Please & Thank You, I Love You.

Namasté! You are loved! You are worthy!

Why say these words? Please? Thank you? One writer says they came from a time when there was a sharp distinction between Commoners and their “betters.” “If you please,” and, “I thank you,” came in as Common Courtesy. A way to assume an equal standing in the markets when there really was none. Each gave the other equal respect, and business went on more smoothly. Please and Thank You, I Love You. You are Worthy. We see the other as we would want to be seen.

In much the same way marrieds might say, “I love you,” at the oddest times. They might be  tired, frustrated, or even angry. Loving feelings of any kind might be the farthest thing from their minds. They affirm what they don’t feel (but doesn’t love go far beyond mere emotion.) So, they assure the other of a needed respect, allowing  the  relationship to go on more smoothly. Please and Thank You, I Love You. You are Worthy.

Confucius pointed out, though that such expressions go far beyond putting a calm surface on the waters. In fact, they are acts of creation. When I tell my wife, “I love you,” it is not so much about how I feel as it is creating in her the sense of being loved .  I want her to experience that she is  someone worthy of love. We can say, “please pass the potatoes,” that is, “in respect for you as a person, I am asking that you reach me the potato bowl.” We can also just say, “pass me the potatoes.” One is likely to create an inner response, “I’ll be glad to,” while the other, “and who are you?” Respectful words create respect; rude words, resentment.

Another word, not as common in the West, is, “Namasté.” It affirms equality, but on a much higher level. Rather than limiting to the common humanity, as with “please” and “thank you,” it recognises a shared, higher, and deeper, humanity. It says, in effect, “the divine in me honors the divine in you.” Not merely, “I love you,” but, “the love in me recognises the love in you.” The Tao of Prayer is about discovering and nurturing that love, and that divinity.

Spontaneous Generation

 

Where does life come from?
Where Does Life Come From?

In the early days of Natural Philosophy some thought that life just happens. Where there is old meat, flies happen. Where rags are left in a corner, rats happen. Grain, weevils, &c. A naive teen might worry about a kiss making babies. Today we’re a little smarter: life has to come from somewhere, right? Where does life come from?

Where does our life come from? More to the point, where does our aliveness originate – our awareness, our skills, our mastery?

Life, and Mastery

There is an old story that Zhuang Tse told about a butcher who could cut an ox with the grace of a dancer. His blade never dulled, and his motions were fluid, never meeting any resistance. He “knew” just where to apply the edge as the meat fell away and the joints divided as if on their own. The Emperor watched him work, and learned how to rule his kingdom more effectively.

The Sage said that Butcher Ding’s spirit knew where to cut as he followed the Tao. His own tao knew the tao of that particular ox, so that there was no time spent in finding the right path to cut. This did not happen by some magic, but he had practiced his art for many years. His mind – whether seated behind his eyes, in his hands, or even in the cleaver which extended them – lived in the mastery of his craft. He was spontaneous. 

Spontaneous Living

We speak today of being spontaneous as if meant just doing what we feel like doing – following our heart, and that’s that. In truth, it’s pretty much the opposite. Butcher Ding couldn’t spontaneously prepare a feast when still an apprentice. Neither could a pianist perform a Liszt concerto without visible effort, but by the invisible effort in years of study and practice.

Mind, body, soul, and spirit – all that one is – learn to operate as one. One stroke at a time, one note at a time, one prayer, one breath at a time. This is what it takes to attain mastery, and to be mastered.

Learn From the Masters

The Tao of Prayer is a small book which highlights the teachings of sages throughout time to help us grasp what it means to master, and be mastered by the fullness of all life. Big claim for a small book? When you read it I think you’ll agree with the pre-readers that it stands up for it pretty well.

 

One Hand Clapping – Loudly!

One Hand Clapping

Shunryu Suzuki answered that age-old koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”  The sound has always been, he said, or it would not be. If we hear the sound that two hands make, then we hear it, and it is gone. The one hand is already the sound. Do we hear it? Do we not hear it? No matter. All that exists has been before, and will continue to be. In our duality we can’t see that. Before a child is born, or conceived, there is no child, and only for a few years does she exist before she dies. Yet every life – indeed, all of life – is an extension of the life of God. This universe is alive with the Divine life, or it is not alive at all. Whence it comes, there also it must return, because that is its home. That is where it belongs.

Being, or Existence?

Is this strange, that we speak of “being” and “existence” as two things? One is but the extension of the other. What exists, is, but it has become evident. It is more definable. An old Christian sage, and I forget his name, said, “if an intelligent person asks you if God exists, then tell him, ‘no.’ For all that God is cannot be encompassed with any meaning which we give to the word, ‘existence.’ ”  The ancient Celts spoke of all nature – not just mankind, or not just the enlightened by any such means – as being alive with Divine life, or not at all. There is only one life, and “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”only one Source of all life, and of all nature. A recent survey in the US showed nearly half of all people calling themselves atheists had experienced this wonder, not to mention those who claimed some religion or spirituality. We come from God, we go to God, and in the meantime, as the two hands are clapping they clap in God. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

The Day’s Business

Suzuki Roshi goes on to tell us that when we sit, when we bow, when we go about our day’s business, it is Zazen to do so simply. When we pray, let it be in such simplicity, as putting one foot before another, simply walking the path. Have you ever heard a child on a journey? “Are we there yet? When do we get there? Now are we there?” The adult knows simply to keep the vehicle moving, because the journey is the getting-there, If we get attached to our goal it does nothing to get us there sooner, but makes the trip all the harder when we could be enjoying the view. So, an attitude of, “look at me, I’m driving,” does nothing.

Prayer and Performance

I knew a couple of men who invited me to join them in their prayers. Each of them focused on doing everything Just Right. Bowing at the right moments, even reciting the prayers in a language their hearts did not know. Striving to attain. Struggling to do everything perfectly, by some imagined pattern. What could have been a release from the ego became instead the ego’s own exercise. In each time I found myself wishing for the nearest way out of that room. The strife was unbearable. Within a year, each of them was given over to terrible passions.

Get it Done!

Rather than always doing, to get this or that “done,” is it not better to be where we are, who we are, and simply doing what we are doing in the peace of the moment? The drive will be more pleasant, the walk more restful, and the destination will come as a welcome surprise. 

A New Surprise

The Tao of Prayer is a new book with an ancient message. The sages of all time weigh in with the same, unchanging truth of the one Tao, Path, or Word and how to follow it to our ultimate fulfillment.

Oh, the Humanity!

We’re all out to find what it means, really, to be human, and to really be ourselves, aren’t we? Whatever the means, most of us recognise that we are created by the Divine. Some of us see this in terms of the Biblical, “in the beginning God created…” For others, an unseen Force has guided our development. Some may even follow the old Greek story that mankind began as a single creature that later became individual “parts.”  Nobody, that I’ve ever met or read, claims that Humanity was created just to be discarded.

Humanity can be seen two ways. Continue reading “Oh, the Humanity!”

Bigger on the Inside

An open heart is the key to self-knowledge. We are bigger on the inside.

How big is the universe? How big is the mind? How big is the human heart? Modern reasoning would tell us that the first is the largest, and the third the smallest. Is it, though, or might we be bigger on the inside? All the “secrets of the universe” are there to be analysed, categorised, and conveniently packaged by the human mind, so the mind must be greater. Likewise, the ancient sages, who have known the human heart most fully, tell us that the first step of prayer or meditation is to bring the mind into the heart. So, at least in potential, the greatest space in all of nature is the very center of our own being. You’re really bigger on the inside – the inner world, your own heart!

King David, of early-ancient Israel, wrote in a hymn of praise, “You have set my heart in a large place,” and, “You have enlarged my heart.” In the speech of that day wisdom was seen as having a large heart. Today, a friend is someone who has given us their heart, and we, ours, to them. First of all, in doing this we give that friend the gift of space, of the possibility to be truly him- or her-self, and as our hearts enlarge we discover our place in the universe, and its place in us.

The Buddha gave us lessons on how to be more mindful of the workings of our hearts. Lao Tse taught that the Tao, the way to enlightenment is found in all places. Zen teaching tells us we find that road we have found its destination. Jesus said, “the kingdom of Heaven is within you.”

So, the inner road is greater than any outward avenue. It is also harder find. This is the greatest frustration of our day. We  can find maps in drugstores, truck stops, and GPS apps on how to get from New Orleans to Timbuktu. Finding the Way  which leads to this Inner Kingdom remains a mystery to most of us. It’s not for lack of information. All kinds of such is out there. It’s just too confusing for many of us, though, when so many people publish maps, and none of them seem to agree. Some tell us our true destiny is a “self-discovery” that means nothing but embracing our own passions. Some take it further, and make it about business success or finding “true love.” Passions are just “what happens.” “True love” most often means finding someone who is willing to affirm us as we are. No change, no growth, no progress.

The Tao of Prayer is a guidebook to help us find, and follow, the real Way. Where the sages agree, they’ve got something. Where others insert throw in own opinions they lead us on side-roads to nowhere. This book follows the path of agreement – not just in what the map looks like, but how to follow it. Kind of like an ancient Waze to spiritual fulfillment. After all, we’re bigger on the inside!

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