Loud Music

An unusual and beautiful poem about the everyday loss of ego

My stepdaughter and I circle round and round.
You see, I like the music loud, the speakers
throbbing, jam-packing the room with sound whether
Bach or rock and roll, the volume cranked up so
each bass note is like a hand smacking the gut.
But my stepdaughter disagrees. She is four
and likes the music decorous, pitched below
her own voice-that tenuous projection of self.
With music blasting, she feels she disappears,
is lost within the blare, which in fact I like.
But at four what she wants is self-location
and uses her voice as a porpoise uses
its sonar: to find herself in all this space.
If she had a sort of box with a peephole
and looked inside, what she’d like to see would be
herself standing there in her red pants, jacket,
yellow plastic lunch box: a proper subject
for serious study. But me, if I raised
the same box to my eye, I would wish to find
the ocean on one of those days when wind
and thick cloud make the water gray and restless
as if some creature brooded underneath,
a rocky coast with a road along the shore
where someone like me was walking and has gone.
Loud music does this, it wipes out the ego,
leaving turbulent water and winding road,
a landscape stripped of people and language-
how clear the air becomes, how sharp the colors.
—Stephen Dobyns


Divine puppets

The body-mind is simply an object. There’s no-one in there. It’s just a mechanism that works. It’s an organism that grows up and works and is conditioned and has feelings, thoughts, preferences and habits that go on, and there’s no-one in there doing that. That is simply oneness arising as a body-mind organism which is, in a way, a divine puppet in that it just responds and reacts to whatever’s going on without any self-volition. However, there is no puppeteer. There is no script, no plan, no destiny, no fate … it is all timeless being appearing as something seeming to happen.

Tony Parsons

The dream bus

“Award winning film makers Boris and Claire Jansch go on a journey to unravel what it means to be alive. What if the search for happiness was based on a huge misconception, a misconception that has been drummed into us since birth, that we are separate individuals.
This radical and challenging documentary ventures into the heart of the mystery of identity, flipping the idea of spiritual endeavour on its head, revealing a message so profound and yet so simple that it might just end the search.”

Pleasure, pain and the changeless

Q: All this is very interesting, no doubt, but my goal is more simple. I want more pleasure and less pain in life. What am I to do?

M: As long as there is consciousness, there must be pleasure and pain. It is in the nature of the ‘I am’, of consciousness, to identify itself with the opposites.

Q: Then of what use is all this to me? It does not satisfy.

M: Who are you, who is unsatisfied?

Q: I am the pain-pleasure man.

M: Pain and pleasure are both ananda (bliss). Here I am sitting in front of you and telling you — from my own immediate and unchanging experience — pain and pleasure are the crests and valleys of the waves in the ocean of bliss. Deep down there is utter fullness.

Q: Is your experience constant?

M: It is timeless and changeless.

Q: All I know is desire for pleasure and fear of pain.

M: That is what you think about yourself. Stop it. If you cannot break a habit all at once, consider the familiar way of thinking and see its falseness. Questioning the habitual is the duty of the mind. What the mind created, the mind must destroy. Or realise that there is no desire outside the mind and stay out.

Q: Honestly, I distrust this explaining everything as mind-made. The mind is only an instrument, as the eye is an instrument. Can you say that perception is creation? I see the world through the window, not in the window. All you say holds well together because of the common foundation, but I do not know whether your foundation is in reality, or only in the mind. I can have only a mental picture of it. What it means to you I do not know.

M: As long as you take your stand in the mind, you will see me in the mind.

Q: How inadequate are words for understanding!

M: Without words, what is there to understand? The need for understanding arises from mis-understanding. What I say is true, but to you it is only a theory. How will you come to know that it is true? Listen, remember, ponder, visualise, experience. Also apply it in your daily life. Have patience with me and, above all have patience with yourself, for you are your only obstacle. The way leads through yourself beyond yourself. As long as you believe only the particular to be real, conscious and happy and reject the non-dual reality as something imagined, an abstract concept, you will find me doling out concepts and abstractions. But once you have touched the real within your own being, you will find me describing what for you is the nearest and the dearest.

Nisargadatta Maharaj


Questioner: There are so many theories about the nature of man and universe. The creation theory, the illusion theory, the dream theory — any number of them. Which is true?

Maharaj: All are true, all are false. You can pick up whichever you like best.

Q: You seem to favour the dream theory.

M: These are all ways of putting words together. Some favour one way, some favour another. Theories are neither right nor wrong. They are attempts at explaining the inexplicable. It is not the theory that matters, but the way it is being tested. It is the testing of the theory that makes it fruitful. Experiment with any theory you like — if you are truly earnest and honest, the attainment of reality will be yours. As a living being you are caught in an untenable and painful situation and you are seeking a way out. You are being offered several plans of your prison, none quite true. But they all are of some value, only if you are in dead earnest. It is the earnestness that liberates and not the theory.

I Am That, Nisargadatta

As miserable as ever

During a serious illness recently the freedom of liberation arose for
several days. There was no ego present at all, just freedom. Then this
faded and left me with only an intellectual memory of it. What do
you think happened to me?
It is possible that all there is to be seen has been seen, but there is
still an idea hanging on that “This isn’t it”. Such an idea can seem
very powerful, but it is still only an idea.
This is fairly common. It usually happens when the individual
is still clinging to a story which goes “If this is liberation, it should
be better than this.”
At this point it might be good to remember some Zen anec-
dotes. There is the story of a monk who said “Now that I’m
enlightened, I’m just as miserable as ever.” There was also a master
who asked a student “Why do you want enlightenment? How do
you know you’d like it?”
Another well-known Zen saying is “Before enlightenment,
chop wood. After enlightenment, chop wood.” In other words,
liberation is simply the seeing that there is no central self. It has
no other necessary implications. Afterwards life goes on but it is
seen that there is no one living it.