Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Stink of Enlightenment

There was once a man who liked pictures of dragons, and his clothing and furnishings were all designed accordingly. His deep affection for dragons was brought to the attention of the dragon god, and one day a real dragon appeared before his window.

It is said that he died of fright. Hagakure

This is not mere theory it is to be practised…

The Art of War opens “War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life and death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.” This study is of fundamental passions; bridled and unbridled, orthodox and unorthodox but is, lest we forget, as much to do with life and humanity as about death and enmity. It is certainly forthright and pragmatic but above all needs to be Truthful as it affects and connects all people, always. For that which is genuine has a “resonance” that echoes through time and space; it chimes with strange people, in strange places; it quickens the pulse and invigorates the artist to create Art anew. So how can we, with our urbane lives possibly apply such dynamic, for it cannot be merely acted out? Well, that always depends on you, on how serious you are, how careful and determined you are in what you say and do and choose, how much love you can exercise, how sincere. For famed aphorisms, your practice mean nothing if we have not tasted bitter. You only truly know why, the forms are the way they are, the principles so urgent, when you get it wrong. Experience that terrible, terrible draining sensation of losing it. And that is why you respect your Teacher, your Guide, your Friend. And that is how your Teacher, your Guide, your Friend respects you, because we share the Way. Why we have such powerful words as commiseration and compassion because people do not forget one another. We should have shame if we forget, or do not practice, or have the courage to simply stand up. We should, must establish “watchfulness” as a building block of any self-respect and society. But all these words may be too grand, too much, over inflation of the self for there are those that say that those that know do not speak, which is true, for a number of good reasons, but if you find someone who always prattles this out, ask him or her for an answer right now! Or, watch and see how long, to what depth, how golden their silence is? If they say, that because of “nothing”, nothing matters, then introduce them to our Friend Rinzai and watch him beat the living daylights out him or her. Don’t let fools bamboozle you and steal your precious life but also you do not waste this time. So find something that “you” love, which has meaning for you, that inspires and moves you. Study it extensively, inquire accurately, think carefully, sift it clearly, practise it earnestly and learn to live, by the living. This is not the droppings of old sages, this is about life, the courage of your convictions and how ultimately you realise this world.

Even though knowledge is true, it is still not firmly established if unaccompanied by works. For everything is established by being put into practice. St Mark the Monk

We are great fools. “He has spent his life in idleness,” we say; “I have done nothing today.” What, have you not lived? That is not only the fundamental but also the most illustrious of your occupations. “If I had been placed in a position to manage great affairs, I would have shown what I can do.” Have you been able to think out and manage your own life? You have done the greatest task of all. …

To compose our character is our duty, not to compose books, and to win, not battles and provinces, but order and tranquillity in our conduct. Our great and glorious masterpiece is to live appropriately. Montaigne

We need a guide not a wet nurse. There is a real and ever present danger, and we may be shaky but that is the raison d’etre of practice. You will need to be able to take (a hell of) a lot in any fight, as it is “always a close run thing”. But all the practices, all the centring, enables us to “calm down” to become quiet and thereby develop, enjoy, our greatest ability to “Listen”- to “Receive”. True listening is always fresh, wonderfully, fragrantly fresh as it is without prejudice or intention, with “no mind” or no ego. We do not know, we do not get this enlightenment; it gets us; but this is not mere theory. So we stop and through rest and rust forget that we are participants in, we partake, of Life.

Do small things well. Be there in the very next thing you do. Be interested, be concerned, be absorbed, be happy because if not now, when? Sincerity rings, there are, of course there bloody well are, wake up, bells of mindfulness ringing true from genuine people and praxis. This is no game, and you must navigate your own course; be careful, like one fording a river in winter. Have courage, we are not alone, and our Friends are magnanimous souls, with whom we share the way. Be quiet, and active; enjoy the thrill when the wind blows through and Al-Ghazali reminds us “tasting is the way to certitude.”

You make the soup, taste the soup, make it again and again, no magic, no secret technique, with love and listening you make the best food that you can, proper food to feed yourself, your family, the world. Each day, in everyway renew. “Self knowledge has no end – you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.” Krishnamurti. Takuan reminds us not to “stop” at any thing. “Grace, is never a stationary thing, it is always found in a becoming.” Eckhart, Mencius, “When travelling to a distant place: one must start from the nearest point.” And I am sure that you must know a thousand more, for the truth is not bound by tongues. But if you do not say who will, if you do not bear witness, who else “if not now, when?” Hillel. The various ways form a continuous “living out” of this whole being. Their forms and principles are like the two wings of a bird; but their subtlety that is only experience when one is without desire. “Radiant Aiki is not your own strength or technical skill. Rather it is the child of a generative union with the Universe.” This however takes a diligence in practice that very few can achieve, the rest of us give it thought now and then and then there are those who simply laugh out loud at such cautiousness and effort. But that is OK. “You must examine this well. ”

“Eternally chained to only one single little fragment of the whole, Man himself grew to only being a fragment…he never develops the harmony of his being, and instead of imprinting humanity upon his nature he becomes merely the imprint of his occupation, of his science.” Schiller

But study without practice, reading without reflection; understanding, is called “counting the treasures of another without having a penny of one’s own.”

In the East it is not strange for a person to walk the way with a Confucian cap, Taoist robes and Buddhist sandals. The Person cannot be separate from the “Way”, and its attendant “Virtue” and Learning’s sole concern is to go after the heart that has strayed. That is all. So seek and you will get it; let it go and you will loose it. The “ways” point to a continuous Body, Mind and Spirit and are constructed and tested, desired, by reality. Words exist because of meaning; once you’ve gotten the meaning, you forget the words. “But where can I find someone who has forgotten words so I can have a word with them?”

The “ways” don’t chatter. Their Form supports, informs, reflects the Intelligence and Spirit. The Intelligence supports, informs, reflects the Spirit and Forms. The Spirit supports, informs, reflects in the Intelligence and Form. Like clay that is shaped into a vessel it opens into Emptiness into Nothingness. O Sensei’s “It is with the sincerity of our Breath, instead of a sword, that we sweep this world Clean.” This is not mere theory.

You must examine this well.

Merely to have Zen realisation is not enough unless we make it practically effective in life. Merely talking about water will not satisfy our thirst, nor will talking about fire make us warm. Both Buddhism and Confucianism explain what the mind is, but unless it is made to shine in our daily life, we cannot be said to have a realisation of its truth. The main thing is to meditate on it all the time, trying to realise it in yourself.


So what do I know? “Que sais-je?” “A life unexamined is not worth living.” And one-day a real dragon will appear and there is nowhere you can hide; you imaging you can fight, you want to fight but there is no conceivable way to fight and nowhere to run to. We come to realise the value of our practice of our lives and know for the first time “True Budo begins and ends in Reigiho.”

By this practice, and it is only through practice, we will know the root; we will arrive at the place where we began and thereby renew ourselves every day in every way. This “Winning means winning over the mind of discord in yourself.” This practice reflects Harmony in Body, Mind and Spirit. It reflects Reverence in Body, Mind and Spirit. It reflects Purity in Body, Mind and Spirit. It reflects Tranquillity in Body, Mind and Spirit. It is nothing special, but something really quite special, it is “The art of Tea Way consists of boiling water, preparing tea and drinking it.” Sincerity means no self-deception and so in Aikido we must be critical of our “self” and so constantly thank partners for the giving of themselves to such a halfhearted slovenly effort. This shame it is akin to the courage it takes to continue to try. You must examine this well!

Understanding is now, not tomorrow. Tomorrow is for the lazy mind, the sluggish mind, the mind that is not interested. Krishnamurti

The Bu (martial) practised “cruel war” all out aggression; the only consideration, winning. To enter directly, without hesitation, with high moral, wins many a day; this determination was the complete demonstration of the virility of the Bushi. Survival, and honour, was dependant on leaving no “opening” in Body, Mind or Spirit. The morality of their art was in its accuracy. After hundreds of years of war came hundreds of years of regime repression. But for a “body” to survive and have any real enduring strength and depth it needs to establish and cultivate its balance. Sincerity is apparent, in always, now and everlasting, has no sides, can’t fall over. The Bun (Learning) of the Warrior, for the majority of that class, was the practiced of the Confusion Relationships and the Five Virtues - Humanity, Righteousness, Propriety, Wisdom and Faithfulness. He was not insensitive but his “Duty”, verified by generations of bloodshed, demanded constant vigilance, the keeping in mind always of their position.

To let go the requirements of the ideal means not only to diminish the possibility of perfection, but to make an end to the ideal itself. The ideal that has power is not an ideal invented by someone, but the ideal that everyone carries in their soul. Only this ideal of complete infinite perfection has power, and stimulates action. A moderate perfection loses its power over influencing hearts. Tolstoy

But we seem to fall, in today’s apparent western ease, to an old enemy; one the “noetic warriors” of the Philokalic tradition knew well and called Arcedia. Arcedia is a state of listlessness; listlessness to such an extent that we do not even care that we do not care anymore. “It is a vice that makes us hate what is good and shrink from the only virtues that can save us.” We do not care because hardly anything is going to jump out a bite us. So we have lost sight of the value of our lives, stopped up our nous, abandoned our soul. What was it for that this clay grew tall? Never mind someone else will explain it to us. It doesn’t care because it doesn’t care. These warriors where also instructed, as with the Samurai, to keep from morning to night the remembrance of death as an indispensable practice. This enabled the warrior to discard cares and vanities, guard the intellect, enhancing the unique value of each moment of time and so concentrate themselves on their Lord. It is those who have learnt that to die means also not living like as a slave, are then open to fresh energy and vision, can fulfil their duty; a joyous life. But remember, if you have narrow vision, you have narrow courage and you slander this life, this potential, by looking at it through a pipe. You must examine this well.

Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. Dr. Johnson.

It takes a lot, remember, be serious, remember, love, remember, to listen, remember, to receive, remember, sincerely, remember, please, remember, because the ferocity of the world is not consigned to some distant past, remember, lest we forget, remember, commiseration, remember, humanity is humanity, remember, always, remember, what is done, remember, what left,

remember, in your name, remember, what you enjoy, remember, truly, remember, not to stop, remember, each one, remember, we need each one, remember, how we are strong, remember, yourself, remember, your family, remember, this time, remember, now, remember, please teach me, remember, breathe deeply, remember, my son, remember, my daughters, remember, past, remember, anew, remember, your present, remember, always remember, the price, remember, the innocent, remember, their virtue, remember Free at last, remember, Free at last, remember, knowledge, remember, action, remember, do, remember, extensively, remember, accurately, remember, carefully, remember, clearly, remember earnestly, remember, once, remember, ten thousand, remember, not in your own image, remember, narrow vision, remember, courage, remember, magnanimously

So please remember, the price, the strength it takes to say, to believe,

To practice

“I shall not hate” Izzeldin Abuelaish

“To continue to use your liberty to promote ours” Aung San Suu Kyi

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