Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Way to Love (1) - The Last Meditations of Anthony de Mello

The title of this little book has at least two meanings: the way to love in the sense of how we should love, and the Way to love in the sense of the spiritual path to love. They are the same.
The lessons of this little book are not easy to swallow when we are reeling from the loss of a love. But they are the necessary lessons that we need to learn in order to heal and to pass to the next level of love. My copy is dog-eared and many passages are underlined. I think I had a lot of lessons to learn.
De Mello’s message is that love is basically a nightmare. Or rather attachment is a nightmare, which in many of our cases is the same thing because we don’t know what love really is.

If you wish to attain lasting happiness, you must be ready to hate father, mother, even your own life and to take leave of all your possessions. Not by renouncing them or giving them up because what you give up violently you are forever bound to. But rather by seeing them for the nightmare they are; and then, whether you keep them or not, they will have lost their grip over you, their power to hurt you, and you will be out of your dream at last, out of your darkness, your fear, your unhappiness.

De Mello shows us that we are programmed by our upbringing and by society to believe we cannot be happy without certain things – money, power, love etc. We exhaust our energies trying to rearrange reality around us to conform to our programming. Sometimes we succeed briefly, but not for long. It is an impossible task. We must change the programming instead. This reminds me of the Buddhist saying: we cannot cover the world with leather, but if we cover our feet with leather it will be the same as covering the world with leather.

On the contrary, getting rid of attachments is a perfectly delightful task if the instrument you use to rid yourself of them is not willpower or renunciation but sight. All you need to do is open your eyes and see that you do not really need the object of your attachment at all…

Attachment is a false belief, a fantasy in your head. Think of your previous loves that you thought you could never live without, says De Mello, and how you got over them. De Mello suggests this affirmation to ‘give the order’ to your subconscious to change the programming:

I am not really attached to you at all. I am merely deluding myself into the belief that without you I will not be happy.

De Mello is pitiless in hammering the message home that the ‘battle of attachments’ can never be won. If we don’t get what we want we are unhappy, but if we get what we want, the minds dwells on the one thing we didn’t get. This reminds me of what we saw in my posts on gratitude: if we are not grateful for what we already have, we are unlikely to be grateful for what we will have. When we get what we want, without gratitude we soon become bored and start wanting something else and the battle of attachments wages on. De Mello enjoins us to enjoy things without becoming attached to them, without clinging to them, without believing that we can’t live without them (because we can and do live without them).

If you learn to enjoy the scent of a thousand flowers you will not cling to one or suffer when you cannot get it.

This brings us in fact to the right way to love: loving in a non-attached way, with no strings ‘attached’, loving from a position of independence. This goes against the way we normally love: we in effect say to the person ‘if you want to be especial to me you must meet my conditions’. Likewise, if we want to be ‘especial’ to someone we must ‘pay a price in lost freedom’.
Again these are hard lessons, when you are hurting, when you would willingly pay any price to get your lost love back. But our lost love is not coming back and usually it is better that way. And our path to healing passes through the realisation that it is better that way and why. De Mello gives us a striking way to see clearly through our pain by saying to the object of our attachment:

I leave you free to be yourself, to think your thoughts, to indulge your tastes, follow your inclinations, behave in any way that you decide is to your liking.

Once we say those words, we will either disagree with them and reveal our clinging, exploiting, deluded self or agree with them, sincerely, in which case we will feel all our attachment and dependence drop. It is likely we will not agree, in which case those words will serve as an affirmation to lead us to that place where they will become true.

I used these affirmations and I can say they help. It is a cruel medicine and it doesn’t work overnight, but it is what the doctor ordered.

More to come in part two

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Way of Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

Some translations have ‘Love never fails’ instead of ‘Love never ends’. 'Love never ends' would seem better, because sometimes love does fail, doesn’t it? But then we might ask, was it love that failed or was it something other than love? Attachment maybe? Infatuation? Perhaps love never does fail. For if it is really love, it ‘insists not on its own way’, but merely is. In that sense love can never fail. Like sincerity, love is never wrong.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Love at the edge of doom

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Shake-speare (De Vere) - Sonnet 116

If you are suffering from the loss of a love, you may have found little solace in my last post Love (lost). Your reasoning mind may have found it mildly interesting but your heart will have dismissed it in an instant with a 'But you don't understand'. I quote this powerful verse from Shake-speare (De Vere) by way of saying that I do understand.
When we are in love, and lose that love, there can be no solace for the heart in the short term. This has been my experience anyway. Perhaps it is a psycho-physiological trick of nature to keep couples together to ensure the survival of the species. In my case, only time (many years) has faded the memory without erasing it completely.
But there is nothing bad but thinking makes it so, the bard also said. And if you are a regular reader you are familiar with the Taoist philosophy of facing up sincerely to the times and learning its lessons. There is also the Taoist philosophy that everything we are living now we created ourselves by our past actions. We are responsible for manifesting everything around us. There is the philosophy that everything we are living now is exactly appropriate for us at this moment and is exactly what we need to experience now in order to grow. There is also the philosophy that we already have everything we need here and now (gratitude) and wishing for things to be exactly the way they are now allows us to appreciate them. These are important ideas for they can help us in changing our viewpoint from that of a victim of other people’s actions to active engineers of our own experience.
To activate that change of viewpoint, one of the best ways is to use affirmations. Yes, I know your heart is groaning ‘Is that all you’ve got?’ But there is untold power in the word as it becomes true for the subconscious. For the subconscious creates for us what we believe to be true and cannot tell the difference between what we experience in reality and what we concentrate on in our mind. Concentrate on sorrow or concentrate on transformation, and your subconscious will create it. Here are some powerful affirmations from ‘Manifesto’ by my favourite modern-day Taoist master, Stephen Russel.

All internal psycho-emotional discomfort evaporates now and I find myself at peace.

I acknowledge myself for having the courage and endurance to carry on.

I am cheerful no matter what.

I determine what kind of life I have – no one and nothing else.

I create my own reality according to which set of beliefs I subscribe to now. I now alter the very foundations of my reality and thus build myself a different and more useful belief structure that even now is producing magnificent results.

I take full responsibility for myself and my moment-by-moment experience of life from this moment on.

I am alive.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Love (lost)

Love, ah yes. Now we are getting to the nitty gritty. Now we are getting to the subject of how I became interested in philosophy in the first place. The reason I know a thing or two about it, the reason you are reading this blog on healing philosophy right now is because of love. Love lost. Or perhaps I should say love ‘lost’.
There is a lot to say philosophically on the subject and there will be many other posts to come. Much of what I will say may be common sense to many of you. We are all at very different stages in our relationship experience and skills. For example, what I am going to say is very clear to me now, at the level I am at now, but I can tell you that it certainly was not clear to me at the time it was happening and it caused me great pain.
I will share with you those insights that helped me along the path of healing. I hope some of them will help you. For I am here to tell you that for every book you read you may come across one small idea that will ‘hit the spot that hurts’ and help you. And you may not. You may not even come across that one little idea in a dozen books. The ideas that I will share with you are the synthesis of a long search.
So to kick off with, here is a draft of a post that I jotted down a few weeks ago in a rare lucid moment. I was going to ‘polish it up’ a bit but I think it is better as it is, straight from the heart:

The beauty that was, the love that was, the magic that was….was all in my head. I created it. All of it.
How did I do it? I got help from my personal history, my upbringing, my relationship background, my tastes, what was going on in the world, in my world, at the time… In other words a great conflux of events, associations and ideas all came together to create a special feeling … in my head.
Of course this person I loved had beauty, charm and wit or else I could not have loved her. But the degree of it, the particular pitch of it, was in my head. Of course it is so, otherwise everyone who met her would fall in love with her too, which is not the case. And if I were to meet someone like this person today, or if we were to try to ‘get back together again’, I am certain that, being now at a different level, I would no longer be able to see or recreate the magic that was, as I am sure many couples who have tried it will agree.
Therefore it is not her beauty, her charm or her wit that I loved. It was ‘beauty’, ‘charm’ and ‘wit’ that I loved, as perceived in the person of this woman at that time, by the person that I was at that time. Therefore, the love that, at the time, I felt was ‘taken away from me’ by this person, was never actually taken away because it was something that I had created myself and as such belonged to me, is a part of me, and can never be taken away from me. It is something that I can cherish still. Not everyone gets to experience a great love in their life.

Since writing this, I have discovered a quote by Rabindranath Tagore, which expresses in a nutshell the same sentiment:

Beauty is truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror.
Photo by Flavio Takemoto

Monday, April 20, 2009

The soul's kisses

I was sitting in my car at a red light on the way home from work. I felt darn tired and miserable. A red 4x4 was crossing the intersection to take the road I had come. As he passed the driver smiled at me. I recognised him at once. It was that guy at work who always smiles at me and everyone else. You hardly know him, but he smiles at you as though you and he won a million dollars in a lottery together. A twinkling, open, sun-like smile. I am tempted to say conspiratorial, but there is no guile whatsoever in his smile.
I sat there realising that I must have looked like a miserable sod to him when he spotted me, but he still smiled as though I were his best friend. I sat there realising that this guy always smiles at me, even though we have hardly exchanged three phrases in all the years I have known him. I sat there (by now the light had changed and I was half-way home) wondering if he even knows that he is smiling at people. Is it possible for someone to feel so well and positive and happy all the time that they spontaneously smile at everyone they meet out of a sheer gladness and benevolence of heart? When I see his smile, I think it is.

The man of superior virtue is not conscious of his virtue,
And in this way he really possesses virtue.
The man of inferior virtue never loses sight of his virtue,
And in this way he loses his virtue....
Therefore, only when Tao is lost does the doctrine of virtue arise.
When virtue is lost, only then does the doctrine of humanity arise.
When humanity is lost, only then does the doctrine of righteousness arise.
When righteousness is lost, only then arise rules of propriety.
Now, propriety is a superficial expression of loyalty and faithfulness, and the beginning of disorder.

Tao Te Ching 38

My scheming cynical rational mind offers other explanations: he is na├»ve, he has never experienced suffering, he has passed through life so far unscathed by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Yes, that’s it. Isn’t it?
The next time I meet him, I’m going to have a word with him.

Flowers are God’s way of smiling. Proverb

A smile is the universal welcome. Max Eastman

A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. William Arthur Ward

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. Mother Theresa

Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love. Mother Theresa

Peace begins with a smile. Mother Theresa

The robb’d that smiles, steals something from the thief. Shake-speare (De Vere)

He who smiles rather than rages is always the stronger. Japanese proverb

Smiles are the soul’s kisses. Minna Thomas Antrim

Beauty is power; a smile is its sword. Charles Reade

Because of your smile you make life more beautiful. Thich Nhat Hanh

Don’t open a shop unless you know how to smile. Jewish proverb

People worry and God smiles. Jewish proverb

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. Thich Nhat Hanh

Smile, it is the key that fits the lock of everybody’s heart. Anthony J. D’Angelo

Beauty is truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror. Rabindranath Tagore

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Classroom Bailout Plan!

Here are some high school kids taking the credit crisis into their own hands. Watch the video (only two minutes long) and see the power of youthful sincerity and imagination at work. Then go to their website Classroom Bailout Plan and contribute (securely) one dollar with the Chip-in button. Thanks to my friend Otto at Inca Kola News for telling me about this. If you have a blog, why not help publicize this project? Who knows what might happen?

Monday, April 13, 2009

On being attuned to the spiritual

‘There are two ways to live your life, ‘ said Albert Einstein. ‘One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’ Which is another way of saying you can live as though there is no spiritual basis to life or you can live as though there is.

You can live as though you and your desires are all that matter. Or not.
You can live in selfish ignorance of a moral code. Or not.
You can live in a void of gratitude and reverence. Or not.
You can live…

Well, you get the drift.
There are two worlds existing around us at the same time. The material and the immaterial. The visible and the hidden. The mundane and the spiritual. Most of the time the spiritual is not obvious unless you train yourself to look for it. Unless you are awake to it. Unless you are attuned to it.
Look at an airplane. If you are not attuned, you simply see a big piece of technological hardware, so many hundred tons of metal and a nice paint job. But an airplane is the embodiment of man’s infinite creative genius. A great deal of imagination, dedication, hard work and sacrifice over time from a great number of men and women like you and me was necessary to perfect that flying machine.
Look at the banking system. It was designed and perfected much in the same way as an airplane – it is also the embodiment of man’s infinite creative genius. Normally you would not think much about it, when it works properly. But unlike an airplane, the banking system is built on relationships between people. And these relationships are subject to moral law. And recently, the consequences of neglecting moral law became visible in a spectacular fashion. To everyone. Looking for it or not. Awake or not. Attuned or not.

The power of spiritual forces in the Universe – how active it is everywhere! Invisible to the eyes, and impalpable to the senses, it is inherent in all things, and nothing can escape its operation. Confucius

At World Scripture I came across this quote from the Bhagavad Gita in the section on Ignorance. Here you have in a nutshell the two ways to live your life: as though you are but a higher form of animal living in a sensual world or as though you are a human being attuned to the spiritual in the material. Think of the credit crisis as you read it.

The demonic do things they should avoid and avoid the things they should do. They have no sense of uprightness, purity, or truth.
"There is no God," they say, "no truth, no spiritual law, no moral order. The basis of life is sex; what else can it be?" Holding such distorted views, possessing scant discrimination, they become enemies of the world, causing suffering and destruction.
Hypocritical, proud, and arrogant, living in delusion and clinging to deluded ideas, insatiable in their desires, they pursue their unclean ends. Although burdened with fears that end only with death, they still maintain with complete assurance, "Gratification of lust is the highest that life can offer."
Bound on all sides by scheming and anxiety, driven by anger and greed, they amass by any means they can a hoard of money for the satisfaction of their cravings.
"I got this today," they say; "tomorrow I shall get that. This wealth is mine, and that will be mine too. I have destroyed my enemies. I shall destroy others too! Am I not like God? I enjoy what I want. I am successful. I am powerful. I am happy. I am rich and well-born. Who is equal to me? I will perform sacrifices and give gifts, and rejoice in my own generosity." This is how they go on, deluded by ignorance. Bound by their greed and entangled in a web of delusion, whirled about by a fragmented mind, they fall into a dark hell.

Bhagavad Gita 16.7-16

This was written centuries ago. Human nature is the same today. We cannot expect human nature to change overnight. We can only try to change ourselves. One person at a time, starting here, with me and you.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

On being a gentleman - Kinowear style

I came across a very interesting (and stylish) blog the other day: Kinowear. Kinowear is ‘one of the top men’s style blogs on the net’ and is ‘dedicated to bringing you in-depth and practical advice on men’s style, fashion, grooming and image development’. Now, I probably would not have lingered more than a second on this site but for two things: one, the featured article, How to build unstoppable confidence, which already had 9,000 views although it was published that day, was very well written and very inspiring, and two, this blog has style! It does not flash, it does not try too hard to get your attention and because it doesn’t try too hard, it succeeds.
I am not what could be called stylish. Let me rephrase that. I am not stylish. Yes, that’s better. I am guilty, along with a certain neglect of my physical fitness, of a certain neglect of dressing well. And just because here at Healing Philosophy we spend our time thinking lofty thoughts, it doesn’t mean that clothes and presentation and grooming are not important, because they are. When one fine day we have retired to the mountain to live out our days in contemplation of nature, we may no longer have need or care of style and may sit about in our PJ’s all day. But until then we live in the world, even though we try not to be of the world. We live in contact with people, and in order to exert our full share of good influence and magic (and in passing perhaps to receive a bit too) we need to be well-dressed and presentable. A gentleman is never improperly dressed, never suffers lack of respect through neglect of his appearance. On the contrary, his outer appearance is an indication of his inner quality. In my post Noble behaviour we saw:

A wise man should dress decently, and must not wear his clothes stained with grease and the like. He should not dress flashily to attract attention, nor shabbily to suffer disrespect. His garments should be modest, appropriate.

And in Sincerity - Polonius’ advice to his son we saw, through Polonius, what was probably Shake-speare’s (Edward De Vere’s) opinion about style:

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

So I have now included Kinowear in the Guide Blogs link list, and not only for their knowledge about gentlemen’s style, but for some very good posts about the confidence and self-esteem that are the hallmark of the gentleman.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New 'Healink' - World Scripture

You may have noticed that when I give quotations about a subject they usually come from a variety of religious and philosophic traditions. This is not an accident, as I make a point to do so where possible. I feel it serves to underline the universal truth of the subject in question, as perceived by men and traditions of diverse origins. So it was extremely gratifying to discover World Scripture – A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts.
What I like about this site is not that it is a vast resource of sacred texts – see The Internet Sacred Text Archive and others for that – but that it draws together choice quotes from many different sources to illustrate the universal truth of what makes for a moral life. Here you will find many of the themes I have discussed: humility, patience, gratitude, anger, self-denial (non-desire), sincerity and many others that I have yet to address. If you enjoyed my posts on these subjects you will find new gems of insight on them at World Scripture.
What I also like about this site is that it has a unity and a structure. It covers all the bases. It is virtually a course of education in understanding and wisdom. It begins with ultimate reality and the purpose of human existence (a pretty good place to start) and takes you through the human condition, the major sins, salvation-liberation-enlightenment, the religious (read also ‘philosophic’) life, and it culminates in providence, society and the Kingdom of Heaven (a pretty good place to end).
Yes, it is a comparative anthology of scripture, not philosophy, but scripture in this case includes also Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, African traditional religions and many others that I (and perhaps you) am not too familiar with and which bring a fresh perspective to the subject.
In short, if one day I decide not to write Healing Philosophy any more, my last post will be a link to World Scripture. They have it covered.
Here is an example of the kind of powerful quotes you will find at World Scripture. It comes from the section on Sincerity.

By the Truth I mean purity and sincerity in their highest degree. He who lacks purity and sincerity cannot move others. Therefore he who forces himself to lament, though he may sound sad, will awaken no grief. He who forces himself to be angry, though he may sound fierce, will arouse no awe. And he who forces himself to be affectionate, though he may smile, will create no air of harmony. True sadness need make no sound to awaken grief; true anger need not show itself to arouse awe; true affection need not smile to create harmony. When a man has the Truth within himself, his spirit may move among external things. That is why the Truth is to be prized!
Taoism. Chuang Tzu. 31

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Humility - Lessons from the Past

One of the financial blogs I visit regularly is Juggling Dynamite by Danielle Park. Danielle is the advisor I spoke about in my post The Ethical Financial Advisor. I encourage you to visit her blog also if you want to keep abreast of what is happening and where we are at in today’s turbulent financial arena. I say arena in the sense of gladiatorial arena where you can lose a financial arm and a leg if you’re not careful. I was struck by her recent post ‘Bouncing away’ which you can read in full here. In it Danielle talks about the recent rally since the March 9 low. But what I would like to share with you here is Danielle’s observations on her recent visit to Malta.

This will be a baby steps recovery. It will take time and real work. But it will be a healthy wake up call. The tiny Island of Malta is one of many examples of this phenomenon. Malta was one of the most bombed countries of the Second World War. It was pummelled to rubble. A German blockade brought the people to the verge of starvation just days before the British navy came to their rescue.
When I was visiting Malta recently, I asked the local people about how the world credit crunch and downturn is affecting them and their economy. They noted that tourism was somewhat slower. But they said Maltese people had generally not been caught up in over-consumption and credit abuse the past few years, so they were not suffering the consequences of deleveraging now. When I asked why, they explained that the older generation in Malta had lived through the utter decimation of their Island in the war. They had lived through the life-altering experience of losing one’s wealth, property and loved ones. They had worked for the past 60 years rebuilding their country brick by brick. They had taught their children the importance of not wasting and not taking more than they need. They own houses, but not mansions and no one has a three-car garage. They have no fresh water on the island. They developed the expensive process of desalination and now properly value clean water as the source of their life. They tend to walk and ride bikes, they drive smaller cars. Adversity brought a humility and wisdom to the Maltese people that has served them now for 2 generations.

With adversity comes humility and ‘with humility comes wisdom’. The adversity the Maltese people went through, though painful, had the seeds of something good in it. Likewise, the adversity America and the world is going through today is perhaps a necessary purging, a necessary winter to kill off the swamp plants that were growing to excess. And hopefully it too will have the seeds of something good in it, as Danielle says:

Some of the solutions to coming problems have yet to be designed. But there is now great effort focused on getting the world back to growth and in the end, we will succeed. That said, those looking for a resumption of reckless consumer spending and bubble-like prices will no doubt be frustrated and disappointed, at least for some time. Dark as many now feel, there is strength in this experience and we will bounce.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Back to Beginnings

The first promising days of Spring are here. Our hardened, light-starved souls perk up naturally with the arrival of the sun and the departure of the cold biting wind. So, we made it through another winter, we made it through to another beautiful Spring. Let us be thankful and remember to enjoy it.
There exists a very special book which I have had it in the back of my mind to tell you about for some time. And thinking about Spring brought it to mind because the seasons are a central theme of its wisdom. The book is called ‘Back to Beginnings – Reflections on the Tao’ by Huanchu Daoren, translated by Thomas Cleary. You probably never heard of him, and I only know him by the sheer luck of falling on his book in a second-hand bookstore. But I am here to tell you that there is more concentrated wisdom in this little book than in any other I know.

As soon as the plants and trees have withered, they show sprouts at the roots. Even though the order of the seasons brings freezing cold, eventually it brings back sunny energy. In the midst of purging and killing, the sense of continually renewing life is always in control. Thereby one can see the heart of heaven and earth.

The book was written around 1600 by a retired Chinese scholar and civil servant named Hong Yingming who took the Taoist name of Huanchu Daoren, which means ‘A Wayfarer Back to Beginnings’. The book is in the form of a collection of meditations on the seasons of life, on serenity, on discerning truth in a complex society and on practical ways to live in harmony with the Tao.

Wealth, status, honour, and praise that come from enlightened qualities are like flowers in the mountains, growing and blossoming naturally. Those that come from achievements in one’s career are like flowers in pots, being moved about, removed, replanted. Those that are gained by temporal power are like flowers in vases, without roots, soon to wilt.

The teachings are a synthesis of several Chinese schools of thought. In his introduction to the book, Thomas Cleary says:

In it can be seen a form of lay Taoism dating many centuries further back into history, in which the historical and sociological insights of pristine Confucianism were combined with the advanced educational and psychological knowledges and methodologies of Buddhism and Taoism.

Here is a passage supporting that assertion, and we should not be surprised to see the importance attached to sincerity, should we?

There is a true Buddha in family life; there is a real Tao in everyday activities. If people can be sincere and harmonious, promoting communication with a cheerful demeanour and friendly words, that is much better than formal meditation practice.

Perhaps the hand of the translator has something to do with it, but there is a direct, simple, easy to grasp message in each of the meditations. There is nothing obtuse or requiring extensive footnotes here. The language is plain and pertinent as if the author were living today.

The learned should be vigorous and diligent, but they should also be free-spirited. If they are too rigorous and austere, they have the death-dealing quality of autumn but lack the life-giving quality of spring. How can they develop people then?

There was a period when I carried this book around with me. Just reading one or two of the quotes in a spare minute several times a day is a sure way to keep your day in perspective. It is like taking a step back to observe events through the eyes of the ‘observer within’. Through the eyes of this great wisdom, you can see things for what they really are.

In adversity, everything that surrounds you is a kind of medicine that helps you refine your conduct, yet you are unaware of it. In pleasant situations, you are faced with weapons that will tear you apart, yet you do not realize it.

Reading these quotes again is like meeting an old friend. A wise and knowledgeable friend whose ‘adoption is tried’ and who I should ‘grapple to my soul with hoops of steel’. Now I have introduced him to you and I encourage you to do the same.

Be deferential in dealing with the world; deference is the starting line of progress. Be generous in your treatment of others; helping others is really the basis on which you help yourself.

Open a cool eye in the midst of intense activity, and you save yourself that much bitter thought. Keep an enthusiastic attitude in hard times, and you gain that much true enjoyment.

Those who turn things around by themselves do not rejoice at gain or grieve over loss; the whole world is the range they roam. Those who are themselves used by things hate it when events go against them and love it when they go their way; the slightest thing can create binding entanglements.
Whatever meets the eye is the realm of immortals for the contented, the realm of mortals for the discontented. All the bases of activity in society have life-giving potential if used well and death-dealing potential if not used well.

Ship's log April 2009

Spring is here at last. We thought winter was never going to end. Unpleasant situations seem to drag on forever, pleasant ones seem to be over in the blink of an eye. This is what Einstein meant by relativity.
I am in mind to write some posts about Spring and the significance of the seasons. Here are a few quotes that translate quite accurately my feelings at this moment:

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. Shake-speare (De Vere)

Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world. Virgil A. Kraft

The first day of spring was once the time for taking the young virgins into the fields, there in dalliance to set an example in fertility for nature to follow. Now we just set the clocks an hour ahead and change the oil in the crankcase. E.B. White

For more quotes like this, go Famous inspirational quotes

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond