Self as rainbow

We see a rainbow, but what we have is drops of rain and light—a process. Similarly, what we ‘see’ is a self; but what we actually have is a whole lot of thoughts going on in consciousness. Against the backdrop of consciousness we are projecting a self, rather than a rainbow. If you walk toward the rainbow you will never get there. David Bohm, Thought as a System

How can we look beyond the seeming solidity of our natures—so obvious, so self-evident—and deeply realise that they are, as Buddhists say, empty of essence? That they are processes, manifesting from instant to instant along with all of the rest of the universe?

This is the basic challenge that meditation throws at us: to watch this creation and destruction happening, within and without, without attachment and without distortion.


Nothing Spectacular

Please read this wonderful post and blog, and follow the links to a deep and insightful meditator.

Zen Broom


“The blossoming of understanding, love and intelligence has nothing to do with any tradition, no matter how ancient or impressive. It happens completely on its own when a human being questions, wonders, listens and looks without getting stuck in fear, pleasure and pain. When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open. The essence of all life is not separate from the silent openness of simple listening.” — Toni Packer

Toni Packer. I never met her, but after reading a great deal about her I wish I had. I wanted to write a tribute to her, but I felt it would feel disingenuous since I never had the chance to experience her charisma firsthand. I have included two links to articles written by people who had the opportunity of meeting this rare woman. I hope you read them carefully. Not only will they help illuminate who Toni was…

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Bring the image of a loved one into your mind. Hold that image there for a while. Think of the years you have known her. The tenderness, the pleasures, the joyous shared experiences. Let’s be aware of the waves of emotion that run through the body. Now think of the hurts inflicted on each other. The angers, accumulated over time. The subtle humiliations, the flavour of pain.

Now: it’s stunning for me to realise that the pictures I have built up about this person over the years exist only in my mind. The real person, in all her subtlety and beauty, escapes my images and emotions about her and lives in a free world. Memory creates our relationship. What lies beyond?

The next time she walks into my room, perhaps I’ll find out.

An Ordinary Day, by Norman MacCaig

Pure Zen! Please also visit my later blog post (April 28 2014) for a preliminary analysis of this poem. As many people visit this post, I would appreciate it if you could satisfy my curiosity and leave a message as to why you are looking for this particular poem!

I took my mind a walk

Or my mind took me a walk—

Whichever was the truth of it.

The light glittered on the water

Or the water glittered in the light.

Cormorants stood on a tidal rock

With their wings spread out,

Stopping no traffic. Various ducks

Shilly-shallied here and there

On the shilly-shallying water.

An occasional gull yelped. Small flowers

Were doing their level best

To bring to their kerbs bees like

Ariel charabancs. Long weeds in the clear

Water did Eastern dances, unregarded

By shoals of darning needles. A cow

Started a moo but thought

Better of it…And my feet took me home

And my mind observed to me,

Or I to it, how ordinary

Extraordinary things are or

How extraordinary ordinary

Things are, like the nature of the mind

And the process of observing.


The Basics: Nisargadatta (contd)

“You give no attention to your self. Your mind is all with things, people and ideas, never with your self. Bring your self into focus, become aware of your own existence. See how you function, watch the motives and results of your actions. Study the prison you have built around yourself, by inadvertence. By knowing what you are not, you come to know yourself.”  I Am That, p4, Ch2

I return often to the quote above, even though I am very familiar with it. It structures so much of what I define as “meditation,” or awareness of inner and outer worlds.

Your mind is all with things, people and ideas. I am humbled by the day by day, hour by hour, indeed minute to minute processes of identification that take place in our minds and bodies.  Our consciousness seems to be spread out, like a drop of water on fine paper, over vastness in space and time. I can identify with my coffee cup, and insist that I drink only from that favourite cup because it gives me some intangible, fleeting comfort. I can pass by a landscape, a road, a house, and find my consciousness imprinted upon it because this particular spot arouses such a wealth of complex feelings in my mind and body: peace, desire, regret, shame. I can look at the moon, 360,000 kilometers away, and feel attached to its beauty and the memories it arouses. And so on all the way, I presume, to the edge of the known universe! Creation seems soaked with my identity; both penetrate and mingle with each other.

And it is this exact process of deep deep identification that the mystics are challenging. Focus on the “I” that identifies, they say, rather than the thing that it is identified with. Strip away all identification so that only the “I” remains. And then see what happens. Impossible, we exclaim. And the masters calmly reply: Who is this who proclaims that it is impossible? And the cycle begins again. . .

The Basics: Nisargadatta

“You give no attention to your self. Your mind is all with things, people and ideas, never with your self. Bring your self into focus, become aware of your own existence. See how you function, watch the motives and results of your actions. Study the prison you have built around yourself, by inadvertence. By knowing what you are not, you come to know yourself.”  I Am That, p4, Ch2

All mystics through the ages have stressed on this basic idea. Forget the blazing lights, the pure bliss, the oblivion of body. The hard work of bringing the daily self into the foreground is what they primarily emphasize (Krishnamurti, Joko Beck, Buddha himself) and yet this is the toughest part, the primary challenge, for our wandering minds.

“Your mind is all with things, people, ideas.” The fundamental point that Nisargadatta stresses upon is our identification with things, people, ideas. I see a picture of a gadget, say the new Kindle. My curiosity is aroused, but it is not just an abstract curiosity. I feel a strange sense of fulfillment, a swelling of my self, an added sense of solidity and self worth, when I imagine myself holding the Kindle. I feel that it will be a deep source of pleasure. I project myself holding it, explaining its power to my friends, I sense their curiosity and slight envy (unless of course they have a better model!) There is a deep abiding bond that is built up between myself and this object. In fact, my identity seems to have penetrated the object, so that we are one entity.

(If you feel that all this doesn’t apply to you–and many people reject the above model–just remember the last time you lost your wallet, or your cell phone, or your car keys. The bond with a familiar object, and with the security it represented, was broken, perhaps forever. What were your emotions at that point?)

And yet, when I acquire the object, why is there the sense of quiet deflation, the sense of a promise not quite fulfilled? Already I am planning mentally on the Kindle upgrade.

If all this is true of things, the depth of identification with people is exponentially stronger. I identify with my girlfriend because she is my primary source of pleasure: the pleasure of sex, the pleasure of “ownership” (yes, very subtle and refined, but ownership anyway), the pleasure of control and the pleasure of submission. The cycle of fulfillment and betrayal, emotional and physical, oscillates gently through the days, bringing in its wake tenderness, anger, jealousy by turn.  This cycle is so fascinating that it keeps me interested for months and years, until maybe a new fascination comes along.

And, finally, ideas. I feel no one has explained our obsession and identification with ideas more clearly than Krishnamurti. My idea of nation and my identification with it; my idea of religion and my identification with it; family; work. The list is endless. And, very much as with relationships, powerful emotions are associated with these identifications. When the identity is questioned, fierce anger and insecurity are aroused. When there is affirmation, there is a glow, an enhancement of self and (seemingly) well being.