Tag Archives: Buddhism

Joy and Sorrow and Stuff

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My painting of Meher Baba

 

New Start–178

Subtle Sorrows Are Borrowing Our Hearts

“Joy and sorrow are the light and shade of life; without light and shade no picture is clear.”
–Hazrat Inayat Khan

I’m thinking about life as a painting
As if I were an art critic
And even the painter

I’m also thinking about sadness
Yes because I am sad today but
It’s subtle this sadness

It won’t spoil my morning or the sun’s caress
It’s just an interesting object of investigation
(An objet d’art if you will)

Because I’m realizing different moods are
The colors of our life paintings and what
A strange painting it would be without dark contrasts!

Even the very dark ones–and the light grays?
Each day subtle sorrows
Are borrowing our hearts

They are the touches of gray
Which give our skin depth and volume
In the paintings of our lives

Clearly both sadness and joy
Breathe life and verisimilitude into our lives
(Not to mention artistic expression)

~.~.~

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,

“Joy and sorrow are each part of the other. If it were not for joy, sorrow would not exist; and if it were not for sorrow, joy would not be experienced.”
–Hazrat Inayat Khan

Pardon my double (or is it triple?) dose of Hegelian philosophy. But Hegel and his dialectic (read thesis antithesis, then, synthesis) are integral to my brand of Sufism. In a nutshell, you start with an idea and then you get an opposite idea, and the two fight it out til you reach a synthesis, which then becomes (In an upward spiral) the next level’s new thesis. (Yes we advance by successive approximation)

I am fascinated by Hegel. Have been ever since my UC Berkeley days where I came across Hegel in my European Intellectual History class. Of course it didn’t hurt that Meher Baba and Inayat Khan spoke in such Hegelian concepts. (e. g. all that talk about opposites)

Also for the above, I found intensely interesting the rumor that my beloved Sufi preceptor, Lud Dimpfl, was the reincarnation of Hegel.

And, speaking of opposites, here’s a bit from my daily dose of Hazrat Inayat Khan:

“We generally confuse truth with fact, and we often use the word fact for truth. When we look at it from the mystic’s point of view we find that words are too intricate ever to explain what is truth*. … Truth is that which cannot be pointed out, because all things that can be compared have their opposite, but neither God nor truth has an opposite. Names are to point out forms, and words are to distinguish one thing from another, while definitions come from the pairs of opposites or at least from differences. That which is all-pervading and is in all things and beings, that which every word explains and yet no word can explain, is God and is truth.”

Which brings us to Meher Baba (who in 1948 inherited my erst Sufi order–1972-79–which had been founded by Inayat Khan in 1921 ish).

As in this:

FREEDOM FROM OPPOSITES
Meher Baba

Every man is subject to agreeable and disagreeable experiences — of pleasure and pain, success and failure, good and evil, wealth and poverty, power and helplessness, honor and dishonor, gain and loss, fulfillment and frustration.

Each of these opposites invites a suitable response in emotion or in action. Mind is moved by these opposites, and is continually losing its equilibrium and continually trying to restore it while constantly meeting the impacts of environmental changes.

During its various lives as a human being the ego-mind can oscillate endlessly between the opposites, viz., indulgence and repression, secularism and religion, superiority complex and inferiority complex, self-aggrandizement and self-humiliation, introversion and extroversion, virtue and vice, pain and pleasure, “I” and “you” or “mine” and “thine,” without arriving at true poise.

True poise comes when the ego-mind, with all its accumulated inclinations, melts away through divine love, thus unveiling the supramental Truth in which there is a realization that one is — oneself — one with all life. Here there is no duality or division of life and therefore the soul is free from the opposite attitudes.

Having become one with the eternal and infinite divinity which sustains from within, the soul gains unending bliss, understanding, love and power, for the soul is free from duality.”

Sounds a lot like what Buddha said (and reportedly, experienced), nicht wahr?**

But back to Inayat Khan:

There is going forward and there is going backwards, there is success and there is failure, there is light and there is darkness, there is joy and there is sadness, there is birth and there is death. All things that we can know, feel and perceive have their opposites. It is the opposite quality which brings about balance. The world would not exist if there were not water and earth. Every thing and every being needs these two qualities in order to exist, to act, and to fulfill the purpose of life; for each quality is incomplete without the other. … by a deep insight into nature we discover that the creation is the same as the Creator, that the source is the same as the goal, and that the two only mean one. There are two ends to a line but the line is one, and this oneness is manifest in all things, though man seldom gives any thought to this subject. This amazing manifestation, this world of variety, keeps us so puzzled, so confused, and so absorbed in it that we hardly give ourselves any time to see this wonderful phenomenon: how the one and only Being shows Himself even in the world of variety.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Which reminds me of I forget who said, “Poetry is the art of the attempt to express the inexpressible.” Which would be a fool’s errand if it weren’t for the reader’s imagination coming to the rescue. Indeed, it’s an oft stated thing, (Inayat Khan-wise): the vital importance of the imagination.

**Coincidentally or not, I just finished rereading (after thirty years) a great Buddhist book, “Footprints of Gautama the Buddha, by Marie Beuzeville Byles, which I think is out of print, but which is still orderable online. In it is the life of Buddha (at least onwards from the episode under the Banyon tree). It tells it as a story but with extensive source notes after each chapter (in case you want to verify the incidents).

It portrays an interesting Buddha, whose gentle wit also shows through.

Finally the Cat Is Out of the Bag!

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Lud Dimpfl’s Sufi class (circa 1973)

I am the dark guy in the back row just in front of the left door jamb.

 

 

Lud Dimpfl with Meher Baba

 

New Start—419
Let Hell Go To Its Favorite Abyss

What if you were a writer when
(You had an imagination)
You imagined a new way backwards

(For a new way towards)
To examine the apparently soulless behavior
Of someone who couldn’t budge

Because who had kept dammed his heart and if
Then instead of damning him for his lack of savior
What if instead of that you understood better

Who he really was or at least you understood that
To judge is to fetter
(Yourself as well and to them too)

And so then you stepped toward this bliss:
You let hell go (to its favorite abyss)
You let flow your tear-salted water

From your oceanic heart and then
(It’s a start)
You wept?

 

~.~.~

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.”

~.~.~

Note to Gentle Readers:

The company that administers this website blind-sided me with a new format for posting stuff which I didn’t understand. For that, this post is very much behindtime. (but all is better now. (Ojala and inshallah)

Apologies.

Gentle Readers,
Perhaps you haven’t been following my blog “religiously.” (There’s that nasty word again) And so perhaps a brief bit about my background is in order. In order that is to better understand where I am coming from, and better put my musings in the context of a useful framework.

So here’s why this is a “Sufi” website:

I was an initiate in a Sufi order in northern California, from 1972 to 1979. (If you aren’t familiar with “Sufism,” if it helps to place this in context, Rumi was a Sufi). This order was co-founded by Hazrat Inayat Khan, sent to the west (England, The United States, etc.) in 1914, by his murshid, Madani, as I recall, in Hyderabad, India. The mission was to establish a Sufism beachhead in the west.*

In Sufism, the “guru” is called a murshid. Or, in the case of a woman, a murshida.

Inayat Khan died in 1927 and in 1948 the then murshida, Rabia Martin, (Inayat Khan’s chosen successor), when dying of cancer directed that the order be put under the aegis of Meher Baba (which means, compassionate father) in India. She was convinced he was “The Qutub,” which means in Sufism, the highest spiritual authority on the planet at the time. He was of the large Parsi community in India. They had centuries earlier fled from their native Persia where they were ostracized by the Islamic influences that took over Persia, and as is frequent worldwide in these cases of differing religions, did not show tolerance to the “infidel” Parsis, who didn’t wish to renounce their ancient devotion to the prophet Zoroaster, not even in favor of Mohammed..

Meher Baba conducted then the order from a physical distance, (its headquarters being in San Francisco) naming Ivy Duce as the new murshida. When I joined, Ivy Duce was about seventy five years old. Basically we followed the practices which had been set forth by Hazrat Inayat Khan, with some changes–mostly additions prompted by Meher Baba (I can’t think of any subtractions).  Oops. Yes I can. One thing. Meher Baba wanted omitted some of the arcane practises which if taught to people not spiritually advanced enough to use them safely, could abuse them, both to their and others’ detriment.

And so we revered Inayat Khan (Hazrat is a title bestowed in the east upon one who is respected as a holy person). We studied his writings, and sang his Zikr to start each meeting. It was a round–or canon (like the famous canon in D by Pachelbel, or more familiarly (and aptly, the last line) “Row Row, Row Your Boat.” And we said his invocation also at the start of a meeting. This was, “Toward 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.”

As you may notice these are pantheistic in tone, and the invocation I do believe ranks as the most ecumenical of invocations. As such it is often the case that fundamentalists in their respective religions, take objection. As do others who imagine that “religion” inherently is imposed upon one from without, whether by a person such as Christ or Buddha, or usually, by mere priests of one sort or another who purport to speak for God.

Inayat Khan neatly sidesteps this (as do most Sufis I have come across in my readings) by the expedient of declaring that God has a way of adapting to the belief of the individual, who is encouraged to use the full range of her imagination to conceive of God as the embodiment of whatever most moves her heart. Since as Inayat Khan repeatedly emphasizes, the temple of God is the heart of man. Along these lines, he often quotes the Prophet Mohammed who said “Every man has his own religion.”

One of the practices prescribed by Inayat Khan is daily to say to oneself, “My thoughtful self, reproach no one, hold a grudge against no one, bear malice toward no one; Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

And this brings us to today’s theme, that of judgment. (Ha! Finally the cat is out of the bag!) Of course some religions or philosophies emphasize the concept of reincarnation (e. g. Jainism, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, some subsects of Islam, and others. Most recently–to my knowledge–also, Meher Baba.) Indeed, though Inayat Khan never explicitly references such a doctrine, in my opinion, his philosophy connotes this. He often refers to the human being’s gradual development in terms that simply haven’t a possible timeline without reincarnation. I suspect this stemmed from the fact of Sufism being born of Islam, and steeped in a tradition of obfuscation. So as to avoid fundamentalist persecution—an example being poetry ostensibly written to an opposite sex beloved, or reference to “wine” when the cognoscenti knew what was meant was to a reference to God or divine intoxication. And had Inayat Khan spoken directly of reincarnation, it would have aroused controversy and Sufis are noted for keeping a low profile.

And again sticking to the no no of judgment, once one is hip to reincarnation there obtain obvious corollaries, such as the concept of “young souls” or “old souls.” The older souls, for their greater experience, are wiser. And a corollary to that is the injustice of judging a “young soul” by the standards of an older one. It would be like demanding calculus from a kindergartner. Because we are all on different rungs of the ladder, as it were. And God knows (as opposed to we) who is higher and who is lower or by how much. There can then be no absolute standards of even good and evil. Inayat Khan says the virtue of a regular person would likely be a sin for a saint. And Meher Baba has said, “There is no such thing as evil. Only relative degrees of good.”

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*By an interesting coincidence, Inayat Khan’s wife was either the cousin or sister (I forget which) to Mary Baker Eddy who founded Christian Science.

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.