convince themselves and others of what they are doing.  They have not really experienced or tasted the gifts of the spirit.  So what do many of these christians do instead ?  They have these pseudo-love that they pass around themselves convincing no one except themselves that they are in a brotherhood of love.  They spread rumours and then warning their brethren , "oh becareful of that person – better stay away from him. I’m telling you this because I love you as a brother" .  Is it love when we put fear in one and destroy the reputation of another  ?   Just because Franciscan Order had no tradition on handling rumours should we give in to our base instinct and fear ?   Didn’t the bible in Matthew said that "Love cast out fear" ?   Do we surrender our basic decency and love because some loving brother with unknownst sinister motives and devious means come along and spread "a good word or two" ?  Such ones motives are anything but noble.

      There was once a blackman working on a farm way back in the days when slavery was commonplace.  On the farm there was a church that only nice decent folks attend. Of course no prostitutes, no drunkards, no tax-collectors and definitely no blackman could attend. These nice decent folks of course are so convinced of how bad all these other people that they always have ready reasons to give for their actions.  These loving justification that deludes no one but themselves.  This blackman had been trying to get into the church to worship and each time he was thrown out.  One day in total frustration he asked God why can’t he enter the church to pray and a loud thunderous voice from heaven spoke out "You think you have trouble entering the church ?   I had  been trying to enter the church since it was built without success."

       We drive God out not only from our church but from our hearts as well with all our clever reasoning and clever facade of love. Didn’t also in Romans Paul had said that those indulging in rumour-mongering will have no place in heaven ?   Rumours are insidious and it grows like cancer and worst yet it is fed by our loving kindness…..of course for our brethren but not the person being maligned. Because of it’s destructive nature Paul was moved to sound such a warning.  Likewise in Buddhism, rumour-mongering is a great impediment for us to attain the sublime peace.

       And the buddhist ?  What can I say ?  They are so convinced of their facts, their reasons and their loving kindness that they are clever enough not to invite a "rat into their rice canister."   They are so smart in the game that they were taught to play that they become so please with themselves. They were of course very grateful for the lessons without realising how they had been manipulated.   Actually Buddha had recognised such devious behaviour long ago.  In one of the sutras Buddha asked ananda "is it bad and wrong to cheat and deceive? ".  "Yes", replied Ananda.  "Knowing this and yet a person does it, is he stupid ? ".  "Yes , my lord", replied Ananda. "When a person is very clever in carrying out all these harmful acts he is foolish indeed,"   Buddha concluded.

       In a nutshell we are "clever at being stupid" when what we do is harmful and we applied our intelligence into that endeavour.   Of course we again have our old trusted reasons – we want to protect our brothers – as if we know that our brothers needed protection or that the person being maligned is indeed a scoundrel. We are so kind that we failed to see the harm we do to our brothers, the person being maligned and the destruction of the good that could have come out of that association.   If that person could have helped 10 people, wouldn’t our this harm be multiplied 10 times ?   What if the person could help 100 people ? Wouldn’t the harm caused be multiplied by that amount ?   Ever wondered why a couple went to hell immediately after lying to Buddha ?   Buddha didn’t send them to hell but the burden of the lie is so heavy that they died on the spot.  Because Buddha could help millions of people the sin of a lie to a Buddha is multiplied but that very number. No one could bear such a heavy karmic burden. 

      We can’t see clearly and yet we reason convincingly and we think that’s truth and that’s reality.  The mind is blind and yet it is so arrogantly cocksure. The heart knows but its gentle whisper is never heard.  It is the voice beyond reasons and reasoning.  Love is never found in the noisy recesses of our mind.

      Be still and know………



Put it down

Put it down


The following story forms the basis of a well-known koan.

Once there was a devoted old woman who built a place of retreat for a monk, arranging that he would not lack for anything, so that he could concentrate upon his meditation and practice. One day, after twenty years, she instructed her daughter: ‘Today, after serving the Master his meal, take advantage of the situation to embrace him tightly, asking him at the same time, ‘how does it feel to be hugged these days?’ Come back and let me know his answer as faithfully as you can.’

The daughter dutifully did as she was told, putting her arms around the Master and asking the question. The Master replied, ‘I am not moved in the very least by sexual desire, no different from a dried up tree leaning against a cold mass of rocks in the middle of winter, when not even a drop of warmth can be found.’ The young girl repeated the answer to her mother, who said unhappily, ‘I have really wasted my time and effort during the last twenty years. Little did I know that I was only supporting a common mortal!’ Having said this, she went out, evicted the monk, lit a fire and burned the meditation hut to the ground.

     I brought this story up when a friend recently brought to my attention about how a monk had taken for himself a consort, had bath himself in luxury and gratification of the senses. He had said that a monk after he had taken the vow to leave the world should have put down all these desires.  My view was that a monk may on the surface had put everything down but had actually not put anything down – the burden of choice continues. Below is the crystalisation of my thoughts.  I’m neither condoning or condemining what the monk is doing. In truth I don’t know enough to make a judgement.

     Coming back to the story it seems strange that even when the monk had done the right thing the host wasn’t satisfied and burned the hut down.  What did she see that the mundane and superficial eyes could not see ?

      Our mind is always divided into good and bad, right and wrong, kind and unkind etc. The two are always inseparable. When we choose one we reject the other.  The rejection of the opposite is often subtle and this is why we could not see it.

       When the monk put down his desires he had actually picked up aversion – both mind-states are what will continue to trap us in samsara.  To have achieved a mind state of "letting go" one should also have the ability to "pick it up" otherwise we have merely moved from one trap to another.  One can argue that if one "pick it up" again won’t we be giving in to our desires ?   When a person truly have the ability to put everything down completely wisdom will also be present and "picking it up" has a different dimension and flavour to it that very few of us could see or discern.

       All of us are also connected at many levels and what we do at one level may have a different result at a different level. I like to demonstrate this by way of a real life example. Many years ago my son made a father’s day card for me. The picture wasn’t exactly a Rembrandt. He went through all his precious possessions and he couldn’t find any and to him at that point in time was his pencils. He unhesitatingly picked it up and gave it to me together with his card.  If I had rejected it because it wasn’t beautiful or up to my expectation,  I would have taken away from him his dignity and his self-worth. But because I accepted it with gratitude and love I gave to him in return something very precious.

        Another example is that of a child learning to walk.  If we thought we are giving the child our love by carrying him all the time so that he will not fall and hurt himself, we have inevitably taken away from the child his ability to grow.  All of us have this potential to grow and to become better than who we are. Anything that we do that we think can help another must recognise and honour this in the other person. If not it is nothing more than our deluded ego-gratification that we are good and kind while ignoring all the harm and hurt done to another.

        Many religion taught us to move towards good and to abandon what is bad.  Buddhism is no different but buddhism go one step further.  We can look at this by way of the yin/yang picture.

 Many religion suggest that we move from black to white but true liberation is found not in the white region which also contains black and this black given the right circumstances will transform and overwhelm the white. 

True liberation is found between the black and the white where mindstates no long exists and what is left is only pristine awareness – no eyes, no ears, no touch, no taste, no nose , no concept, no good, no bad etc. Only total detachment without judgement.   Only watch .

                   This is the complete "put it down".  





     A zen master had just accepted a student. The first task he gave him was for him to put all this thoughts on what he thinks a spirital life is.  He was told to return in a year. At the end of the year the student was very pleased with his effort. He had spent hours researching and thinking about the subject. And at last he proudly presented hundreds of pages and thousands of words to the master. 

     The Master looked at it and commented that "it was admirably stated and clearly written but it was a bit too long.".  He was asked to reduce it further and make it as brief as possible.

     The young man went away with renewed enthusiasm.  He spent hours meditating and writing and rewriting. But he wasn’t satisfied.  After five years of constant effort he finally produced a 100 page description of what a spiritual life is. He he humbly presented it to the Master. The master smiled with satisfaction that he had indeed chosen a worthy student. He read through the work very quickly and said "now you are truly approaching the heart of the matter. Your thoughts have clarity and strength. But it is still a little bit long. Go and reduce it further.   Take your time."

       Slightly disappointed the student went away.  This time he spent hours contemplating and meditating. And after another five years had passed he finally managed to condense everything down into five pages.  Thinking that he had finally touched the heart of the matter he quickly went to see his master, full of hope and anticipation.  The master read the paper and commented "It is truly marvelous in its simplicity and beauty, but it is not yet perfect.  Try to reach a final clarification." The student again went away devastated. He started counting the hours and years he had poured into the task and frustrationg started arise.  But he was undaunted. He quickly hit the mat and started meditating with renewed vigour. But this time the quality of his meditation was highly agitated and frustration often intervene.  One year had passed since he last saw his master. And the thought of giving up was always at the forefront of his mind. Everything he tried seem useless and seem in vain. He kept thinking of what his master will say next.  Then in utter frustration he threw everything away – all the paper and utensils seem to remain suspended in air and he with it. In that moment he knew what he needed to write.

         He went to his master, bowed humbly and presented to his master a one page description.  The master looked at it and burst out laughing the laughter of Matreya. He touched the disciple’s head and said "now you understood."

         The one page description – had nothing on it. 

         Emptiness is NOT nothingness but everythingness – we can write what we want on it.  All phenomenon arose from it.




Colors of The Wind


       This animation movie is not only beautifully done but carries a spiritual message that touch each of us at different level. The message at the basic level is for each of us to respect the spirit within every rock and tree and creature.  We should never impose our will which is often nothing more than the delusions of the greedy and the fearful on to others.   Nature has a way of teaching us lessons and pointing out our follies until we learn to respect and live within the laws of nature.

       "Walking the footsteps of a stranger, you will learn things you never knew" tells us to respect another person and another culture by putting ourselves in the position of those we don’t know or understand.  When we could do this we could "learn things you never knew".   When we are fixated with our own views of people, culture and religion and think we know all that is to know to make a judgement we lose our perspective and our basic decency often follow suit. 

        Try walking in the mocassin of another before we decided to do things that messed up other people’s lives.

        Do watch this animation movie with an open heart and mind and the spirit and wisdom of the universe will touch a corner of your being.


Colors Of The Wind (Pocahontas) lyrics

You think I’m an ignorant savage
And you’ve been so many places
I guess it must be so
But still I cannot see
If the savage one is me
Now can there be so much that you don’t know?
You don’t know …

You think you own whatever land you land on
The earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You learn things you never knew, you never knew

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grins
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
And taste the sun-sweet berries of the earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once never wonder what they’re worth

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we’re all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends

Have you ever heard a wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or let the eagle tell you where he’s been
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind

How high does the sycamore grow
If you cut it down then you’ll never know

And you’ll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountain
And to paint with all the colors of the wind
You can own the earth and still
All you own is earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind