Tag Archives: Buddhism

The Brass Tacks of Simple Truth

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Joan of Arc by Mathieu Stern

Joan of Arc by Mathieu Stern

PR3–53

A Shy God Pinned Down

“Your faith was strong, but you needed proof.”
–Leonard Cohen (Hallelujah)

Scientists demanding evidence
Of God’s existence may be good at a lot
But they’re not so keen on irony:
Even in their favorite realm of observation

Their own guy Heisenberg
Famously showed that just the observing
Compromises the variables sending
Such a thing to beyond any certainty

And yet they expect to nail God down
Wings extended like insect specimens
Why if God were a mere atom
As we’ve seen they still would fail yet

They expect a shy God pinned down would
Not just haul out a Houdini of some pin-wheeled
Galaxy escape leaving the learned gentlefolk
Clutching either air or ether

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle readers,

Last post (December 5, as I recall) was dedicated to a binary fusion of two issues, the first being the passing of the Buddhist Leonard Cohen, a favorite musician and songwriter. This was juxtaposed with the issue of the existence of God and disputes or speculations about that, facilitated by the Buddhist comparison in that Buddha never suggested there was a God. But (forgive me if I am oversimplifying this even to the point of erroneous opinions, and if so, I plead ignorance). And I mentioned how I thought it was probably because Buddha saw this as superfluous to the necessary understanding, and fraught with misinterpretations (e. g. the crusades, the Spanish inquisition, etc). Not to mention hypocrisy.

God is a good and golden thing, and can be suitably focused on by as Jesus would say, His fruits, as opposed to actually naming Him. Or Her, though obviously any God worth his ether would be beyond sexuality which is a form of duality, and God by definition is infinite, and thus has no opposite. But I say Him for convenience sake.

But I digress. (I should scrawl lipstick on a mirror saying stop me before I digress again!)

So good-bye to Leonard Cohen. You will be remembered.

And now, back to what was originally intended to be the main issue, proofs of the existence of God.

A favorite writer of mine is C. S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia, the Perelandra trilogy, umpteen essays on metaphysics, and a close friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, of Lord of the Rings fame.

One of the main reasons I like him so much is he has presented a convincing proof of the existence of God. Which is a neat trick if indeed God would rather leave the matter up in the air. * It was read many years back, and so I can’t remember the exact work. I suspect either his God in the Dock, or The Case for Christianity. Though as I recall it wasn’t necessarily Christian-specific. (Which is a good thing, since though I tend to adore Lewis, I am put off by his Christian chauvinism. Especially annoying to a Sufi, Sufism having as it does, largely Islamic roots. I expect Lewis had no problem with Dante’s having put Mohammed in the innermost circle of hell. Which is ironic, because I heard a Sufi give a talk that claimed that in fact the Divine Comedy was largely lifted–read plagiarized–from a work of the Sufi poet Ibn Arabi, who of course, had placed Mohammed in Paradise.)

But as usual, I digress.

Of course Lewis’ proof was necessarily a matter of circumstantial evidence. I imagine not least because in all honesty I am having trouble imagining what God could offer (even if God unaccountably felt some necessity to kowtow to our presumptuously demanding, judging egos) to definitively prove the matter, a la in a court of law.

Eye witnesses? Not likely. God is famously invisible. Except of course by Joan of Arc,
(for a wonderful Leonard Cohen song about her, see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtwUyDPXROQ)

and that was merely the Virgin Mary. (and even that was never explicitly declared to be her identity) And why? A hint is in the bible, in Exodus, “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” **

That is usually taken to mean the sight would stop your heart. Stuff like that. As if God is scary looking. Inayat Khan of course refers to the ego as the referred-to thing living. In other words you must lose your ego to see God.

But more to the practical point, the very demand for a proof that is of this world, falsely presupposes that God is of this world.*** Or at least is at all restricted by this world, and as such any physical etc. sort of proof, would be perforce highly misleading, and would from God’s point of view, who wishes to emphasize His love aspect, highly beside the point, and dangerously confusing the issue of love with a power which can only persuade via a shock and awe more reminiscent of fireworks dancing in the air, or levitating pianos, the irony of which is this: these things even if vouchsafed would be nothing compared alongside the stupendous circus tent of the night sky, just for instance. And we don’t seem to be convinced on account of that.

And so, no, this incredible spectacle is not enough for the skeptics who want cheap tricks instead. Voltaire was the wiser one, an honest-to-God skeptic, by inclination, who nevertheless famously said, referring to the universe, “I cannot believe there can be a watch, but no watchmaker.”

To be continued, next post.
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

* Which is an interesting business. Because these naysayers and skeptics have forgotten one thing. What if God WANTS to keep people guessing, having a choice in whether to believe or not? What if God is leaving clues about which believers (like me) can and often do, point to. But always leaving some plausible deniability to satisfy skeptics if they were so inclined. Let’s put it this way. If we posit the existence of an all-powerful but modest God who wants to be seen only by those He can trust, don’t you think He could obfuscate the matter? Many clever criminals can cover their tracks, so isn’t it obvious a supremely clever God could cloud up all the evidence, leaving only the tell-tale smell of a divine rose? Something that would never stand up in a court whose judge was the left brain (as opposed to the heart)? Indeed, this was the point made by the Indian (Parsi, para precisar) mystic Meher Baba, in his interesting short essay, “God Is Shy of Strangers.”

**You can find this here: Exodus 33:20. But I believe in a sense this is true, and what inspired this poem (one of my most popular, apparently):

PR4–228
A Game God, Likes to Play

God reveals Himself out of the corner of your eye
Then when you turn and look
He’s gone

It’s a game God likes to play
Of plausible deniability
A game of stay away

Because if love could hurt it would not be love
And it’s not good for your eyes
To look into a welding torch

It’s not good for your body
To be in the center of the sun
It’s this distance that proves God’s love

And the sneaky game of teasing then disappearing?
It’s because God can’t help cheating a little
It hurts to be so far from one you love

***My favorite mystic, Meher Baba, (If you want to see why, read the About section at the top of my main page, which is accompanied by other choices, such as Poems–all mine, Stories, and Quotes) said that to expect to understand God with your mind is like expecting to see with your ears. The apt instrument for that, Baba said, is the heart.

Worship Something You Can See and Trust

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Leonard Cohen in Amsterdam, 1972

Leonard Cohen in Amsterdam, 1972

Worship Something You Can See and Trust

People laugh
When they don’t feel like laughing
But no one cries
When they don’t feel like crying

That should tell you something
I mean
(And mean is operative here)
Look in the eyes of people

While they are doing evil
People who take their own pain
And want to spread it around town
You will never find joy there

Unless of course just the unkind fake kind
And you know what all this tells me?
Worship something you can see and trust
Worship tears of joy

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
Leonard Cohen just died. And thereby hangs a tale. He was a Jewish Buddhist. More of a Buddhist I believe, than Jewish, and an interesting sort of Buddhist.

I don’t know much about Buddhism, and it is an odd introduction to a post dedicated to a discussion about the existence of God (Which was the plan. Half written in fact. But then, as I say, the great man died). It is odd because Buddha never talked about a “God.”

I have a theory about why. It goes something like this:

People go funny on you when you bring “God” into the equation. (And often it is taken as a frightful invitation to hypocrisy or worse, an excuse for abuse.)

But I think Buddha wanted to go directly to the indisputable part of God, the joy that comes from eliminating fruitless desire. I tend to go that way myself. As you can see with the introductory poem above, though perhaps it stems as well from gratitude. Or from the feeling one is not after all, alone. That one has a powerful and loving protector, who just happens to see a bit further than we can.

But what else would you expect when you compare the infinite to the finite? Is it reasonable to expect that the finite is fit to judge the infinite? I think this is the main reason (among the wise) for the constant iteration of the need for faith.

But I digress.

So I will attempt to blend these two subjects (Leonard Cohen, a Buddhist, and the question of the existence of God) into a coherent whole. (Wish me luck!)

There are ways, and then there are ways to approach the issue of God or not. Especially anent the matter of “proving” such a thing.

For instance, I remember watching a high class drama on television, in the course of which a visiting friend was told that the music being listened to was a proof of the existence of God. It was the third movement of Beethoven’s fifteenth string quartet. You can hear it here to decide for yourself about that:

And Leonard Cohen certainly approached the subject interestingly. Seeing the Divine also in sorrow and despair. This is a needed subject in this world of tears and doubt. A favorite example of mine is from Kahlil Gibran, in his wonderful book The Prophet. When the eponymous prophet was asked, “Speak to us of pain,” the prophet said something like this: The pain, the sorrow in our lives, digs a reservoir whose depth defines our capacity for joy.

Of course, I personally am a Pollyanna poet, in that I like to emphasize the bright side. But I do admit it needs to be done, some comment on the rationale for the other side. After all, this grand experiment we call creation had to be a perfect thing, a complete thing, and so it had to include pain and suffering. If only for the fulfillment of Hegel’s dialectic. For a chat with that in it see the post for September 1, 2014:

https://rumi-nations.com/2014/09/01/god-had-a-wee-problem/

And Leonard Cohen was big on recognizing that. In his poem, “Anthem,” he put it into perspective:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

And in his song “Hallelujah,*” which has struck a chord in so many hearts as to be in danger of trivialization . . .(It has been adopted into popular culture to the point almost of constant repetition, which can be a bad thing**)

Well, folks, this post is getting to have a super high word count. And so it looks like it will be a three-parter. And this seems like a good place to stop. Stay tuned for the next two installments which really get into the issue of the existence or not, of God. If you click on the follow button and enter your email address, you will be notified when parts two and three are published.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

* Available here (my favorite version, sung by the tragic Jeff Buckley):

**Here’s an example. Perhaps you gentle folk are familiar with the incredibly beautiful Canon in D, by Pachelbel. When I first heard about it, was years ago during my initiated Sufi days in the San Francisco ashram. A dear friend, Marianne Barnhart, came by with the record in hand, and played it for me and my then wife, Judy. And she told me I could get it for only a dollar due to a come on of an offer from some classical music society membership. So I ordered it and sat hour after hour, day after day, just listening to it. But do you what can happen from constant repetition? One gets dulled to it. It loses its magic. In fact just yesterday or the day before I wrote a poem about the danger of that, saying that was the trouble even with the moon and stars. Here is the poem:

New Start–45
The Trouble with the Moon and Stars

“If you really want to live in a rainbow
there is no reason why you shouldn’t.”
–Pollyanna’s father (PBS Masterpiece Theater)

Consider prisms if you will–All those colors
Now why was that necessary
In the evolution of the world?
But then why were tears necessary

Or a big hug?
But here I am back again to tears
Or have you never cried from receiving a hug?
Especially when you really needed it

And hadn’t seen it coming?
The trouble with the moon and stars
(Why we don’t cry every night just for that)
Is that it comes to be expected

In a way we would all be happier
With amnesia
Of course there is a precedent for that:
Witness reincarnation

As for Marianne, that later became a bit of a tragedy at least on my side, when I lost her friendship. I am just throwing that in, in case Marianne is reading this, so she will know that she was missed. You see, a lot of this blog’s followers are from that old Sufi group. For the record, I was tempted to include Cohen’s song, So Long, Marianne, except it would have been misleading since so much of it is not applying to Marianne’s and my situation. Oh hell, in at least an appreciation of Leonard Cohen, here is the apt url:

And while on the subject of lost loves, this is for Kate of Lowell high, who fancied herself Suzanne

And finally this, for a new friend, Hakima, whose favorite Cohen song was this:

My Philosophy Has Saved My Life

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Robinson Jeffers

Robinson Jeffers

PR4–393

The Sweet Birdsong and Beethoven’s Tears

Look!
Up in the sky!
Stars and moons
A planet that’s a huge diamond

And earth!
(Look down now)
All manner of wonder
Look around

Turn to the roses
The smiles
The sweet birdsong
And Beethoven’s tears:

They want proof of existence
But one thing has been proven
Beyond any reasonable doubt:
Somebody knows how to make an entrance

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
Hmmm . . . Looks like this post is going to be a two or three parter. Which explains a part of my delay since the last post. You pretty much have to get all three posts done first, if only to know where to break them up. And I do put a lot of effort into getting these as good as I can make them, just as if I were in an English class and I was being graded on these essays. And I take these things seriously. Like when I got into nursing school, I had all A’s on the seven prerequisites. And when I graduated from Humboldt State, I had a perfect score from all three judges on the de rigueur for a diploma, exit essay-writing exam. Only because I bore down, just on general principles. And this bearing down, blog-wise, involves a lot of time and effort. Especially since I tend to have to also do research.

So–I am pushing three thousand words, and I haven’t yet covered all the issues that seem to be connected to the theme I have started with, which is how my poetry relates to my “mission” which is–to put it succinctly–to express my feelings about metaphysical issues. And by metaphysical I mean Sufi things–things that can be analyzed by the heart, as opposed to the mere mind. I say “mere” even though it’s true, the mind is the glue I use to fuse these things together. I read somewhere that poetry itself (and fiction-writing too) is not like some arts, like say dance, which is all heart, and the mind is pretty apart from that. But poetry is a partnership with the mind. With even the left brain part of it. It’s true that my words must be imbued with some manifestation of love (which has myriad manifestations and ramifications, and so I do have trouble understanding complaints about “writer’s block.”).

And yet my mind’s facility with words I think is like a nurse at the operating table who hands the surgeon her tools, as necessary (e. g. scalpel, etc). And this nurse gets very intuitive about what the surgeon will need and ask for. Often I am told (I was, don’t forget, a student nurse at Humboldt State University), this nurse doesn’t need to even be asked.

However, though this post today is about poetry, it’s only ancillarily about the nuts and bolts of poetry production. Of course ancillary does not scare us digression freaks, and so hang on to your hat (and fasten your seat belts, as Bette Davis would say) there is still more to come today (or as I say, perhaps another day since this is going to be a three parter, looks like) about poetry production.

(Have I mentioned my secret hope that I am with my blog and poetry encouraging people to write poetry?* I think it’s a shortcut to happiness, frankly. But so many people seem to be intimidated by it, it seems in order to have an occasional thread dealing with how a poem is or can be arrived at, how so many things often thought to matter really don’t, you know as E. E. Cummings would say, “a lot of sweet bull like that.”)

That segue aside, I wish to say this:

I have a confession to make.

About my “profession” to be a poet.

It’s this:
I am not sure if my “poetry” is perhaps more propaganda for my mystical point of view than it is poetry in its own right. Can there be both? Of course many poets (especially including my big favorite E. E. Cummings, and John Donne as well, and Gerard Manley Hopkins . . .the list goes on) have pushed their mystical point of view. (And their political one too) In Cummings’ case, for instance he disdained artificiality (as opposed to the sciences which can be allied with the heart. And they surely can, just as in poetry-writing the mind and heart cooperate).

As in this:
(from voices to voices, lip to lip)

bring on your fireworks, which are a mixed
splendor of piston and pistil; very well
provided an instant may be fixed
so that it will not rub, like any other pastel.

(While you and i have lips and voices which
are for kissing and to sing with
who cares if some oneeyed son of a bitch
invents an instrument to measure Spring with?

Or this, by Robinson Jeffers:

The Eye

The Atlantic is a stormy moat; and the Mediterranean,
The blue pool in the old garden,
More than five thousand years has drunk sacrifice
Of ships and blood, and shines in the sun; but here the Pacific–
Our ships, planes, wars are perfectly irrelevant.
Neither our present blood-feud with the brave dwarfs
Nor any future world-quarrel of westering
And eastering man, the bloody migrations, greed of power, clash of
faiths–
Is a speck of dust on the great scale-pan.
Here from this mountain shore, headland beyond stormy headland
plunging like dolphins through the blue sea-smoke
Into pale sea–look west at the hill of water: it is half the
planet:
this dome, this half-globe, this bulging
Eyeball of water, arched over to Asia,
Australia and white Antartica: those are the eyelids that never
close;
this is the staring unsleeping
Eye of the earth; and what it watches is not our wars.
 
 

So I’m not saying here that there is anything wrong with my using my poetry as a vehicle for my philosophy. Indeed, since the essence of poetry is to make very concise what would otherwise wander all over the map, it brings me to the old writer’s edict to show, don’t simply tell. If it doesn’t “sell the sizzle, not the steak” the poem is perforce (possibly per farce) a big mistake.

But not so many people are into philosophy of any sort, let alone the more metaphysical variety (Of the proverbial religious experences). But fortunately, the relatively few people who do follow my blog are concerned, if not in fact preoccupied, with my brand of metaphysics. Or open to it if only as a way to put in some relief their own beliefs.

Yes, I do tend to focus on the sort of “spiritual” issues which would apparently be boring to more than a few self-selected aficionados.

But that’s cool.

It’s not like I need to make a living with this blog and poetry. Which does though bring me to want to say this to the over two hundred followers of my blog:

THANK YOU!

It’s not important that I have a mass audience (indeed, which could well be a danger to my ego. I refer here to the “sin” of pride.**). But it’s so nice to have an audience. Therapy really for me. And you guys don’t charge a hundred bucks an hour!

A further confession:

I may value my philosophy more than my artistry as a poet. (Though this is complicated by the fact that my philosophy does ordain the concern of doing my best at whatever I undertake) Because for instance my philosophy has saved my life.*** As for the artistry, I was reassured today to read a Facebook post from a poet friend,**** quoting Gary Snyder, one of the last remaining of the Jack Kerouac/Allan Ginsberg old north beach hip poets. (Have I mentioned that I once met met Allen Ginsberg?)

Speaking about his new collection of poems, Gary Snyder (who is now 85), said: “Its strength is that I let it be imperfect. [Laughs] That’s what I’m learning. There’s a Japanese saying: “Imperfection is best.”… I decided I’m not going to hold it down to the line and get it just right. There are things in there that I don’t know what I think of.”

I especially am struck by this: “There are things in there that I don’t know what I think of.” Indeed, sometimes when I am contemplating an editorial change in one of my poems, I remember the old dictum about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.

And this reminds me of the old (was it from the Navajo?) story of the American indigenous tribe that deliberately included an imperfection in their basket weaving so as not to “compete with the gods.”

Well, this post has gone on too long, and this is the best place to stop. I didn’t want to stop it sooner as it needed to include the news (see below at ****) of the pre-Christmas sale of my friend Alice’s book.

So I will carry on with the rest of this post next time.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I stress this because it sure happened to me that way. As I related in the first blog post,

https://rumi-nations.com/2013/04/01/sufism-the-science-of-happiness-2/

the one for April Fool’s Day 2013,in which I was on my way to learning to paint with oils, and suchlike art stuff, when I came across a book of ecstatic mystical poems from Dan Ladinsky, called “Love Poems from God.”

And they were so much up my alley that I said to myself, So that’s poetry? Hey I can write that kind of stuff!

And so I switched back to my original art form. (I’d been writing poetry (even in French!) since I was fourteen.

What fun! And that was ten years and six thousand “poems” ago. And coincidentally I have never been happier (I think expressing the heart as eloquently as you can does that). And I don’t even have a girlfriend!

** I am not so naïve as to believe in the fairy tale of a non-existent ego. Or even a necessarily subordinate one, when it comes for instance to roses, or other such beauty emblematics. I draw support in this from Benjamin Franklin who I believe in his autobiography spoke of attempts to quash pride with humility. I remember him saying that even if he found that mythical unicorn, it would in itself go to his head because he would then “be proud of my humility.”

***A reference to that is in this old post:
https://rumi-nations.com/2013/05/

Suffice to say it’s like in this Tolstoy quote from Anna Karenna:
“…life was impossible like that, and that he must either interpret life so that it would not present itself to him as the evil jest of some devil, or shoot himself.”
–Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina, Garnett translation)

**** This friend Alice Klein is the author of a fine book of poetry denombre “What the Heart Wants” a book I very heartily recommend. And which is available here (with a great for the holidays special sale price):

http://www.sheriarfoundation.org/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=9780913078822