Quotes on Happiness

David Steindl-Rast

“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

“Look closely and you will find that people are happy because they are grateful. The opposite of gratefulness is just taking everything for granted. ”

“Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefullness, and gratefullness is a measure of our aliveness.”

“We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart.”

“Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more.”

“People who have faith in life are like swimmers who entrust themselves to a rushing river. They neither abandon themselves to its current nor try to resist it. Rather, they adjust their every movement to the watercourse, use it with purpose and skill, and enjoy the adventure.”

“Sometimes people get the mistaken notion that spirituality is a separate department of life, the penthouse of existence. But rightly understood, it is a vital awareness that pervades all realms of our being… Wherever we may come alive, that is the area in which we are spiritual.”

“Any place is sacred ground, for it can become a place of encounter with the divine Presence.”

“Try pausing right before and right after undertaking a new action, even something simple like putting a key in a lock to open a door. Such pauses take a brief moment, yet they have the effect of decompressing time and centering you.”

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”

“In moments of surprise we catch at least a glimpse of the joy to which gratefulness opens the door.”

“There is a wave of gratefulness because people are becoming aware how important this is and how this can change our world. It can change our world in immensely important ways, because if you’re grateful, you’re not fearful, and if you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you’re grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not of a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people, and you are respectful to everybody, and that changes this power pyramid under which we live.”

“A lifetime may not be long enough to attune ourselves fully to the harmony of the universe. But just to become aware that we can resonate with it — that alone can be like waking up from a dream.”

“Monastic contemplatives have staked out a clearly limited area to be transformed by contemplation: the monastery. Lay contemplatives face the challenge of transforming the whole world.”

“One single gift acknowledged in gratefulness has the power to dissolve the ties of our alienation.”

“As we learn to give thanks for all of life and death, for all of this given world of ours, we find a deep joy. It is the joy of trust, the joy of faith in the faithfulness at the heart of all things. It is the joy of gratefulness in touch with the fullness of life.”

Gautama Buddha

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

“In the end
these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?”

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”

“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?”

“There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.”

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts. If a man speak or act with an evil thought, suffering follows him as the wheel follows the hoof of the beast that draws the wagon…. If a man speak or act with a good thought, happiness follows him like a shadow that never leaves him.”

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

“You only lose what you cling to.”

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

“Three things can not hide for long: the Moon, the Sun and the Truth.”

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

“Doubt everything. Find your own light.”

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

“Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”

“There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.”

“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it”

“If you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another.”

“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant with the weak and wrong. Sometime in your life, you will have been all of these.”

“A man is not called wise because he talks and talks again; but if he is peaceful, loving and fearless then he is in truth called wise.”

“You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.”

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

“Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness.”


The Teacher-Student Relationship
CHÖGYAM TRUNGPA RINPOCHE on how our relationship with the teacher evolves in the three vehicles of Buddhism.

When we are infants, we need someone to babysit us—to change our diapers, to give us a bath, to tell us how to eat, to put us in pajamas. That’s the first reference point in our lives for a hierarchical relationship with another human being.
This basic human experience of growing up is an analogy for the teacher– student principle on the Buddhist path. The development of the teacher–student relationship in the three yanas, or vehicles, of Buddhism is analogous to bringing up infants, relating with teenagers, and finally relating with grownups.
The Teacher as Elder
The starting point is the relationship to hierarchy or a parental figure in the Hinayana, the vehicle of personal liberation. Our ordinary sense of the growing-up process, whatever we think it entails, is based purely on our dreams. We think we’re going to become Ph.D. candidates without knowing how to speak or write or read properly, almost without being toilet-trained. That’s the kind of ambition we usually have. We say to ourselves, “Of course I can push my shortcomings aside. I can just grow up, and soon I will be accepted in the mainstream of the respectable, highpowered world. I’m sure I can do it.” That’s our usual approach.
Many people believe that professionalism means having a self-confident but amateurish approach to reality, but we’re not talking here about being “professional” Buddhists in that sense. We’re talking about how to actually become adults in the Buddhist world, rather than kids who appear to be grown up. We actually have to grow up and face the problems that exist in our lives. We have to develop a sense of the subtleties, understanding our reactions to the phenomenal world, which are our reactions to ourselves at the same time.
To do this, we need some kind of parental figure to begin with. In the Hinayana tradition, that figure is called a sthavira in Sanskrit or thera in Pali, which means “elder.” The elder is somebody who has already gone through being babysat and has graduated to become a babysitter. In ordinary life, that person is very important for our development, because we have to know what will happen if we put our fingers on the hot burner. We have to learn the facts and figures and the little details that exist in our lives. That kind of discrimination is important.
There are spiritual facts and figures as well. As a practitioner, you might regard yourself as a grownup who doesn’t need a babysitter. But in terms of spiritual discipline, that reaction is infantile. You are closing off large avenues of learning if you reject those possibilities. Then you have nothing to work with. You will have no idea even how to begin with the ABCs of basic spirituality.
So in the beginning, relating to the teacher as acharya—as master, teacher, elder, parent-figure, and occasionally babysitter— is necessary. That person’s primary goal is not to teach us what’s good and what’s bad, but to help us develop a general sense of composure. That is the beginning of devotion, in some sense. At this point, devotion is not faith at an ethereal or visionary level but a sense of practicality: learning what it is necessary to do and what it is necessary to avoid. It’s a simple, basic thing.
So to begin with, the teachings tell you that your view of the world is an infantile view. You think you’re going to get ice cream every day. As a baby and a young child, you throw temper tantrums so that your daddy or your mommy or your babysitter will come along with a colorful ice-cream cone. But things can’t be that way forever. What we are saying here is that life is based on pain, suffering, misery. A more accurate word for that experience of duhkha, which we usually translate as “suffering,” is “anxiety.” There’s always a kind of anxiousness in life. Initially, you have to be told by somebody that life is full of anxiety.
The elder helps us to relate with that first thing, which is actually called a “truth.” It is truth because it points out that your belief that you can actually win the war against pain and that you might be able to get so-called happiness is not possible. It just doesn’t happen. The elder tells us these facts and figures. He or she tells us that the world is not made out of honeycombs and oceans of maple syrup. The elder tells us that the world has its own unpleasant and touchy points. When you have been told that truth, you begin to appreciate it more. You begin to respect that truth, which actually goes a very long way—all the rest of your life. For the elder, such truth is old hat: he or she knows it already. The elder has gone through it herself. Nevertheless, she doesn’t give out righteous messages about those things. She simply says, “Look, it’s not as good as you think. It is going to be somewhat painful for you, getting into this world. You can’t help it—you’re already in it—so you’d better work with it and accept the truth.” That is precisely how the Lord Buddha first proclaimed the dharma. His first teaching was the truth of suffering.
So when you are at the level of being babysat, having the teacher as a parental figure, you are simply told how things are. Being told about the truth of suffering is like having your diapers changed. This is an example of the trust and faith in the teacher that develops in the early stage of the teacher–student relationship, when the teacher acts as a babysitter.
The Teacher as Spiritual Friend
Having understood the first noble truth, your relationship with your teacher begins to evolve into a different level in the Mahayana, the vehicle of the bodhisattva path. He or she becomes the kalyanamitra, a Sanskrit word meaning “spiritual friend,” or “friend in the virtue.”
The kalyanamitra is less heavy-handed than the elder or parent, but on the other hand, he is more heavy-handed. He is like a rich uncle who provides money for the family. However, he doesn’t want them to just lounge around and live off his money. The rich uncle would like to be more constructive than that; he would like to have industrious relatives, so that he can increase his capital. Unlike a rich uncle in ordinary life, the bodhisattva’s approach, the Mahayana approach, is not based on self-aggrandizement. It isn’t self-centered. It is a much closer relationship. The teacher has become a spiritual friend. When relatives give us advice, we have a certain attitude toward their advice: we know that we are being told the relative truth. It has some value, it has some application, but it is still relative truth. When friends give us advice, its effect is more immediate and personal. If we are criticized by our parents, we think it’s their trip, or we think something is wrong with their approach, so we take it lightly. But if we are criticized by our friends, we feel startled. We begin to think there may be some element of truth in what they are saying.
So in the Mahayana, the teacher is a spiritual friend. He or she is much more demanding than the purely relative level. The spiritual friend makes us much more watchful and conscientious. At that point, relative truth has already become somewhat old hat: we already know about pain, the origin of pain, cessation, and the path, the four noble truths. At this point, the spiritual friend tells us, “Don’t just work on yourself. Do something about others. Relate with your projections rather than with the projector alone. Do something about the world outside and try to develop some sense of sympathy and warmth in yourself.”
That is usually quite hard for us to do. We are already upset and uptight and resentful that life is painful. It’s very hard to relax, to let go of that. But it can be done. It’s being done in the present and it will be done in the future. So how about giving an inch? Just letting go a little bit? Opening a little bit? We could be generous and disciplined at the same time. Therefore we should be patient and exert ourselves, be aware of everything that is happening, and be clear, all at the same time. That is the teacher’s prescription.
Following this approach is what is called the practice of the six paramitas. These six transcendent actions—generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation, and discriminating wisdom—are practiced by the Mahayana practitioner, the bodhisattva.
This practice puts us in the spotlight, so to speak. We have a general sense of wanting to open, for the very reason that we have nothing to lose. Our life is already a bundle of misery and chaos. Since we already have nothing to lose, we gain something by just giving, opening. That step is the transition between experiencing the teacher as elder and as spiritual friend.
The Teacher as Vajra Master
In the Vajrayana, or tantric vehicle, your relationship with the teacher becomes very complicated, very tricky. Your teacher becomes what is known as the vajra master, and your relationship with him or her has a different slant entirely. In some sense, the teacher becomes a combination of the elder and the spiritual friend. The process is the same, the line of thinking is the same, but it has its own particular twist. The vajra master is not an elder, a parental figure, a spiritual friend, or a rich uncle. He or she is a born warrior who accepts only a few students. The vajra master will not accept students who are sloppy and unreceptive.
Vajra is a Sanskrit word meaning “indestructible.” The idea of vajra mind is that it is completely well put-together. It does not have any cracks; it cannot be criticized. You cannot bring any confusion into it because it is so well guarded, not out of paranoia, but out of its own existence. It is self-guarded.
The closest analogy for the vajra master is the samurai. Such a teacher is ferocious, but at the same time he has the qualities of a father, an elder, and a friend. He could be very passionate, warm, and sympathetic, but he doesn’t buy any bullshit, if we could speak American at this point. Studying with such a person is dangerous, and it is a very advanced thing to do. You might actually progress much faster on the path. But if you start with the expectation of going faster, you might actually go slower.
Having gone through the Hinayana and Mahayana, you are well trained and disciplined. At this point, the vajra master’s approach is to create successive teaching situations in your life. He or she demands complete, unconditional trust and openness from you, without any logic. Maybe some little logic applies, but the invitation and the demand are simple and straightforward: “Would you like to come along with me and take part in this historic battle? Come along, here’s your sword.”
Of course, there is always room to chicken out. But once you accept the invitation, if you chicken out, you could go through a lot of problems. The more you are a coward, that much more the vajra master might try to terrify you, if that is what you need. I don’t want to paint a black picture of the vajra master, but that is the simple truth. The more you try to escape, the more you will be chased and cornered. However, the more you work with the vajra master, the more you will be invited to join that fantastic celebration and mutual dance.
The notion of celebration here is that of sharing a feast. It is not the usual idea of indulging, having parties and eating a lot. Feasting here means sharing rich experiences of all kinds. Sharing together in that sense is the only way that the Vajrayana teachings come alive and become completely appropriate. However, if you are not ready for that, then the vajra master may send you back to your spiritual friend, or if necessary to your elder.
Your commitment to the vajra master is not purely to the external person alone. As well, it has possibilities of commitment to the internal guru, the teacher as expressed in you. However, that takes place only after you meet the vajra master. At that point, you begin to experience a greater level of heroism, fearlessness, and power. You develop a sense of your own resources. That journey takes much longer than you would expect. The vajra master doesn’t want to give you any chance to play out your trip. Otherwise, you might decide to reject your irritating and overwhelming vajra master; you could deceptively internalize by saying, “I don’t have to deal with that person anymore. I can just do it on my own.”
The point here is that, at the Vajrayana level, there is a great deal of magic, power, and immense devotion. That devotion is different from devotion in the theistic traditions. In this case faith and devotion are based not on the sense of giving up or surrendering completely; devotion here is taking on more things, taking all sorts of examples and insight and power into yourself. At this point, you can actually be initiated—that is precisely the word. You can be initiated or empowered. The formal ceremony of empowerment in the Vajrayana is called an abhisheka. You can be abhisheka-ed, to coin a verb.
Faith and devotion in the theistic traditions may have a remote quality. Somebody is out there who will care for you, make you feel secure. Everything is somewhat on an ethereal level, on the level of otherness. The reason why lizards exist, the reason why snakes coil themselves, why rivers run to the ocean, and why trees grow tall—the reason for all this mysteriousness must be because of “him” or “it.”
That belief actually keeps you from understanding real magic. It keeps you from understanding how things come about or from finding out how you can do something in your own way. When you think that the world must be someone else’s work or creation, you begin to feel as though the whole world is run by a gigantic corporation, including the weather. But we run our own corporation, according to the nontheistic tradition of Buddhism. In order to have complete access to our world, so that we can run our own corporation, we need to have the vajra master give us manuals, techniques, and instructions. And if we are playing dumb, if we are not exuberant, he might actually put us into a very difficult situation to wake us up.
All together faith in the teacher is not worship; the teacher is not particularly regarded as a link to God. The teacher is regarded as a spiritual elder, spiritual friend, or vajra master. He or she has ways and means to create situations in accordance with our own receptivity, our own particular style, in order to waken our native intelligence. In relating with the teacher, your critical input and surrendering work together. They’re not working against each other. The more you get input from the teacher and the phenomenal world and the more you develop, the more, at the same time, you question. So there is a kind of dance taking place between the teacher and yourself. You are not particularly trying to switch off your questioning intelligence and switch on some sort of mindless devotion. Rather, the two—cynicism and devotion—are synchronized together.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity. His theories parallel many other theories of human developmental psychology, some of which focus on describing the stages of growth in humans. Maslow used the terms Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, Self-Actualization and Self-Transcendence needs to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through.
Maslow studied what he called exemplary people such as Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass rather than mentally ill or neurotic people, writing that “the study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy.” Maslow studied the healthiest 1% of the college student population.
Maslow’s theory was fully expressed in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality. While the hierarchy remains a very popular framework in sociology research, management training and secondary and higherpsychology instruction, it has largely been supplanted by attachment theory in graduate and clinical psychology and psychiatry.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization at the top.While the pyramid has become the de facto way to represent the hierarchy, Maslow himself never used a pyramid to describe these levels in any of his writings on the subject.
The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called “deficiency needs” or “d-needs”: esteem, friendship and love, security, and physical needs. If these “deficiency needs” are not met – with the exception of the most fundamental (physiological) need – there may not be a physical indication, but the individual will feel anxious and tense. Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher level needs. Maslow also coined the term Metamotivation to describe the motivation of people who go beyond the scope of the basic needs and strive for constant betterment.
The human mind and brain are complex and have parallel processes running at the same time, thus many different motivations from various levels of Maslow’s hierarchy can occur at the same time. Maslow spoke clearly about these levels and their satisfaction in terms such as “relative,” “general,” and “primarily.” Instead of stating that the individual focuses on a certain need at any given time, Maslow stated that a certain need “dominates” the human organism. Thus Maslow acknowledged the likelihood that the different levels of motivation could occur at any time in the human mind, but he focused on identifying the basic types of motivation and the order in which they should be met.
Physiological needs
are the physical requirements for human survival. If these requirements are not met, the human body cannot function properly and will ultimately fail. Physiological needs are thought to be the most important; they should be met first.
Air, water, and food are metabolic requirements for survival in all animals, including humans. Clothing and shelter provide necessary protection from the elements. While maintaining an adequate birth rate shapes the intensity of the human sexual instinct, sexual competition may also shape said instinct.
Safety needs
With their physical needs relatively satisfied, the individual’s safety needs take precedence and dominate behavior. In the absence of physical safety – due to war, natural disaster, family violence, childhood abuse, etc. – people may (re-)experience post-traumatic stress disorder or transgenerational trauma. In the absence of economic safety – due to economic crisis and lack of work opportunities – these safety needs manifest themselves in ways such as a preference for job security, grievance procedures for protecting the individual from unilateral authority, savings accounts, insurance policies, reasonable disability accommodations, etc. This level is more likely to be found in children because they generally have a greater need to feel safe.
• Safety and Security needs include:
• Personal security
• Financial security
• Health and well-being
• Safety net against accidents/illness and their adverse impacts
Love and belonging
After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third level of human needs is interpersonal and involves feelings of belongingness. This need is especially strong in childhood and can override the need for safety as witnessed in children who cling to abusive parents. Deficiencies within this level of Maslow’s hierarchy – due to hospitalism, neglect, shunning, ostracism, etc. – can impact the individual’s ability to form and maintain emotionally significant relationships in general, such as:
• Friendship
• Intimacy
• Family
According to Maslow, humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among their social groups, regardless if these groups are large or small. For example, some large social groups may include clubs, co-workers, religious groups, professional organizations, sports teams, and gangs. Some examples of small social connections include family members, intimate partners, mentors, colleagues, and confidants. Humans need to love and be loved – both sexually and non-sexually – by others. Many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and clinical depression in the absence of this love or belonging element. This need for belonging may overcome the physiological and security needs, depending on the strength of the peer pressure.
All humans have a need to feel respected; this includes the need to have self-esteem and self-respect. Esteem presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People often engage in a profession or hobby to gain recognition. These activities give the person a sense of contribution or value. Low self-esteem or an inferiority complex may result from imbalances during this level in the hierarchy. People with low self-esteem often need respect from others; they may feel the need to seek fame or glory. However, fame or glory will not help the person to build their self-esteem until they accept who they are internally. Psychological imbalances such as depression can hinder the person from obtaining a higher level of self-esteem or self-respect.
Most people have a need for stable self-respect and self-esteem. Maslow noted two versions of esteem needs: a “lower” version and a “higher” version. The “lower” version of esteem is the need for respect from others. This may include a need for status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. The “higher” version manifests itself as the need for self-respect. For example, the person may have a need for strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence, and freedom. This “higher” version takes precedence over the “lower” version because it relies on an inner competence established through experience. Deprivation of these needs may lead to an inferiority complex, weakness, and helplessness.
Maslow states that while he originally thought the needs of humans had strict guidelines, the “hierarchies are interrelated rather than sharply separated”. This means that esteem and the subsequent levels are not strictly separated; instead, the levels are closely related.
“What a man can be, he must be.” This quotation forms the basis of the perceived need for self-actualization. This level of need refers to what a person’s full potential is and the realization of that potential. Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. Individuals may perceive or focus on this need very specifically. For example, one individual may have the strong desire to become an ideal parent. In another, the desire may be expressed athletically. For others, it may be expressed in paintings, pictures, or inventions. As previously mentioned, Maslow believed that to understand this level of need, the person must not only achieve the previous needs, but master them.


Tozan’s Verses on the Five Ranks of Zen, with Hakuin-Zenji’s Notes

Sho-chu-hen. The Apparent Within the Real:
In the third watch of the night
Before the moon appears,
No wonder when we meet
There is no recognition!
Still cherished in my heart
Is the beauty of earlier days.
[Hakuin notes:] The rank of “The Apparent within the Real” denotes the rank of the Absolute, the rank in which one experiences the Great Death, shouts “KA!” sees Tao, and enters into the Principle. When the true practitioner, filled with power from his secret study, meritorious achievements, and hidden practices, suddenly bursts through into this rank, ” the empty sky vanishes and the iron mountain crumbles.” “Above, there is not a tile to cover his head; below, there is not an inch of ground for him to stand on.” The delusive passions are non-existent, enlightenment is non-existent, Samsara is non-existent, Nirvana is non-existent. This is the state of total empty solidity, without sound and without odor, like a bottomless clear pool. It is as if every fleck of cloud had been wiped from the vast sky.
Too often the disciple, considering that his attainment of this rank is the end of the Great Matter and his discernment of the Buddha-way complete, clings to it to the death and will not let go of it. Such as this is called it “stagnant water Zen”; such a man is called “an evil spirit who keeps watch over the corpse in the coffin.” Even though he remains absorbed in this state for thirty or forty years, he will never get out of the cave of the self-complacency and inferior fruits of pratyeka-buddhahood. Therefore it is said: “He whose activity does not leave this rank sinks into the poisonous sea.” He is the man whom Buddha called ” the fool who gets his realization in the rank of the Real.”
Therefore, though as long as he remains in this hiding place of quietude, passivity and vacantness, inside and outside are transparent and his understanding perfectly clear, the moment the bright insight [he has thus far gained through his practice] comes into contact with differentiation’s defiling conditions of turmoil and confusion, agitation and vexation, love and hate, he will find himself utterly helpless before them, and all the miseries of existence will press in upon him. It was in order to save him from this serious illness that the rank of ” The Real within the Apparent ” was established as an expedient.
Hen-chu-sho. The Real within the Apparent:
A sleepy-eyed grandam
Encounters herself in an old mirror.
Clearly she sees a face,
But it doesn’t resemble her at all.
Too bad, with a muddled head,
She tries to recognize her reflection!
[Hakuin notes:] If the disciple had remained in the rank of “The Apparent within the Real,” his judgment would always have been vacillating and his view prejudiced. Therefore, the bodhisattva of superior capacity invariably leads his daily life in the realm of the [six] dusts, the realm of all kinds of ever-changing differentiation. All the myriad phenomena before his eyes — the old and the young, the honorable and the base, halls and pavilions, verandahs and corridors, plants and trees, mountains and rivers — he regards as his own original, true, and pure aspect. It is just like looking into a bright mirror and seeing his own face in it. If he continues for a long time to observe everything everywhere with this radiant insight, all appearances of themselves become the jeweled mirror of his own house, and he becomes the jeweled mirror of their houses as well. Eihei has said: “The experiencing of the manifold dharmas through using oneself is delusion; the experiencing of oneself through the coming of the manifold dharmas is satori.” This is just what I have been saying. This is the state of “mind and body discarded, discarded mind and body.” It is like two mirrors mutually reflecting one another without even the shadow of an image between. Mind and the objects of mind are one and the same; things and oneself are not two. “A white horse enters the reed flowers; snow is piled up in a silver bowl.”
This is what is known as the jeweled-mirror Samadhi. This is what the Nirvana Sutra is speaking about when it says: ” The Tathagata sees the Buddha-nature with his own eyes.” When you have entered this samadhi, ” though you push the great white ox, he does not go away”; the Universal Nature Wisdom manifests itself before your very eyes. This is what is meant by the expressions, “There exists only one Vehicle,” “the Middle Path,” ” the True Form,” ” the Supreme Truth.”
But, if the student, having reached this state, were to be satisfied with it, then, as before, he would be living in the deep pit of ” fixation in a lesser rank of bodhisattvahood.” Why is this so? Because he is neither conversant with the deportment of the bodhisattva, nor does he understand the causal conditions for a Buddha-land. Although he has a clear understanding of the Universal and True Wisdom, he cannot cause to shine forth the Marvelous Wisdom that comprehends the unobstructed interpenetration of the manifold dharmas. The patriarchs, in order to save him from this calamity, have provided the rank of “The Coming from within the Real.”
Sho-chu-rai. Coming from within the Real:
Within nothingness there is a path
Leading away from the dusts of the world.
Even if you observe the taboo
On the present emperor’s name,
You will surpass that eloquent one of yore
Who silenced every tongue.
[Hakuin notes:] In this rank, the Mahayana bodhisattva does not remain in the state of attainment that he has realized, but from the midst of the sea of effortlessness he lets his great uncaused compassion shine forth. Standing upon the four pure and great Universal Vows, he lashes forward the Dharma-wheel of “seeking Bodhi above and saving sentient beings below.” This is the so-called “coming-from within the going-to, the going-to within the coming-from.” Moreover, he must know the moment of [the meeting of] the paired opposites, brightness and darkness. Therefore the rank of ” The Arrival at Mutual Integration ” has been set up.
Ken-chu-shi. The Arrival at Mutual Integration:
When two blades cross points,
There’s no need to withdraw.
The master swordsman
Is like the lotus blooming in the fire.
Such a man has in and of himself
A heaven-soaring spirit.
[Hakuin notes:] In this rank, the bodhisattva of indomitable spirit turns the Dharma-wheel of the non-duality of brightness and darkness. He stands in the midst of the filth of the world, “his head covered with dust and his face streaked with dirt.” He moves through the confusion of sound and sensual pleasure, buffeted this way and buffeted that. He is like the fire-blooming lotus, that, on encountering the flames, becomes still brighter in color and purer in fragrance. ” He enters the market place with empty hands,” yet others receive benefit from him. This is what is called to be on the road, yet not to have left the house; to have left the house, yet not to be on the road.” Is he an ordinary man? Is he a sage? The evil ones and the heretics cannot discern him. Even the buddhas and the patriarchs cannot lay their hands upon him. Were anyone to try to indicate his mind, [it would be no more there than] the horns of a rabbit or the hairs of a tortoise that have gone beyond the farthest mountain.
Still, he must not consider this state to be his final resting-place. Therefore it is said, “Such a man has in and of himself a heaven-soaring spirit.” What must he do in the end? He must know that there is one more rank, the rank of ” Unity Attained.”
Ken-chu-to. Unity Attained:
Who dares to equal him
Who falls into neither being nor non-being!
All men want to leave
The current of ordinary life,
But he, after all, comes back
To sit among the coals and ashes.
Master Tozan’s verse-comment on the foregoing verse says:
How many times has Tokuun, the idle old gimlet,
Not come down from the Marvelous Peak!
He hires foolish wise men to bring snow,
And he and they together fill up the well.
[Hakuin notes:] The student who wishes to pass through Tozan’s rank of ” Unity Attained ” should first study this final verse. It is of the utmost importance to study and pass through the Five Ranks, to attain penetrating insight into them, and to be totally without fixation or hesitation. But, though your own personal study of the Five Ranks comes to an end, the Buddha-way stretches endlessly and there are no tarrying places on it. The Gates of Dharma are manifold!

Self Observation

Self-Observation – Fourth Way® Practices

The Work begins with dividing one’s attention. If you have had no experience in this practice, try the following: While being aware of your external experience become concurrently aware of your inner state. This internal awareness is the beginning of self-observation. Self-observation is the foundation effort in this process, its value cannot be overestimated, and all development proceeds from that point. You must intentionally turn a portion of your attention inward in order to observe yourself. It is essential not to judge or criticize what one observes in oneself. These emotions will distort what one observes and inhibit progress.
Try to disassociate with your justifying and observe the feeling objectively. Keep tracking back to find the source of this unpleasant experience. Continued self-observation will give you knowledge, understanding, and the possibility of detachment and liberation from this recurring state in you.
As you observed, the angst subsided when “it” was observed. All wrong work loses force when it is seen through self-observation. Use the recognition of this unpleasant experience as your “reminding factor” and third force to not identify. You are then using the problem to solve the problem.
What you are encountering is negative imagination. This is a major interference with the process of self-development and drains us of a great deal of energy. As you noted, we most often discover that events turn out quite different than our imagination led us to believe. Negative imagination is a classic type of unnecessary suffering which the Work teaches to get rid of mercilessly.
Negative imagination not only steals force, it is a complete waste of one’s attention, energy and time. Half an hour of negative imagination results in a lost half-hour of your life.
You have also observed how even a small amount of attention will eventually “dissipate” the imaginings. This reveals the power of attention, something we take so much for granted but which is meant to be used as a primary tool for our conscious evolution. The light of observation will indeed dissolve the hold of identification and imagination. But don’t be satisfied with letting your imaginings merely dissipate. Choose to use them as fuel for transformation. If awareness of negative imagination can trigger the practice inner separation, it will give you a new force for achieving higher consciousness in the moment.
Before pursuing self-remembering, you must develop the skill of self-observation. There is a vast difference between self-observation and self-remembering. The latter is the result of a stage of growth in the Work and it cannot be forced. The basis of the Work is self- observation, not self-remembering. This is the only way to make progress in the Work, namely through this persistent effort of seeing what you are and why you function the way you do.
You cannot get to self-remembering without going through the path of self-observation except for rare circumstances that you cannot control. You have to create something in yourself through the practice of the Work (namely, self-observation) that is capable of experiencing self-remembering, that can generate the psychological conditions for that experience.
There is indeed a difference between thinking about self-remembering and experiencing it. The synonym for this term is the “third state of consciousness” and places us temporarily in an unmistakable (for those who are becoming sensitive to such things) higher state. As you know from the Work books, it is not an unfamiliar experience in our lives — moments of intense gratitude, joy, peace, insight, etc — but is also characterized by the sense that the experience is a “gift” or “moment of grace” rather than the direct result of our efforts.
Paradoxically, we need to make the relentless efforts that are possible in order to “clear the ground” for more frequent and longer-lasting experiences of self-remembering.
So deal with the possible and the simple. Observe your inner states and separate from them in order to begin to free yourself from identification. As long as there is no inner separation and we remain stimulus-response machines, we are powerless and imprisoned in our mechanics. Remember that self-observation must always be non-critical. You are not what you observe.
To do it correctly, one part of your attention is focused on your external circumstances and the other part is directed inward — in order to observe your internal states and reactions.
You see yourself interacting in the world as an objective observer might. And your changing inner states. Note contradictions. With your divided attention, observe yourself, not something else.
In self-observation, you are a silent witness to the activity within you which reveals to you your stimulus-response nature, personality distortions, imbalance of centers, and leads toward knowing what you must work on.
The keeping of a journal is not necessary and can lead into formatory relation with these efforts. Self-observation needs to be free-wheeling and spontaneous. Your observations will lead to a catalog of insights about yourself which will then give you a truer picture of what you have to work with. A journal might help keep track of these perceptions. But the heart of the effort is in the liberation from the prison of sleep.
Keeping a journal might create a “space” in which you are temporarily focused on the Work efforts and removed from the grind of daily identification. But the same could be accomplished in silent meditation, intentional reading, and other forms of removing oneself from “A influence”.
Keep the Work efforts more internal.
You are confusing self-remembering with self-observation. self- remembering is a state of higher mind uncontaminated with anything negative. What you have been able to “observe” in your efforts to self- remember is the artifice of false personality. Once false personality has been observed, it ceases to function smoothly or at all. Sometimes we are left without the faculties to interact with the world. This state is part of the evolution in the Work and it can feel like “psychological vertigo” but it is temporary.
Practice self-observation uncritically. Do not become identified with what you observe. Try to separate psychologically from all negative thoughts, states, and feelings. Release anxiety, let personality be passive, and observe, observe, observe.
There is no doubt that honest self-observation hurts. It is painful to see in a more objective way the artifice, immaturity, selfishness, absurdities and uncontrolled tendencies of one’s behavior. Most people will do anything to avoid seeing themselves for what they are or have become. That is why this Work is not popular, will never sell well next to the feel good teachings in the New Age category, and will cause upheavals in those who encounter it.
Merely reaching the point of seeing ourselves as others see us requires a level of dedication to this Work which can endure severe necessary suffering. This Work is not for the fainthearted, the amateur seeker, the gatherer of eclectic information. It can be devastating and brutal when you come face to face with realizations about yourself. But then it becomes profoundly liberating and inspiring.
It is true that we need to be “merciless” with ourselves in seeing things for what they are (namely, internal reactions, attitudes, states). But this mysterious practice of self-observation is about creating a new quality of awareness within yourself, and clearing the ground for a new sense of identity. Ultimately, it leads to a development of being that is characterized by great compassion, even for the mechanical and chaotic aspects of yourself.
Higher consciousness allows one to see the impartial and larger picture and this can only lead to an understanding that does not condemn.
You must not take yourself as you are (identified with mechanics of personality) into that “place” from which the observing is done. That is the reason for the constant emphasis on “uncritical” self-observation. These words do not convey what is at stake: you are in the process of rediscovering yourself and to do this you must shed the old skin that has been the only feeling of self you have known (except for rare glimpses and early essence memories).
The old self, therefore, must not be what is doing the observing. Otherwise you are lost in a labyrinth that leads to dead ends. Something new is being created — a directed attention that is purified of the filters, illusions, attitudes we take as our identity.
This delicate development is a birthing process of sorts. Discernment is indeed a key word here — detecting different qualities and “tastes” of energies. Recognizing what is toxic and what is of a higher order.
The effort of self-observation not only gives you new information, reveals ways of seeing that were unknown before, but most especially paves the way for a new, deeper, Self to be born. This watchfulness or vigilance — as long as it remains independent of features, moods, etc — will generate a recovery of your essential nature which is buried beneath acquired personality. Further, it will lead to the conscious presence of your spiritual nature.
As long as you take the bullish martial into the observing space with you, you will never manage to control or transform him. So this is imperative: do not judge what you see, just see it. The more you see it, the more you will want to change it and the more opportunities will arise to do so.
Remember that this is not the way of self-denial, but of understanding. As you know, understanding is defined in the Work as the result of knowledge and being. Self-observation gives you knowledge on how to create being.
First of all, there is something to be learned about negativity and its power over us that you can verify in your recent experience. It does not matter how often you find yourself in sleep, only that you recognize it. The principal exercise is uncritical self-observation. Forget about transforming. Self-observation is your aim. Fill your environment and your schedule with reminding factors to observe yourself.
Your repeated efforts at self-observation will build a Work memory that will in turn remind you to do the Work.
All anyone can do for a very long time is practice self-observation. Observing negativity is one of the most informative ways to gain understanding about oneself and about the nature of sleep. You can use the feeling of negativity to remind yourself to observe: How are you negative? What is the source of your negativity? Anger, pain, fear? Make a practice of observing your negativity and separating some observing I’s from it. Don’t identify with it, become passive to it. If it continues to take place, let it but try not to give it your attention.
We have noticed that several persons in this group are making the fundamental error of trying to practice self-remembering instead of practicing self-observation. Self-remembering is a rare state of higher consciousness in which one is both undifferentiated from Creation and entirely unique. It happens only in rare moments and seldom when we are actively seeking it. It comes to us with a sense of selfhood, serenity, acceptance, and compassion.
The best efforts we can make toward achieving this state are the ones which “clear the ground”, i.e. remove what inhibits the receptivity and accessibility of that state. The basis for achieving this goal is self-observation.
Self-observation is the primary psycho-transformational exercise given to us in the Work. All progress in the Work depends on diligent, uncritical, long-term self-observation. It is only through the experiential practice of this idea that one can gain the knowledge and understanding necessary for growth and change.
It is possible through self-observation to eventually gain control over your mechanics, to be liberated from unnecessary suffering, to find authentic personality, to be able to be intentional in your actions and form a body of Work I’s that have a permanent Work perspective in you. This Work is about personal internal purification. All the transforming knowledge in the Teaching is aimed at this goal of purifying the emotional center. Self-observation is necessary to shine the light of consciousness into the dark unconscious of our own psychology.
We are hearing from some of you about the “psychological vertigo” accompanying this process which begins with the deconstruction of our false personality. This vertigo is being expressed in a sense of panic, a feeling of emptiness, a feeling of fear or anxiety, or sometime the sense of being a fraud. The best way to deal with it is to try to practice inner separation in relation to those feelings and realize that this is a natural, temporary response in the process of the Work. The way to eliminate that negative experience is by building something real internally which will act consciously in the world. The way to build that in yourself begins with and relies upon self-observation.
When the mind is filled with the constant babble of inner considering and the heart is motivated by the self-interest of inner considering, the potential of receptivity to a higher state is lost. That is why all practical Work is focused on self-change or self-transcendence. The possibility of intentional, psychological self-generated evolution lies in this process of purification. The means is self-observation.
Regarding your statement on “surrendering my will”: Practicing the exercise of self-observation is not the same as surrendering your will. Self-observation is the only source of information that will inform you about what you need to surrender and what you need to keep. So leave the surrendering of your will out of self-observation. Simply observe yourself non-critically and especially observe negativity.
Self-observation is an effort in which one observes the machine as a whole. Dividing one’s attention is for the purpose of self-observation. One part of your attention is directed at uncritically observing yourself in life. Another part of your attention is not caught up in the external flow of events. It sees one’s internal psychological condition.
The aim here is to se the psychological origins and motivations for our actions in the world . We have to start by seeing in ourselves what the Work tells us to observe.
We must make many observations over a long period of time before we can even begin to get a picture of what we have to work on. Remember that the aim of the Work is psycho-transformation.
Self-Remembering is not an exercise. It is a state. Sometimes one unexpectedly finds the state of Self-Remembering as a result of self-observation and inner separation. Sometimes this happens when you are observing yourself and you see that your outward manifestations are all driven by false personality and you have a moment of not knowing what you are besides that artificial personality. A sense of serenity and self undefined may be experienced in that moment. You may encounter something more authentic than what you are observing.
Real divided attention requires intentional effort for the specific purpose of self-observation. Trying to practice self-remembering while looking at an external object is a meaningless mind game. In order to remember oneself, it is first necessary to have observed oneself and created enough real Self to know what to remember. Therefore, in order to self-remember, you must first observe.
The awareness that is intentionally separated out in order to practice self-observation is not thought. It is not intellectual, though it is ‘intelligent seeing’. If you are thinking about the exercise, then be aware that there are such I’s circulating within you.
The Work I’s within you need to “fuse” into an actual doing of the Work, which then becomes a matter of consciousness rather than merely thought process. Attention placed on your reaction to something, and informed by Work knowledge, leads to real self-observation. This ‘place’ of awareness needs to be able to recognize what is occurring and know what it is: “This is inner considering”, “this is vanity”, “this is fear”.
This is a practice that evolves over time, although breakthroughs can take place suddenly and give you a whole new sense of what this Work is about. It begins with catching things in hindsight, as you mentioned, i.e. thinking back on an incident and disliking your reaction. With applied effort and commitment, that time lag will shift to the moment of occurrence. It is your very dislike for your behavior that will compel you to make more efforts. Some day, or in some moment, you will be able to have a choice rather than simply see what is going on within you. But first you must acquire knowledge and numerous occasions of self-observation.
You ask whether one can “become better at recognizing and naming what one observes..?” The answer is most certainly yes. That is the very purpose of being on this path. Results do manifest. Verifications confirm the value of the efforts. In fact, the more you value what you are gaining from these ideas and their application, the more you make efforts and the more you receive.
You ask “is it always by taste?” The knowledge accumulated with the guidance of the Work, and of persons experienced in these matters, leads to a power of discernment in relation to states and energies. It is one thing to recognize the obvious manifestation of negativity. It is another to detect the subtle ‘flavor’ or ‘taste’ at the beginning of identification or a descending momentum and choose not to allow it to steal one’s life and energy.
First comes knowledge — knowing what to look for. Then comes the looking and accumulation of information about yourself. Then the beginning of a new will can come into being, and choices can be made that lead to a new quality of existence. Then higher consciousness can take root in the moments of your life.
Try to disassociate with your justifying and observe the feeling objectively. Keep tracking back to find the source of this unpleasant experience. Continued self-observation will give you knowledge, understanding, and the possibility of detachment and liberation from this recurring state in you.
As you observed, the angst subsided when “it” was observed. All wrong work loses force when it is seen through self-observation. Use the recognition of this unpleasant experience as your “reminding factor” and third force to not identify. You are then using the problem to solve the problem.
You may want to experiment with a “cleansing practice” to assist you in being free from this wrong work. Simple meditation can instill an organic peace within you that will make many things clearer.
Self-observation establishes a point of awareness that is not lost or hypnotized by the usual identifications. It is not nothingness. It is the beginning of a new presence. Its non-judgmental perspective does not merely provide less prejudiced and distorted information about how we function, but also “mimics” a characteristic of another state of consciousness.
This point of awareness where self-observation occurs is nourished and strengthened by the I’s within us which come to value the Work ideas as they are applied and bear fruit. For instance, an I from the intellect that comprehends the idea of scale and relativity can become a trigger both for remembering to practice self-observation and for expanding the breadth of the observing awareness to include this bit of knowledge as it sees our inner workings.
“A new person constructed from scratch” is not the result. Our essential nature, our higher self, already exist. They must be unburied from beneath the rubble of illusions and misguided pictures of ourselves that have accumulated over the years. We are seeking to recover something strangely familiar. Most of our work is to remove the artificial.
This place of observation becomes the catalyst to the rediscovery of essence as it “melts away” the covering of false personality through attention informed by knowledge.
In doing the Work, beginning with self-observation, little by little we disempower those tyrannical I’s. We create in ourselves a place of knowledge, perspective, and empowerment from which we can act intentionally. As self-centered I’s lose power under the effect of the Work (through the force of self-observation) we cease to have so many requirements of the world. We become free of constantly needing what we don’t have, or constantly being unhappy with what we do have. We recognize that our attitudes and opinions are relative and our likes and dislikes are irrelevant to reality. So it is essential to see yourself objectively or you will not recognize what it is you must work on. Remember that this Work is psychological and internal, requiring real and continued effort.
When one begins the sincere practice of self-observation, “moments of observation” are all that is possible for a very long time. Every effort you make increases the strength of the person who “knows that I am not present.”
The reason that self-observation needs to be spontaneous is because you can only do it when it occurs to you, whenever and whatever the circumstances. The observing I will give you better information if it is unencumbered by schedule or contrivance.
Self-observation needs to be integrated into the moments of your life in such a way that it becomes as natural (though intentional and conscious) as breathing. Consequently, it needs to be spontaneous.
You seem to have a misunderstanding about what self-observation is aimed at. What you mention here sounds like an expansion of consciousness, whereas self-observation is a direction of consciousness aimed inward at one’s psychology and outward at the world and one’s manifestations. If you observe which foot you put out of bed first in the morning, etc., what growth in understanding does that serve?
What you need to be observing is what state you are in — Are you confused? Are you anxious? Are you in negative imagination? Are you inner considering? Are you being critical of what you observe?
Do you notice when you are insincere? Do you see yourself lying, pretending to know, care, understand, be sympathetic, etc.? Can you feel identification when you are in it? Do you see changing I’s? Contradictions between I’s? Buffers?
Do you see vanity? The need to be right? Insisting on having your own way? Being disappointed that you don’t have what you want? Do you notice how much of your behavior is based on what you like or don’t like?
The point of all this observation is to build Real I which is not polluted by any of the wrong work mentioned above. It takes intentional efforts, real desire for change, willingness to see oneself honestly, and time. This Work is a process that begins with the first I of self-observation and can grow to the point where there is a permanent presence in one’s psychology, a source of understanding formed by Work, knowledge and experience.
You say you forget constantly and ask if it is just a matter of will. It is a matter of building will. If you have an aim to observe yourself, your aim has force — use it. Fill your life and your schedule with reminding factors, for example: put your wristwatch on the opposite wrist to remind yourself to observe every time you look at the wrong wrist. Put notes on mirrors and refrigerators, change patterns of activities to knock you out of your habitual routines.
The desire for change and the valuation for this Work provide the real force to remember to observe yourself.
[STUDENT: I too feel that there should be some kind of general scourging. Is this achieved by recognizing the little bastards by name?, or rather by beholding the other Work “I’s,” when they do come, and making a place of honor for them in my heart. After all, these are the “I’s” that have the promise of coalescing into something real, or at least more real.]
Purifying the emotional center, “cleansing the cup”, is the purpose of the Work and its results. This is achieved by diligent, humble efforts to see and detach from what is false, negative, and selfish in ourselves. “Seeing the little bastards” is the wrong emotional attitude in self-observation. The negative and judgmental attitude will distort the seeing and keep you from the objective reality available only in non-identification.
Discernment between the I’s (those with Work knowledge and those without) is obviously critical. This is where the ability to make choices begins.
[STUDENT: It is possible to feel quite bad about “I” because the negative “I’s are running many departments of the piece of chicanery known as Myself.]
In practicing self-observation, self-loathing is difficult to avoid. However, being a negative emotion, it is necessary to avoid this in order to grow in the Work properly. To observe uncritically is so important in this process because it is through detachment (non- identification) that we are liberated. It is a waste of energy and wrong work of the emotional center to loathe what is only the manifestations of acquired personality.
Objective self-observation leads to self-realization. This is the way to consciousness.
Everyone comes into the Work with their personality, whatever type it is, in full force. It is a condition sleeping humanity lives in. The work of self-observation, which is foundational in the process, requires intentional effort. Included in this intentionality is the practice of being uncritical about what one observes. If your observing I responds with hating what it sees, then that is where you will be stuck, in a constant war between the observer and the observed.
The whole point of self-observation is to give one an objective view of what one is really like. Without objectivity, you are not going to see anything. Keep observing I passive. That effort is part of making the effort to observe.
When you have the psychological space that objectivity requires, you have a toe-hold on inner separation. Then you can observe personality in all of its manifestations without going insane. This type of self- observation will, after a long period of time, will show you much about yourself.
The aim of the Work is to transform the acquired, automatic behavior into enlightened, intentional action. In this process, the ego (false personality) made up of only self-interest, must be displaced gradually with a more evolved self. Purifying the emotional center, purifying the psychology of self-interest, is the substance of the Work.
We suggest that everyone “in the Work” reflect upon their motives for making these efforts. If one’s motives have something to do with gaining personal power, that self-interest will effectively block any kind of real development.
Before you can even begin to do the Work correctly, you must be at the level of good householder. At this level of being, you need to be stable, sane, responsible both to yourself and the life around you. This is simple compared to doing the Work. There is no room in good householder for perversion, criminality, mental instability.
[STUDENT: Court proceedings resulted in the most unjust, draconian solution imaginable for a client. During the proceeding, I sought to observe myself, remember myself. Things have changed inside. It does not seem like the end of the world. The clients are apoplectic. Life is school.]
You can also observe (in the case to which you refer that “your being attracts your life”), that the energy of life driving everything is negativity, the “law of accident,” mechanics producing predictable responses, everyone’s total identification with every event, and therefore complete lack of relativity (sleep). Injustice exists because of sleep.
There is another level of being that includes an increased perspective and understanding born of effort and experience in the Work. It includes relativity, compassion, and acceptance. Its nature is not that of self-interest and consequently it is liberated and can be objective, clear and unidentified seeing. Such seeing is not emotionally dead or repressed, but serene and wise.
This is what is created through doing this inner Work. The psychological practices and ideas gradually clear away all the wrong work of mechanical psychology (the lies and dirt of negativity in all its forms, self-interest, vanity, inner considering, pictures of oneself, lying, pride and everything else the Work tells us to observe). This process strips the personality (ego)and leaves one feeling vulnerable and rather without a “real personality” to replace the dying false personality. One does become withdrawn.
This is a critical stage in the Work. What this emptiness should create in you is humility. Not self-condemnation, but self-transcendence and real self-remembering. Humility expands understanding which begets meaning.
A new Self is born with observing “I”. It is the Real Self and will grow stronger and become more present with the continued practice of self-observation. With practical work and verifying experience, one’s awareness expands. Continuing sincere efforts can expand one’s consciousness permanently, but what you sacrifice to reach this point is all that you believe yourself to be and all interest in seeking personal gratification. Not everyone is willing to pay such a high price.
Those who are courageous enough to continue will find valuation of the Work to be the only third force needed. Therefore, the new faculty in one’s psychology (that of developing consciousness) is fed by the power of right valuation.
The path of evolution is upward toward illumination, through the sight of understanding, toward finer and finer energies that cannot support the weight of violence. This path leads away from the automatic animal level of being toward enlightened intentionality.
[STUDENT: I seem to experience self-remembering more than I do self- observation. There are very frequent moments when I am painfully aware of myself, but do not know what to make of any of it.]
Being painfully aware of yourself is neither self-remembering nor self-observation. It is the natural condition of every human being’s psychology. It is inner considering. It is due to the wrong work of the emotional center that is concerned with “appearances” and other people’s feelings toward you.
You are at the point where you are AWARE of being “painfully aware”. This is a step above merely BEING “painfully aware”. The next step is to simply be aware.
Just being “aware” is the first crack in the false personality. The Work starts here. Self-observation comes first. It is an intentional effort. It is done uncritically. Eventually, Observing I gains enough power to direct behavior. But for a long time you cannot do anything but observe.
We suggest that you study Maurice Nicoll’s “Psychological Commentaries” for in-depth, specific details, especially in reference to what makes up inner considering. This will also help you understand the Work vocabulary that we use and whose understanding we need to have in common in order to communicate properly.
This Work on seeing the distortions of our psychological behavior and reactions is one central way to open toward real transformation and development. That is why our first and foremost effort must be observation, seeing and seeing again until we begin to catch glimpses of ourselves in objective, non-judgmental ways. These efforts allow us to free ourselves from the power of a particular facet of our personality. Otherwise we are under the spell of this false identity, tossed about and hopelessly victimized by its stimulus-response behavior.
False personality judges, criticizes, justifies, feels offended, gets angry, has likes and dislikes, attitudes, opinions, feels ashamed and insecure.
When you practice self-observation, if you fijd any of these elements in the Observing I then you are identified with what you are observing. That is a trap that leads to insanity.
Observing I MUST be made objective, uncritical of what is being observed, yet seeing it clearly for what it is.
For example, let’s say you observe yourself being irritable. Since the Work teaches us that we must transcend rather than express negativity, an identified Observing I may immediately feel shamed or angry about the inability to do that.
Can you see that these identifications distort what is observed and what one can learn from objective observation? Think of observing as taking photos, registering, passively seeing.
What can you observe objectively about being irritable? Is it an unpleasant feeling or do you picture yourself as a “lovable grouch”? (There is no such thing, by the way). Are there any I’s that secretly enjoy the zing of negative energy? What I’s are irritable? The ones that want something that they don’t have, the ones that have to do something that they don’t want to do, the ones that are feeling inadequate, unsatisfied, unsure? We could go on and on, but the point is that all of the above and more belong to inner considering, to acquired attitudes, likes and dislikes, etc. That is ALL that the Work tells us that we must separate from.
Knowing this can give you the force to become detached and in that state of non-identification see clearly what intentional right action is. Then you lose all motivations and justifications for being irritable.
So, how do you know if you are observing yourself through a filter of false personality? If Observing I is objective, non-identified, then false personality CANNOT be present. One must work at this also, making Observing I not react with identification. This is difficult work as well, but it leads to liberation, to that escape from the prison of sleep that we seek.
Ouspensky was right about needing help. We need the help of knowing a way out and the help of someone who knows also that “way” from experience and can assist you through the difficulties and help you avoid the traps. Someone who really knows the way can help you to verify for yourself the ideas of the Work and their transformative power.
To be absolutely sure that your work is progressing in the proper direction is easy. Follow goodness. Seek to act with unself-interested intentionality. Every normally formed human being has the innate knowledge (faculty of recognition) of what GOODNESS is. The Truth in it resounds in your soul with recognition.
The Work progresses in this way: we learn to divide our attention, we begin to practice self-observation, only to discover immediately that we have no power over our mechanicalness. “It” goes on doing what it always has done, regardless of one’s will to change it. We observe negativity as a prime example of this phenomenon. No matter how resolved we are not to become negative, we find ourselves in that condition over and over again, sometimes without even knowing how we got there.
If one continues to practice self-observation uncritically, two things will happen: the first is that you will discover in your own inability to not behave mechanically a compassion for and forgiveness of those in your life who also cannot help but behave mechanically. The second thing that happens is that every Work I that you verify through observation builds a stronger, more present Observing I.
For example, if you observe insincerity in yourself when dealing with a certain person or situation, and your desire is to be authentic, you will find through repeated observations that manifestation of insincerity keeps appearing. Eventually enough photographs will make it easy to recognize the beginning of the manifestation. If the force of your will to do the Work is strong enough, and you have enough knowledge and experience to have a group of Work I’s with some power, then your behavior can be intentional, directed by a higher state of awareness rather than responding automatically as it usually does.
Under the continued illumination that the Work brings to one’s psychology, manifestations of wrong work lose their power and cease to exist. Permanent change in areas of wrong work is absolutely possible as long as growth continues.
This is the growth of something in you. It consists of knowledge, psychological effort, and understanding. Eventually, what has begun to grow within the context of Work efforts has the power to act intentionally rather than mechanically. Continued expansion of consciousness further releases us from identification with multiplicity, personality, imagination and brings a new sensitivity to the subtle perceptions of the higher centers. New degrees of insight, liberation from the lower self, and deepened understanding bring new meaning and purpose to one’s existence.
[STUDENT: Please relate the interconnection and difference among divided attention, self-observation, and self-remembering.]
The beginning of divided attention is realizing that your attention goes in one direction only — outward — and that you live only in response to external stimuli. The “I” that can recognize this is the first “I” of divided attention. The point of the effort is that through realization and practice you can now have more than one perspective.
For instance, the practice of seeing a tree and seeing yourself seeing a tree is useful only in so far as it confirms that one CAN have divided attention. The aim is to take part of the attention that is normally directed outward, engaging in life, and turn that attention inward to see your behavior and the psychology that generates it from an objective perspective.
If you can do this, then you are using divided attention in order to practice self-observation. The aim of self-observation is to uncritically observe your psychology and your behavior in relation to Work knowledge. The Work tells us our behavior is governed by mechanics, that we are all asleep and furthermore that we do not know that we are asleep. The overall purpose of self-observation is awakening. In awakening we see what motivates our behavior, we learn how to become intentional, self-transcendent, and authentic.
The process of self-observation requires intentional, repeated efforts over a long period of time, and it is often genuinely painful work. We learn that we spend most of our time in some kind of negative state and from an objective point of view we see the unnecessary suffering of it, the wrong work of it, the interference of it and the loss of energy that it costs us. These ideas are strong motivations for change. We see our own automatic behavior which may shock and humiliate us and we are helpless to do anything about it at first. We recognize that every action is motivated by self-interest. We see in ourselves lying, justifying, manipulating, attention-seeking, competitiveness, vanity, the falsehood of pictures we have about ourselves, the multiplicity of acquired personality, even the corruption of merit seeking in our good works.
When the light of self-observation begins to reveal our inner states and psychological condition, the Observing I is still too weak to change anything it observes. However, repeated observations steal power from identifying with our mechanics, help us to separate from them and form a stronger Observing I which eventually does have the power to affect change.
This is a process of purification which removes the obstacles that cut us off from the state of self-remembering. Self-remembering is a level of higher consciousness. In self-remembering, we know our authentic worth, relative value and our connectedness to all things. Although this state is achievable, or rather is given to us in rare experiences, it is not something we can evoke or control with a level of consciousness that is beneath it. Because Observing I is connected to higher consciousness, creating a stronger Observing I brings us closer to that state and makes us more available for moments of self- remembering.
The goal is the formation of a permanent Real I which is the manifestation of the state of self-remembering. Self-observation, founded on divided attention, creates the link between self-remembering and the development of Real I.
It is a very real thing to find “denying force” against the Work. It comes from within, it is usually the part of you that doesn’t want to change, that doesn’t want to Work, that doesn’t want to sacrifice the ego or self-interest. Part of it is being afraid because one cannot see where one is going in the beginning of the Work. Part comes from the insecurity experienced when one begins to practice real self- observation. Part is the futility that one feels in not being able to change anything. Real courage is required to persist in making Work efforts under these conditions. But more than that, the right motivation needs to be present. Otherwise, the Work cannot change you.
It is difficult to define accurately all of what denying force is, or if it is the same for everyone. So you need to contemplate for yourself what that obstacle is and what your motivation is for doing the Work. Until you have accurately identified these elements, you will be unable to change anything. Perhaps your motivation isn’t strong enough, perhaps your focus is too broad, perhaps the willfulness of self-justification has you by the throat. These are all common experiences in the Work at one time or another.
From the point of view of the Work, the only thing that matters is that you persevere in making genuine basic efforts that begin, and for a long time consist mostly of self-observation only. Don’t expect that you are going to be transformed without tremendous efforts. As a matter of fact, you will be transformed in direct proportion to the efforts you make.
In the Work, you have to make the effort ahead of time, you have to pay with your effort in order to receive the results that the Work can create. And you have to be willing to do that up front.
If your motivation is self-interested in any way, including needing to feel “energized”, then your aim is off the mark. You have to be able to do this Work when you don’t want to, when it’s too hard, when you’re too tired, when you are ill, when you are ANYTHING that life can throw at you.
The Fourth Way is in life and requires that we deal with our circumstances, whatever they are, from the angle of doing the Work. If you feel lost, confused, empty, in darkness — 1)recognize these as negative states that exist in you 2)remember that negative states lie because they aren’t the whole picture with scale and relativity 3)don’t try to do anything about your negative feelings other than observe them uncritically
If you are not successful, keep trying, keep doing the Work. Earnest efforts will gradually create a stronger Real I in you.
If you can recognize that your negative states are caused by the requirements you have (of the world, of people, of your life) in order to feel satisfied, then you will know that these requirements are based in false personality and inner considering.
We Work against these by making personality passive, by inner separation, by non-identification, by recognizing that inner considering is only self-interest, by sacrificing your need to be gratified.
A person attempting to awaken by way of the Work will be able to have some small part of their mind SEE identification happening in themselves. These I’s that can see identification are not themselves identified. Consequently, the force of identification is lessened by the I’s that can see it and refuse to give their energy to it. This is a powerful incentive to practice self-observation and inner separation.
The accumulated I’s of observation and verification and understanding eventually have enough force to stop automatic emotions and reactions. The aim here being to consciously chose right action.
Identification is especially hard to work on because we get our sense of who we are by way of identifying, i.e. what you care about, what you love, hate, need, want, etc. It fills you with energy and a sense of meaning when it is really only stealing your life and your force. Since we “feel” like we are defined by what moves us the most (“I’m a Republican, a victim, a freedom fighter, a feminist, a devout person), it is very difficult to see a level of relativity that denies one’s sense of self and purpose. This is the stripping of the ego. It is painful and hard to let go of long-held convictions (identifications), to see with relativity that your attitudes, opinions, presumptions, and passions all have been acquired throughout your life. Therefore, they are subjective. They are changeable. They contain not the whole truth of a thing, only that which satisfies the false personality. They are not you.
Only inner separation, another difficult practice, can work at first against identification. Eventually, when the emotional center has been cleansed of the self-interest that builds identifications, action from a higher, more objective level is possible. You will be able to choose consciously what to give your energy to and how. But this is very far down the road. Be patient while Working. Results are usually a long time in coming, but growth is every step of the way.
Observe identification. See the strength of the grip that it has on you. See the same grip it has on others. See how it fills you with energy, how you get a little thrill from the jolt of it. See how it is full of justification. See that the agenda that fires your identification is self-serving and so is the next person’s, and the next, though the identifications may oppose one another.
This is where to make personality passive. The “why” is so that you can see through the false personality and all its obstructions to a higher level of scale and relativity which can free you from identification.
Exercises to work on identification:
–self-observation –register identification –try to observe where it originates in you –try to see its motivation –practice inner separation –practice the stop exercise –make personality passive –give no attention to justifying I’s –remember scale and relativity –remember objective truth –remember your Self
[STUDENT: We have given ourselves a task where we sense our body (our right hand)while we listen or talk with another. Or even just while we do our job. We find we can have an overall “awakened” sense with this divided attention but, it quickly turns into a time when attention begins to switch back and forth between hand and subject. Are these mini identifications? Would this be time to stop the task and come back or try to work through it?]
The purpose of these exercises in divided attention is to prove that divided attention exists. It is possible. It is actually a big accomplishment to verify divided attention, even if it happens only in small doses. And it will come in small doses for a very long time. The ability to divide your attention for longer periods of time comes with practice.
However, you have already proved that you CAN divide your attention. You no longer need to waste this effort on any pointless activity. Now you need to direct one part of your attention not toward your body or any other external thing, but inward toward observing your own psychology while the other part stays engaged in the world.
When you first direct your attention inward, try only to observe what is going on, to register negative states, incongruities, inner considering, vanity, inner talking, insincerity, etc. Try not to react, criticize or judge what you observe.
This is the beginning of psychological transformation, to see your own psychology in action, to “know thyself”. Read and study what the Work teaches about sleep, multiplicity, mechanicalness and all else one must observe and verify internally. Each observation is a step in the growth of Real I, so don’t waste the effort of dividing your attention on externals. Observe YOURSELF with your divided attention.
The process of awakening in the Work leads to True Personality. Through the process of self-observation, inner separation, non-identification, we learn to see that our automatic behavior does not reflect our true Self. The efforts undertaken reveal to us the malformation of our psychology. The accumulated I’s of observation gain strength enough eventually so that one may act intentionally rather than mechanically. This intentionality issues from True Personality. It is not based on self-interest, but rather on objective consciousness. Long-term self-observation will strip away or melt away or burn away the wrong work of False Personality bit by bit.
Although the process is painful, to be rid of unnecessary suffering and have the clarity of mind and strength of will to act intentionally is liberation from the chains of mechanicalness that bind us in sleep. Psychological freedom brings new life based on True Personality.
True Personality still contains essence, types and different centers of gravity. But they are all at the service of higher consciousness. This means that you are more honestly yourself than you can ever achieve through any avenue of False personality.
A person developed in the Work — to the degree that they are relatively free from the power of False personality — can interact with life and people with a clearer perspective on reality. The obstructions of inner considering, mechanical momentum, feature and identification lose power as True Personality evolves.
On the other hand, if you understand the idea of esoteric as being “inner” — not secret, not exclusive, not superior, not external — you can suddenly see the meaning beneath the surface interpretation of any valid teaching. That being so, what you will immediately recognize in the Fourth Way is the transcendent potential that is the heart of the Teaching.
The aim of the Fourth Way is conscious evolution, growth in being, and authentic Selfhood. These are not achieved by any means other than the hard, personal inner work of self-transformation. You may have a great deal of knowledge of the Fourth Way ideas, but how have these ideas changed you? If you have not practiced the inner psycho- transformational exercises that the Work teaches, if you have not applied them to your daily life, if you do not conscientiously practice self-observation, inner separation, non-identification, external considering, then your knowledge cannot be transformed into Understanding, Being or Higher Consciousness. These come from real psychological efforts and sacrifices. Knowledge alone cannot change you and if you are not interested in self-change, then you are only dallying in the Work, entertaining the intellectual center, putting a “high- dinky-doo” hat on yourself.
The Work is called the “Work” because it is WORK. The efforts that you have to make are, for a very long time, only internal. You must gain Understanding before you can DO anything. Knowledge that has grown into Understanding (organic cognition through practice and experience) raises one’s level of Being and Consciousness. This is the aim of the Work. The aim is not to form an exclusive organization or to produce personal power, except in the realm of one’s own psychology. The aim is to create change in an individual and that change comes from the application of the psychological practices to oneself.
It is only natural in the developmental process of the Work that in the beginning the power of your personality is much stronger than your will or ability to remain conscious or internally aware. At first, when you try to practice self-observation, you can only get glimpses of the external reality and the internal reality at the same time. You may find it helpful to reflect upon any effort of self-observation after the fact, picturing it from an objective, external point of view where you can see the event, where you are cognizant of your own inner state and detached from both (or not identified with either). These glimpses and reflections form photographs for you. They give you information that you can verify through further observations. The attention that is directed toward your psychology becomes Observing I. Observing I grows with every photograph and every verification of Work knowledge. Eventually, Observing I has the will to remain conscious.
When in the presence of other people, let your effort be only to register what feelings you have (alienation, fear, insecurity, superiority, etc.). Try to make an effort to make your personality passive. This can help you see more clearly. Later reflection will reveal that the obstruction you are experiencing in social situations probably has a lot to do with all of the issues of inner considering. Knowing this, observing this, verifying this will free you from it.
The Work asks you to note your state. This indeed requires great effort. That’s why it is called Work. But it is possible to do it (practice self-observation in this manner) and you don’t have to take my word for it. You can verify it for yourself through your own experience. Of course, you have to make the effort of self-observation repeatedly in order to build something strong enough inside you to observe yourself as a regular activity. This will take much work and a long time. So evaluate your aim in undertaking the Work.
If you decide to do this Work, your efforts will create a response that enlightens you.
Note: Identification is not an attention issue. It is the wrong work of the emotional center.
Nevertheless, you have made some valid observations. Even a moment of seeing clearly the difference between Real I and all the other aspects of self is valuable. Just as is any moment of awareness of mechanicality.
I must point out that Self-Observation is a specific psychological exercise that is unique to the Work. It is not practice of the present moment or paying attention to anything other than your own psychological processes and states.
What you are seeing when you experience yourself as “simply a bundle of tape recordings and reactions responding from these” is False Personality. It is relevant because it makes up your present reality. You do have a True Self which doing the Work will lead you to discover. The process of discovery begins with relentless practice of self-observation. It is imperative that one is uncritical of what is observed.
You are not only programs and mechanics. There is something in you that is authentic, unique behind all of these things. That Real I, True Self begins to gain strength or surface with the first observation of False Personality. Since you know already that there is something in you that isn’t only mechanical, the I that knows this is the I of self-observation. That I is the beginning of who you are (Real I). And although at some level we are all one, we are also each completely unique.
Once you have observed in yourself (verified) that Sleep and Mechanicalness and False Personality exist not only in you but also in everyone else, it becomes easier to forgive BECAUSE you understand the nature and the power of Sleep. This helps to reinforce Real I which will then give you more power to forgive and understand.
What the Work desires to accomplish in you is a transformation from Mechanicality to an authentic Self of Intentionality which consists of External Considering. External Considering is the unself-interested state of being in which everyone else’s welfare becomes more important to you than your own. That is self-transcendent Work. This involves the death of False Personality (ego). It is a process that requires efforts, sometimes painful, sometimes frightening, but always enlightening and if you do the Work correctly they lead you to your True Self.
In this Work, we practice Self-Observation in order to get objective views of our reality. These glimpses form pictures that can inform us. Part of working with a group in the Fourth Way is accepting photographs, pictures, that others give to you about yourself from their perspective. Please understand that photographs given to you from a real Teacher are not aimed at hurting you. The Teacher’s objective is to enlighten you so that you may be able to see even more clearly.
Keeping this in mind, photograph Negativity as the Wrong Work of the Emotional Center and recognize from your Work knowledge that negative states lie.
Understand that the desire to be seen, noticed, have importance, be accepted, feel appreciated, are all natural strivings that arise from the brain stem urges that seek the security and connectedness of social relationships. So these emotions are not only a natural function of the human personality, but they are the same in everyone, regardless of whether the person has developed a personality that manifests those urges differently.
Now for the photograph: All of the emotions that you describe belong to Inner Considering and most specifically to Vanity. In this Work, we try to evolve beyond brain stem urges governing our actions in the world and forming our psychology.
When you first begin to practice Self-Observation, you will probably begin with seeing yourself as if from a distance. In other words, you will see yourself constantly touching your hair or shoving your fists deep into your pockets, or flirting, or not looking someone in the eye, or posturing in any of the different ways we all do. Or you may first notice that a particular state is always created by the same and repeated circumstances; as soon as you get in the car you become tense, anticipating the drive ahead, or having a particular activity interrupted you notice that you always become irritated. Or receiving mail, e or otherwise, gives you a little thrill, a compliment makes you feel validated, happy. But all of this is only half the picture, the external half.
The other part of this practice is to begin to see your internal states and psychology as well, and in conjunction with your external observances. It may begin as only an awareness, for instance you “see” yourself acting very self-confidently while you are actually feeling insecure. Or you observe yourself in conversation nodding apparently in agreement or understanding, when you actually have no idea what the other person is talking about.
Self-Observation does take effort and it requires long-term, often repeated efforts. Sometimes you will see something very clearly, sometimes your efforts produce nothing or something vague, or only later will you become cognizant of what was observed earlier.
But when you begin to make sincere and repeated efforts to observe yourself, you will probably experience what your fellow student did. You will have a spontaneous experience of Self-Observation that will feel clearer to you because there is only seeing, without trying. This happens because what practices Self-Observation in you is Observing I and it is growing in presence with every experience of Self-Observation. Eventually, after long-term authentic Work, Self-Observation becomes a sort of faculty in your psychology that functions on its own. It creates Observing I which becomes Real I which has access to Objective Consciousness.
What effort is too great to make for this?
Divided Attention precedes and is necessary for Self-Observation, but it is not Self-Observation. You cannot observe yourself without dividing your attention but Self-Observation is a specific practice in and of itself.
When I speak of Self-Observation, I am not referring to Self- Remembering. These are two distinct and very different experiences and practices. Self-Observation is psychological exercise of seeing objectively both our inner state and our outer reality at the same time. It is an exercise that over a long period of time and a large accumulation of observations leads to a degree of self knowledge and objectivity (non-identification). Under these conditions, Self-Remembering can take place.
An experience of Self-Remembering is an authentic awareness of your True Self in higher consciousness with scale and relativity.
Continuing to practice exercises of divided attention without using that divided attention to observe yourself is a wasted effort. Once you can divide your attention, then turn that part of it to psychological Work practices that can get you somewhere beyond dividing your attention. No matter what other Work efforts you make, if you are not practicing the psychological exercises regularly of true Self-Observation, Inner Separation, Non-Identification, the Stop exercise, External Considering, then no growth can happen.
Of course I did not intend that you find yourself in the way that you suggest. Ironically, what is required in Work against Inner Considering is that you lose yourself. So through the efforts that you’ve made so far, you have verified the existence of Multiplicity, Sleep, an absence of Real I, and how difficult it is to keep your attention focused for any length of time on any pursuit. All this without the discipline of School or preparatory Work. I should think that would be enough motivation to send you seeking after Work knowledge voraciously.
External rules, external disciplines will not help you. This Work is purely inner, psychological, transformational Work. Even if you were in a School full of rules and disciplines, you would find the energy of Observation dissipates rapidly and that is a natural occurrence.
Recognizing Inner Considering becomes one of the easiest aspects to observe after you have studied and understood what constitutes Inner Considering (refer to archives or Nicoll}. These states become glaringly obvious and are very easy to see, not rare, with the effort of Self-Observation. If you observe Inner Considering, probably the most you can do and the best thing you can do is to make your personality passive. External Considering is a long way down the road of knowledge in this Work. But making your personality passive (not identifying with your Inner Considering) has to be accomplished before one can get to true External Considering. Luck plays no part in this process. Knowledge comes first, effort and practice comes after knowledge, and the result can be the creation of Real I. What you need to serve as Third Force or “reminding force” is a strong desire for change and a good deal more knowledge of the Fourth Way Work.
Indeed Vanity can attach itself to anything, but the issue here has to do with the Work idea that thoughts come into you from all different sources — some you can recognize, some you can’t — but any thought (“aren’t I something!!”) is just a passing I. You can credit it or not, you can identify with it or not, or you can ignore it. Ask yourself if this is a Real feeling that you have? Probably not, but if it is and you persevere in the Work, you’ll lose that one fast.
Knowledge in the Fourth Way means understanding the Work ideas. That requires “pondering” AND practical Work. Increase your efforts to gain all the intellectual information you want or need, and reflect upon it. Then begin the initial practices of Self-Observation and not expressing Negativity. That is the process for Awakening. And that’s a long one. If you are just beginning in the Work, you could not possibly know what your Center of Gravity or Chief Feature is. Presume nothing. Verify everything. Read, read, read and practice Self-Observation, and we will help you with any questions or difficulties you have along the way.
When you are practicing Self-Observation and that which you are trying to observe disappears, there are a couple of possible explanations. In the beginning, although it may seem hard to grasp, the ego will oppose Work efforts. It does not want to change and it certainly doesn’t want to be seen. So perhaps some particular I’s are hiding from observation. Sometimes when you practice Self-Observation that which is observed simply ceases to exist under the light of observation. For instance, if you are angry and you observe your anger in the context of Work knowledge and you see the self-interest, the lie, the machinations, the childishness in the anger, it can die on the spot. It isn’t a should or shouldn’t situation. This is just one of the things that occurs during Self-Observation.
You have a very important opportunity in what you have been experiencing. You say “the emotional feeling is separated from the thoughts that have aroused these feelings”. The thoughts are only I’s and separating them from the emotional feeling that they evoke is what we work very hard to be able to do. To have experienced this spontaneously is an insight and maybe an organic understanding of that condition of inner separation that can help to know what you are aiming at. It is freedom from Identification.
To remain objective during Observation takes practice. It may help you to separate the Observing I from your personality’s manifestations by referring to them in your observations as “it” rather than taking them as yourself. For instance, “it” (meaning the mechanical, automatic personality that you call “self”) is irritable. It feels successful. It is tired. It doesn’t like…It thinks that people should…Some people find this exercise helpful.
You could try, while being externally aware, to have Observing I passively registering what it sees, maybe only subconsciously sensing the inner state. In other words, you see yourself talking to someone and your Observing I just notes that you are uncomfortable. Let it go. Reflect on it later. Remember that what you are observing, the manifestations of your False Personality, is not you. It is the acquired attitudes, opinions, likes, dislikes, pictures and imaginations, habitual behaviors, habitual thought processes that were laid down in you without your conscious participation. All of these things are not what is real in you. When you know this, it becomes easy for Observing I to be objective. It is not the real you that is being observed. What is behind the Observer is the Real you. It is through Self-Observation that Real I comes into existence and gains Consciousness and Will.
Buffers are not what is at work here. Buffers are the psychological vacuums between contradictory I’s which keep them from recognizing the incongruities between them and the lack of unity in one’s being. They allow the sort of behavior where a person can think of themselves as being a kind individual even though they hit their dog with a rolled-up newspaper or gripe at their spouse or ignore their children.
Real External Considering is advanced Work but it is something a student can DO, at least outwardly. Most other Work practices are about not doing, i.e. not expressing negativity, not being mechanical, or are about inner Work.
External Considering is essential to the development of Being. It is both a by-product of progress in the Work and an essential element in a developed person in the Work.
It isn’t a practice of being “nice” to others and affecting a pleasant persona, beatific smile etc., but it and all Work practices are firmly planted in Objective Morality. In the natural progression of the Work, having created an effective Observing I, one begins to see all of the wrong work of Inner Considering. With long term observation, you begin to see that all of your actions in the world are motivated by self-interest, even the outwardly charitable ones are subconsciously, mechanically seeking merit, appreciation, rewards. When you begin to feel the insubstantiality and immaturity that comprise all of the aspects of Internal Considering and if your aim is development of Being, these manifestations begin to fall away. At that point, you can no longer walk into a room of people feeling insecure about yourself without being aware that such behavior is mechanical and infested with features based solely on Inner Considering. It will feel beneath you to be functioning psychologically at the level of Sleep, like everyone else in the room seeking self-gratification. The dissolution of those I’s of Inner Considering raises you to another level of consciousness. It takes you out of the stream of social momentum and mechanicalness.
So one begins by observing passively, externally and internally, and one begins to see the contradictions between external behavior and internal states and notices that the internal state is always some variation of self-interest; the need to be noticed, appreciated, treated well, the desire to be understood, to possess abilities that others value, the need to be right, the feeling of embarrassment and insecurity when these needs and desires aren’t met; the bragging and preening of Vanity; the insincere salaciousness of flirting; lying overtly and lying covertly by pretending to be interested, pretending to know when you don’t, pretending to care when you don’t, pretending to listen when in reality your mind is on something else entirely; manipulations and the inauthentic actions of all varieties. Inner Considering is always concerned with how it appears. This is only sometimes Vanity. External appearances, position, appropriate deference, merit, status, valuation are all core emotions in Inner Considering.
It is only by observing, verifying and working against Inner Considering that one can begin to get to the point where one’s every thought and action is not motivated by self-interest. This is where real External Considering can begin to happen. It doesn’t happen by focusing “EXCLUSIVELY” on the thoughts and opinions of others. It happens because being divested of self-interest leaves room in one’s psychology for seeing clearly and being able to act consciously in the moment.
Whatever actions constitute External Considering, none require being appreciated or even recognized
Those needs belong to Inner Considering. External Considering has nothing to do with getting anything, even acknowledgment, understanding, appreciation, merit or reward for oneself. That is why real External Considering is the opposite of weakness. There is nothing weak in being able to act consciously, unselfishly in the world. Indeed it takes great strength to not be constantly obsessed with yourself. It takes courage and the acceptance of Necessary Suffering, and freeing oneself from Unnecessary Suffering to fight your way through the psychological obstacles of Inner Considering. If you are successful, you have raised your level of Being.
If you are practicing real External Considering, no one can take advantage of you, nor mock you to any effect. Vanity, Fear, Power features do not exist in External Considering and therefore cannot be assailed. You will have gained a measure of independence from the external world and from the tyranny of the wrong work of your psychology.
The motive behind doing a favor for a friend in External Considering is the friend’s need. If that friend doesn’t appreciate your favor or outwardly rejects it, it is no reflection on your authentic motive and will not be an insult. To use your own example, cooking your wife her favorite dinner may seem like an exercise in External Considering. But if her need is not for dinner but for your attention instead of the hours you spent shopping and cooking, this is not real External Considering. You gave her what you wanted to give her instead of what she needed. Instead of making you angry, it should have motivated you to find out what she needs and to give her that with no expectation of any particular results. External Considering has no consideration for one’s own needs. As a matter of fact, one has no needs in External Considering. The needs of others are the only consideration, which is a manifestation of Higher Consciousness.
Contrary to your idea of examining External Considering from a “selfish point of view from the point of view of first line work”, it must be said that the first line of Work is ALL ABOUT divesting oneself of selfishness. It is not “an attempt when in the domain of false personality…to focus exclusively on the thoughts and opinions of others.” To begin with, False Personality and External Considering cannot co-exist. And the focus of External Considering is not on the thoughts and opinions of others, but on their needs. If the others show no appreciation or even acknowledgment, you cannot deduce that you have failed, because you have no requirements of them. To deduce that you are not Externally Considering them because you have not given them what they need may be partially correct. External Considering would know what they need before acting and even if its actions are ineffective, there is no failure because the motivation is genuine.
So in the Work we are taught to practice External Considering even when we don’t know how, just like we are asked to practice Self-Observation which also has to be learned. But to get from Self-Observation to real External Considering is a long, difficult process of cleansing yourself of the wrong work of the mechanics of Sleep. In the meantime, any exercise of External Considering will enlighten you and you will begin to see how very far away that level of Being is.
[STUDENT: How can I instill in myself a preference for Work I’s that have the all the appearance of being the interlopers in my being?]
These feelings are natural in the beginning of the Work. Observing I has no power except to observe and one begins to lose the familiar sense of self before anything else has been created to replace it. The “ways that are familiar and comfortable” to you are mechanical and asleep. Is this the self you wish to be? It feels wrong to “shun” this familiar self because you are identified with yourself. You only know yourself as you always have been.
To feel a resistance to doing the Work is a common experience. The sense of loss that you feel is real. There is real loss, loss of ego and personality and your familiar sense of self. But this is necessary in order to build True Self on a new, authentic basis.
Work I’s oppose what you have always known as “yourself” but they come from you, they are in you, and even dormant they are more You than any imitation or pretense. The aim in the Work is to change. Is this your aim? Then you must change your “cherished sense of yourself”. If you want to DO the Work, then you must continue to practice. Be passive to the resistance of False Personality. Expect it and just observe. Observe how Personality doesn’t want to change, doesn’t want to make any efforts, especially ones that eliminate its existence.
Through the long process of Self-Observation, Work I’s accumulate. You will gain a sense of authentic Self (versus imitation and pretense) gradually.
So this is part of Necessary Suffering, that is, sacrificing False Personality, which is always painful in some way in order to gain a real Self that is more truly you and in which there is no pretense.
[STUDENT: How can I start to work again in a consistent manner? I am not connected to a group, though I had been at one time.]
Begin by evaluating your Aim. If your Aim is to change yourself, psychological evolution, then you will find the tools for these efforts in the psychological practices of the Work, best expressed in Nicoll’s Commentaries. Contemplate the cosmology if you must, but focus your attention on Self-Observation. Every advancement in the Work begins with Self-Observation. Refer to our archives on the subjects of Divided Attention and Self-Observation.
If you must, use simple reminders to observe yourself such as putting your watch on the opposite wrist, etc. If you need more Third Force, make it a regular practice to be in touch with creativespirit. We are here to assist you in these efforts. Make a daily aim of reading from the Commentaries. Refer your questions to us.
Rodney Collin reminds us to “know what we know.” Remember what you have verified.
You can fully understand how to divide your attention, how to observe yourself, or any other Work exercise and not know what you will learn or how that knowledge will affect you. One may practice Self-Observation and observe Vanity of a particular kind, which leaves you feeling small and shallow, embarrassed, paranoid about being revealed, humiliated; then justification jumps in and if you retain a degree of observing you will see that as only more wrong work and suddenly you recognize that none of these changing I’s are real…So who Are You? What is real and what is not real? You cannot see this ahead and it will be a somewhat different experience for each person.
I do fully believe that in order to do the Work rightly, you need to know what you are aiming at and understand what it will require of you. I do also believe that a student must understand the purpose of the practice he is given to do. This does not contradict the reality of multi-faceted experience whose depth cannot be perceived from afar.
Do not underestimate the admonition to “know thyself”, the whole aim there being to discern the real from the false. All progress in the Work is based on this self-knowledge.
Observing I creates what the Work calls Deputy Steward. Observing I gains clarity of vision with repeated practice and verifies the Work ideas. These verifications create a psychological faculty, an organ of perception that is a permanent vantage point from which you see everything through Work-verified Understanding.
Certainly, no student is expected to be working at the same level as any other student. This is very personal, idiosyncratic experience. However, if I give the exercise of, say, noticing lying, then all students will respond to that exercise with the degree of Understanding and Being they currently have. For some, it may be with a range of responses from “I never lie”, “I can’t do this exercise” to “I have observed that I lie constantly, exaggerating and manipulating words to flatter myself, to feed the pictures I have of myself; I constantly am outwardly friendly even though almost everything makes me mad; I pretend to like people I don’t like; I pretend to understand things so that no one will know that I actually don’t; and this knowledge has shattered the illusions of False Personality and liberated me.”
Sometimes the Work is a gradual development. Sometimes it’s a mind-altering experience. If it proceeds, there is not usually any consistency in the way it proceeds, up until a certain point.. However, the Fourth Way consists of very specific knowledge, exercises, and precise information, not hints and clues.
I think the term “psychological integrity” is a perfect expression of what the Aim is.
We do not encourage you to focus on only one aspect of the Work at a time with no context or understanding of the Aim. But if you already know that psychological integrity is the Aim, what more motivation do you need?
However, there is a beginning point in the Work and it is Self-Observation which is the bedrock of all further development. It is a practice that will continue indefinitely and doing it right is essential. It requires practice and repetition, and it must be ongoing during the whole process of the Work. While we are continually practicing Self-Observation, which must be learned, we will also be discussing other Work ideas, other Work practices and related subjects. With development in the Work, you begin to see differently, your vantage point changes and new perspectives, new levels of Understanding become available. This cannot be antecedent. It must be worked for.
[STUDENT: Can you explain a little more in detail about the idea of changing what you observe. I don’t quite understand this.]
The aim of Self-Observation is to enlighten you about how your own psychology works. If you are practicing Self-Observation and you begin to “see” wrong work in yourself, you will want to change this; however, for a very long time, all you can do is observe. You will see Sleep, Mechanics, Features, Inner Considering in all its facets, Multiplicity, Lying, Justifying, Vanity, Imagination, Pictures, etc.
It is frustrating to see all of this, or any of it, and not be able to do anything to change what wrong work you observe. But Observing I’s accumulate. They gain clarity and strength, and eventually give you the determination to change your own wrong work.
Sometimes just seeing repeatedly the same manifestations of the wrong work of False Personality diminishes their strength. After all, the I’s of Self-Observation are not identified with what is observed. As they accumulate, they draw force from Identification, weakening its hold on you, eventually giving you enough Will to disengage from wrong work.
Sometimes you may observe some wrong work in yourself that so shocks you the power and depth of your enlightenment annihilates its existence. It vanishes, falls away, crumbles to dust, ceases to exist only because you have seen it clearly and know it IS NOT YOU.
This, however, is rare. More often, the task of ridding yourself of the wrong work of your psychology requires deliberate and repeated efforts to do so. These are Super Efforts and they are a long way own the road of authentic, objective Self-Observation. It would be too soon to try at this point in your Work. You must learn more (knowledge)and gain more understanding through study and practice before you have the right tools to apply in making Super Efforts.
Under Self-Observation notice: — that you have many I’s, many contradictory — notice habitual behavior, posture, tics, attitudes, sayings — verify Sleep — verify mechanicalness — notice negative I’s especially. Note their frequency: anger, irritation, criticizing, depression, frustration, boredom, impatience, exasperation, grumpiness, competitiveness, negative inner talk, slander, self-deprecation, despair, hopelessness, violence — Note their frequency — Trace them to their roots in your psychology — Notice habitual I’s that say the same things over and over — Recognize your own Multiplicity. — Recognize that what can see that in you is a separate you — Try to realize from the beginning that this separate ” you” is NOT one of the multiplicity — Observing I must keep observing all that the Work teaches — Try to keep Personality passive — Practice Inner Separation — Speak less — Remember your Aim — Remember the Work every day
On Inner Considering, observe:
— Justifying, always putting your self in the right — the need for attention — the desire for appreciation — worry about what others think of you — feeling excited when you’re a social success — feeling disappointment if you are not — thinking always how hard you have it — feeling superior, feeling inferior — being nervous — resenting not getting the notice or valuation you want — being insincere — feeling rejected — feeling insecure — worry
The Work tells you also to notice: Lying — outright dishonesty, giving people a wrong impression of yourself that is usually flattering, pretending to listen when you are not, pretending to understand when you do not; pretending interest or care because it serves you, lying about your status, your knowledge, your merit, manipulating the truth to put yourself in a better light, exaggerating. Identification False Personality Pictures and Imagination Vanity — physical vanity, intellectual vanity, vanity about money, position, power, experience, sexual attractiveness, accomplishment, merit, importance, having some special privilege or secret knowledge, feeling superior to others in some way. Self- deprecation is the flip side of the coin of vanity. It is made up of the same thing. Self-Remembering Impressions Violence
When you have seen all of these things in yourself, for yourself, you will begin to wake up. When these moments happen, you will see the state of Sleep and mechanicalness that rules everyone, including you. During this period of observation, there is not much you can do to change what you observe. This is a frustrating stage and it passes slowly. The more you observe, the more presence and strength Observing I will have. As you see and verify more often and more clearly, you will not want to continue to manifest from Sleep and mechanicalness. Your will to be conscious and intentional and act with integrity will be the primary force to help you get rid of the wrong work in your psychology. Once the Emotional Center is purified of its wrong work, growth in Consciousness is possible.
Subject: Seeing
I photographed Impatience once while I was waiting in a long line at a store. Being in the Work, I recognized Impatience as a Negative Emotion, but who wouldn’t be impatient standing, by necessity, in a long, slow moving line when I was in a hurry. Luckily I had to stand in line so long that I was able to observe some things about Impatience. First, as I said, I saw it as a Negative Emotion. I know that Negative Emotions are the wrong work of the Emotional Center, but I can’t help but see how the negativity spreads into thinking negative thoughts, no matter the subject, and an agitated, irritated Instinctive Center — sighing, shifting weight from side to side, foot taping, eyebrow raising, irregular breathing, grimaces, shoulder and neck flexing and more. Soon, even though I was able to return again and again to the position of Observing I, I was fully infected with negative everything and the line was moving slower!
Suddenly, and with crystal clarity, I saw — that is, Observing I saw — what a ridiculous useless waste of energy and attention this toxic state of Impatience was. And further, how pointless. My impatience certainly didn’t make the line move faster. It only made my internal and external experience of waiting miserable. And I saw that I was behaving like a spoiled child who was having a temper because I couldn’t have my way. I “felt” the bitter taste of Negativity and didn’t like it. I saw that I had let this Negative Emotional I of Impatience go unchecked and infect not only my state, but other people’s as well by “complaining” verbally and non-verbally. This is something that Real I did not want to do. I saw and felt the wrongness (wrong work) of it. I saw the silly, shallow, useless impotence of it. I saw the lie that there was justification for it and accepted responsibility. This was painful to the False Personality which felt humiliated. That Impatience died in the light of that realization. I felt like a transformed person, a taste of Real I.And then suddenly, again, I saw something that my ordinary state couldn’t see. I saw all the elements of my day, my week, the season, the weather and the unexpected that had fallen into place so to put me here (in line, waiting) now. I saw that it had taken hundreds of elements in just my own day and my own agenda to put me “here, now”. Then I saw that each person had their own elements to live in order to put them “here and now”…and in front of me. A burst of illuminated insight of what it would require of the Universe, all of the thousands of connected elements in the world and in time, to coordinate circumstances to suit my convenience. I saw the utter absurdity of having such requirements. And I was humbled to see that I thought myself so important that I was expecting the whole world to arrange itself so as not to inconvenience me or even to accommodate me.
Thankfully, this experience, the verification I received in it, the Understanding made a permanent change in me. I haven’t been impatient while waiting for anything since then (more than fifteen years now). I experience no negativity and I find some productive way to use the time, or I just wait patiently. Imagine now the weight of one little Negative I of Impatience, the power and influence it has and the Unnecessary Suffering it causes. Now imagine being free of that oppression. It is sweet liberty.
If you credit this idea and attempt to divide your attention and observe yourself, you find that there is something in you that can SEE (Observe). With practice, Self-Observation creates the presence of Observing I. Observing I has a Work Memory that becomes filled with verifications of Work ideas, pictures you have of yourself, photographs of Imagination, False Personality and Wrong Work.
Observing I becomes the seat of “Steward” — a permanent faculty that receives the impressions from life, internal and external, through a level of Understanding informed by the Work ideas.
Observing I has also been informing Real I, which grows from this Understanding and gains strength through practice and definition in contrast to Imaginary I. This Real I forms at the expense of or through the elimination of acquired Personality (False Personality), that is, your ego.
Real I seeks to exert control over Personality in order to be authentic, in order to replace Wrong Work with Right Work. As False Personality is observed and studied and worked against, it loses power, refuses to function, and eventually dissolves, vanishes to be replaced by your True Self, awakened, intentional, internally free, authentic, unique, purified of the labyrinth of Wrong Work, self-interest, and the Negative Emotions connected to them.
Real I can know, is connected to Higher Consciousness, Objective Conscience. It has perfect integrity and contains the meaning and fulfillment of your existence.
[STUDENT: Sometimes when practicing self-observation, I feel that I am thinking about myself too much. Is there any danger of self-observation becoming self-absorption?]
Yes, there is a danger if Self-Observation is not done uncritically. You can become endlessly fascinated by what you observe without ever moving beyond that point.
To quote Nicoll, in response to the question “don’t you think this Work makes one very self-centered?” Nicoll: “Exactly the opposite. It shifts you from this self-satisfied, self-centered view of yourself. It makes you really think you are nothing like what you thought.”
[STUDENT: There is much talk in the system of struggle, suffering, work, and bearing inner and outer unpleasantness. Is there any place for joy during our journey through the work?
This experience we are speaking about is what happens when real Self-Observation begins. All you can do is observe without the power to change or affect what you observe. This is a frustrating stage. You cannot progress without going through it.
Certainly there is joy in this Work. Unfortunately, you have to work to get it. When you begin to have some detachment from your mechanics and can affect to some extent change in you have observed,you will experience a liberation that is joyous.
Being critical is negative emotion in action. Don’t believe it, just observe it. It’s too soon for you to know where these I’s come from. The only way to find out and be free of them is through Self-Observation. Uncritical, objective Self-Observation.
After practicing Self-Observation for a period of time and verifying for myself my Body Type, my features, my Alchemy, I had a lot to laugh at. It does become easier to do so with the kind of detachment experienced through Inner Separation.
Start with one thing. The best thing would be to start with this Work at the beginning with Self-Observation. This process will show you how to be responsible, first to your own Aim. As you are able to observe more, your desire to be responsible will increase. Set small aims in the beginning. At some point in the appropriate development of the Work, you will find you have developed a distaste for being irresponsible and the consequences that issue from that condition.
Objective Observation will inform you about the nature and source of being irresponsible. Learning to use the Emotional Center correctly will give you the ability to not be irresponsible. This is a long process. Be patient.
The following is a response to a message from a student regarding his observations:
I would like you to consider the possibility that you are a Solar- Mercury, maybe a Solar-Venus-Mercury. The combined nature of multiple I’s and speed of energy in Mercury plus the hyper energy of Solar may be combining so that your I’s are moving too quickly for you to grasp individual I’s and hold onto them long enough to be able to observe them accurately. I would also like you to consider the possibility that you are dealing as well with a Fear Feature. Remember, that making Personality passive may require a passive type to become active. Self-deprecation is just the flip side of Vanity. Also it can be an excuse to not make real efforts. There is no real observing in self- deprecation.
Along with the “normal” wrong work of every machine, if you are dealing with a Fear Feature that could account for more emotional dysfunction and the feelings of being alone since Fear will not take emotional risks and therefore is cut off from authentic emotional relationship. It may also feed your need for reassurance in order to feel comfortably yourself.
You are seeing a lot already. You have identified Vanity I’s and laziness. The more you photograph them, the less you will want to suffer the pain and the wrong work they create.
You are very perceptive to notice the element of self-interest (seeking appreciation) in your complimenting of the guard. On closer examination, though, I think you will find that the I of self-interest was not the real I of motivation. I imagine you really were grateful and it was externally considerate to express that. The other I that felt self- important was probably only the automatic I of your own self-deprecating False Personality, an acquired habit of thinking of yourself in particular terms.
Work on Emotional Center first by refusing to identify with every Negative Emotion that appears in you. You call yourself lazy and yet you worked hard to become a lawyer and continue to work if not hard, at least consistently. This does not negate the possibility of Tramp Feature, but I think it is too soon in your development for you to be Body Typing yourself and ascribing Features to yourself.
If you feel that you are starving emotionally, you must consider that you are cut off from a functional Emotional Center. Even ordinary people not in the Work have some sort of emotional life that is nurturing to them.
What nurtures you? Not your Vanity Feature. Your heart. What do you find to be sweet in life: animals, plants, children, music, nature, close personal relationships? If you feel this Emotional Center starvation, FEED YOURSELF POSITIVE EMOTIONAL IMPRESSIONS. Please do not chastise yourself. It is only further identification with yourself. OBSERVE. Practice Inner Separation. If you are feeling the “terror” of the conditions you are observing, you are stuck fast in Identification and have no way out. If you can observe the condition of your psychology at present and say to it “this is just my mechanics at work”, “my Vanity Feature is asserting itself”, “my Tramp Feature is avoiding having to work”, “my Fear Feature needs reassurance”, then you can begin to separate from the Negative Emotions the observations are attached to.
When you observe objectively an aspect of your psychology such as Vanity, when you observe it repeatedly in all its manifestations you will begin to know that these actions are not YOU. They do not express the truth of your Real I. You will see the futility and indignity of seeking your self-worth outside of yourself through the fickle flattery and appreciation of others. You will grow to dislike this immature dependence upon others’ opinions of you. The Real I that is taking form through Self-Observation will begin to assert itself in place of Vanity or Trampishness. That which “knows that it knows” in you will not need external verifications.
I suggest that you attempt to make your internal I’s passive and quiet as much as possible so that you can see. If I’s and glimpses of states are still moving too quickly for accurate observation, try to grab onto one particular observed I and hold it, letting everything else pass while you examine it to the extent that you can.
Remember that Vanity in Latin is “vanitas” and it means “empty”. You are not empty. You are at least seeing some things of value, therefore you can apply the Work to the material you have. “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” (Goethe)
The I’s of Vanity and Inner Considering (needing to feel attractive) are only part of the wrong work which you observed in relationship to “pretty women”. This is also a distortion of sex energy called Infrasex. In the case of a newlywed, I find this activity a little more surprising, however it is very common as you well know. It will ruin the possibility of a good marriage and corrupt your work efforts.
This is also my view and I believe further that working with Divided Attention not specifically related to Self-Observation is a waste of time. It can be a subject of fascination for the psychology and many people will prefer to remain at this kindergarten stage of practice rather than apply what has been learned to themselves.
[STUDENT: In practicing self-observation, I still see the object of my observation as entirely “myself”, that is, the person I consider to be the real me. I can approach some dispassion or uncriticality in my observation, but no strong sense of “inner separation”. There is really no sense of a new observing self. Do I err?]
You perceive the object of your observation as yourself because your Observing I has not developed a strong enough presence. This happens incrementally. Inner Separation is key and difficult in the Work process. It has to be worked at. If there is no sense of a new Observing Self, what is observing? Is it the same self that is being observed?
A quote from the reading: “When a man is totally asleep he is identified with every thought that comes to him automatically and every mood that arises in him automatically, and every feeling. He takes all this as his life and, in fact, more than this, he takes it as his necessary life. In the work of self-observation we are told in what direction to observe ourselves and the reason for this is to be able to separate ourselves very gradually from all these unnecessary forms of identifying with transient thoughts, moods and feelings. We then begin to have something that stands behind us. We then begin to see ourselves, as it were, on the stage in front of us. We begin to see all sorts of different ‘I’s in us, saying this and thinking that, and behaving like that and holding forth like that, as something unreal, something that is not oneself, something that has nothing to do with Real ‘I’. In other words, we begin to see our mechanicalness. All this is a very great step to take and once a person has taken it he or she can never be the same person again.”
Beginning to see your mechanicalness is a definite and important stage in the Work. Indeed, once you have verified it, you will never be the same. At this point you must proceed intentionally and from valuation of the Work or you must stop if you are unable to sustain this shock and stay sane.
[STUDENT: Nicoll in the assigned reading spoke of the absence of struggle in the process of self-observation. This is something with which I struggle myself. I have a feeling this is important. Please elaborate.]
I think this means more about being passive in your observations rather than in tension trying to make the observation happen. As Nicoll said, I think that in the very beginning, it is wise to be inconspicuous in your observing, beginning with the just the sensing and then noticing of states.
You get out of bed tomorrow, looking forward to weekend recreation, and feeling positive anticipation. It storms and blows your house down instead. Are you lost then to the winds of external circumstances? If you can face these kinds of extremes and maintain a position detached from Negative Emotions and Unnecessary Suffering, this would be an example of successful Self-Observation. I will address this more later.
[STUDENT: Doesn’t the process of self-observation quell the states observed? People say I seem pensive. I suppose it is because I am new to it.]
Yes. But sometimes it takes long-term observation and sometimes it happens immediately that the light of observation puts an abrupt halt to that which can only take place in the dark. Pensive has posture to it, has habitual body language and stance. Sometimes intentionally getting out of the physical manifestation helps you to separate from the emotional associative state.
[STUDENT: Related to Andrews point – Should one not be able to manifest externally in any way that is appropriate while internally remaining separate (G. calls it playing a ‘role’). But I find that, for example, I must slow down when walking in order to observe myself for any period of time. There seems to be no reason that I ought not be able to sustain observation while hurrying, going about my daily business. I think what Gurdjieff refers to as ‘not blending the inner with the outer.]
You can certainly observe yourself while hurrying going about your daily business, but what you should be observing in this is the wrong work of the Emotional Center which creates hurry in the Moving Center. If you continue to observe eventually you will get to a point where Understanding will take the place of mechanical responses. I don’t particularly like the idea of “playing a role” unless it is necessary. I believe that through impartial observation the wrong work begins to diminish.
In the beginning Observing I identifies with everything. If you find it in identification with the Work, this is a good hing. It is when you begin to see and feel that you are not one I that you will discover that you can choose which I is real.
Which would you most like to be free of? Identification, Imagination, or Inner Considering? They are all equally wrong work. Sometimes observations descend into any one of these aspects of wrong work. If you recognize it to be Inner Considering, are you more able to separate from it than if it has fallen into Identification? Would knowing this help you to raise that I back to the level of Observation? These kinds of discriminations are not significant work practices. You need to focus on re-establishing Observing I, then let it see where it has been. You are the only person who can determine which weakness most affects you. If it helps you to understand this then again, raise your Observing I and see where the wrong work came from.
Observing states and identifications is much more important work and is essential for building a right foundation.
Observing functions, for instance, the Intellectual Center doing a crossword puzzle or the Moving Center at the gym, doesn’t give you enough information or context to be of great value in the beginning of this Work.
Now you can identify an I by the state it produces in you. Knowing what center is functioning is much less important than seeing mechanics, verifying Multiplicity, and practicing Inner Separation.
If you observe in yourself for instance an I that wants to speak, to have its say, to be heard, understood, recognized, appreciated, and you know from Work Knowledge that this emotional disposition is Inner Considering and wrong work of the Emotional Center you then have reason to become detached from that I.
Most of the time you can trace an I back to a motivation that has self- interest at its heart.
Observing that your Instinctive Center is hungry carries no weight. When you note that the Instinctive Center creates negative emotions when it isn’t satisfied would be stronger observation. Note the strength of the Instinctive Center. How it tyrannizes all the other centers until it gets its way. Most often, it is best to humor the Instinctive Center by giving it what it wants so that it doesn’t impede your Work.
[STUDENT: Tearing down what is false without taking care to build what is genuine seems to court disaster.
It is not courting, it is creating disaster. The process of tearing down what is false should happen gradually along with the growth of Understanding which should take the place of what was false and is no longer a part of you. But it’s like reining in a wild team of horses. Everyone wants results and particular results and right away. All seem to need external, tangible evidence that this Work is actually working. It is important to study different aspects of these transformational ideas. At the same time, trying to apply them to a psychology in the chaos of wrong work won’t have healthy results. I reiterate and ask you all to continue the fundamental practice of Self-Observation with PATIENCE. You have each had some experiences of raised consciousness or deep insight. Let these inspire you to work without requirements knowing that you will receive what you particularly need in order to proceed.
[STUDENT: I understand that one purpose for Self-Observation is information gathering. We are uncritically observing attitudes, reactions, and motivations. But we are also observing “wrong work”. The very words “wrong work of centers” suggest a need to correct or “make right” this wrong work. For example: I often experience wrong work of centers when I become wrapped up in some intellectual activity, like research or writing or discussion. I then sometimes experience some unaccountable hyper-activity or nervousness in the moving center, as if I’ve had too much coffee; I may have a shortness of breath and I may even begin to sweat for no physical reason. This is an observation of wrong work. Should I require a cessation of this wrong work or simply observe with the attitude that this material will be useful later?]
This particular wrong work is the Emotional Center affecting the Intellectual Center creating intellectual identification. The wrong work that is happening is anxiety, nervousness, both Inner Considering. You can try to require that this wrong work stop. That probably won’t have much effect. Observe, let go of your need to force this behavior to stop. Observing it is the quickest route to eliminating wrong work. You have to eventually be able to trace the path of wrong work back to its origin, its motivation. Seeing where it comes from, knowing that it functions in contradiction to your aim and your will and understanding that it is wasted self-interest becomes great inspiration for change.
[TN] These observations lead to right use of energy, which is both much more efficient and provides fuel for the work of transformation.
Negative I’s are easier to observe and create more damage, which is partly why we concentrate on observing them in the beginning. If you refer to today’s messages on creativespirit, you will find a long list that I wrote of things to observe in doing the Work.
I didn’t intend to suggest that only negativity be observed. Everything is to be observed. You will find much more negativity present than you expect. Another reason for observing negativity is that it is always the wrong work of the Emotional Center which is particularly what must be Worked on. The more you see it, the better you will be able to work with it.
Death is always impending and for most of us, we can never know when our time here will end. Imagine what a waste it would be if you spent the next twenty-four hours trying to cram all of the Work ideas into your mind to form a whole that you can understand. Only to be hit by a bus the next day. Part of doing the Work in the beginning, starting with Self-Observation, is about being intentional. This implies doing the right thing at the right time. The future is imagination. What you have is Now and what you can do, Now, to make a path to where you want to be. Paradoxically, Higher States of Consciousness exist in you now, above your current level of existence but are accessible in the moment.
It is my opinion that in the beginning movements towards Self-Observation, Self-Remembering can confuse the issue. Later, once you have established a functioning Observing I, Self-Remembering simultaneously will give you another dimension of insight and a taste of Real I.
[TN] Nicoll: “The first form of self-remembering is the realization of one’s mechanicalness.” This means that some degree of more objective self-knowledge is necessary. Without this process of Inner Separation and Seeing within, Self-Remembering remains vague and uncontrollable. Remember Ouspensky’s dilemma: how to make Self-Remembering last longer and be more frequent. Answer: continued inner work.
I have observed in myself being carried along in the momentum of negative associations in conversation with friends. My observation put a stop to my mechanical reactions and I became quiet. I noticed that no one missed my biting wit as much as I did. I noticed that perhaps I had even offended someone unintentionally. I have observed myself trying to impress someone of importance, seeking their exalted approval or appreciation, even notice. Seeing this as immature, petty gratification-seeking produced by Inner Considering and Vanity was in such contradiction to the dignity of Real I that all Inner Considering stopped and my center shifted away from needing external validation. I have observed myself complaining when Scale and Relativity are not present. When they become present, complaining dies of embarrassment.
Don’t get discouraged. Part of the reason we observe negativity is to experience the power it has in our psychology. This you have to gleen for yourself through applied practice.
No, it is not necessarily better to observe oneself here or there. Observe yourself when you remember to. Both life situations and Work environment give you every opportunity you need to apply the practices. Making super efforts happens inside of you and has nothing to do with where you are or who you are talking to. For an extended exercise, try to observe groups of I’s. Associative I’s. I’s that create particular states with what they say to you.
Observing I will be able to see everything clearly in time. It may be years before you can have a satisfactory effect on observed behavior. But what you are seeing is not only Vanity. It is also imitation, Inner Considering, and False Personality. These things diminish under the light of Self-Observation and a more conscious action takes their place.
What is to be observed here is how a set group of I’s are put into motion and through paths of association lead in a particular psychological direction and wind up in a familiar place. For instance: excitement over a new something creates the I “this will be great”, “I’m going to like this”, “I can’t wait to get started”, “why can’t I start now”, “if I start now I’ll progress faster”, “I’ll get done sooner and can go to the next something”.
Groups of I’s have set patterns that result in definite changes of state. Most of these are Negative I’s that lead to negative states. If you observe a repeated pattern of negative behavior associated to particular circumstances, you will find a group of I’s back stage, directing.
Habit is such a powerful force to be expressed in such benign terms. Look behind habitual I’s to find out what created them, what their source is, and what psychological phenomena are produced by them.
What you are observing is False Personality and you are probably seeing more falsehood in it than ever before. Keep trying to see yourself objectively. Practice at observation creates a better quality of Observation. Falsehood is impossible to deal with psychologically. There is no ground beneath it. It is uncomfortable and frustrating.
The easiest aspect of the Emotional Center to observe is Negative Emotions However, since we were just speaking about it, hurry, irritation, worry and anger are very simple to observe in yourself as well as in other people.
The emotional part of a center, wiether it is the dominant center of gravity in a person, governs most people’s behavior. This is not wrong work. The wrong work that I am referring to is the activity of self- interested motives governing people’s behavior. The center is working the wrong way either because the Emotional Center has not evolved or the energy of negativity in the Emotional Center has infected another part or center. False Personality is what you have acquired since birth and it is based on the wrong work of the Emotional Center.
The first thing to be done is to practice Self-Observation. You must have an honest, clear picture of yourself and your Negative Emotions and their causes in order to deal with them. The object is to be rid of them. The process varies. The Work teaches the way to do this. Observing Negative Emotions at once gives you some distance. Observing them repeatedly in the light of the Work will gradually diminish their power and influence and you will have other options and be able to make choices.
[TN] Ultimately, the energy saved from being wasted in negative reactions becomes fuel for conscious presence and evolution.
This is everyone’s condition with the exception of those in the Work who occasionally WAKE UP and realize that they are ASLEEP. This should not be alarming in the Work. Seeing this is to be celebrated and reflected upon. This experience shows you not only the condition of Sleep and the power of Imagination and the chaos of responding randomly to external influences, that is mechanically, and more. Keep looking deeper into this experience, behind your observations to the source of the wrong work.
You’re obviously very bright and you are actually practicing and experiencing Work insights. I have heard you be painfully honest about what you observe in yourself inside and in your behavior especially. What I have noticed is that you seem to have no sense of differentiation in the things you observe. The negative, the selfish, petty, identified mechanics don’t seem to make any more impact on your psyche than your I’s about yourself that are positive. It seems to me that you are seeing something but only seeing without discerning, without objective relativity. I think this has to do with the wrong work of the Emotional Center that is seeking gratification outside of real emotional experience.
When I hear you say that you cannot find your “wish” and cannot see beyond the petty “wants and needs” and cannot tell the difference between suffering and joy, the only conclusion that can be made is that your Emotional Center is not functioning right or it would give you this information. Or you are completely cut off from it. You say you want to “need” the Work more. I believe this is also an indication of disconnection with Emotional Center. You can’t feel your need. The only way I can tell you to increase your valuation of the Work and your need for it is to continue in it, practicing Self- Observation in earnest without expectation of results.
Observe all of your emotions, positive and negative. Just watch them as they change and march through your day i do as often as I can. Notice that your opinions and attitudes are full of emotions.
If you “purify” your opinions and attitudes, they will be from objective perspective and, yes, that would be a great help to the right functioning of the Emotional Center, which will increase the connection.
Beginning with Observation, progressing to Inner Separation and Non-Identification will disconnect you from the wrong work of the Emotional Center which essentially purifies it. This is a long process in the Work, and I do mean years, and it begins, and for a very long time remains, mostly Self-Observation. All of the Understanding that you will gain in the process of doing the Work will come initially from Self-Observation.
First you would have to know that it was an imaginary or false I. This you can only know through long-term Self-Observation in the light of Work ideas. During the process of doing this Work, you will develop a taste for what is authentic and what is false and you will develop a perspective that can see what reality is and what is Sleep. If you were to proceed and develop in the Work, you would eventually be able to discern between right work and wrong work and you would be able to choose which to manifest.
There is the fact that this effort [Self Observation] evolves as well. What is difficult and obscure becomes compelling and enlightening as it grows. There is a possibility that a person can evolve to the point where Self-Observation is unnecessary because one has crystallized in Higher Consciousness where such awareness is inconsequential.
The importance of being uncritical about what you observe is so that you are not in a Negative State, Identified with your emotional reaction to what you have observed. This condition will leave you blind and unable to Work successfully. As we have said before, there is the danger of becoming too impartial where you don’t see the right work or wrong work differentiated and all the information you receive is taken in without discernment.
The purpose in this particular observation is that you are many I’s, currently asleep and indiscriminant. Through the process of Self-Observation you will determine what I’s are false and harmful and you will “feel” what I’s are true and right.
Discernment between the quality and nature of I’s being observed is another step in advancing the process. All I’s should be observed. It will not be possible if you are working correctly to separate from I’s that originate in Objective Conscience. Real I, which will give you glimpses of this, has the innate discretion of knowing true and right from false and wrong. There is a difference and you will begin to notice it as Conscience awakens.
Nicoll: “I wish once more to speak about what Non-Identifying means because I think that many of you get so far and then stick completely in understanding what it is necessary to do. So once more I will say to you that when you are trying to observe yourself you must not put the feeling of I into what you observe. You are observing ‘it’, a machinery of emotions and thoughts which is self-running and never still. You will only get into a state of complete confusion if you think that you are one I and think in some way that this I can observe this one I. If we suppose that there is only one thing that acts in a man then it will be impossible – for one thing to command, another to obey.”
In the Fourth Way you must accept up front that this is a long term process and you should work without the expectation of results. It will take years literally of observations to inform you adequately about what you need to change in yourself.
[STUDENT: I have many selfish I’s. I observe them in various roles. They stem from my instinctive center and perhaps from the way my personality was formed. That is a common observation that I make, that I am thinking about myself, worrying only about myself, etc. False personality is strong in this area and it seems hard to step ahead of it – so to speak. Can you suggest how to work on this.]
G. called the Instinctive Center “the Boss”. It will tyrannize all other centers until it is satisfied. For instance, if your Instinctive Center is exhausted your Intellectual Center will not work. Your Emotional Center won’t care about anything except satisfying the Instinctive Center’s need. You have to work with it intentionally, making compromises and rewarding it for cooperating. As for selfishness, it is the normal state of a sleeping machine. Self-interest is behind almost every word and deed. It requires a great deal of long-term observation and dedication to change to become unselfish. And it is worth it. Keep working for it.
Well, to be existential, this moment is all we have. I’m glad you’re willing to do the Work now. I hope you will develop a commitment to doing the Work because of the results you get and the valuation of those results. Nicoll: “Through Self-Observation light enters and it is this light that begins to separate us. Esoteric teaching is lilght, but only when it is understood, valued and applied. You will get no light without this valuation. We cannot understand the Work ideas unless we work on ourselves. Your being will not change if you are completely identified with yourself. If there is no change of being then there can be no change in your understanding of the Work. Self-Observation lets in a ray of light. This light is called in the Work Consciousness. The object of this Work is to increase Consciousness.”
To extend the practices we have been doing, try to observe Multiplicity, that is, the Many I’s in you all claiming to be you in their turn. Just observe how one I takes the place of another instigated by an event, external or internal. Eventually, Unity is possible and Intentionality takes the place of Multiplicity. The important point to notice is that you are not one I. When you know this, you will begin to be able to choose which I’s honestly speak for you.
Try to understand what this condition means to the validity of your psychological condition. And be aware that recognizing that one is not one I but many, Multiplicity, is the first taste of real Self-Remembering. When you see the hordes of mechanical I’s taking charge and acting without your authority, you get a better sense of what Real I might be.
If you have not observed this string of successive I’s, it is only because you have not observed rightly and long enough. This is a fact of the Work which can be verified through observation.
You seem to be stuck in the first movement of Self-Observation which is Divided Attention. This has no value except in application to the observation of your internal state. This Work is about your internal mental world. It requires that you place your attention there. In doing this, you are not in imagination, you are just beginning to observe.
[STUDENT:I notice that I tend to think about Self-Observation rather than do it. But at the same time – this feels like an observation. As though I were observing the thought of Self-Observation.]
The awareness that is intentionally separated out in order to practice Self-Observation is not thought. It is not intellectual, though it is “intelligent seeing”. If you are thinking about the exercise, then be aware that there are such I’s circulating within you.
[STUDENT: Also, I find it difficult to `name` the observed emotion in the moment. I can only recognize it as `dislike` when thinking back. Does this (can this) change?]
The Work I’s within you need to “fuse” into an actual doing of the Work, which then becomes a matter of consciousness rather than merely thought process. Attention placed on your reaction to something, and informed by Work knowledge, leads to real Self-Observation. This ‘place’ of awareness needs to be able to recognize what is occurring and know what it is: “This is inner considering”, “this is vanity”, “this is fear”. This is a practice that evolves over time, although breakthroughs can take place suddenly and give you a whole new sense of what this Work is about. It begins with catching things in hindsight, as you mentioned, i.e. thinking back on an incident and disliking your reaction. With applied effort and commitment, that time lag will shift to the moment of occurrence. It is your very dislike for your behavior that will compel you to make more efforts. Some day, or in some moment, you will be able to have a choice rather than simply see what is going on within you. But first you must acquire knowledge and numerous occasions of Self- Observation.
[STUDENT: In other words, does one become better at recognizing and naming what one observes? Or is it always by taste?]
The answer is most certainly yes. That is the very purpose of being on this path. Results do manifest. Verifications confirm the value of the efforts. In fact, the more you value what you are gaining from these ideas and their application, the more you make efforts and the more you receive.
You ask “is it always by taste?” The knowledge accumulated with the guidance of the Work, and of persons experienced in these matters, leads to a power of discernment in relation to states and energies. It is one thing to recognize the obvious manifestation of negativity. It is another to detect the subtle ‘flavor’ or ‘taste’ at the beginning of identification or a descending momentum and choose not to allow it to steal one’s life and energy.
First comes knowledge — knowing what to look for. Then comes the looking and accumulation of information about yourself. Then the beginning of a new will can come into being, and choices can be made that lead to a new quality of existence. Then higher consciousness can take root in the moments of your life.
[STUDENT: Cannot one observe that one is identified at the very time it is happening. I believe that this happened for much of the past several days.}
Absolutely. This is the condition you will find when you start observing, that you are identified and observing it and remaining identified. A further question?
[STUDENT: It has been quite unmistakable. I was in a whorl of identification with several matters and still caught up in it. It was a very new experience and I just sat there and let the negativity flow through like a current. I am unsure if I could have stemmed it with effort. Was the process correct in just letting it happen and observe?]
When you were letting the negativity flow through you, were you experiencing Negative Emotions yourself?
[STUDENT: Not entirely. It was a completely new thing to fell negative but not to be negative, if you can see what I mean. feel I was emotionally on an even keel, but I felt the onslaught.]
This is a new stage. The difference between your feeling negative and not being negative is Inner Separation, the beginning of Non- Identification, and the growth of Observing I.
[STUDENT: It is a definite new state for me. Very new.]
Try to remember the taste of Identification so that you can recall it when you experience it again. The letting things go by or through you without snagging your Emotional Center while you are observing is a new level of clarity.
[STUDENT: This is connected with the distinction between the “active” [ME]whose I’s are in operation with the psychological absorption attending them, and the Observing I that must passively and helplessly watch on. I have made some efforts along these lines and have found that it is useful in some cases to allow the I’s to continue expressing themselves and elicit Observing I in a passive mode, even having a helpless feeling with it. Notice, express the “I”, and watch. The immediate urge to somehow change the “I” seems to me to be False Personalities attempt to clean up what you are observing. This way False Personality thinks it has improved matters and one can now stop observing because everything is better now. This can muddy real observation.]
This is a subtle and important perception. It is very common to find False Personality trying to imitate what it believes is a WorK personality for anyone’s benefit, including your own. I am so glad that you continued reading about Internal and External Considering. This area of study in the Work is profoundly enlightening and gives you a good sense of where you are going.
[STUDENT: I saw myself today. And I saw a buffer quickly interceding to protect an apparent inner contradiction. While on the telephone, I made a comment that was out of alignment with my Work demeanor; in fact, it was a clear mis-statement. I had said that “I had complained” about something the other day when this was not really the case — I had actually only brought attention to the subject out of concern. My statement was called into question by my friend and I had to admit that I did not mean to say that I had “complained” about it at all. I was only being flippant and unnecessarily severe in my comment. At this moment, I saw myself. I could see that I was operating from a set of I’s associated with my friend on the telephone and not the I’s that I often operate from when alone or with someone else. These were clearly a separate set of I’s and the sudden observation of them was jarring. Also, at this moment, I felt the imposition of a buffer whose intent was to protect me from this observation. I was able to refuse the buffer and alter the set of I’s. I felt the need to physically change my posture, sit down, and operate from more sober and less flippant Work- related I’s. My tone of voice changed and I began to express myself in a more sincere and genuine way through them rest of the phone call. After the phone call, I found myself struggling to keep this impression before my mind, wishing to keep this observation vivid. By doing this, I could see better what artificiality in myself means and I could then see new I’s coming in to follow up behind the earlier ones and quietly take me on to the next state.]
You caught a glimpse also of False Personality which is what generated the exaggeration. That you were able to pull yourself up out of the momentum of False Personality and the I’s particularly related to this person required intentional effort. I’m sure you consider it worth it. To be functioning rightly according to Work knowledge at any time is a real foundational movement of your psychology in the right direction.
[STUDENT: The “intentional effort” you mentioned is exactly right. This was a pivotal moment and could have been missed.]
You are on target so you can expect to be able to have this experience repeatedly in the future.
[STUDENT: I have to add that this was disturbing to me.]
The more you experience yourself in this more authentic state because of your Work, the more you will recognize Real I and the more presence it will have.
How was it disturbing to you?
[STUDENT: Because of the sudden and clear awareness of artificiality.]
Yes, that’s always disturbing. And only being able to become genuine can counteract the power of artificial personality.
[STUDENT: You said “recognize Real I”. I have reconciled myself to the aim of sensing Observing I.]
This is the appropriate aim for now. Observing I has to develop in order for Real I to gain definition and presence. However, you will get a taste of what Real I might be, even at this early stage.
[STUDENT: I can see a way to find it, but this seems inaccessible to me now.]
[TN] The experience of “remorse” when seeing artificiality comes from a deeper place (Essence) and is inspiration for “Metanoia”.
[STUDENT: In this group , is the body-type info of use?]
Yes, I certainly consider it valuable, possibly premature for some of you. Ask any questions you’d like on this subject. There is a wealth of material in Body Type knowledge to help in Self-Observation. I consider the most important contribution of this whole body of knowledge to be a most valuable objective point of view about your type’s manifestations. This knowledge gives you a certain distance (Inner Separation) from identification with your mechanics when you observe it in action.
There is a great deal that you can observe about your mechanics without assigning a type to yourself at this point. I would suggest that you continue to gather observations about positive, negative, active, passive and features to accumulate a Work memory photograph of yourself.
If there is only one “I” then there is no observing and the “I” perceived is identified, probably with itself. Nicoll says that until a person divides themselves into two sides, there can be no observing, therefore no Work.
[STUDENT: And this is a permanent effort is it not? One does not “arrive”, as it were?]
One certainly does not arrive at this condition of inner attention without effort, a lot of effort. There is a point in the Work where it is no longer an effort, nor is it necessary when one has become Unified.
[STUDENT: I take that on faith. For I cannot visualize.]
RESPONSE: But you will be able to verify everything along the way.
[TN] Observation is only the beginning. Its purpose is to lead to change. So one does “arrive” through continued transformation.
[STUDENT: I have observed many times over that observing makes me more quiet. But I have also noticed of late an ability to ease up on my Martial self a bit. And actually enjoy myself. Something I don’t do much.]
This is good to hear. Talking is often just the automatic expression of False Personality. Observing it makes you want to be more quiet, less noise from False Personality. This gives you the opportunity to be more real.
[STUDENT: True personality requires me to talk a bit, yes?]
Yes, True Personality talks quite easily without Inner Considering. But it doesn’t require you to talk, life does.
[TN] The issue is not about talking but about inner calm and freedom from wrong work.
[STUDENT: I think I wrote to Rebecca and ted a while ago about this subject. I had noticed that revenge I’s are often coupled with negative future imagination so that one undoes a wrong in ones imagination. What I found astonishing was that I could remember slights from decades ago which today mean nothing to me and get so worked up and identified that I begin to imagine revenge. This is incomprehensible to me. I could say much more about this topic as well since I have recently observed revenge I’s in me. (ironically ‘revenge’ comes from the Latin ‘vindicare’ which means ‘set free’!)]
Revenge is an extreme form of account making which belongs to Inner Considering which belongs to Identification. This long stream of wrong work that begins with Negativity created by Inner Considering can lead all the way to violence. If revenge I’s are abundant in you, this suggests a serious state of insecurity and no attention being given to making Negativity inactive in you.
[STUDENT: May I give an example of a strong revenge I in me because I do not see the inner considering? I would like your analysis of the example.]
You did stumble upon a phenomenon. As long as the wrong work of your Emotional Center is in place you can return to any painful memory and become totally identified all over again even if it is now irrelevant. This is one of the reasons why we in the Work try not to give Negative Emotions our energy or identification. You can live in painful Negativity permanently if you choose to let your mind wander among the various difficulties in your past. Or you can start new NOW.
[STUDENT: A few weeks ago my wife took some valuable property of ours to a store for framing. The next day she had second thoughts and wanted to get the property back because the price charged was very high. The owner of the store refused to give the property back causing anxiety and distress in my wife. I was concerned for her because she is pregnant. The store owner was very rude, condescending and concluding the telephone call with “deal with my lawyer” and promptly hung up on me and my wife. In other words he harmed my wife and because of this, me as well. We did not know what he might do to our property and I did everything in my power to try to recover it I became more and more agitated and could not rest until I “got back at him”. I thought of nothing but how to hurt him back, and get revenge. Eventually I did by pulling strings and having him charged with criminal offences. This rectified the wrong and ‘set me free” (root of revenge) and I could rest again. Although when I saw him in court, saw a real person attending court, I felt bad for him as well and had the charges withdrawn. Question-where is the wrong work and specifically where is the inner considering?]
First of all, Ghandi said “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. I would not call this a situation caused by Inner Considering. Undoubtedly you were dealt with badly. This does not excuse nor permit your own bad behavior (wrong work). In this particular case, it was appropriate to do what was necessary to regain your possession if possible. The phrase “do what was necessary” does not include trumped up charges, pulling strings, and essentially scaring the man half to death.Did this really make you feel better? Even if the Latin root of revenge means “to be set free”, that’s just etymology and has nothing to do the Work, In the Work, we set someone free as well as ourselves by forgiving them. Forgiving can’t happen in the presence of wrong work. They are antithetical. Negativity is always wrong work. Revenge is only self-perpetuated Negative Emotions. Should he retaliate, will you then need no have revenge again?]
There is no real freedom in revenge regardless of what your emotions feel. If Emotional Center was awake it would not be possible to act in a violent or negative way toward another person. This is our Aim. This is true freedom. If you felt freed by this response from humiliation or self-torment, you have it backwards. You should feel genuine remorse at your own wrong work and at understanding that you caused another harm. If he caused you harm first, it doesn’t matter. You are only concerned with your own wrong work and inner state, not his.
[STUDENT: I notice that the ascendancy of certain of the many “I’s” can correspond to Moving Center habits and attitudes. When I slump in my chair, my attitude changes. When I keep a toothpick in my mouth, my attitude changes. Can Moving Center be employed to elicit Work “I’s”?]
Absolutely. Habitual postures generate habitual emotional states. For instance, if your reflective stance or body language is a bowed head, perhaps stroking your face or crossing your arms, pacing — all of these things, if they are habits associated to particular states, in this case let’s say brooding, then you can have an impact on that negative state by changing the habitual posture that unconsciously associates to it. You’ll find in a general sense that when you still yourself and your mind, take a deep breath and relax your muscles that other influences can enter.
[STUDENT: I have observed in relation to ‘moving center’ a ridiculous form of inner considering that almost all people engage in. May I share this?]
It is a good practice to do this physical exercise and put yourself in the presence of the Work ideas at the same time.
Yes, external factors can create certain I’s. If you are asleep, this is all that will happen. What happens in the Work that has an impact is the transformative power of the psychological practices. The physical phenomenon that you’ve referred to “happens” all the time — sensations create emotion. There should be enough Self- Observation going on to do more than “sense” through the body. Much greater effort is called for than sensing or being aware of your body. This focus is too narrow and a side issue.
Did anyone observe positive states over the weekend?
[STUDENT: Yes, profound serenity.]
Wonderful. Did you create the circumstances?
[STUDENT: Partially, I took advantage of the exquisite weather and the fact that many were out of town which created more quiet. Also, I can see moments where I am less identified and this has an impact on my state. Also, I have been reading some material from the early Fathers and this has inspired feelings of inner reverence.]
Profound serenity is a permanent condition in a developed person in the Work. Imagine feeling like that every day. That is where the Work can take you.
[TN] Inner serenity is one of the results of overcoming the wrong work that we see in the efforts of Self-Observation.
When you begin to make real progress in Self-Observation, it is common to feel like you are getting worse because you are seeing more. Don’t let this confuse you.
[STUDENT: As I practice Self-Observation and see better my own weaknesses and falsity, I become more aware of these things in others as well. How can I work to avoid using these insights about others in a wrong way?]
Try dealing with these insights without Identification. Observe others and their sleeping mechanics and you will find empathy with that position. This will allow you to forgive them for their wrong work (for they know not what they do).
The following is my list of the important points in observing Inner Talk. The most important of all is that when you are talking, you are not hearing what may be available. Associative thinking; psychological attitudes and dispositions that recur; patterns of connected I’s, the taste of your inner state, where your attention is, the power of Imagination.Almost all Inner Talk is imagination. The constant reinforcement of attitudes and opinions through indiscriminate thought processes, identifications and justifications. Another important point — there is no silence. Did any of you observe any of these things? If not, what did you observe about Inner Talking?
[STUDENT: Sometimes I think that if I have observed a thing once in myself that I can then move on to something else. Should I not strive to make continued and repeated observations of the same things?]
If you make continued and repeated observations you will begin to see the same things. There is a point to this. The point being that at this stage the “same things” keep happening whether you want them to or not or whether you observe them or not.
Repeated observations of the same phenomenon will gradually deplete its force and eventually Observing I will overcome it.
Can you not Taste Imagination? This is not what the Work is about. It is about making efforts in the moment to observe, to separate, to be passive to your own False Personality urges and act rightly in that moment. For an ethereal Intellectual type, this will be hard. But you must keep your focus on the beam of illumination trying to break through. You see so much but you seem to take it all with too much a place for discernment in this process. It would be good for you to use it now. Keep vigilant about the basic Work practices. Only with this inner structure can anything external happen rightly.
[STUDENT: I begin to sometimes see “sub-personalities”, where I have a distinct attitude or outlook that arises and operates for a brief time and then changes subtly into another set of attitudes — these may be “groups of I’s” or “habitual sets of I’s”. It is as if I could give them their own names. These sub-personalities seem to arise unannounced and leave the same way. Observing them seems to help me see them as not “me”, but some sub-personalities seem more artificial and some not so artificial and I would like to operate less from the artificial sub- personalities. If I am not able to control their coming and going, what Work approach should I use in this connection?]
These sub-personalities are groups of I’s. Probably all habitual. Observing them, as you have verified, helps you to separate to a degree. This dilemma is addressed in the Commentary on “The Selection of Thoughts”. Nicoll: “Eventually, then, I realized that although we cannot stop our thoughts, we can select our thoughts. I mean we can select which thoughts we go with and dislike thoughts that we know quite well by observation always lead to the worst slums in our psychology….We always have some power of selection in our interior world.”
[STUDENT: In that Commentary, Nicoll speaks of preparing a Work aim that will “save you from going to Soho in yourself.” What does this mean?]
It means that you have recognized a group of habitual I’s that take you to the slums of your psychology and you make a Work Aim to refuse to go with them. It’s a matter of cultivating the better I’s in yourself and turning your attention in another direction.
In our ordinary state of consciousness, thoughts come from all around us — inside and out, without discretion or reason. Noticing what thoughts we have, especially repeated sets of I’s that have their own Personality and agenda, is a critical first step in choosing what we give our attention to. If we let our flow of thoughts go unobserved, unchecked, then we remain under their power and completely asleep. You need to recognize what thoughts are helpful to the Work and the right functioning of your psychology, and what thoughts are harmful to the Work and to your Self. Then you try to select what the Work teaches you to select.
Not all I’s are from False Personality. That is why we have to Observe and identify them in order to Separate from what is false and nurture what is genuine.
[STUDENT: I was wondering as we explored the experience of silence how is this related to the “pause” or “space” between the time an impression first hits and then is absorbed by centers as mentioned by Dr Nicoll.]
No, this is not the idea we are discussing. What we are talking about is the silencing of the Personality as it comes under Observation. And the fact that this leads often to a retreat into quiet.
[STUDENT: First, I practically tried to examine what is “observing I” in me. As recently as a few minutes ago. The question is crucial and unavoidable in my opinion for anyone involved in the Work. I take is seriously. Having said that, I must tell you that I do not know what Observing I is. I must study, reflect, struggle with this for a long time. It is the classic question asked of the Seeker: “Who am I”? I can tell you that I am not the functions of the machine. I can tell you that I am accessible only when I am separated from the functions. Second, more theoretically, I think that Observing I is related to Conscience.]
The object of defining what it is that is Observing in you is to increase its presence to sense the taste of it. This part of you that is Observing is not one of the many I’s. It has a different quality that is detached, it has a different perspective, and it feels more like something authentic in you that is you, but not Imaginary I.
Observing I is related to Buried Conscience. Buried Conscience emerges during the process the Work.
[STUDENT: I kept asking myself the question, “what is it that is Observing?”. As I tried to ponder this question seriously, I noticed that ‘what was observing’ gained force. At first I concluded that the answer was “Consciousness”. Then I concluded that it is Gurdjieff’s “embryo”. “Woe to him who has it in embryo.”]
Observing I gaining force and definition is the point of the exercise of examining it. I would not call it “Consciousness”. It is something more like a place in you where Real I begins to grow. Actually, it is more spiritual than psychological in nature. Something akin to your Spirit, your Soul.
[STUDENT: Could it be defined as a place of Emptiness (as opposed to the emptiness that is a “lacking” in something)?]
No, this is not a place of emptiness. It is active and has characteristics and qualities that can be identified and developed.
[STUDENT: Could you call “it” the eternal child?]
No, that would be more like Essence. Observing I is more than Essence. The point I wanted everyone to get is that the part that is Observing in you is not one of the I’s of False Personality but a completely separate entity that exists in you.
The first big example I can think of is the Fear of commitment that I see you have. This is so prevalent that it is hardly considered emotionally dysfunctional. It partly comes from brain stem urges for self- preservation. In Nature, the animal that is vulnerable is the one that doesn’t survive. But we are aiming here for a level above that of animal and brain stem urges. Also, you have expressed your Fear of Being invisible, of being insignificant or unnoticed among other things. These come from Vanity. You are right that it will take Observing from many angles over a period of time to verify this idea if it is true. Whenever you experience the uncomfortable feeling associated with Fear, try to discern its origin.
[STUDENT: Robert Burns wrote: “Oh wad some power the giftie gie us, To see oursel’s as others see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us, And foolish notion.” People will hear this and think “aha, how clever” and then forget about it. Through Observation I believe I can see various aspects of my psychology. How then can I more aggressively confront my psychology? — that is, how can I bring more pressure to bear to expose difficulties and overcome them? Should I Work more aggressively? — or just take opportunities as they arise?
Take the opportunities as they arise. You will recall Nicoll saying that you cannot Work in an Identified way, anxious and trying to force results. I don’t want you to aggressively confront your psychology. I want you to passively Observe it and try to define what is Real I in it and what is acquired Personality and inauthentic to your Being. The most aggressive you should be with yourself is in repressing False Personality and making it passive. This is the beginning of Inner Separation which is the long, hard Work of cleansing the Emotional Center. Are you having any problems with a particular idea, such as knowing that your psychology is a separate entity from your physical body. Your present psychology which is mostly made up of False Personality is full of the attitudes and opinions, likes and dislikes, and multiple I’s that you have acquired. These I’s that you have observed verify for you that your Personality is full of them. They need to be made passive so that the Work can be active.
You have to find the place in yourself that is free of all of the aspects of Inner Considering in order to get to the stage where you no longer seek or need external validation. I can’t give that to you and neither can anyone else. It is a matter of your evolution in the Work which depends on continued Observation.
[STUDENT: “I say this — that only one man is truly without fear, that is, the man who works on himself and knows that he is doing whatever is in his power to accomplish that task that is in front of him.” [Bennett, “Making a Soul”, 67]
The contributions you have made here on behalf of all of us and the Work, and the fact that your life is devoted to this most valuable enterprise should give you enough valuation of yourself to not be completely under the power of Inner Considering. This is where you may Observe Tramp Feature. Don’ t let it ruin your efforts. And don’t let it rob you of what you have already verified.
[TN] I like Robin Amis’ phrase: “Freedom from psychological captivity>”
Take one aspect of Inner Considering and focus your attention on it. Observe it, try to be passive to it, try to separate from it, and keep trying. One thing at a time. It leads incrementally to Real I.
Ouspensky said to Nicoll “Why are you sad?” Nicoll said “I didn’t realize that I was.” O. said: “It is a habit with you”. Recognize that disgruntled-ness has unmet requirements. Recognize habitual emotional states. It is correct that you cannot not be False Personality when you are in it. You can however still Observe it. When you do, make it be quiet.
The silence is the space where Observing can happen. The power to stop False Personality grows there. A slight amendment — Making False Personality quiet involves the effort of stopping its manifestations. Whether this is successful or not, a degree of inner quiet is a choice I believe you can make now.
[TN] There comes a time when your distaste for False Personality is so strong that you will begin to want to make choices that weaken it.
[STUDENT: I can sometimes curtail outer manifestations of False Personality but I can still feel it inwardly. Is there a difference, from a Work point of view, between inner manifestations of False Personality and external expressions? What is the specific quality of ‘making Personality passive’?]
Yes, there is a difference between inner and outer expressions of False Personality. But the Work teaches you to Observe and Separate from both. It is the quality of detachment that defines making Personality passive. It is the exercise of not responding to any I that comes from False Personality, having no emotional attachment to it.
[STUDENT: I highlighted as a significant idea contained in the Commentary. “In the Work, the enjoyment of negative states must be observed sincerely, especially the secret enjoyment of them. You cannot separate yourself from what you have a secret affection for.” This seems connected to the idea of “deeper Self-Observation” and moving it to the level of seeing motivations.
This is exactly right. Observing that you secretly enjoy a negative state is one step deeper than Observing that you are in a negative state.
This process continues to deepen until you can see motivations.
[TN] It is a deeper level of honesty with oneself.
Nicoll: “The whole of the Work starts from a Man beginning to observe himself.”
The idea that Self-Observation is active, intentional, directed attention, whereas knowing and thinking are passive is a way to discern whether your practice is rightly aligned.
[STUDENT: During quiet reflection I can look back on my past actions and see moments of Justification…Can I observe myself in retrospect and bring my past into Work-Memory?]
When you Observe yourself in retrospect, you can in a sense heal the Wrong Work in your past through having an objective understanding of it and forgiving yourself in the Work sense. What you can verify about your past in relation to Work ideas and new Understanding will bring those moments into your Work Memory. This gives you a perspective on the activity and effect of False Personality and its features.
Wrong Work atrophies under the influence of the light of Self-Observation and through the denial of Identification with it. Other elements come into play like thought selection and Inner Separation but a good deal of power exists in the light of Observing I.
Very often Self-Observation leads to a kind of Inner Silence but it is an entirely different kind than the intentional exercise of creating Inner Silence in relation to a specific issue.
The idea of Nothingness is closely connected to Humility. Being critical or severe with yourself will not bring you realization of this fact. Only Objective Self-Observation over a long period of time will reveal to you through Scale and Relativity and the artifice of False Personality your condition of Nothingness. You can’t force yourself to feel this. It is more in the nature of an epiphany.
Through Self-Observation, which is meant to have 360 degree vision . Observing Negativity is easy and extremely important throughout the Work life. But it is only one aspect of your condition that you must Observe. There are plenty of neutral aspects in everyone’s Personality, even pleasant aspects. These are I’s of mechanical goodness. They are definitely easier to live with but they are nonetheless mechanical. So Observe them. You will learn from them also. There are alsoauthentic I’s of real goodness and these are to be valued and protected. If “being polite to a fault” makes you feel like an impostor, then it is Wrong Work. Being polite is right Work when it comes from the right Emotions.
Letting the light shine in this sense comes after making efforts. The light of Self-Observation illuminates Being. It is this illuminated Being that acts with goodness as a result.
Well, you did a good job anyway. This is a perfectly natural experience in the Work. That you are able to Observe and even prevent the expression of old Negative I’s is an accomplishment even if you are inconsistent at it. But you have said it yourself: These very strong Identifications are convinced they are right and are firmly entrenched. That is the definition of Identification. It is consequently understandable that when you usurp an entrenched characteristic it leaves a vacuum and something that you felt very attached to disappears, leaving you with that feeling of no bearings. If you continue to practice as you have been, you will get to a point where you are so free from old Identifications and Pictures and Imagination about yourself that there will be no False Personality to quibble with. You can be and if you continue earnestly as you have been, you will be free of all of the Wrong Work that stands between where you are now and your full potential.
[STUDENT: My question is whether at the point I notice these things and feelings to simply continue to observe the chain of events/feelings as they go, or do I try to direct at this point?]
At this point in your practice, you must definitely continue to Observe and you are ready to try and direct thoughts and feelings as well.
I struggle with this issue intensely because my entry into the Work was an explosive event. My False Personality was virtually pulverized out of existence in a very short time, long before I had any idea of how to function without it. This you all recognize is a very painful condition. It took intensive Self-Observation and a long reconstructive process and that would be building up Real I through intensive study and practice. I was quite silent and passive for a number of years. During that time, the Work continued deepening. My suffering stimulated Buried Conscience. I got to the point of being stripped psychologically and receptive emotionally. And I stayed there, empty and waiting, for a long time. This darkness and silence also instructed me. I began to see and taste what was genuinely connected to Higher Emotional Center. I was intuitively enlightened.
[STUDENT: Upon observing something negative, for example fear or anger , there is a sort of “pain” which often results and as a result of the “pain” , observation ceases and “I”‘s come like : “Oh no!” or “I am having a bad day” ..etc. as if they are buffering the pain. How can this be overcome?]
When you are practicing Self-Observation, you must try to keep all emotional reactions to what you Observe silent. If you are experiencing pain as the result of Observation, no development can result. You must Observe impartially, uncritically without Identification. When I’s in response to what is being Observed begin to appear, you must not let them speak. Observe also your responses to Self-Observation and the I’s generated by it. If you are successful at being uncritical in your Observations, you will be shown the direction of further Work.


Haiku by KAJIWARA Hashin

no sky
no land — just
snow falling

Haiku by NOZAWA Setsuko

first snow
begins in the darkness
ends in the darkness


Tips for the Traveler from the Tao Teh Ching

• “A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.”
• “If you understand others you are smart.
If you understand yourself you are illuminated.
If you overcome others you are powerful.
If you overcome yourself you have strength.
If you know how to be satisfied you are rich.
If you can act with vigor, you have a will.
If you don’t lose your objectives you can be long-lasting.
If you die without loss, you are eternal.”
• “Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”
• “The flame that burns Twice as bright burns half as long.”
• “A leader is best
When people barely know he exists
Of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, “We did this ourselves.”
• “Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!
Other people are excited,
as though they were at a parade.
I alone don’t care,
I alone am expressionless,
like an infant before it can smile.
Other people have what they need;
I alone possess nothing.
I alone drift about,
like someone without a home.
I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty.
Other people are bright;
I alone am dark.
Other people are sharp;
I alone am dull.
Other people have purpose;
I alone don’t know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.
I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother’s breasts.”
• “To understand the limitation of things, desire them.”
• “The wise man is one who, knows, what he does not know.”
• “The further one goes, the less one knows.”
• “If you try to change it, you will ruin it. Try to hold it, and you will lose it.”
• “Love
Embracing Tao, you become embraced.
Supple, breathing gently, you become reborn.
Clearing your vision, you become clear.
Nurturing your beloved, you become impartial.
Opening your heart, you become accepted.
Accepting the World, you embrace Tao.
Bearing and nurturing,
Creating but not owning,
Giving without demanding,
Controlling without authority,
This is love.”
• “Close your mouth,
block off your senses,
blunt your sharpness,
untie your knots,
soften your glare,
settle your dust.
This is the primal identity.”
• “All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power.
If you want to govern the people, you must place yourself below them.
If you want to lead the people, you must learn how to follow them.”
• “Countless words
count less
than the silent balance
between yin and yang”
• “Hope and fear are both phantoms that arise from thinking of the self. When we don’t see the self as self, what do we have to fear?”
• “He who conquers others is strong; he who conquers himself is mighty” – Lao-tsu”
•“My teachings are easy to understand
and easy to put into practice.
Yet your intellect will never grasp them,
and if you try to practice them,you’ll fail.
My teachings are older than the world.
How can you grasp their meaning?
If you want to know me,
Look inside your heart”
• “When there is no desire,
all things are at peace”
• “True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.
The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others,
the happier he is.
The more he gives to others,
the wealthier he is.”
• “When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty, there arises the recognition of ugliness. When they all know the good as good, there arises the recognition of evil.”
• “Knowing others is wisdom;
Knowing the self is enlightenment.
Mastering others requires force;
Mastering the self requires strength;
He who knows he has enough is rich.
Perseverance is a sign of will power.
He who stays where he is endures.
To die but not to perish is to be eternally present.

Tips for the Traveler from Don Juan
• “We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”
• “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.”
• “A path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you . . . Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself alone, one question . . . Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.”
• “The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”
• “The aim is to balance the terror of being alive with the wonder of being alive.”
• “In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions.”
• “We hardly ever realize that we can cut anything out of our lives, anytime, in the blink of an eye.”
• “For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length–and there I travel looking, looking breathlessly.”
• “A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. ”
• “To seek freedom is the only driving force I know. Freedom to fly off into that infinity out there. Freedom to dissolve; to lift off; to be like the flame of a candle, which, in spite of being up against the light of a billion stars, remains intact, because it never pretended to be more than what it is: a mere candle.”
• “A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war: wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it might never live to regret it”
• “Nobody knows who I am or what I do. Not even I.Don Juan Matus”
• “For me the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable; my interest has been to convince you that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous world, in this marvelous desert, in this marvelous time. I want to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it.”
• “Only as a warrior can one withstand the path of knowledge. A warrior cannot complain or regret anything. His life is an endless challenge, and challenges cannot possibly be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges.”
• “You have little time left, and none of it for crap. A fine state. I would say that the best of us always comes out when we are against the wall, when we feel the sword dangling overhead. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
• “All of us, whether or not we are warriors, have a cubic centimeter of chance that pops out in front of our eyes from time to time. The difference between an average man and a warrior is that the warrior is aware of this, and one of his tasks is to be alert, deliberately waiting, so that when his cubic centimeter pops out he has the necessary speed, the prowess, to pick it up.”
• “Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, ‘I haven’t touched you yet.”
• “Look at every path closely and deliberately, then ask ourselves this crucial question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then the path is good. If it doesn’t then it is of no use to us.”
• “Think about it: what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellow men. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone.”
• “You say you need help. Help for what? You have everything needed for the extravagant journey that is your life.”
• “Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow, you must not stay with it under any circumstances.”
• “The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.”
• “Forget the self and you will fear nothing, in whatever level or awareness you find yourself to be.”
• “All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. … Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.”
• “The dying sun will glow on you without burning, as it has done today. The wind will be soft and mellow and your hilltop will tremble. As you reach the end of your dance you will look at the sun, for you will never see it again in waking or in dreaming, and then your death will point to the south. To the vastness.”
• “We are men and our lot in life is to learn and to be hurled into inconceivable new worlds.”
• “Beware of those who weep with realization, for they have realized nothing.”
• “Malicious acts are performed by people for personal gain … Sorcerers, though, have an ulterior purpose for their acts, which has nothing to do with personal gain. The fact that they enjoy their acts does not count as gain. Rather, it is a condition of their character. The average man acts only if there is a chance for profit. Warriors say they act not for profit but for the spirit.”
• “For an instant I think I saw. I saw the loneliness of man as a gigantic wave which had been frozen in front of me, held back by the invisible wall of a metaphor.”
• “Life in itself is sufficient, self-explanatory and complete.”

The Delusion of Identity by Doen Sensei
Parting the Autumn Grasses of the Self

We don’t want to leave home, which is unfortunate because we are going to. The identity we cling to is temporary. This life and everything in it is transient. We will lose our home; time is eroding it every day. We will lose our youth, our loved ones, our health and then our life. What we see as our identity is the part of ourselves that is always on its way out. The Buddha saw this, he called it suffering, its where he and Buddhism started with the question of identity.
The historical Buddha’s journey began when he encountered this understanding, the gossamer quality of the identity that suffers disease, old age and death. He was a rare and courageous human being, Dharma Lion.
Sakyamuni, took on the realities of disease and old age as a problem to be solved. He worked on this problem in the ways that were typical of his time which included many forms of asceticism and mental discipline. When these techniques failed in his quest he went on to the use of meditation as his sole unique and persistent tool.
After sitting for years the Buddha saw something he had never seen before. It was so far removed from his previous experience that didn’t think he could explain it to anyone. One very important reason that the experience of the Buddha was so inexplicable was that it did not fall into the categories of knowledge that were normally understood as knowing. Knowing requires an entity that knows and a thing that is known. The act of knowing requires a separate identity. When the Buddha attained enlightenment he did not gain any information nor did he gain superpowers he did not discover any deities what he did discover was his true identity. He also found a road, a way through the forest of loss – a home that would weather the storm of transience. He left us the signposts and methods to walk this way which we now call Buddhism.
We call Sakyamuni the historical Buddha because he is in fact only one of countless Buddhas each sentient being is a Buddha – every one of us. The Buddha nature, Buddha the awakened one is our true identity. We speak of four marks, or characteristics that distinguish true Buddhist teaching. The four characteristics are transience, no self, suffering and Nirvana, or peace. These four characteristics are ways (elements of) of describing true identity. No self is central to what defines us. We might say the bottom line the Buddha found is very simple to express and yet expression and intellectual is different than really understanding something and experiencing in our hearts and bones. The Buddha discovered that everything is one thing that we are one thing and that no separation is what that thing, our true identity, is. That it cannot be grasped. The reason it cannot be grasped is that it is that trying to grasp our true nature, our true identity is a little bit like trying to bite your own mouth. You can’t bite it because you are it.
Later on when the great Boddhidarma, the sage who brought Buddhism from India to China was, asked by the Emperor Wu, the emperor of China, who he was he replied, “I don’t know” We can imagine him standing in the great court and giving this unexpected answer. The thunder of this answer still shakes the walls of intellect. It is the thunder of non-duality, the thunder of our true identity.
The difference between an intellectual understanding of this matter and a heart and bones understanding is a primary emphasis in Zen Buddhism. When I trained in Zen the emphasis was on sitting practice Koan study and overcoming obstacles of many sorts (one of them unfortunately was the need for sleep) The monastery unlike what I had expected was not just a place to retreat into myself in order to find my true nature, my true identity, it was a pressure cooker. This was the method for transmitting the Buddha’s teaching, the Dharma, not just mind to mind but heart to Without this rigorous assault on our concept and feeling of self the Dharma would remain just an idea, a wonderful idea but too tepid to unleash the Dharma’s transformative power.
An important aspect of my training was Koan study. The practice of answering 600 questions whose answers are not intellectual but rely on identity and being. The way one finds the answers to Koans is by complete identification with the Koan, you become the Koan. It is a practice in identity. It is to “forget the self” over and over again in order to become one with the true self.
Koan practice is the practice of investigating the reality of the Buddha mind. If our true mind and therefore our true identity is like that of an ocean. We can look at the passing thoughts and sensations as being like waves. Realizing our true identity is realizing that we are not just waves, because waves are ocean – even though they are waves they are and have always been ocean. In this way our separate identity is very much the same thing like a wave. When we realize that we too have always been ocean as well as wave we find our true identity. The ocean nature –the Buddha nature.
We are so lucky to have this wonderful and rare teaching, the Dharma, because the Dharma transcends even the wonderful realization of our identity as the ocean, as the Buddha nature. In fact what we see as we continue to practice is that although our fundamental nature is that of the ocean we are also really the waves. Ocean is the ground of being but waves are part of the inexplicable (wonderland) reality as well. As the heart Sutra says form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Form is exactly emptiness and emptiness is exactly form. Or we might say enlightenment is delusion and delusion is enlightenment. In my own teaching I find myself returning again and again to the practice of being one with our own life, of choosing human life. We are born into human life but to choose it is a way of overcoming our resistance to it of identifying with it of realizing form as emptiness. This powerful way to practice is entering the wave.
To become one with human life we might say is delusion but then to consciously choose the wonders of life including its transients suffering birth and death is to practice realization. It is the same thing that happened when the historical Buddha became one with the Morning Star or how student becomes one with the Koan. This is the true Koan of life-and-death to become one with life-and-death is the work of a lifetime. To practice life-and-death is to transcend the two sides of the coin and become the coin that includes delusion and enlightenment form and emptiness ocean and waves. It is to choose our very life as enlightenment, as our identity – it is be, not to know. It is to embrace every moment of it being nothing other than realization. So there is no where else to look for our true identity. It is right here and everywhere.
Though it is present in everyone, it remains unrecognized
How amazing!
Still, one hopes for attainment other than this
How amazing!
Though it is present within oneself, one continues to seek it elsewhere
How amazing!
– The Tibetan Book of the Dead

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism “As long as you regard yourself or any part of your experience as the “dream come true,” then you are involved in self-deception. Self-deception seems always to depend upon the dream world, because you would like to see what you have not yet seen, rather that what you are now seeing. You will not accept that whatever is here now is what is, nor are you willing to go on with the situation as it is. Thus, self-deception always manifests itself in terms of trying to create or recreate a dream world, the nostalgia of the dream experience. And the opposite of self-deception is just working with the facts of life.”
– Chögyam Trungpa

Master Joshu

The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master JoshuScroll through the book below to read more.

Joshu Roku (excerpt)
The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu, No. 8
When Nansen came back from the bathhouse, he saw the monk in charge of the bath stoking the fire.
Nansen asked, “What are you doing?”
The monk answered, “I am making the bathwater warm.”
Nansen said, “Don’t forget to invite the water buffalo to take a bath.”
The monk said “Hai!” [“Yes!”]
In the evening, the monk came to Nansen’s quarters.
Nansen asked, “What’s up?”
The monk said, “Venerable Water Buffalo, the bath is ready.”
Nansen asked, “Did you bring a leash or not?”
The monk had no reply.
When the Master [Joshu] came later to greet Nansen, Nansen mentioned what had happened.
The Master said, “I have something to say.”
Nansen said, “Fine, but have you brought a leash with you?”
The Master dashed forward and grabbed Nansen by the nose.
Nansen remarked, “Okay, but it is too coarse!”

Nansen & Joshu Jushin (AD 778-897)
As told by David Scott
Joshu once asked master Nansen: ‘What is the Way?’
Nansen answered: ‘Ordinary mind is the way.’
‘Then should we direct ourselves towards it or not? asked Joshu.
Nansen said: ‘If you try to direct yourself toward it, you go away from it.
‘Joshu then continued: ‘If we do not try how can we know it is the way?’
Nansen replied: ‘The way does not belong to knowing or not knowing. Knowing is delusion. Not knowing is blankness.
If you really attain to the way of No Doubt it is like the great void, so vast and boundless. How can there be a right and wrong in the way?’
At these words Joshu was enlightened.
Later, when Joshu was away, the monks of the eastern and western halls of Nansen’s monastery began to quarrel.
There was evidently some rivalry between them, and for the purposes of this story it had crystallized around a cat.
Seeing the monks arguing over possession of a cat Nansen held it up and said to them:
If you can say a word of Zen you will save the cat. If not, I will cut it in two. No one could speak, and Nansen killed the cat.
That evening when Joshu returned, Nansen told him what had happened.
Joshu took off his sandal, placed it on his head, and walked out. ‘If you had been there, you would of saved the cat, ‘Nansen remarked.
Behind all the argument there is attachment to right and wrong, good and bad, mine and yours and so on.
By his action Nansen was asking the monks how such disputes are to be settled.
Dogen Zenji spoke of this story: ‘If I were Nansen I should say: ” If you answer, I will kill it; if you don’t answer, I will kill it.”
Zen teacher, Katsuki Sekida has said:’If I were the monks I should say, master knows how to cut it into two pieces, but he does not know how to cut it into one piece.”
A monk once came to Joshu at breakfast time and said: ‘I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.’?’Have you eaten your rice porridge yet?’ asked Joshu.?’Yes, I have,’replied the monk.?Then you had better wash your bowl,’said Joshu.
According to tradition. Joshu continued to teach until his death at the age of 119.
Nyogen senzaki said of him: ‘His Zen was as ripe and mellow as old wine. . .
He used neither the “big stick” nor the harsh voice of other masters, but the few words he spoke brimmed with Zen.


Joshu’s Stone BridgeLiving until the age of 120, Joshu taught for 40 years.
The amazing clarity and intimacy of the recorded teachings of Joshu suggest there may be some truth to the legend.
In any case, as a teacher he was renowned throughout China and monks travelled from all over to meet and train with him. This stone bridge was in the town he taught in and was famous (because most bridges were wooden.)
This is a famous Joshu koan associated with it.

Once, late in his life, perhaps after 70 years of honing his knowledge and skill, a monk came to meet him:
The monk said, “I have long heard of the great stone bridge of Joshu, but now I am here and I don’t see the stone bridge, I see only a single-log bridge.”
Joshu said, “You don’t see the stone bridge; you see only a single-log bridge.”
The monk said, “What is the great stone bridge of Joshu?”
Joshu said, “Horses cross, donkeys cross.”

Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori Roshi
John Daido Loori, Roshi (1931-2009) was the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery and the founder of the Mountains and Rovers Order of Zen Buddhism. A successor to Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi, Roshi, Daido Roshi trained in rigorous koan Zen and in the subtle teachings of Master Dogen, and was a lineage holder in the Soto and Rinzai schools of Zen.

The Old Woman of Taishan

The Main Case

There was an old woman on Mount Tai path. A monk asked her, “Where is the path to Mount Tai?”

The old woman said, “Go straight ahead.” 2 The monk went on.

The woman said, “My dear reverend, you too go off like that.”

Monks came, one after another, a sked the same question, and received the same answer.

Later, one of the monks told Zhaozhou about it and Zhaozhou said, “Wait here for awhile. Let me check her out.”

He went to the woman and said, “Where is the path to Mount Tai?”

The woman said, “Go straight ahead.” 7 Zhaozhou went on.

The woman said, “My dear reverend, you too go off like that.”

Zhaozhou came back and said to the assembly, “I have checked out that old woman for you.”

The Commentary

If the old woman’s eye was really open, why did she say, “Go straight ahead.”?
Then again, if she did not have an eye, why did she say, “My dear reverend, you too go off like that.”?
If you’re able to see clearly how Zhaozhou saw through the old woman, then you will also see that the old woman saw through Zhaozhou as well.
But say, what is it that Zhaozhou saw? If you can take a bite out of this point, then I will concede that you have eaten the full meal.

The Capping Verse

Before the question is asked,

you have already arrived.

Before taking a step,

you are already home.

300 Koan Shobogenzo is a collection of koans gathered by Master Dogen during his study in China. The koans from this collection, often called the Chinese Shobogenzo, appear extensively in the essays of Dogen’s Japanese Shobogenzo. These koans have not been available in English translation but are currently being translated and prepared for publication by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Abbot John Daido Loori. Abbot Loori has added a commentary, capping verse and footnotes to each koan.

Master Zhaozhou (Jpn., Joshu) was a spiritual descendent of Nanquan (Jpn., Nansen). He lived in China in 9th century, spending most of his years as a teacher in a small town of Zhaozhou from which he took his name. Though he settled in Zhaozhou, he did not maintain a temple. He did not even accept a temple when it was offered to him by the town officials. He threatened to leave the area if he was forced to comply. Later, a traveling monastic came through the region and planted thousands of trees, creating a beautiful grove. There, Zhaozhou finally established a permanent teaching place and remained for the rest of his life. The town of Zhaozhou and the grove temple were located in the vicinity of Mount Tai, the sacred mountain central to this koan.

Mount Tai, or Taishan in Chinese, was one of the five holy Buddhist mountains in China. It was reputed to be the home of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, and a frequent destination of pilgrimages by both monks and lay practitioners. To accommodate the throngs of travelers, many temples were built on Mount Tai.

This koan about an old woman and Zhaozhou presents a wonderful opportunity to deepen our appreciation of how to work with traditional koans. Frequently our tendency when confronting a barrier is to respond to what is on the surface. When we practice koans, we often only deal with what is immediately provided by the translator. We rarely investigate other sources and dig below the surface. And there is always a lot more to a koan, or any barrier for that matter, than first meets the eye.

Often, central parts of the ancient koans were extracted from other sources. The masters who created koan collections used source materials that were familiar to the people who were studying these koans. They were presented within a known cultural and historical matrix. The teachers assumed that listeners had a grounding in basic principles of Buddhism and local folklore. For us, ten centuries later, the challenge is to uncover the full spectrum of the koan, its breadth and depth.

On the surface of this koan we have an old woman who made a living selling tea on the roadside heading for Mount Tai. She would tell monastics on a pilgrimage to go straight on when they asked her for directions to Mount Tai. Her answer was always the same: “Go right ahead.” After they took a few steps, she would exclaim loud enough for them to hear, “You look like a good monk, but there you go, off like that.” One of these monastics told Zhaozhou about his encounter with the old woman, so Zhaozhou agreed to check the old woman out. He came back and told his monastics, “I’ve seen through the old woman,” but he did not say what he saw. That’s where the koan ends and many commentators stop there.

When I started to explore this koan, the first thing that caught my attention was the old woman. Who was she? Old women appear in various koans, frequently acting as catalysts of awakening for unsuspecting travelers. They are never identified, remaining nameless, yet clearly showing some appreciation of the Dharma. The most famous of them was the rice cake seller who challenged Master Deshan in dharma combat, bringing to life his doubt and facilitating the beginning of a real spiritual search.

These old women in Chinese Zen history were often matriarchs whose children had grown up, or whose families had been destroyed in the turbulent times of war and famine. They no longer had any family responsibilities and many entered monasteries. In fact, Iron Grindstone Liu, a successor of Master Guishan and an important teacher, was such a Zen adept. Many other women must have completed their studies and some of them must have started temples, but we know very little about the history of women in the Dharma, mainly because the translators and historians have been men who tended to ignore the accomplishments of women. There are still relatively few women Buddhist scholars, but as more and more appear on the scene, we will find out much more about the history of women in Zen and Buddhism.

After realizing themselves, many Chinese women entered hermitages in the mountains. They would build a hermitage and live out their lives practicing alone. Some of them, evidently, ended up as innkeepers along roadsides, making a living by selling refreshments and taking care of travelers along popular pilgrimage routes.

This particular woman of Taishan is said to have been a traveling companion of Wuxue (Jpn., Mujaku) accompanying him in and out of the temples on Mount Tai. We are told that she had fully gotten into Manjushri’s saying: “Front three, three; back three, three.” Wuxue was a successor to Yangshan (Jpn., Kyozan) who was in the lineage of Guishan (Jpn., Isan). That lineage became known as the Guishan school (Jpn. Igyo school) of Zen, one of the five major schools of Tang Dynasty. Yangshan was its cofounder and Wuxue was one of his successors. The woman of Taishan either studied with Wuxue formally or went on pilgrimages with him.

Wuxue appears in Case 35 of the Blue Cliff Record. In that koan he is portrayed during a visit to Mount Tai. When he came upon a wild and rough area of the mountain, Manjushri appeared to him, created a temple, and took him in for the night. During an evening conversation, Manjushri asked Wuxue, “Where have you come from?” Wuxue answered, “From the south.” Manjushri continued, “How is the Buddhist teaching doing in the South?” Wuxue said, “Monks of the last age have little regard for rules of discipline.” Manjushri said, “How numerous are the congregations?” Wuxue replied, “Some three hundred, some five hundred,” and then asked Manjushri, “How is the Buddha-dharma here?” Manjushri said, “Ordinary people and sages are dwelling together, dragons and snakes are intermingled.” Dragons are enlightened beings and snakes are deluded beings. In Manjushri’s place, they intermingle and live in perfect harmony. Wuxue said, “How numerous are the congregations here?” Manjushri answered, “Front three, three; back three, three.”

After having this dialogue Wuxue and Manjushri sat down to have a cup of tea. Manjushri held up a crystal tea bowl, and showing it to Wuxue, asked, “Do they have this in the South?” Wuxue answered, “No.” Manjushri said, “What do they usually use to drink tea?” Wuxue was speechless. Embarrassed, he began to take his leave. Manjushri ordered a young acolyte to see him to the gate. When they got there, Wuxue asked the boy, “Before, Manjushri said, ‘Front three, three; back three, three.’ How many is this?”

Wuxue did not ask this question in front of Manjushri. He didn’t want to appear stupid. That happens frequently in dokusan, the face-to-face teachings. I give instructions and people nod their heads, but they have no idea what I’m talking about. They leave with no communication having happened. Later, one can hear them in our dining hall engaged in a lively but misguided discussion about the Dharma. In the same way, Wuxue inquired of the boy, not Manjushri, “Front three, three; back three, three. How many is this?” The boy answered, “Oh worthy?” Wuxue responded, “Yes?” The boy said, “How many is this?” Wuxue didn’t understand and asked, “What temple is this?” The boy pointed and when Wuxue turned his head to look, the illusory temple and the boy vanished and the place turned into an empty valley.

Obviously, at the time when the encounter in this koan took place, Wuxue had no idea what was going on. Years later, after his practice matured and he realized himself, he was working as a cook at one of the temples on Mount Tai. It was said that he was able to see within the phrase “there is both provisional and there is real, there is principle and there is phenomenon.” He was able to see the merging that Manjushri was pointing to — dragons and snakes intermingled, sages and mediocrities living together. It’s not one side, it’s not the other side. It’s not up, it’s not down. It’s not absolute, it’s not relative. By the time Wuxue was working on Mount Tai as a cook, his appreciation and trust had evolved enough so that whenever he was cooking and Manjushri appeared in the steam rising out of the rice pot, Wuxue would take the ladle and chase Manjushri out of the kitchen. At the time of his first meeting with Manjushri, though, Wuxue was pretty immature, and Manjushri’s subtle teachings were wasted on him.

The old woman of Mount Tai, on the other hand, did fully get into and comprehend Manjushri’s “Front three, three; back three, three.” One reference to this woman was that she had an iron hook in her hand. When she addressed the monks heading for Mount Tai, she held this hook. How many intelligent monks did she ensnare with it? In Chinese, the character that is used for “hook” is also used for the Abhidharma, an important part of the canon that deals with Buddhist psychology. Abhidharma means “regarding reality.” “Iron hook” hints at where this woman was coming from.

Mount Tai represents Manjushri’s wisdom and knowledge. It was known as a pure and cool natural sanctuary. When someone is asking, “Where is Mount Tai?” There could be more to the question than inquiry about its geographic location. It could be a question regarding the meaning of Manjushri’s wisdom, wisdom that is not an accumulation of knowledge, but is a matter of seeing the nature of the self and reality.

The footnotes to this koan clarify its teachings. The koan starts, There was an old woman on the Mount Tai path. A monk asked her, “Where is the path to Mount Tai?” The footnote to that says, South of the North Pole, north of the South Pole, you can’t miss it. The old woman said, “Go straight ahead.” The footnote says, She is being helpful, but not in the way one might think. The monk went on. The footnote adds, He does not know how deep the mud is right under his feet. Those three comments tell you nearly everything you need to know about this koan. The woman said, “My dear reverend, you too go off like that.” The footnote says, She hits him with a mud ball right in the back of the head. Monks came, one after another, and asked the same question, and received the same answer. The footnote says, It must be said she is dependable. Later one of the monks told Zhaozhou about it and Zhaozhou said, “Wait here for a while, let me check her out for you.” The footnote says, He needs to check the eye of the source. Zhaozhou is not going to just take their word for it. He needs to examine the situation for himself. He needs to ask some questions.

He went to the old woman and said, “Where is the path to Mount Tai?” The woman said, “Go straight ahead.” The footnote says, Got it! But say, what did Zhaozhou see? Zhaozhou went on. The footnote says, When the wind blows the reeds bend. “Go straight ahead,” and Zhaozhou goes. “Stop there,” and he stops. “Turn right,” and he turns right. Zhaozhou was just responding to the instructions. The woman commented, “My dear reverend, you too go off like that.” The footnote says, He doesn’t seem to mind the mud on his sandals.

Zhaozhou did not mind the mud. Our problem is that we do mind the mud. We don’t like the dirt, the complications, the confusion. For us the mud is usually the setbacks, the places we get stuck, our failures. The Buddha said, “All sentient beings are perfect and complete, lacking nothing,” and somehow we hear that as total absence of mistakes. We are never suppose to fail. The simple fact is that that is impossible. There is no such thing as lack of failure if you are a living being.

When people come to train at the Monastery, which is essentially a furnace that’s specifically designed to burn off all of the extra, life can become very difficult for them if they expect not to fail. Students who do koan study here have to be prepared for thousands of rejections, not one or two. That’s the kindness that’s given.

Part of practice, part of any real learning, is failing. There is nobody that can learn something flawlessly, not even geniuses. You don’t pick up a violin and suddenly start playing. It takes time, practice, and repeated mistakes. Every mistake is a gift because it tells you where there is a possibility of improvement. You need to learn through your own experiences. That includes success and failure. The key to practice is knowing how to recover from the failures; knowing how to get knocked down, roll over with the force of being knocked down, and come back up on your feet, again and again and again. That’s practice. It’s that process that finally brings us to a point of breaking through. That, in and of itself, is enlightenment. That’s what it means to be human. “Not minding the mud” is our practice.

In the last line of the koan Zhaozhou returned to the assembly and said, “I have checked out that old woman for you.” The footnote says, Now, the whole assembly has grown horns. The horn here is the rhinoceros horn of great doubt, always a necessary ingredient of practice.

The commentary asks, If the old woman’s eye was really open, why did she say “Go straight ahead?” There’s an important point here. If her eye was really open, and she really knew the way to Mount Tai; really knew the way to wisdom, knew what was pure and undefiled, why would she say, “Go straight ahead.”? How else could it be said?

The commentary continues, Then again, if she did not have an eye — that is, if she was not realized — why did she say, “My dear reverend, you too go off like that.”? She gave him instructions that are essentially wrong. They might be the right physical directions to Mount Tai, but they are the wrong instructions about the truth. Shall I direct myself toward it or not? If you direct yourself toward it, you move away from it. Why?

The fact that she chided the monastics for following these directions says something about her clarity. That’s the iron hook that she wielded. The commentary goes on to say, If you are able to see clearly how Zhaozhou saw through the old woman, then you will also see that the old woman saw through Zhaozhou as well. How did the old woman see through Zhaozhou? All you have is the information included in this koan. How could it be that Zhaozhou saw through her and she saw through him? Seeing through is a critical part of what you learn in Zen training. It is the ability to probe the depths of a person’s understanding without giving them a five page examination about Buddhist philosophy. It is the ability to discern clarity of mind by the way a person deports themselves — walks, talks, and lives their life. Seeing through not by the content of the answers to questions, but by the dialogue itself. Seeing through is seeing where the mind is moving and when an action is truly spontaneous.

It is important for all of us to learn to truly be ourselves. When we start becoming who we really are and stop hiding in postures and behind masks, that’s when the significant transformations begin to take place and things begin to change.

Then the commentary poses another question: What is it that Zhaozhou saw? We have only the barest facts here, but it’s enough for you to see how they saw through each other. So, what is it that they saw? Imagine yourself back at Zhaozhou’s monastery. By this time he was over a hundred years old. He was a serious Zen master who had been practicing since he was eighteen years old. He was deeply revered. His reputation reached throughout China. One monastic said, “This old woman did a peculiar thing.” Zhaozhou volunteered, “Wait here; I’ll check her out for you.” Off he went. The monastics were all waiting and talking, “I wonder what he’s going to find out.” “I think she’s enlightened.” “I don’t think she’s enlightened.” “No, she must be enlightened, or she would have…” “Yeah, but if she was enlightened…” Back and forth. Then he comes back and they all fall silent, waiting. “Well?” they ask. “I’ve checked out that old woman for you.” That’s all.

But what is it that Zhaozhou saw? The commentary says: If you can take a bite out of this point then I will concede that you have eaten the full meal. If you see that one point, you will see the totality of the koan with all its permutations and combinations. You will also see what Wuxue finally understood in terms of principle and phenomenon completely merging.

The Capping Verse:

Before the question is asked,

you have already arrived.

Before taking a step,

you are already home.

The poem points to our intrinsic Buddha nature. It is making the same point that Master Dogen makes when he insists that the process of practice is not something that propels you to enlightenment. Practice is enlightenment itself. It is home itself. It is having arrived itself. Each one of us is born a Buddha and dies a Buddha. Some may realize that truth, some may not. Whether we do or don’t makes a big difference. Are we going to make the journey in fear and anguish, filling our lives with anger and anxiety, or will we journey freely and easily? We inherently know how to do it. We are born with all the equipment necessary to be free, to realize ourselves, to transform our own lives and to assist others in the transformation of their lives. So, why don’t we do it?

Many of us think that it is enough to place ourselves in the environment of Zen practice and that in itself will cause a magical transformation. Many people wouldn’t even go that far and will spend their lives deliberating about whether or not to practice. There are others who find their way here but as soon as the temperature of the furnace goes up, they disappear. Still others stick to form, doing the external part of practice. They look good, but are not really engaging. When sitting is only a imitation of a Buddha, it shows. You yourself will know that it shows.

Every step along the way is important, and it is transformative. It’s not just the breakthrough. It is every step. Keep that in mind, and take very seriously each moment of your practice, each precious instant of your life, not just when you are sitting cross-legged in zazen. Each moment of your day is an opportunity to bring yourself home to the reality that you live in. It’s no small thing to get in touch with that. Getting in touch with it is getting in touch with our own lives, getting in touch with the Buddha.


Pointers to Not Knowing
This is the entire Mumonkan without additional comments. We can say that every koan is about “Not Knowing”.
This is more obvious in some of them. See cases 19, 23, 27 and 34. Then please study the remaining koans.
The excellence of Mumon’s comments and poems is ,in my opinion, unmatched in the history of Zen.

Translated by Eiichi Shimomissé

by Mumon

Our teaching makes our mind the principle and the gateless gate its very gate. Since it is the gateless gate, how can one pass through it?

Are you not aware of the insight that purports,”Those who have entered the gate are no family treasures. What is gained as a result of cause and effect has beginning and end, and thus will become nothing.” Such remarks are like raising up waves in the windless ocean, or gouging a wound into healthy skin.Those who cling onto words are fools who believe that they can catch the moon with a stick or can scratch their itchy foot through a leather shoe. How can they “see” reality as it actually is?

In the Summer of the first year of Shjoting (1228) Ekai (Mumon) was lecturing on koan of the ancient masters to the monks at the monastery of Luinghsiang temple in East China. He intended to use the koan as bricks for battering the gate in order to inspire the pursuer of Zen according to his ability. His notes were unwittingly collected. There is no order as to the beginning or the end. In total there are 48 cases, now called “The Gateless Gate.”

If anyone, like eight-armed Nata who bravely goes straight forward, ventures into Zen practice, no delusion will disturb him. The Indian and Chinese patriarchs will beg for their lives in his commanding presence. If, however, he hesitates even a moment, he is just a person that watches from a narrow window for a speedy horseman to pass by and misses everything in a wink.

“The Great Way has no gate,
A thousand roads enter it.
When one passes through this gateless gate,
He freely walks between heaven and earth.”

A monk asked Joshu, “Has the dog the Buddha nature?”
Joshu replied, “Mu (nothing)!”

Mumon’s Comment: For the pursuit of Zen, you must pass through the barriers (gates) set up by the Zen masters. To attain his mysterious awareness one must completely uproot all the normal workings of one’s mind. If you do not pass through the barriers, nor uproot the normal workings of your mind, whatever you do and whatever you think is a tangle of ghost. Now what are the barriers? This one word “Mu” is the sole barrier. This is why it is called the Gateless Gate of Zen. The one who passes through this barrier shall meet with Joshu face to face and also see with the same eyes, hear with the same ears and walk together in the long train of the patriarchs. Wouldn’t that be pleasant?

Would you like to pass through this barrier? Then concentrate your whole body, with its 360 bones and joints, and 84,000 hair follicles, into this question of what “Mu” is; day and night, without ceasing, hold it before you. It is neither nothingness, nor its relative “not” of “is” and “is not.” It must be like gulping a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out.

Then, all the useless knowledge you have diligently learned till now is thrown away. As a fruit ripening in season, your internality and externality spontaneously become one. As with a mute man who had had a dream, you know it for sure and yet cannot say it. Indeed your ego-shell suddenly is crushed, you can shake heaven and earth. Just as with getting ahold of a great sword of a general, when you meet Buddha you will kill Buddha. A master of Zen? You will kill him, too. As you stand on the brink of life and death, you are absolutely free. You can enter any world as if it were your own playground. How do you concentrate on this Mu? Pour every ounce of your entire energy into it and do not give up, then a torch of truth will illuminate the entire universe.

Has a dog the Buddha nature?
This is a matter of life and death.
If you wonder whether a dog has it or not,
You certainly lose your body and life!

Read the Full Mumonkan Text Here (click here)

Being Not Knowing – Haiku

This year on, forever,
it’s all gravy for me now –
now spring arrives

My spring is just this:
a single bamboo shoot,
a willow branch

Moon, plum blossoms,
this, that,
and the day goes.

A day of haze;
the great room
is deserted and still

– Issa

Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori Roshi
John Daido Loori, Roshi (1931-2009) was the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery and the founder of the Mountains and Rovers Order of Zen Buddhism. A successor to Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi, Roshi, Daido Roshi trained in rigorous koan Zen and in the subtle teachings of Master Dogen, and was a lineage holder in the Soto and Rinzai schools of Zen.

Walking the Walk

The Main Case

One day while they were picking tea leaves Guishan said to Yangshan: “All day today I’ve heard your voice but I haven’t seen your form. Show me your original self.”

Yangshan then shook the tea tree.

Guishan said, “You’ve attained its function, but you haven’t realized its essence.”

Yangshan said, “What does the master say?”

Guishan was silent.

Yangshan said, “The master has attained its essence, but hasn’t realized its function.”

Guishan said, “I spare you thirty blows of my staff.”

Yangshan said, “If I receive thirty blows of the master’s staff, who then will receive thirty blows from me?”

Guishan said, “I spare you thirty blows.”

Later, Master Xuanzu said, “I ask you, who made the error here?”

The Commentary

The point of testing students is to know them intimately as soon as they open their mouths. An old master once said, “Immeasurably great people are turned about in the stream of words.” Guishan and Yangshan were so in accord in perfect teacher-disciple identification, that in Zen dialogues, it is often difficult to tell them apart.

Daily encounters have always been the hallmark of Zen training because they provide unlimited opportunities for teaching.These two masters always took advantage of such opportunities to sharpen their understanding. Guishan challenged Yangshan to show his original self, and without a moment’s hesitation Yangshan shook the tea tree. Guishan dismissed it as only seeing the function and not yet seeing the essence. Tell me, where was Yangshan’s fault? Yangshan then turned the spear around and challenged Guishan, but dismissed the master’s answer as only revealing the essence, but not yet the function. Tell me, where was Guishan’s fault? Can it be said that both masters were at fault? Or is it that neither was at fault, and both were in accord with the teachings? Further, is it possible that one cannot express both essence and function simultaneously? Keeping in mind that thirty blows cannot be ignored, say a word.

We should understand that essence and function are a single truth. Principle and phenomena are not two realities. However, Zen practitioners inevitably fall to one side or the other. The question is, how do we leap past the dualities and show the clear, perfect reality of the single truth?

The Capping Verse

Within the myriad forms,

a single body is revealed.

Only when you’re sure for yourself,

will you enter this truth.

Guishan and Yangshan exemplified the teacher-student relationship at its best. Described as “two mouths with no tongue,” words were unnecessary for communication between them. Although Guishan had over a hundred successors, just three are renowned: Yangshan, Iron Grindstone Liu and Xiangyan. Yangshan and Guishan together formed the Guiyang School, one of the Five Houses that existed during the Golden Age of Zen. Their “family style”—each one of the Five Houses was known for a particular teaching style—dealt primarily with dualities. Of course, the concept of duality comes up in all of the koans, but Guishan and Yangshan addressed it specifically.

In Western Zen we could say that our family style is focused around social action. Many practice centers stress social action, or Engaged Buddhism, as part of spiritual practice, sometimes as the primary function. Because dualities are so deeply ingrained in us—we habitually see things in terms of this or that, self or other, right or wrong, good or bad—the practice of nonduality becomes an essential component of social action.

A commonly held, but incorrect, view is that meditators tend not to be very active in the world, that meditation can lead to a kind of quiet contentment. The truth is that Buddhists are dedicated to social action. Karuna, or compassion, is the function of wisdom in the world. This koan is addressing what practice, realization and actualization are all about.

The commentary to this koan says, “The point of testing students is to know them intimately as soon as they open their mouths.” Testing students is a standard practice in Zen, a means of knowing them intimately. It’s been going on for thousands of years in monasteries and it happens whether students are brand new or whether they’ve been around for a while. There are no exams to find out where people are in their practice, no personality profiles. The way to know is through seeing, feeling and so on. The testing is sometimes very casual: “How are you doing?” Sometimes very direct: “What is it?” Sometimes indirect: “How are your parents? What have you been doing for the last six months?” The question really is, how conditioned are you? How deeply has the practice affected your perception of yourself and the universe? In short, how do you combust your life?

Next in the commentary is, “An old master once said, ‘Immeasurably great people are turned about in the stream of words.'” In our culture, words create a particular sticking point. Everything we do, everything we understand, is shaped and gauged by words and ideas. We need to go beyond the superficial meaning of words and see what’s behind them in order to grasp what is really being communicated. “Guishan and Yangshan were so in accord in perfect teacher-disciple identification, that in Zen dialogues, it is often difficult to tell them apart.” In the Zen literature, Guishan and Yangshan are held up as the model of perfect accord in the dharma. In reading their koans, it’s hard to tell who’s the master and who’s the disciple, that’s how close they were.

The next line says, “Daily encounters have always been the hallmark of Zen training because they provide unlimited opportunities for teaching.” While students tend to prepare for dokusan or daisan, casual encounters are unscripted, and that’s where the best teachings usually take place. Another way is through body teaching. When I first started training, no one told me anything. Every time I made a mistake, someone yelled, and then I would correct the mistake. There was no instruction, not even zazen instruction. I got my zazen instruction by asking questions of the teacher in dokusan. So I just looked at what everybody else was doing and tried to cross my legs the same way. And I sat there thinking. But little by little, through observation, I slowly began to assimilate what it meant to be a practitioner. This kind of learning is very much like what takes place between a master artist and apprentice. The work of an apprentice entails preparing canvases, mixing paint, cleaning up afterwards and just watching. The teaching happens more through osmosis than direct instruction. It’s a very gradual and often unconscious absorption of knowledge through continual exposure rather than deliberate learning. It’s very difficult for this process to happen when students are focused on a goal or worried about progress. “Where am I going? How far is it? How long will it take me to get there?”

“Body teaching” is one of the important contributions that a sangha, or community of practitioners, can make. It’s about learning from each other. In the West we tend to learn from books more than from each other, and the problem is there’s no screening process for books other than a publisher. Publishers are in business to sell books, and they will publish any book that they think will sell. They don’t need to agree with it, they don’t need to analyze it. And somehow being published lends authenticity to what’s been written, whether it’s true or not. When you’re working within a sangha on the other hand—particularly within a monastic setting—it becomes pretty clear who the seniors students are and that it’s reasonably safe to ask them questions and expect the answers to be in accord with the teachings. So just because you read something in a book doesn’t mean that it’s the true dharma.

“Guishan challenged Yangshan to show his original self, and without a moment’s hesitation Yangshan shook the tea tree.” What is Guishan asking here?

What is your original self? Is it the same as original face—the face you had before your parents were born? When the Sixth Ancestor of Zen, Huineng, received dharma transmission from his teacher Hongren, it is said that monk Myo tried to take the robe and bowl from him. Instead of fighting, Huineng placed them both on a rock and said, “Go ahead, take the robe and bowl. They are given in trust and faith. They can’t be taken by force.” Myo tried to lift them and couldn’t. They were as immovable as a rock. He broke into a sweat, fell to his knees and said, “I come here for the dharma, not for the robe. Please teach me.” And the Sixth Ancestor said, “What is the original face of monk Myo, the face you had before your parents were born?” At that Myo experienced a deep enlightenment. So what is the original, unconditioned self? It’s not limited to this bag of skin. There’s more to it than that. How much more?

“Without a moment’s hesitation Yangshan shook the tea tree.” He acted immediately, without pausing to think or reflect. The question and answer arose simultaneously. This kind of response is clearly an indication of a person’s clarity. When I ask the question, “What is it?” the minute someone says “Uhh…” It’s wrong. Hesitancy is a dead give-away that the answer has not yet been embodied. “What’s your name?” “Mary.” You don’t have to think about it. You know your name. When something is seen clearly, the response is immediate.

“Guishan dismissed this as only seeing the function and not yet seeing the essence.” Shaking the tree—this is the function. What is the essence? What is the quality or nature of you? What identifies you? What is the most basic element or feature of you? That’s what essence means. I have never forgotten the assignment given by my photography teacher, Minor White, to photograph our essence. This followed the assignment to photograph our personality—our behavioral patterns, emotional responses, individual traits, distinctive or noticeable characteristics. Then he asked us to go beyond all of that. “What is your essence?” he asked. That struck me as a very important question. It was like asking, “Who am I? Who am I really?”

The next line says, “Tell me, where was Yangshan’s fault?” If you can see into it here, you’ve seen the koan. If you can’t see into it yet, keep digging. “Yangshan then turned the spear around and challenged Guishan.” Again, no hesitation. What have you got to say about it, old teacher? He walks right into the lion’s mouth. “Yangshan said, “What does the master say?” Guishan was silent. Yangshan said, “The master has attained its essence, but hasn’t realized its function.” Guishan said, “I spare you thirty blows of my staff.” Sometimes thirty blows of the staff is a punishment. By saying “I spare you,” he’s saying Yangshan deserves thirty blows.Sometimes it’s an affirmation. Another master, Deshan, was famous for his thirty blows of the staff. If a student answered affirmatively, thirty blows of the staff; negatively, thirty blows; neither affirmatively or negatively, thirty blows; both affirmatively and
negatively, thirty blows. No matter what the response, it was thirty blows.

“Can it be said that both masters were at fault?” Guishan says that Yangshan is at fault because he only saw one side of it. Yangshan said Guishan was at fault because he only saw one side of it. So are they both at fault? “Or is it that neither are at fault, and both are in accord with the teachings?” Both were indeed in accord with the teachings, but the question is, why was there no agreement between them? These are two people that are in perfect accord, but Yangshan only expressed the function and Guishan only expressed the essence. “Further, is it possible that one cannot express both the essence and function simultaneously?” If that’s true, then Buddhist practitioners can’t sit zazen and be activists—they can’t do both. But it’s not true. We can do both. The problem when we don’t do both is that action is simply good-hearted. It’s a loving attempt at doing the right thing. That’s fine, but it’s not yet the manifestation of the buddhadharma. It’s not yet bringing the great heart of compassion into the fray. It’s doing what every other activist organization does. My feeling is that Buddhism has something unique to offer because it’s based on non-dualism. How does non-dualism function in peaceful action? In environmental action? In feeding the hungry? In responding to the AIDS pandemic? How do we take action? The kind of activism that comes from Buddhist practice is based on clearly seeing what is, what resources are available and knowing how to use them effectively in order to manifest good for everyone.

If it were true that essence and function cannot be expressed simultaneously, then the truth of the dharma would have nothing to do with the reality of our lives, and this is not so. It most certainly has to do with the reality of our lives. “Keeping in mind that thirty blows cannot be ignored, say a word.”

“We should understand that essence and function are a single truth.” How could it be otherwise in the non-dual dharma? “Principle and phenomena are not two realities. However, Zen practitioners inevitably fall to one side or the other.” That’s because our minds are basically dualistic. We’ve been conditioned to think that way. Our world, our culture, our existence is based on a dualistic view of ourselves and the universe. Thus, we inevitably fall to one side or the other. We should understand all is not one, nor is it two. Then what is it? “The question is, how do we leap past the dualities and show the clear perfect reality of the single truth?”

We know the process—take the backward step, practice, realize, actualize. But all of it, every aspect of it, must be engaged for it to work. How much we do is not as important as the quality of the effort we put into it. That’s where it counts—the meticulousness of our effort. An hour of meticulous zazen is much more powerful than ten hours of monkey-mind zazen.

Phenomena and principle are not two realities. They only appear to be different to a deluded mind. Don’t be deluded.

The capping verse:

Within the myriad forms,

a single body is revealed.

Only when you’re sure for yourself,

will you enter this truth.

Within the ten thousand forms, there is a single body. It’s there. You just have to see it for yourself. Only when you’re sure for yourself will you enter this truth.You’re the only one who can do it. Buddha can’t do it. I can’t do it. Only you can do it. The question is, are you willing? I have nothing to give you. Will you do it?

Carrying Water, Chopping Firewood

The Main Case

One day Guishan was lying down1 when his student Yangshan Huiji came in. Guishan turned over and lay facing the wall.

Yangshan said, “I am your student. You don’t need to be formal.”

Guishan sat up and Yangshan started to leave.

Guishan called Yangshan, “Huiji.”

Yangshan turned his head.

Guishan said, “Listen to this old monastic’s dream.”

Yangshan lowered his head and was ready to listen.

Guishan just said, “Interpret my dream for me. Let me see how you do it.”11 Yangshan brought a basin of water and a towel. Guishan washed his face and became seated.

Then Xiangyan came in.

Guishan said, “I have been having a mystical communication with Huiji. It’s no small thing.”

Xiangyan said, “I overheard you.”

Guishan said, “Now you try it and I will see.”

Xiangyan made a bowl of tea and brought it to him.

Guishan sighed and praised them saying, “You two students surpass even Shariputra and Maudgalyayana!”

The Commentary

Cooking a meal and washing the dishes are none other than the activity of the marvelous mind of nirvana. Stacking cordwood and building a spring house are in themselves the exquisite teachings of formless form. This very body is the all-pervading true dharma body.

Since these are the activities of everyone on this great earth, why is it then that there is so much pain and suffering, so much greed, anger, and ignorance? Why can’t everyone emanate light and move heaven and earth?

If we can see, hear, and realize the spiritual power in these activities, we have realized the truth of the Tathagata.

The Capping Verse

Unifying the myriad reflections,

one’s own light is without hindrance.

Opened up, the ground of being

ceaselessly meets itself.

Realizing wisdom, manifesting compassion—

how many have this kind of spiritual power?

Religious traditions are filled with stories of mystical powers. Buddhism, with its complex Indian metaphysics, is no exception. But the way the Buddha understood and taught these mystical powers was quite different. He said, in fact, that they’re nothing special. Yet most of us want to hear these teachings in a particular way, and so we become enthralled when we encounter stories like Vimalakirti’s, who fit a hundred thousand arhats in his little ten-by-ten hut.

In my view, mystical power is not at all supernatural. It is completely ordinary, but at the same time it is also extraordinary. The commentary to this koan says, Cooking a meal and washing the dishes are none other than the activity of the marvelous mind of nirvana. Stacking cordwood and building a spring house are in themselves the exquisite teachings of formless form. This very body is the all-pervading true dharma body. This is absolutely true. But then, Why is there so much pain and suffering, so much greed, anger, and ignorance? If everybody already possesses the all-pervading true dharma body, why don’t we all emanate light and move heaven and earth? There’s obviously more to these mystical powers than meets the eye.

Dogen dealt with the subject of mystical power in several of his fascicles—especially in Jinzu, in which this koan appears. Jin means mystical or spiritual, and zu or tsu means power or ability, but it also includes mastery of that ability. Jinzu, then, can be translated as “mastering spiritual power.”

Dogen says:

Mystical power, as it is, is the tea and meals of Buddhists and the buddhas…. There are six mystical powers, and there is the one mystical power; there is the state of being without mystical power, and there is supremely ascendant mystical power. Its embodiment is three thousand acts in the morning and eight hundred acts in the evening. It arises together with buddha but is not recognized by buddha; it vanishes together with buddha, but does not break buddha. In ascending to the heavens, [buddha and mystical power] are the same state; in descending from the heavens, they are the same state; in doing training and getting experience, they are always the same state. They are one with the snow mountains. They are as trees and rocks. The buddhas of the past are the disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, to whom they come holding aloft the kasaya and come holding aloft stupas. At such times, Shakyamuni Buddha says, “The mystical powers of the buddhas are unthinkable.” Thus, clearly, [the buddhas] of the present and future too are also like this.

The six mystical powers he speaks of are traditionally understood as, first, the power of mystical transmigration; that is, the ability to move from place to place, or from one body to another. The second is the power to read people’s minds. The third is the power of supernatural vision, to be able to see things that are beyond the senses. The fourth is the power of supernatural hearing, to hear beyond sound. The fifth is the power to know past lives. And finally, the power to end excesses, to know how to let go. In Indian metaphysics there are volumes written about these six powers, but whenever disciples would ask the Buddha about any of these supernatural occurrences, he would always bring them back to the moment: What is here right now? That’s the mystical experience. Drinking tea, washing your face—the miracle of each and every breath.

At the same time, it is a misconception to think that anything we do is mystical power. We swing from one extreme belief to the other, from the sublime to the ridiculous and vice versa. Neither picking up the phone whenever it rings, nor answering it before it rings is mystical power. And yet, there is such a thing as mystical power, and it’s inherent in all of our activities.

In this case, we have Baizhang’s successor, Guishan, and his heirs Yangshan and Xianyang. It is said that Guishan and Yangshan are the ultimate example of the perfect teacher-student relationship in Zen. There are koans in which it’s hard to tell who is the teacher and who is the student. Together they co-founded the Guiyang School, one of the Five Houses of Zen in China. Xianyang, who is best known for his koan of “Person Up a Tree,” became a special teacher in his own right.

The obvious question here is, why are the interactions between Guishan and his students mystical? Dogen says in Jinzu:

If we wish to learn the meaning of miraculous power among Buddhists, we must study Guishan’s words…. When we study Guishan’s miraculous powers, we find them to be unsurpassed, but a few points should be noticed. Namely, lying down, turning toward the wall, getting up, calling out, interpreting the dream, washing up, and sitting down. Also Yangshan’s leaning closer to hear, and bringing water and a towel. Thus, Guishan proclaims, “We are displaying our miraculous powers. We should study those miraculous powers.”

Maintaining a household, raising a child, driving a car, having relationships—these are the activities we spend most of our daily lives engaged in. If our practice is not making a difference in these areas, then it’s not really working.

In Zen we have the training of ascending the mountain, as well as descending the mountain. Ascending the mountain training is the journey of struggling up the mountain, having left the world behind. As you climb, you deal with the constant internal dialogue, you work with the pain and suffering that you’ve come to recognize as your own. The tools that help you to reach the peak of the mountain are the breath, the koans, the precepts.

Then, when you get to the great mystic peak, you’ve attained realization. But realization is not very useful on top of a mountain, so the training continues down the other side, back into the world. It is there that we begin to see how the absolute basis of reality informs our everyday activity. Descending the mountain is by far the longest aspect of our practice—much more difficult than realizing the nature of the universe, the nature of the self. It’s one thing to have insight; it’s quite another to then actualize it in everything we do. Actualization is compassion, the activity of wisdom in the world.

I had a teacher who used to say, “Spiritual power is knowing how to close doors.” So the question is how to get to the very important spiritual power that resides in our daily activities, without it deteriorating into “Everything I do is enlightenment,” or “Everything I do is the dharma.” Our everyday activities are indeed a manifestation of spiritual power, of mystical power. Even if we don’t realize it, this is true. Just like this very body is the body of the Buddha, perfect and complete, lacking nothing, even if we haven’t realized it.

Dogen talks about Layman Pang, who said, “The mystical power and wondrous function is carrying water and lugging firewood.” Dogen says:

Carrying water means loading water and fetching it. There being our own work and self-motivation, and there being the work of others and the motivation of others, water is caused to be carried. This is just the state of mystically powerful buddha. We can say that knowing is existence time, or being time, but the mystical power is just the mystical power. Even in a person’s not knowing, that state of dharma does not fade, and that state of dharma does not die. Although the person does not know that state of dharma, it is the dharma itself. Although the person does not know that carrying water is the mystical power, the state of carrying water as mystical power does not regress.

The commentary underlines this, If we can see, hear, and realize the spiritual power in these activities [stacking cordwood, building a spring house, cooking a meal, and washing the dishes] we have realized the truth of the Tathagata. Thich Nhat Hahn is fond of saying, “We can wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes”—and this utilitarian approach is what drives most of our activities: we practice in order to get enlightened, we cross the street to get to the other side, we wash the dishes to have clean dishes—“and we can also wash the dishes to wash the dishes.” We can also take a walk in the woods just to take a walk in the woods, without going anywhere. We can practice zazen just for the pure joy of practicing zazen. It’s a very different kind of practice when you practice that way.

Guishan praised Yang-shan’s and Xian-yang’s spiritual powers by saying, “You two students surpass even Shariputra and Maudgalyayana.” Shariputra and Maudgalyayana were two of the ten disciples of the Buddha, and they were known for their wisdom and supernatural powers of perception.
But, again, what was so unusual about their activities that set them apart from the ordinary activities of the people in the world? Dogen says it is important to pay attention to Guishan turning around, Guishan facing the wall, him sitting up and Yangshan starting to leave, Yangshan bending his head to listen, washing the face, drying the face, making tea, bringing the tea. What makes any of these spiritual activity? What makes Guishan say, “We were having a mystical communication”?

Keep in mind that you can’t see this koan intellectually. Any of us may go on stacking cordwood, building spring houses, cooking a meal, and washing the dishes day after day, but unless we plumb the depths of these activities’ spiritual dimension, they remain ordinary activities—not yet the marvelous mind of nirvana or the exquisite teachings of formless form.

If we can see, hear, and realize the spiritual power in these activities, then we have realized the truth of the Tathagata. We have realized the truth of suchness, the moment to moment reality of our life.

The capping verse: Unifying the myriad reflections, one’s own light is without hindrance. When water is agitated, the only thing you can see is the moon reflected in hundreds of little points of light. But when the water is still, the image comes together into a perfect reflection. When we unify all our scattered energy, we see that the truth is our own body, our own mind. Scattered or focused, the light is always there, but it becomes very powerful when you focus it.

Opened up, the ground of being ceaselessly meets itself. The ground of being is the truth of each of our lives buried beneath layers of conditioning from our parents, teachers, culture, education—the whole catastrophe. Underneath all of that conditioning is the ground of being, and when it is opened up, it meets itself. What is its self? The ten thousand things, the whole phenomenal universe.

And then the final line: Realizing wisdom, manifesting compassion. How many have this kind of spiritual power? Realizing wisdom is realizing the unity of all things, which is the underlying principle of this great mystical power we’ve been talking about. And the activity of that wisdom is compassion. Once you realize unity, there is no way to hold back compassionate activity. Because what you do to others, you’re really doing to yourself. We’re totally connected, interdependent. And the wonderful thing about this dharma is that it can be realized anywhere. You can realize yourself in the dokusan room, or sitting alone in zazen. You can do it through liturgy, or the practice of taking a meal. Reading a line in a sutra, art practice, work practice. Every opportunity is an opportunity to realize yourself. That’s why it’s so important to get to the bottom of this spiritual power inherent in our everyday activities.

Most of us have an opportunity to practice ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day. Are we using it? We’re very lucky to be living at this time in human history. The dharma has taken root in the West, carried to these shores by people who gave their entire lives to it. Now it’s in our hands. It would be a shame to waste it. The only way this incredible teaching stays alive is through our own lives. Please take care of it.

Recomended Reading
Sitting with Koans: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Koan Study – John Daido Loori (editor)

Link to purchase book (click here)

Tao Te Ching

Do not glorify the achievers
So the people will not squabble
Do not treasure goods that are hard to obtain
So the people will not become thieves
Do not show the desired things
So their hearts will not be confused

Thus the governance of the sage:
Empties their hearts
Fills their bellies
Weakens their ambitions
Strengthens their bones

Let the people have no cunning and no greed
So those who scheme will not dare to meddle

Act without contrivance
And nothing will be beyond control

The Tao is empty
When utilized, it is not filled up
So deep! It seems to be the source of all things

It blunts the sharpness
Unravels the knots
Dims the glare
Mixes the dusts

So indistinct! It seems to exist
I do not know whose offspring it is
Its image is the predecessor of the Emperor

The highest goodness resembles water
Water greatly benefits myriad things without contention
It stays in places that people dislike
Therefore it is similar to the Tao

Dwelling with the right location
Feeling with great depth
Giving with great kindness
Speaking with great integrity
Governing with great administration
Handling with great capability
Moving with great timing

Because it does not contend
It is therefore beyond reproach

The five colors make one blind in the eyes
The five sounds make one deaf in the ears
The five flavors make one tasteless in the mouth

Racing and hunting make one wild in the heart
Goods that are difficult to acquire make one cause damage

Therefore the sages care for the stomach and not the eyes
That is why they discard the other and take this

End sagacity; abandon knowledge
The people benefit a hundred times

End benevolence; abandon righteousness
The people return to piety and charity

End cunning; discard profit
Bandits and thieves no longer exist

These three things are superficial and insufficient
Thus this teaching has its place:
Show plainness; hold simplicity
Reduce selfishness; decrease desires

Cease learning, no more worries
Respectful response and scornful response
How much is the difference?
Goodness and evil
How much do they differ?
What the people fear, I cannot be unafraid

So desolate! How limitless it is!
The people are excited
As if enjoying a great feast
As if climbing up to the terrace in spring
I alone am quiet and uninvolved
Like an infant not yet smiling
So weary, like having no place to return
The people all have surplus
While I alone seem lacking
I have the heart of a fool indeed – so ignorant!
Ordinary people are bright
I alone am muddled
Ordinary people are scrutinizing
I alone am obtuse
Such tranquility, like the ocean
Such high wind, as if without limits

The people all have goals
And I alone am stubborn and lowly
I alone am different from them
And value the nourishing mother

Full text available from link below

Click here to read Hermit House of Stonehouse
another Hermit Poet like Han Shan

Alan W. Watts – Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal
This is the conclusion of the chapter entitled “Consider the Lilies”, from Watts’ [Zen/Tao-infused] mountain journal, 1975.

Plants when young are sinuous and moist,
but when old are brittle and dry.
Thus suppleness and tenderness are signs of life,
While rigidity and hardness are signs of death.

For I feel that we would go better with this
wiggly world if we thought in terms of roots
and branches, vines and creepers, fronds and fiber,
rather than in sterile angularities of metal
and quartz in which the genius of life has not yet arisen,
and in which energy may stutter and hum
but has not yet learned to feel.

At least then let me hope – dear children –
that there are seeds in your dirty fingernails,
and that you will again come out with flowers.

coming home

Returning Home

This tale about returning home Is Dogen’s response to being asked why it is not enough to just understand the nondual.
In other words why is the practice itself important?

It reads:
Long ago, there was a monk called Prior Sokko,
in the order of Zen Master Hogen.
Zen Master Hogen asks him, “Prior Sokko, how long have
you been in my order?”
Sokko says, “I have served in the master’s order for three years already.”
The Zen master says, “You are a recent member of the order. Why do
you never ask me about the Buddha-Dharma?”
Sokko says, “I must not deceive you, master. Before, when I was in the
order of Zen Master Seiho, I realized the state of peace and joy in the Buddha-Dharma.”
The Zen master says, “Relying upon what words were you able to enter?”
Sokko says, “I once asked Seiho: Just what is the student that is I?
Seiho said: The children of fire come looking for fire.”
Hogen says, “Nice words. But I am afraid that you may not have understood.”
Sokko says, “The children of fire belong to fire. [So] I understood that
their being fire yet looking for fire represented my being myself yet looking
for myself.”
The Zen master says, “I have become sure that you did not understand.
If the Buddha-Dharma were like that, it could never have been transmitted
until today.”
At this Sokko became embarrassed and distressed, and he stood up [to
leave]. [But] on the road he thought, “The Zen master is [respected] throughout the country [as] a good counselor,
and he is a great guiding master to five hundred people. There must surely have been some merit in his criticism of my wrongness.”
[Sokko] goes back to the Zen master to confess and to prostrate himself in apology. Then he asks,
“Just what is the student that is I?”
The Zen master says, “The children of fire come looking for fire.”

Fukan-zazengi (Universal Way of Zazen)
by Dogen Zenji

Originally, The Way is complete and universal.
How can we distinguish practice from enlightenment?
The Vehicle of Reality is in the Self.
Why should we waste our efforts trying to attain it?
Still more, the Whole Body is free from dust.
Why should we believe in a means to sweep it away?
The Way is never separated from where we are now.
Why should we wander here and there to practice?
Yet, if there is the slightest deviation, you will be as far from the Way as heaven is from earth. If adverse or favorable conditions arise to even a small degree, you will lose your mind in confusion. Even if you are proud of your understanding, are enlightened in abundance, and obtain the power of wisdom to glimpse the ground of buddhahood; even if you gain the Way, clarify the mind, resolve to pierce heaven, that is only strolling on the border of the Buddha Way.
You are still, almost always, lacking the vivid way of emancipation. Moreover, consider Shakyamuni Buddha who was enlightened from birth; to this day you can see the traces of his sitting in the straight posture for six years. And Bodhidharma who transmitted the mind seal; even now you can hear of the fame of his facing the wall for nine years. These ancient sages practiced in this way. How can people of today refrain from practice?
Therefore, cease studying words and following letters. Learn to step back, turning the light inwards, illuminating the Self. Doing so, your body and mind will drop off naturally, and Original Self will manifest. If you wish to attain suchness, practice suchness immediately.
Now, for zazen a quiet room is best. Eat and drink moderately. Let go of all associations, and put all affairs aside. Do not think of either good or evil. Do not be concerned with either right or wrong. Put aside the operation of your intellect, volition, and consciousness. Stop considering things with memory, imagination and contemplation. Do not seek to become Buddha. To be Buddha has nothing to do with the forms of sitting or lying down.
Usually a thick zabutan is put on the floor where you sit, and a zafu placed on it. You may sit full lotus or half lotus. Your clothing should be loose but neat. Then put your right palm up on your left foot and your left palm up on your right palm. The tips of your thumbs should be lightly touching. Sit upright, leaning neither to the left nor right, neither forward nor backward. Your ears should be in line with your shoulders; your nose should be in line with your navel. Place your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Close your lips and jaw. Always keep your eyes open. Breathe quietly through your nose. After having regulated your posture, exhale completely and take a breath. Sway your body from left to right a few times. Sit stably in samadhi. Think of not-thinking.
How do you think of not-thinking? Beyond thinking. This is the essential way of zazen. The zazen which I am talking about is not step-by-step meditation. It is simply the dharma gate of peace and comfort. It is the practice-enlightenment of the ultimate Way. In doing zazen, the Koan manifests itself; it cannot be ensnared. When you grasp this, you are like a dragon with water, or a tiger in the mountains. You must know that true dharma manifests itself in zazen, and that dullness and distraction drop away.
When you rise from sitting, move your body slowly and stand up calmly. Do not move abruptly. You should see that to transcend both ordinary people and sages and to die sitting or standing, depends upon the power of zazen. Moreover, your discriminating mind cannot understand how buddhas and patriarchs taught their students with a finger, a pole, a needle, or a mallet, or how they transmitted the Way with a hossu, a fist, a staff, or by shouting. Needless to say, these actions cannot be understood by practicing to attain superhuman powers. These actions come from the practice which is prior to discriminating mind.
Therefore, do not consider whether you are clever or stupid, and do not think of whether you are superior or inferior. When you practice wholeheartedly, it is truly the practice of the Way. Practice – enlightenment cannot be defiled. Making the effort to obtain the Way, is itself, the manifestation of the Way in your daily life. The Buddhas and sages, both in this world and other worlds, in India and China, preserved the buddha-seal in the same way and expressed the Way freely. They just practiced sitting and were protected by zazen. Although their characters were diverse, each of them practiced the Way of zazen wholeheartedly.
There is no reason to leave your own seat at home and take a meaningless trip to the dusty places of other countries. If you make a false step, then you will miss the way, even though it is before your eyes. You have already been given a human body which is vital, so do not spend your time wastefully. Since you are endowed with the essential functioning of the Buddha Way, why pursue worthless pleasures that are like sparks from a flint?
Furthermore, your body is like a drop of dew on a blade of grass, your life is like a flash of lightning. Your body will disappear soon, your life will be lost in an instant. You, honored practitioner, after learning in a partial way like the blind people who touched various parts of the elephant, please do not be scared by the real dragon. Devote yourself to the Way which indicates Reality directly. Respect those who realize their Self and no longer seek anything outside. Be in accord with the buddhas’ bodhi. Succeed to the sages’ samadhi. If you practice suchness continuously, you will be suchness.
The treasure house will open of itself, and you will be able to use it at will.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Hansel and Gretel
If we were to think of this as a Zen tale. Perhaps the witch would be fear and the pebbles, the practice.

HARD by a great forest dwelt a poor wood-cutter with his wife and his two children. The boy was called Hansel and the girl Gretel. He had little to bite and to break, and once when great dearth fell on the land, he could no longer procure even daily bread. Now when he thought over this by night in his bed, and tossed about in his anxiety, he groaned and said to his wife: “What is to become of us? How are we to feed our poor children, when we no longer have anything even for ourselves?” “I’ll tell you what, husband,” answered the woman, “early to-morrow morning we will take the children out into the forest to where it is the thickest; there we will light a fire for them, and give each of them one more piece of bread, and then we will go to our work and leave them alone. They will not find the way home again, and we shall be rid of them.” “No, wife,” said the man, “I will not do that; how can I bear to leave my children alone in the forest–the wild animals would soon come and tear them to pieces.” “O, you fool!” said she, “then we must all four die of hunger, you may as well plane the planks for our coffins,” and she left him no peace until he consented. “But I feel very sorry for the poor children, all the same,” said the man.
The two children had also not been able to sleep for hunger, and had heard what their step-mother had said to their father. Gretel wept bitter tears, and said to Hansel: “Now all is over with us.” “Be quiet, Gretel,” said Hansel, “do not distress yourself, I will soon find a way to help us.” And when the old folks had fallen asleep, he got up, put on his little coat, opened the door below, and crept outside. The moon shone brightly, and the white pebbles which lay in front of the house glittered like real silver pennies. Hansel stooped and stuffed the little pocket of his coat with as many as he could get in. Then he went back and said to Gretel: “Be comforted, dear little sister, and sleep in peace, God will not forsake us,” and he lay down again in his bed. When day dawned, but before the sun had risen, the woman came and awoke the two children, saying: “Get up, you sluggards! We are going into the forest to fetch wood.” She gave each a little piece of bread, and said: “There is something for your dinner, but do not eat it up before then, for you will get nothing else.” Gretel took the bread under her apron, as Hansel had the pebbles in his pocket. Then they all set out together on the way to the forest. When they had walked a short time, Hansel stood still and peeped back at the house, and did so again and again. His father said: “Hansel, what are you looking at there and staying behind for? Pay attention, and do not forget how to use your legs.” “Ah, father,” said Hansel, “I am looking at my little white cat, which is sitting up on the roof, and wants to say good-bye to me.” The wife said: “Fool, that is not your little cat, that is the morning sun which is shining on the chimneys.” Hansel, however, had not been looking back at the cat, but had been constantly throwing one of the white pebble-stones out of his pocket on the road.
When they had reached the middle of the forest, the father said: “Now, children, pile up some wood, and I will light a fire that you may not be cold.” Hansel and Gretel gathered brushwood together, as high as a little hill. The brushwood was lighted, and when the flames were burning very high, the woman said: “Now, children, lay yourselves down by the fire and rest, we will go into the forest and cut some wood. When we have done, we will come back and fetch you away.”
Hansel and Gretel sat by the fire, and when noon came, each ate a little piece of bread, and as they heard the strokes of the wood-axe they believed that their father was near. It was not the axe, however, but a branch which he had fastened to a withered tree which the wind was blowing backwards and forwards. And as they had been sitting such a long time, their eyes closed with fatigue, and they fell fast asleep. When at last they awoke, it was already dark night. Gretel began to cry and said: “How are we to get out of the forest now?” But Hansel comforted her and said: “Just wait a little, until the moon has risen, and then we will soon find the way.” And when the full moon had risen, Hansel took his little sister by the hand, and followed the pebbles which shone like newly-coined silver pieces, and showed them the way.
They walked the whole night long, and by break of day came once more to their father’s house. They knocked at the door, and when the woman opened it and saw that it was Hansel and Gretel, she said: “You naughty children, why have you slept so long in the forest–we thought you were never coming back at all!” The father, however, rejoiced, for it had cut him to the heart to leave them behind alone.
Not long afterwards, there was once more great dearth throughout the land, and the children heard their mother saying at night to their father: “Everything is eaten again, we have one half loaf left, and that is the end. The children must go, we will take them farther into the wood, so that they will not find their way out again; there is no other means of saving ourselves!” The man’s heart was heavy, and he thought: “It would be better for you to share the last mouthful with your children.” The woman, however, would listen to nothing that he had to say, but scolded and reproached him. He who says A must say B, likewise, and as he had yielded the first time, he had to do so a second time also.
The children, however, were still awake and had heard the conversation. When the old folks were asleep, Hansel again got up, and wanted to go out and pick up pebbles as he had done before, but the woman had locked the door, and Hansel could not get out. Nevertheless he comforted his little sister, and said: “Do not cry, Gretel, go to sleep quietly, the good God will help us.”
Early in the morning came the woman, and took the children out of their beds. Their piece of bread was given to them, but it was still smaller than the time before. On the way into the forest Hansel crumbled his in his pocket, and often stood still and threw a morsel on the ground. “Hansel, why do you stop and look round ” said the father, “go on.” “I am looking back at my little pigeon which is sitting on the roof, and wants to say good-bye to me,” answered Hansel. “Fool!” said the woman, “that is not Your little pigeon, that is the morning sun that is shining on the chimney.” Hansel, however, little by little, threw all the crumbs on the path.
The woman led the children still deeper into the forest, where they had never in their lives been before. Then a great fire was again made, and the mother said: “Just sit there, you children, and when you are tired you may sleep a little; we are going into the forest to cut wood, and in the evening when we are done, we will come and fetch you away.” When it was noon, Gretel shared her piece of bread with Hansel, who had scattered his by the way. Then they fell asleep and evening passed, but no one came to the poor children. They did not awake until it was dark night, and Hansel comforted his little sister and said: “Just wait, Gretel, until the moon rises, and then we shall see the crumbs of bread which I have strewn about, they will show us our way home again.” When the moon came they set out, but they found no crumbs, for the many thousands of birds which fly about in the woods and fields had picked them all up.
Hansel said to Gretel: “We shall soon find the way,” but they did not find it. They walked the whole night and all the next day too from morning till evening, but they did not get out of the forest, and were very hungry, for they had nothing to eat but two or three berries, which grew on the ground. And as they were so weary that their legs would carry them no longer, they lay down beneath a tree and fell asleep.
It was now three mornings since they had left their father’s house. They began to walk again, but they always came deeper into the forest, and if help did not come soon, they must die of hunger and weariness. When it was mid-day, they saw a beautiful snow-white bird sitting on a bough, which sang so delightfully that they stood still and listened to it. And when its song was over, it spread its wings and flew away before them, and they followed it until they reached a little house, on the roof of which it alighted; and when they approached the little house they saw that it was built of bread and covered with cakes, but that the windows were of clear sugar. “We will set to work on that,” said Hansel, “and have a good meal. I will eat a bit of the roof, and you Gretel, can eat some of the window, it will taste sweet.” Hansel reached up above, and broke off a little of the roof to try how it tasted, and Gretel leant against the window and nibbled at the panes. Then a soft voice cried from the parlor:
“Nibble, nibble, gnaw,
Who is nibbling at my little house?”
The children answered:
“The wind, the wind,
The heaven-born wind,”
and went on eating without disturbing themselves. Hansel, who liked the taste of the roof, tore down a great piece of it, and Gretel pushed out the whole of one round window-pane, sat down, and enjoyed herself with it. Suddenly the door opened, and a woman as old as the hills, who supported herself on crutches, came creeping out. Hansel and Gretel were so terribly frightened that they let fall what they had in their hands. The old woman, however, nodded her head, and said: “Oh, you dear children, who has brought you here Do come in, and stay with me. No harm shall happen to you.” She took them both by the hand, and led them into her little house. Then good food was set before them, milk and pancakes, with sugar, apples, and nuts. Afterwards two pretty little beds were covered with clean white linen, and Hansel and Gretel lay down in them, and thought they were in heaven.
The old woman had only pretended to be so kind; she was in reality a wicked witch, who lay in wait for children, and had only built the little house of bread in order to entice them there. When a child fell into her power, she killed it, cooked and ate it, and that was a feast day with her. Witches have red eyes, and cannot see far, but they have a keen scent like the beasts, and are aware when human beings draw near. When Hansel and Gretel came into her neighborhood, she laughed with malice, and said mockingly: “I have them, they shall not escape me again!” Early in the morning before the children were awake, she was already up, and when she saw both of them sleeping and looking so pretty, with their plump and rosy cheeks, she muttered to herself: “That will be a dainty mouthfull” Then she seized Hansel with her shriveled hand, carried him into a little stable, and locked him in behind a grated door. Scream as he might, it would not help him. Then she went to Gretel, shook her till she awoke, and cried: “Get up, lazy thing, fetch some water, and cook something good for your brother, he is in the stable outside, and is to be made fat. When he is fat, I will eat him.” Gretel began to weep bitterly, but it was all in vain, for she was forced to do what the wicked witch commanded.
And now the best food was cooked for poor Hansel, but Gretel got nothing but crab-shells. Every morning the woman crept to the little stable, and cried: “Hansel, stretch out your finger that I may feel if you will soon be fat.” Hansel, however, stretched out a little bone to her, and the old woman, who had dim eyes, could not see it, and thought it was Hansel’s finger, and was astonished that there was no way of fattening him. When four weeks had gone by, and Hansel still remained thin, she was seized with impatience and would not wait any longer. “Now, then, Gretel,” she cried to the girl, “stir yourself, and bring some water. Let Hansel be fat or lean, to-morrow I will kill him, and cook him.” Ah, how the poor little sister did lament when she had to fetch the water, and how her tears did flow down her cheeks! “Dear God, do help us,” she cried. “If the wild beasts in the forest had but devoured us, we should at any rate have died together.” “Just keep your noise to yourself,” said the old woman, “it won’t help you at all.”
Early in the morning, Gretel had to go out and hang up the cauldron with the water, and light the fire. “We will bake first,” said the old woman, “I have already heated the oven, and kneaded the dough.” She pushed poor Gretel out to the oven, from which flames of fire were already darting. “Creep in,” said the witch, “and see if it is properly heated, so that we can put the bread in.” And once Gretel was inside, she intended to shut the oven and let her bake in it, and then she would eat her, too. But Gretel saw what she had in mind, and said: “I do not know how I am to do it; how do I get in?” “Silly goose,” said the old woman. “The door is big enough; just look, I can get in myself!” and she crept up and thrust her head into the oven. Then Gretel gave her a push that drove her far into it, and shut the iron door, and fastened the bolt. Oh then she began to howl quite horribly, but Gretel ran away, and the godless witch was miserably burnt to death.
Gretel, however, ran like lightning to Hansel, opened his little stable, and cried: “Hansel, we are saved! The old witch is dead!” Then Hansel sprang like a bird from its cage when the door is opened. How they did rejoice and embrace each other, and dance about and kiss each other! And as they had no longer any need to fear her, they went into the witch’s house, and in every corner there stood chests full of pearls and jewels. “These are far better than pebbles!” said Hansel, and thrust into his pockets whatever could be got in, and Gretel said: “I, too, will take something home with me,” and filled her pinafore full. “But now we must be off,” said Hansel, “that we may get out of the witch’s forest.”
When they had walked for two hours, they came to a great stretch of water. “We cannot cross,” said Hansel, “I see no foot-plank, and no bridge.” “And there is also no ferry,” answered Gretel, “but a white duck is swimming there; if I ask her, she will help us over.”
Then she cried:”Little duck, little duck, dost thou see,
Hansel and Gretel are waiting for thee?
There’s never a plank, or bridge in sight,
Take us across on thy back so white.
The duck came to them, and Hansel seated himself on its back, and told his sister to sit by him. “No,” replied Gretel, “that will be too heavy for the little duck; she shall take us across, one after the other.” The good little duck did so, and when they were once safely across and had walked for a short time, the forest seemed to be more and more familiar to them, and at length they saw from afar their father’s house. Then they began to run, rushed into the parlor, and threw themselves round their father’s neck. The man had not known one happy hour since he had left the children in the forest; the woman, however, was dead. Gretel emptied her pinafore until pearls and precious stones ran about the room, and Hansel threw one handful after another out of his pocket to add to them. Then all anxiety was at an end, and they lived together in perfect happiness.

Zen Master Ryokan
A poem that looks at returning home

Buddha is a conception of your mind
The Way isn’t anything that is made
Now that I have told you this
Take it to heart
Don’t let yourself be misled
If to reach Yueh you point your cart north
When can you ever hope to arrive?

Mulla Nasrudin and the Keys to Home

A man was walking home late one night when he saw the Mulla Nasrudin
searching under a street light on hands and knees for something on the
ground. “Mulla, what have you lost?” he asked.
“The key to my house,” Nasrudin said.
“I’ll help you look,” the man said.
Soon, both men were down on their knees, looking for the key.
After a number of minutes, the man asked, “Where exactly did you drop it?”
Nasrudin waved his arm back toward the darkness. “Over there, in my house.”
The first man jumped up. “Then why are you looking for it here?”
Nasrudin replied, “Because there is more light here than inside my house.”

Wabi Sabi

The concept of wabi sabi has spread through popular modern culture. There is even a coherent discussion of it in the hip blog apartmenttherapy.com with design hints for our everyday life and homes.
“Wabi sabi is more than an art, it is a world view that is sometimes described as the beauty of the imperfect, the impermanent, and the incomplete. Its earliest origins are from ancient Chinese Taoism and Zen Buddhism, but it began to shape Japanese culture in the 15th century when the ornate gold, jade and porcelain typically used for tea ceremonies were replaced with simple, rough clay and wooden utensils. Having lived in Japan for a few years, my husband recently bought our daughter a book about wabi sabi.
It reads:
“Wabi sabi is a way of seeing the world that is at the heart of Japanese culture. It finds beauty and harmony in what is simple, imperfect, modest, natural, and mysterious. It can be a little dark, but it is also warm and comfortable. It may be best understood as a feeling, rather than as an idea.”
– Mark Reibstein and Ed Young
Quite the opposite of aiming for perfection, wabi sabi embraces the realities of life: nothing lasts forever, nothing is completely perfect, and nothing is ever truly finished. I love the idea of embracing, and perhaps even celebrating, the imperfections in our homes, in our world, and maybe even in each other. (Hmm…maybe our character flaws are beautiful?) Wabi sabi reminds us that beauty, and life itself, is fleeting.”
For the entire article see http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/wabi-sabi-the-art-of-the-imper-15669

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”. Also found in Little Zen Companion ISBN 0836268148
Japanese Aesthetics, Wabi-Sabi, and the Tea Ceremony
Click here to read the article.

The Japanese view of life embraced a simple aesthetic
that grew stronger as inessentials were eliminated and trimmed away.
-architect Tadao Ando

Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.
Wabi-sabi is underplayed and modest, the kind of quiet, undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered. It’s a fragmentary glimpse: the branch representing the entire tree, shoji screens filtering the sun, the moon 90 percent obscured behind a ribbon of cloud. It’s a richly mellow beauty that’s striking but not obvious, that you can imagine having around you for a long, long time-Katherine Hepburn versus Marilyn Monroe. For the Japanese, it’s the difference between kirei-merely “pretty”-and omoshiroi, the interestingness that kicks something into the realm of beautiful. (Omoshiroi literally means “white faced,” but its meanings range from fascinating to fantastic.) It’s the peace found in a moss garden, the musty smell of geraniums, the astringent taste of powdered green tea. My favorite Japanese phrase for describing wabi-sabi is “natsukashii furusato,” or an old memory of my hometown. (This is a prevalent mind-set in Japan these days, as people born in major urban areas such as Tokyo and Osaka wax nostalgic over grandparents’ country houses that perhaps never were. They can even “rent” grandparents who live in prototypical country houses and spend the weekend there.)
Daisetz T. Suzuki, who was one of Japan’s foremost English-speaking authorities on Zen Buddhism and one of the first scholars to interpret Japanese culture for Westerners, described wabi-sabi as “an active aesthetical appreciation of poverty.” He was referring to poverty not as we in the West interpret (and fear) it but in the more romantic sense of removing the huge weight of material concerns from our lives. “Wabi is to be satisfied with a little hut, a room of two or three tatami mats, like the log cabin of Thoreau,” he wrote, “and with a dish of vegetables picked in the neighboring fields, and perhaps to be listening to the pattering of a gentle spring rainfall.”
In Japan, there is a marked difference between a Thoreau-like wabibito (wabi person), who is free in his heart, and a makoto no hinjin, a more Dickensian character whose poor circumstances make him desperate and pitiful. The ability to make do with less is revered; I heard someone refer to a wabibito as a person who could make something complete out of eight parts when most of us would use ten. For us in the West, this might mean choosing a smaller house or a smaller car, or-just as a means of getting started-refusing to supersize our fries.
The words wabi and sabi were not always linked, although they’ve been together for such a long time that many people (including D. T. Suzuki) use them interchangeably. One tea teacher I talked with begged me not to use the phrase wabi-sabi because she believes the marriage dilutes their separate identities; a tea master in Kyoto laughed and said they’re thrown together because it sounds catchy, kind of like Ping-Pong. In fact, the two words do have distinct meanings, although most people don’t fully agree on what they might be.
Wabi stems from the root wa, which refers to harmony, peace, tranquillity, and balance. Generally speaking, wabi had the original meaning of sad, desolate, and lonely, but poetically it has come to mean simple, unmaterialistic, humble by choice, and in tune with nature. Someone who is perfectly herself and never craves to be anything else would be described as wabi. Sixteenth-century tea master Jo-o described a wabi tea man as someone who feels no dissatisfaction even though he owns no Chinese utensils with which to conduct tea. A common phrase used in conjunction with wabi is “the joy of the little monk in his wind-torn robe.” A wabi person epitomizes Zen, which is to say, he or she is content with very little; free from greed, indolence, and anger; and understands the wisdom of rocks and grasshoppers.
Until the fourteenth century, when Japanese society came to admire monks and hermits for their spiritual asceticism, wabi was a pejorative term used to describe cheerless, miserable outcasts. Even today, undertones of desolation and abandonment cling to the word, sometimes used to describe the helpless feeling you have when waiting for your lover. It also carries a hint of dissatisfaction in its underhanded criticism of gaud and ostentation-the defining mark of the ruling classes when wabisuki (a taste for all things wabi) exploded in the sixteenth century. In a country ruled by warlords who were expected to be conspicuous consumers, wabi became known as “the aesthetic of the people”-the lifestyle of the everday samurai, who had little in the way of material comforts.
Sabi by itself means “the bloom of time.” It connotes natural progression-tarnish, hoariness, rust-the extinguished gloss of that which once sparkled. It’s the understanding that beauty is fleeting. The word’s meaning has changed over time, from its ancient definition, “to be desolate,” to the more neutral “to grow old.” By the thirteenth century, sabi’s meaning had evolved into taking pleasure in things that were old and faded. A proverb emerged: “Time is kind to things, but unkind to man.”
Sabi things carry the burden of their years with dignity and grace: the chilly mottled surface of an oxidized silver bowl, the yielding gray of weathered wood, the elegant withering of a bereft autumn bough. An old car left in a field to rust, as it transforms from an eyesore into a part of the landscape, could be considered America’s contribution to the evolution of sabi. An abandoned barn, as it collapses in on itself, holds this mystique.
There’s an aching poetry in things that carry this patina, and it transcends the Japanese. We Americans are ineffably drawn to old European towns with their crooked cobblestone streets and chipping plaster, to places battle scarred with history much deeper than our own. We seek sabi in antiques and even try to manufacture it in distressed furnishings. True sabi cannot be acquired, however. It is a gift of time.
So now we have wabi, which is humble and simple, and sabi, which is rusty and weathered. And we’ve thrown these terms together into a phrase that rolls off the tongue like Ping-Pong. Does that mean, then, that the wabi-sabi house is full of things that are humble, plain, rusty, and weathered? That’s the easy answer. The amalgamation of wabi and sabi in practice, however, takes on much more depth.
In home decor, wabi-sabi inspires a minimalism that celebrates the human rather than the machine. Possessions are pared down, and pared down again, until only those that are necessary for their utility or beauty (and ideally both) are left. What makes the cut? Items that you both admire and love to use, like those hand-crank eggbeaters that still work just fine. Things that resonate with the spirit of their makers’ hands and hearts: the chair your grandfather made, your six-year-old’s lumpy pottery, an afghan you knitted yourself (out of handspun sheep’s wool, perhaps). Pieces of your own history: sepia-toned ancestral photos, baby shoes, the Nancy Drew mysteries you read over and over again as a kid.
Wabi-sabi interiors tend to be muted, dimly lit, and shadowy-giving the rooms an enveloping, womblike feeling. Natural materials that are vulnerable to weathering, warping, shrinking, cracking, and peeling lend an air of perishability. The palette is drawn from browns, blacks, grays, earthy greens, and rusts. This implies a lack of freedom but actually affords an opportunity for innovation and creativity. In Japan, kimonos come in a hundred different shades of gray. You simply have to hone your vision
so you can see, and feel, them all.
Wabi-sabi can be exploited in all sorts of ways, and one of the most tempting is to use it as an excuse to shrug off an unmade bed, an unswept floor, or a soiled sofa. “Oh, that. Well, that’s just wabi-sabi.” My nine-year-old son, Stacey, loves this tactic.
How tempting it might be to let the split running down the sofa cushion seam continue on its merry way, calling it wabi-sabi. To spend Saturday afternoon at the movies and let the dust settle into the rugs: wabi sabi. To buy five extra minutes of sleep every morning by not making the bed-as a wabi-sabi statement, of course. And how do you know when you’ve gone too far-when you’ ve crossed over from simple, serene, and rustic to Uber-distress?
A solid yellow line separates tattered and shabby, dust and dirt from something worthy of veneration. Wabi-sabi is never messy or slovenly. Worn things take on their magic only in settings where it’s clear they don’t harbor bugs or grime. One senses that they’ve survived to bear the marks of time precisely because they’ve been so well cared for throughout the years. Even the most rare and expensive of antiques will never play well in a house that’s cluttered or dirty.
Cleanliness implies respect. Both ancient and modern tea masters teach that even the poorest wabi tea person should always use fresh green bamboo utensils and new white cloths for wiping the tea bowl. In tea, the host’s cleanliness is considered a clear indicator of his state of mind and his devotion to the way of tea. Chanoyu Ichieshu, a tea textbook published in 1956, even goes so far as to advise guests to look into the host’s toilet if they wish to understand his spiritual training.
I’m definitely not advocating this extreme. In fact, I’m mortified at the thought of anyone judging me on the state of my own toilets. But the tea masters’ point is valid: Spaces that have been thoroughly and lovingly cleaned are ultimately more welcoming. When the bed is neatly made, the romance of a frayed quilt blossoms. The character imparted by a wood floor’s knots and crevices shines through when the crumbs are swept away. A scrubbed but faded kilim, thrown over a sofa that’s seen one too many stains, transforms it into an irresistible place to rest.
Wabi-sabi’s roots lie in Zen Buddhism, which was brought from China to Japan by Eisai, a twelfth-century monk. Zen, with its principles of vast emptiness and nothing holy, stresses austerity, communion with nature, and above all, reverence for everyday life as the real path to enlightenment. To reach enlightenment, Zen monks lived ascetic, often isolated lives and sat for long periods of concentrated meditation.
To help his fellow monks stay awake during these excruciating meditation sessions, Eisai taught them how to process tea leaves into a hot drink. Once Eisai was gone, though, tea took on a very different life of its own. Around the fourteenth century, the upper classes developed elaborate rituals involving tea. Large tearooms were built in an ostentatious style known as shoin, with numerous Chinese hanging scrolls and a formal arrangement of tables for flower vases and incense burners. Tea practitioners proved their wealth and status through their collections of elegant Chinese-style tea utensils during three-day weekenders where up to one hundred cups of tea-as well as food and sake-were served.
Then along came Murata Shuko, an influential tea master who also happened to be a Zen monk. In a radical fashion departure, Shuko began using understated, locally produced utensils during his tea gatherings. Saying “it is good to tie a praised horse to a straw-thatched house,” he combined rough, plain wares with famed Chinese utensils, and the striking contrast made both look more interesting. Shuko’s successor, Jo-o, was even more critical of men whose zeal for rare or famed utensils was their main motivation for conducting tea. Jo-o began using everyday items such as the mentsu, a wooden pilgrim’s eating bowl, as a wastewater container, and a Shigaraki onioke, a stoneware bucket used in silk dyeing, as a water jar. He brought unadorned celadon and Korean peasant wares into the tearoom.
It was Jo-o’s disciple Sen no Rikyu, however, who is widely credited with establishing the quiet, simple ceremony that made it possible for everyone-not just the wealthy-to practice tea. In the sixteenth century-the beginning of an age of peace following several long centuries of civil war in Japan-gaudiness was all the rage, and Rikyu’s tea became an oasis of quiet, simple taste. He served tea in bowls made by anonymous Korean potters and indigenous Japanese craftsmen, the most famous of which are the Raku family’s style. He created tiny tea huts (one and a half tatami mats, as opposed to the four-and-one-half- to eighteen-mat rooms that had been the norm) based on the traditional farmer’s hut of rough mud walls, a thatched roof, and organically shaped exposed wood structural elements. The hut included a nijiriguchi, a low entryway that forced guests to bow and experience humility as they entered. Rikyu made some of his own utensils of unlacquered bamboo (as common as crabgrass in Japan, but nowadays a Rikyu original is worth as much as a Leonardo da Vinci painting), and he arranged flowers simply and naturally in bamboo vases (shakuhachi) and baskets. Rikyu ‘s ceremony became known as wabichado (chado means “the way of tea”), and it endures in Japan to this day.
We Westerners tend to scratch our heads at the thought of four hours spent sitting on our knees, participating in an elaborate ritual during which a charcoal fire is built, a meal of seasonal delicacies is served with sake, one bowl of green tea is made and shared among the guests, and then individual bowls of frothy thin tea are made by whisking hot water and matcha. What most of us don’t realize, however, is that tea embodies so much of the beauty that makes up Japanese culture. To truly understand tea, you must also study poetry, art, literature, architecture, legacy, and history. Tea practitioners are accomplished in the arts of flowers, fine cuisine, and-perhaps most important-etiquette (sarei). And the four principles of tea-harmony (wa), respect (kei), purity (sei), and tranquillity (jaku)-could of course be the means to any good life.
Tea, in its current form, was born out of a medieval society rife with terrible warfare, yet the samurai were willing to set aside their rank-and their swords-to become equals within the tearoom. The room’s design is deliberately simple and clean; it’s meant to be a sanctuary. “In this thatched hut there ought not to be a speck of dust of any kind; both master and visitors are expected to be on terms of absolute sincerity; no ordinary measures of proportion or etiquette or conventionalism are to be followed,” declares Nanbo-roku, one of most ancient and important textbooks on tea. “A fire is made, water is boiled, and tea is served; this is all that is needed here, no other worldly considerations are to intrude.” As soon as we enter the tearoom, we’re asked to shake off our woes and worries and connect with others, “face harmonious, words loving.”
“Tea brings people together in a nonthreatening place to escape the modern world, then they can go back out and take that with them,” Gary Cadwallader, an American-born tea master who teaches at the Urasenke Center in Kyoto, explained to me. It seems to me that we Americans who lack the time-or the desire-to learn tea could take the essence of that statement and apply it to our own lives.
“If a friend visits you, make him tea, wish him welcome warmly with hospitality,” Jo-o, one of Japan’s earliest tea masters, wrote. “Set some flowers and make him feel comfortable.” This is embodied in a common Japanese phrase, “shaza kissa,” which translates, “Well, sit down and have some tea.” What if we adopted that phrase and learned to say it more often-when the kids get home from school (before the rush to hockey and ballet), when our neighbor stops by, when we feel our annoyance level with our spouse starting to rise? If we just allowed ourselves to stop for a moment, sit down together, and share a cup of tea, what might that moment bring?
In learning tea, we’re constantly reminded that every meeting is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion to enjoy good company, beautiful art, and a cup of tea. We never know what might happen tomorrow, or even later today. Stopping whatever it is that’s so important (dishes, bill paying, work deadlines) to share conversation and a cup of tea with someone you love-or might love-is an easy opportunity to promote peace. It is from this place of peace, harmony, and fellowship that the true wabi-sabi spirit emerges.
Wabi-sabi is not a decorating “style” but rather a mind-set. There’s no list of rules; we can’t hang crystals or move our beds and wait for peace to befall us. Creating a wabi-sabi home is the direct result of developing our wabigokoro, or wabi mind and heart: living modestly, learning to be satisfied with life as it can be once we strip away the unnecessary, living in the moment. You see? Simple as that.
This is tough in any culture, of course, but darned near impossible in our own. In America we’re plied daily with sales pitches that will help us improve ourselves, our circumstances, our homes. We can have the whitest teeth, the cleanest carpets, and the biggest SUV money can buy. All of this flies in the face of wabigokoro, as described in Rikyu’s sacred tea text, Nanporoku. “A luxurious house and the taste of delicacies are only pleasures of the mundane world,” he wrote. “It is enough if the house does not leak and the food keeps hunger away. This is the teaching of the Buddha-the true meaning of chado.”
This is un-American. Or is it? I believe there exists in all of us a longing for something deeper than the whitest teeth, sparkling floors, and eight cylinders. What if we could learn to be content with our lives, exactly as they are today? It’s a lofty thought…but one that’s certainly worth entertaining.
You can start cultivating this mind-set in small ways, taking a lesson from tea. In learning to conduct tea, we’re taught to handle every utensil, from the bamboo water scoop to the tea bowl, as if it were precious, with the same respect and care we would use to handle a rare antique. You can do the same thing with the items you use every day.
You can also read more… by reading the wonderful book this came from: “the wabi-sabi house,the Japanese art of imperfect beauty” by Robyn Griggs Lawrence. Robyn’s book puts it in perspective, using evocative descriptions of modern designs using salvaged materials and (local?) artisan wares. All in all a unique insight into a true way of life.

Haiku Master Buson
translated by Yuki Sawa and Edith Marcombe Shiffert

Yellow pond-lilies,
two clumps of them blooming
in the rain.

Morning glories—
the indigo color on the towel’s edge
no longer satisfies me.

With blossoms fallen
in spaces between the twigs a temple
has appeared.

They swallow the clouds
and spit out the blossoms—
Yoshino’s mountains!

Negative Emotion – Fourth Way® Gurdjieff Ouspensky School

Negative emotions are an example of the wrong work of the emotional centre. They are unnecessary, and an important part of awakening is to free ourselves from their grip.
Negative emotions are things like fear, anger, envy, greed, sloth, and also pleasant things like enthusiasms, passions, and certain forms of love. They are based on identification and imagination—they keep us asleep.
The pleasant type are characterised by a tendency to turn into their opposites—for example when we end up hating people we were formerly `in love’ with. Real emotions do not turn into their opposites.
Properly speaking, the emotional centre does not have a negative half. Negative emotions are tremendously powerful, despite being completely useless to us. We can poison our lives extremely quickly with them, destroying life-long friendships with a few words, or making disastrous choices because we are out to prove something.
When we study the Food Diagram, we can see that man is rather like a chemical factory, refining food, air, and impressions into much finer, more volatile energies. These finest energies are used by the higher emotional centre, and the higher intellectual centre.
When we express negative emotions, we plunder this store of finer substances. We can use up the factory’s entire production for a day with one emotional outburst. It is possible to use even more energy, even damaging the factory beyond repair if we go too far (rather like the effect power surges have on computers). With this energy thrown away, we have no fuel available to think our highest thoughts, or to experience our highest feelings.
So the first part of work on the emotional centre is non-expression of negative emotions—to stop this energy leak. This practise is exceptional in the Work, in that it is permanent and available to all. (The methods and form of the Work are continually evolving, so it is usual for an exercise to be set for a specific length of time, in specific circumstances to specific people, and then only on the basis that they understand exactly why they are doing it.)
As well as saving us energy, this practise also helps us in self-observation, because we need to resist our mechanics before we can see them.
The second part of work on the emotional centre is transformation of negative emotions. This is advanced work.
Briefly, we can see that the problem with non-expression of negative emotions is that we are still having the emotion—we are just not expressing it. If we are self-remembering at the moment when an impression enters that would normally cause a negative emotion, it is possible to use the resulting energy for ourselves, rather than seeing it disappear off down well-trodden paths. This is also known as the Second Conscious Shock. In the Work, long practice at non-expression of negative emotions and self-remembering are necessary before this becomes possible.
Negative emotions often originate in the instinctive centre. If we are tired, or hungry, or in pain, these inner sensations can often be converted into negative emotions by our imagination.
A cold, a headache, a late night or a missed meal are all enough to drastically alter our behaviour. We may be irritated by far less than usual. We may feel tearful at the slightest pressure. To work with this, we need to be more aware of the life of our instinctive centre. We need to remember our fatigue, our aches, and our appetite, so that we can digest impressions correctly. One way of doing this is to be small, to slow down, and be quieter. This gives our organism more time to operate, alleviating the unpleasant feeling of pressure everyday life creates in us when we are a little worse for wear.
First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.?Matthew 7.5
Negativity towards others is often caused by us seeing in other people exactly what we dislike about ourselves. This negativity is usually accompanied by thoughts such as, `I’m not like that at all!’ and `How on Earth could they do/say/think such a thing!’ Such negativity will paint the victim as a `something’, where the `something’ label allows us to think of the victim as being different to ourselves—labels such as fool, drunkard, monster, and so on.
These attitudes prevent us seeing what we, as humans, are really like; they prevent us from learning about and understanding the full variety of human expression. This we must do if we wish to become balanced men. We can tell that our reactions to others’ shortcomings are subjective, because usually we are only bothered by certain things, and are able to remain calm in the face of other faults.
We need to remember that negative emotions are a general law on this world. That is to say, virtually all people will express them, will glamorise them, will accept them as the normal. The violence of our `civilised’ societies stands testimony to this. After thousands of years of history, man can walk on the moon, can harness the power of the atom, but still is unable to avoid going into a rage when his food is not cooked properly.
So we should not be surprised when people are negative, and should not condemn them for it. We are all negative. To even begin to free oneself from this law takes great and continued efforts.
One problem arising from the `normality’ of negative emotions is that work on them sometimes involves behaving differently to conventional wisdom. Sometimes people do appear to behave badly towards us, and it is very easy to feel negative towards them. If we voiced our anger and frustration, people would assure us that they would feel exactly the same in our shoes.
At times like these, it is especially important to remember why we are trying not to express negative emotions. We are not doing it to `be nice’, or because it’s `bad’ to express negative emotions. We are doing it because we wish to study ourselves, and to save energy and time. We are doing it because we wish to wake up.
We must observe the fact that we enjoy our negative emotions. Being in a towering rage can feel dramatic and exciting. We feel energized, passionate, and more alive. Sometimes we are moved to eloquence as our tongue lets fly, and caution goes to the wind. The truth is, when the Work tells us not to be negative, our unspoken reply is, `But I don’t want to stop being negative!’ Giving up negativity is part of the price we pay for awakening. We have to give up something if we wish to make space for something new in our lives. We can hardly be receptive to higher forces when we are busy flaying someone alive with our tongue.
Also, we have to remember that being negative does not just mean having exciting passions. It also means being ruled by self-pity, depression, loneliness, boredom, dissatisfaction, inadequacy, and envy. We should not fool ourselves that saying we do not want to stop being negative means we could stop if we wanted to. We have no control, and cannot chose not be negative. Until we recognize this, we have no hope of changing.
Work on negative emotions becomes easier when we see that our repertoire of negative emotions is quite limited. Although our circumstances change throughout our lives, and we continually encounter different situations, the basic causes of our resentments do not change. This will be things like not being recognized for one’s true worth, or thinking that one needs a change in one’s life.
One student had been feeling bored and unappreciated in his job. He realized this was a negative emotion when he remembered that he had felt exactly the same about his college degree, several years ago. Although the justifications were couched in different term, the inner relationship to his main occupation had not changed. Recognition of these emotions can be enormously liberating, because we start to see where they are making the decisions in our life. We have an opportunity to live more intelligently, to stop fear and anger doing all our talking.
“To be in a passion you good may do,But no good if a passion is in you.” – William Blake
It is important to distinguish expressing negative emotions from standing up for oneself. Non-expression of negative emotions does not mean allowing people to exploit you. If someone is rude to you, or dominates you, or starts to bully you, you have to defend yourself, or you will store up only more of the same for yourself in the future.
When we notice people probing for weaknesses, a shot across the bows at that moment can prevent a full-blown war in the future. It is possible to be firm and direct without becoming identified, without becoming negative. We can see this in the way a good mother treats a naughty child, or in the way a good dog-owner disciplines their pet.
Every situation has a certain amount of power. Sometimes you are in control, sometimes the person you are dealing with is in control. We should not become negative when we discover people using power; rather we should learn the rules of the game, and play it intelligently, according to our aims in a particular situation.
“To know when to stop is to preserve ourselves from danger.” – Lao Tzu
Sometimes in our lives, certain people become huge obstacles for us. Their shadow seems to fall across our whole existence. Every word they say acquires immense significance. We live in terror of them, and entertain all sorts of absurd fantasies about what they will say or do next.
In these situations, we can end up with the unnerving feeling that we are in a play. We start to see every moment of our lives in relation to this drama. In this state, we may still be reminding ourselves that we should not be expressing negative emotions. Perhaps we do not allow ourselves to voice our feelings or change our circumstances, because we do not want to be negative, because we do not want to `fail’.
We need to be intelligent here, and consider our own capabilities. It is almost certain that there IS a charm for our fears, that we can change our inner relationship to this person. But remember that non-expression of negative emotions is just one line of work. If a situation really is making the rest of our work and our life impossible, we ought to consider the `failure’ option, be that walking away, or something else. We may need to learn more before we can deal with certain kinds of situation successfully.
It is very important to understand the difference between talking about negative emotions, and expressing them. It can often be useful to describe our negativity to someone else, so that they can help us see the attitudes behind this.
What is not useful, however, is when this discussion turns into a repeat of all the identification with unpleasant emotions originally experienced. Then we are simply re-expressing negativity, we are throwing more energy away, we are strengthening that certain undesirable something within ourselves. With enough repetition, this can become a negative attitude. This situation is actually far more common than the first.
We have all witnessed people describing their woes, and the intensity and passion with which they explain themselves. To describe an incident in one’s past when one was negative dispassionately requires effort, because negativity is mechanical, and to avoid it, we have to cease being mechanical with respect to the circumstance that originally lead to our negativity. Often this involves changing our relationship to an event. It involves seeing something new, such as seeing that the person we are negative towards has done nothing unexpected—nothing we wouldn’t have done in their shoes.
If we start to work in a group, we will certainly encounter and express negative emotions within that group. Sometimes we use work terminology to `score points’, or to hurt people we are working with, or to impress the teacher. This occurs because the Work ideas have to enter through the lower parts of centers, and they become food for misuse by these parts in the same way as any other ideas does.
Another form of negativity is resentment of the teacher or the Work when things start to get harder for us. Seeing this negativity can help us see that going to meetings is not the same as being more awake. When we realize that all of our petty resentments and motivations appear in a group situation, just as in real life (if not more so), we will begin to realize that the Work is not in the meeting room or the teacher, but is inside.

From ‘On The Road’ by Jack Kerouac

‘It was my dream that screwed up’
(Here Sal Paradise (Kerouac) tries to make his first cross-country trip alone, and doesn’t get very far.)

I’d been poring over maps of the United States in Paterson for months, even reading books about the pioneers and savoring names like Platte and Cimarron and so on, and on the road-map was one long red line called Route 6 that led from the tip of Cape Cod clear to Ely, Nevada, and there dipped down to Los Angeles. I’ll just stay on all the way to Ely, I said to myself and confidently started. To get to 6 I had to go up to Bear Mountain. Filled with dreams of what I’d do in Chicago, in Denver, and then finally in San Fran, I took the Seventh Avenue Subway to the end of the line at 242nd Street, and there took a trolley into Yonkers; in downtown Yonkers I transferred to an outgoing trolley and went to the city limits on the east bank of the Hudson River. If you drop a rose in the Hudson River at its mysterious source in the Adirondacks, think of all the places it journeys as it goes to sea forever — think of that wonderful Hudson Valley. I started hitching up the thing. Five scattered rides took me to the desired Bear Mountain Bridge, where Route 6 arched in from New England. It began to rain in torrents when I was let off there. It was mountainous. Route 6 came over the river, wound around a traffic circle, and disappeared into the wilderness. Not only was there no traffic but the rain come down in buckets and I had no shelter. I had to run under some pines to take cover; this did no good; I began crying and swearing and socking myself on the head for being such a damn fool. I was forty miles north of New York; all the way up I’d been worried about the fact that on this, my big opening day, I was only moving north instead of the so-longed for west. Now I was stuck on my northermost hangup. I ran a quarter-mile to an abandoned cute English-style filling station and stood under the dripping eaves. High up over my head the great hairy Bear Mountain sent down thunderclaps that put the fear of God in me. All I could see were smoky trees and dismal wilderness rising to the skies. “What the hell am I doing up here?” I cursed, I cried for Chicago. “Even now they’re all having a big time, they’re doing this, I’m not there, when will I get there!” — and so on. Finally a car stopped at the empty filling station; the man and the two women in it wanted to study a map. I stepped right up and gestured in the rain; they consulted; I looked like a maniac, of course, with my hair all wet, my shoes sopping. My shoes, damn fool that I am, were Mexican huaraches, plantlike sieves not fit for the rainly night of America and the raw road night. But the people let me in and rode me back to Newburgh, which I accepted as a better alternative than being trapped in the Bear Mountain wilderness all night. “Besides,” said the man, “there’s no traffic passes through 6. If you want to go to Chicago you’d be better going across the Holland Tunnel in New York and head for Pittsburth,” and I knew he was right. It was my dream that screwed up, the stupid hearthside idea that it would be wonderful to follow one great red line across America instead of trying various roads and routes.

In Newburgh it had stopped raining. I walked down to the river and I had to ride back to New York in a bus with a delegation of schoolteachers coming back from a weekend in the mountains — chatter chatter blah-blah, and me swearing for all the time and money I’d wasted, and telling myself, I wanted to go west and here I’d been all day and into the night going up and down, north and south, like something that can’t get started.

Identity of Relative and Absolute

The mind of the Great Sage of India was intimately
conveyed from west to east.
Among human being are wise ones and fools,
But in the Way there is no northern or southern Patriarch.
The subtle source is clear and bright; the tributary
streams flow through the darkness.
To be attached to things is illusion;
To encounter the absolute is not yet enlightenment.
Each and all, the subjective and objective spheres are related,
and at the same time, independent.
Related, yet working differently, though each keeps its own place.
Form makes the character and appearance different;
Sounds distinguish comfort and discomfort.
The dark makes all words one; the brightness distinguishes
good and bad phrases.
The four elements return to their nature as a child to its mother.
Fire is hot, wind moves, water is wet, earth hard.
Eyes see, ears hear, nose smells, tongue tastes the salt and sour.
Each is independent of the other;
Cause and effect must return to the great reality.
The words high and low are used relatively.
Within light there is darkness, but do not try to understand that darkness;
Within darkness there is light, but do not look for that light.
Light and darkness are a pair, like the foot before
and the foot behind, in walking.
Each thing has its own intrinsic value and is related to
everything else in function and position.
Ordinary life fits the absolute as a box ands its lid.
The absolute works together with the relative
like two arrows meeting in mid-air.
Reading words you should grasp the great reality.
Do not judge by any standards.
If you do not see the Way, you do not see it even as you walk on it.
When you walk the Way, it is not near, it is not far.
If you are deluded, you are mountains and rivers away from it.
I respectfully say to those who wish to be enlightened:
Do not waste your time by night or day.

Maha Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, doing deep prajna paramita,
Clearly saw emptiness of all the five conditions, thus completely
relieving misfortune and pain.
O Shariputra, form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form;
Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form;
Sensation, conception, discrimination, awareness are likewise like this.
O Shariputra, all dharmas are forms of emptiness,
Not born, not destroyed, not stained, not pure, without loss, without gain;
So in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, conception, discrimination, awareness;
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind;
No color, sound, smell, taste, touch, phenomena;
No realm of sight, no realm of consciousness;
No ignorance and no end to ignorance;
No old age and death, and no end to old age and death;
No suffering, no cause of suffering,
No extinguishing, no path; no wisdom and no gain.
No gain and thus the Bodhisattva lives prajna paramita,
With no hindrance in the mind, no hindrance, therefore no fear,
Far beyond deluded thoughts, this is nirvana.
All past, present, and future Buddhas live prajna paramita,
And therefore attain annuttara-samyak-sambodhi.
Therefore know, prajna paramita is the great mantra,
The vivid mantra, the best mantra, the unsurpassable mantra;
It completely clears all pain. This is the truth, not a lie.
So set forth the Prajna Paramita Mantra, set forth this mantra and say:
Gate! Gate! Paragate! Parasamgate! Bodhi Svaha! Prajna Heart Sutra.

The Genjokoan is a fascile from Dogen Zengi’s masterwork, The Shobogenzo.
Genjokoan means the way of everyday life. This beautiful work is profound and difficult to penetrate.
It is very important in our lineage. It relates to form and emptiness and their interpenetration.

Actualizing the Fundamental Point

As all things are buddha dharma, there are delusion, realization, practice, birth [life] and death,
buddhas and sentient beings. As myriad things are without an abiding self, there is no delusion,
no realization, no buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death. The buddha way, in essence, is
leaping clear of abundance and lack; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization,
sentient beings and buddhas. Yet in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread.

To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth
and illuminate the self is awakening.
Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about
realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization
and those who are in delusion throughout delusion.
When buddhas are truly buddhas, they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However,
they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddha.

When you see forms or hear sounds, fully engaging body-and-mind, you intuit dharma
intimately. Unlike things and their reflections in the mirror, and unlike the moon and its
reflection in the water, when one side is illumined, the other side is dark.

To study the way of enlightenment is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To
forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body
and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of enlightenment
remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.
When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment
when dharma is authentically transmitted, you are immediately your original self.

When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But
when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that the boat moves. Similarly, if you
examine myriad things with a confused body and mind you might suppose that your mind and
essence are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear
that nothing at all has unchanging self.

Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash
is after and the firewood before. Understand that firewood abides in its condition as firewood,
which fully includes before and after, while it is independent of before and after.
Ash abides in its condition as ash, which fully includes before and after.
Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death.
This being so, it is an established way in buddha dharma to deny that birth turns into death.
Accordingly, birth is understood as beyond birth. It is an unshakable teaching in the Buddha’s
discourse that death does not turn into birth. Accordingly, death is understood as beyond death.
Birth is a condition complete this moment. Death is a condition complete this moment. They are
like winter and spring. You do not call winter the beginning of spring, nor summer the end of

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the
water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch
wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one
drop of water.
Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder
enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not crush the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop
is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the
vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.

When dharma does not fill your whole body and mind, you may assume it is already sufficient.
When dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing. For example,
when you sail out in a boat to the middle of an ocean where no land is in sight, and view the four
directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither
round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only
looks circular as far as you can see at that time. All things are like this.
Though there are many features in the dusty world and the world beyond conditions, you see and
understand only what your eye of practice can reach. In order to learn the nature of the myriad
things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans
and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but
also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.

A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims there is no end to the water. A bird
flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies there is no end to the air. However, the fish and the
bird have never left their elements. When their activity is large their field is large. When their
need is small their field is small. Thus, each of them totally covers its full range, and each of
them totally experiences its realm. If the bird leaves the air it will die at once.
If the fish leaves the water it will die at once.
Know that water is life and air is life. The bird is life and the fish is life.
Life must be the bird and life must be the fish. You can go further.
There is practice-enlightenment which encompasses limited and unlimited life.
Now if a bird or a fish tries to reach the end of its element before moving in it, this bird or this
fish will not find its way or its place. When you find your place where you are, practice occurs,
actualizing the fundamental point. When you find your way at this moment, practice occurs,
actualizing the fundamental point; for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours
nor others. The place, the way, has not carried over from the past, and it is not merely arising
now. Accordingly, in the practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, to attain one thing is to
penetrate one thing; to meet one practice is to sustain one practice.

Here is the place; here the way unfolds. The boundary of realization is not distinct, for the
realization comes forth simultaneously with the full experience of buddha dharma. Do not
suppose that what you attain becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your intellect. Although
actualized immediately, what is inconceivable may not be apparent. Its emergence is beyond
your knowledge.

Mayu, Zen Master Baoche, was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, “Master, the
nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why then do you fan
“Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent,” Mayu replied, “you do not
understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere.”
“What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?” asked the monk again.
Mayu just kept fanning himself.
The monk bowed deeply.

The actualization of the buddha dharma, the vital path of its authentic transmission, is like this. If
you say that you do not need to fan yourself because the nature of wind is permanent and you
can have wind without fanning, you will understand neither permanence nor the nature of wind.
The nature of wind is permanent; because of that, the wind of the buddha’s house brings forth the
gold of the earth and ripens the cream of the long river.

Written around mid-autumn, the first year of the Tempuku Era [1233], and given to my lay
student Koshu Yo of Kyushu Island. Revised in the fourth year of the Kencho Era [1252].

–Translation by Kazuaki Tanahashi

Quotes on Excellence
The following set of quotations provide a diverse quilt of words relating to excellence.
Some of these quotes are “how-tos”, others are wisdom, and some are particularly provocative.
The latter may be the most important, as this section is intended to provide a vehicle for
contemplation and allowing one to see excellence outside our usual mechanical thoughts about it.

In honest service, there are commonly low wages and hard labor;
in this(the life of a pirate)- plenty, satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power.
Who would not balance credit on this side,(piracy) when all the hazard that is run for it,
at worst, is only a sour look or two on choking?
No, a merry life and a short one, that’s my motto.”

– Bartholomew Roberts, Welsh pirate, 1722.
Pirates- An Illustrated History, Nigel Cawthorne

Time is just a controller of certain planes. It is not the master.
The true master is consciousness………there is a part of you that is always there,
always consistent, that represents your true self…….
That’s who you gotta get in touch with.”

– The Tao of Wu, The RZA with Chris Norris

Knowing ignorance is strength.
Ignoring knowledge is sickness.
If one is sick of sickness, then one is not sick.
The sage is not sick because he is sick of sickness.
Therefore he is not sick.”

– Tao Te Ching, Lao Tsu

When you sit, sit
When you stand, stand
Above all, don’t wobble.”

– Traditional Zen Saying

Always ride the horse the way it’s going.”

– Traditional Zen Saying

If I have ever made any valuable discoveries,
it has been due more to patient attention, than to any other talent.”

– Isaac Newton

It is in the admission of ignorance
and the admission of uncertainty that there is a hope
for the continuous motion of human beings in some direction
that doesn’t get confined, permanently blocked, as it has
so many times before in various periods in the history of man.”

– The Meaning of It All, Carlos Castaneda

The world of people goes up and down
and people go up and down with their world;
warriors have no business following the ups and downs of their fellow men.”

– The Wheel of Time, Carlos Castaneda

Feeling important makes one heavy, clumsy and vain.
To be a warrior one needs to be light and fluid.”

– The Wheel of Time, Carlos Castaneda

When a warrior learns to stop the internal dialogue,
everything becomes possible;
the most far-fetched schemes become attainable.”

– The Wheel of Time, Carlos Castaneda

Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion
Meditating deeply on Perfection of Wisdom, saw clearly that the five aspects of human existence are empty,
and so released himself from suffering. Answering the monk Sariputra, he said this:

Body is nothing more than emptiness,
emptiness is nothing more than body.
The body is exactly empty,
and emptiness is exactly body.
The other four aspects of human existence —
feeling, thought, will, and consciousness —
are likewise nothing more than emptiness,
and emptiness nothing more than they.

All things are empty:
Nothing is born, nothing dies,
nothing is pure, nothing is stained,
nothing increases and nothing decreases.

So, in emptiness, there is no body,
no feeling, no thought, no will, no consciousness.
There are no eyes, no ears,
no nose, no tongue,
no body, no mind.
There is no seeing, no hearing,
no smelling, no tasting,
no touching, no imagining.
There is nothing seen, nor heard,
nor smelled, nor tasted,
nor touched, nor imagined.

There is no ignorance,
and no end to ignorance.
There is no old age and death,
and no end to old age and death.
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering,
no end to suffering, no path to follow.
There is no attainment of wisdom,
and no wisdom to attain.

The Bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and so with no delusions,
they feel no fear,
and have Nirvana here and now.

All the Buddhas,
past, present, and future,
rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and live in full enlightenment.

The Perfection of Wisdom is the greatest mantra.
It is the clearest mantra,
the highest mantra,
the mantra that removes all suffering.

This is truth that cannot be doubted.
Say it so:

Which means…
gone over,
gone fully over.
So be it!

Diamond Sutra

In China a commercial book trade existed as early as the first century of the common era. Books were also commissioned by religious institutions and by the state. The earliest dated printed book was discovered in a cave temple at Tun-huang. A scroll about sixteen feet long, it is a a copy of the Buddhist Diamond Sutra, bearing a date equivalent to 868. The quality of the printing is remarkably high, suggested an established print industry. The entire Buddhist canon was printed by imperial decree around 1000, and it was reprinted several times in following centuries.

This is a link to a good translation to the full text of the Diamond Sutra

The Buddha Speaks
From The Buddha Speaks, Ann Bancroft, 2000, Shambhala Press, a compilation of the Buddhas words as recorded by his followers and translated from Pali and Sanskrit.

When I was a young man, at the beginning of my life, I looked at nature and saw all things are subject to decay and death and thus to sorrow. The thought came to me that I myself was such a nature. I was the same as all created things. I too would be subject to disease, decay, death, and sorrow. But what if I were to search for that which underlies all becoming, for the unsurpassed perfect security which is nirvana, the perfect freedom of the unconditioned state?
So, in the first flush of my independence, I went against my father’s wishes, shaved off my thick black hair, put on a saffron robe, and left my father’s house for a homeless life. I wandered a long time, searching for what is good, searching after an unsurpassed state of peace.
At last I came to a pleasant forest grove next to a river of pure water and sat down beneath a big tree, sure that this was the right place for realization.
All the conditions of the world came into my mind, one after another, and as they came they were penetrated and put down. In this way, finally, a knowledge and insight arose, and I knew this was the changeless, the unconditioned. This was freedom.
The reality that came to me was profound and hard to see or understand because it is beyond the sphere of thinking. It is sublime and unequaled but subtle and only to be found by the dedicated.
Most people fail to see this reality, for they are attached to what they cling to, to pleasures and delights. Since all the world is so attached to material things, it’s very difficult for people to grasp how everything originates in conditions and causes. It’s a hard job for them to see the meaning of the fact that everything, including ourselves, depends on everything else and has no permanent self-existence.
If I were to try to teach this truth, this reality, nobody would understand me, I thought. My labor and trouble would be for nothing.
But then it came to me as an insight that I should teach this truth, for it is also happiness. There are people whose sight is only a little clouded, and they are suffering through not hearing the reality. They would become knowers of the truth.

It was in this way I went forth to teach:

For those who are ready, the door
To the deathless state is open.
You that have ears, give up
The conditions that bind you, and enter in.

from Majjhima Nikaya


Shibhuti, does it occur to you

that I believe through me living beings are led to liberation? Never think that way, Subhuti. Why? Because there is not a separate being to lead to liberation. If I were to think there was, I would be caught in the notion of a self or a person or a life span.
Shibhuti, what I call a self is essentially not a self in the way that an ordinary person thinks of it. But neither do I think of anyone as an ordinary person. However, knowing the essence, I can use the name– ordinary person.

From Diamond Sutra


Sakka asked: “What is the cause of self-interest?”

The Buddha answered: “It is perception of the world as an object”
“How does one overcome this perception of the world as apart from oneself?”
“By acting for the increase of goodness and happiness. It is in this way that the world ceases to be one’s object.”

From Digha Nikaya

Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson
This amazing excerpt from Gurdjieff’s masterwork is difficult to read. It is quite clear that the difficulty is intended.
I believe that forging though its thorniness is well worth the effort.

The second vivifying factor I mentioned, which brought about the complete
fusion of my dear grandmother’s injunction with all the data making up my
individuality,  was the totality of impressions received from information I
chanced to acquire concerning the origin here on Earth of a principle, which
later became—as was demonstrated by Mr.  Allan  Kardec  during  an
“absolutely  secret” spiritualistic séance—one of the chief “life principles”
among  beings  arising  and  existing  on all the other planets of our Great
This all-universal principle of living is formulated in the following words:
“If you go on a spree, then go the whole hog, including the postage.”
As this now-universal principle arose on the same planet as you and where,
moreover,  you spend most of your time lolling about on a bed of roses and
frequently dance the fox trot, I consider that I have no right to withhold from
you the information I have that will help you understand certain details of the
origin of that universal principle.
Soon after the inculcation in my nature of the new inherency I mentioned,
that is, the unaccountable striving to learn the real causes of all sorts of “actual
facts,” I arrived for the first time in the heart of Russia, in the city of Moscow,
where, finding nothing else for the satisfaction of my psychic needs,  I
occupied myself with investigating Russian legends and sayings.  And  one
day—whether accidentally or as a result of some objective lawful chain of
circumstances, I do not know—I came across the following story.
Once  upon a time a certain Russian, who to all appearances was just a
simple  merchant,  had  to  go on some business or other from his provincial
town to this second capital of his country, the city of Moscow, and his
son—his favorite  one,  because  he resembled only his mother—asked him
to bring back a certain book. When the great, unconscious author of this
all-universal principle of living arrived in Moscow, he and a friend of his, as
was and still is the custom there, got “blind drunk” on genuine Russian vodka.
And when these two members of one of the large contemporary groupings
of biped breathing creatures had drunk the proper number of glasses of this
“Russian blessing,” and were launched on a discussion about what is called
“public education”—a topic with which it has long been customary to begin a
conversation—our merchant suddenly remembered by  association  his  dear
son’s request, and decided to set off at once with his friend to a bookshop to
buy the book.
In the shop, after looking through the book that the salesman had handed
him, the merchant asked its price. The salesman replied that the book cost sixty kopecks.
Noticing that the price marked on the cover of the book was only forty-five
kopecks, our merchant first began to ponder in an unusual way—especially
unusual for Russians—and then, with a certain movement of his shoulders, he
straightened himself up like a ramrod and,  throwing  out  his  chest  like  an
officer of the guards, said after a little pause, very quietly but in a tone of great
authority: “But it is marked here forty-five kopecks. Why do you ask sixty?”
Thereupon the salesman, putting on the  “oleaginous”  face  proper  to  all
salesmen, replied that indeed the book cost only forty-five kopecks, but had to
be sold for sixty because fifteen kopecks were added for postage.
At  this  reply  our  Russian merchant was greatly perplexed by these two
quite contradictory but obviously reconcilable facts, and something  visibly
began to proceed in him, and gazing up at the ceiling he again  began  to
ponder, this time like an English professor who has just invented a capsule for castor oil, then,
suddenly turning to his friend, he delivered himself for the first time on Earth
of the verbal formulation which, expressing in its  essence  an  indubitable
objective truth, has since assumed the character of a proverb.
And he put it to his friend as follows: “Never  mind,  old  fellow,  we’ll  take  the  book.
Anyhow  we’re on  a spree today, and ‘if you go on a spree, then go the whole hog, including the postage.’ ”
As for me, unfortunately doomed while still living to experience the delights
of Hell, as soon as I had become aware of all this, something very strange that
I have never experienced before or since began to proceed in me and
continued for rather a long time, it was as if all the usual associations and
experiences from various sources were, as contemporary Hivintzes would say,
“running races” inside me.
At the same time, in the whole region of my spine there began an intense,
almost unbearable itching and in the very center of my solar plexus an equally
unbearable colic, and after a while these two mutually stimulating sensations
gave way suddenly to a peaceful inner state such as I experienced in later life
only once, when the ceremony of the “great initiation” into the brotherhood of
the “makers of butter from air” was performed over me And later, when my
“I,” that is, this “something unknown” which in ancient times  a  certain
eccentric—called by those around him a “learned man,” as we still call such
persons—defined as a “relatively mobile arising, depending on the quality of
functioning of thought, feeling, and organic automatism,” and which another
renowned scholar of antiquity, the Arabian Mal el-Lel, defined as  “the
compound result of consciousness, the subconscious, and instinct”—a
definition, by the way, which was later “borrowed” and repeated in a different
form by the no less renowned and learned Greek, Xenophon—
when this same “I” turned its dazed attention within, I first  constated  very
clearly that everything, even down to each single word of this  saying,
recognized as an “all-universal life principle,” was transformed in me into a
special cosmic substance which, merging with the data crystallized  long
before from my deceased grandmother’s behest,  was  converted  into  a
“something” which, flowing everywhere through my whole presence, settled
forever in each atom composing it There and then my ill-fated  “I”  felt
distinctly and, with an impulse of submission, became aware of the for me
sad fact that, from that moment on,  always  and  in  everything,  without
exception,  I  would willy-nilly have to manifest myself according to this
inherency formed in me, not in accordance with the laws of heredity or even
under  the  influence of surrounding conditions, but arising in my common
presence from the action of three external, accidental causes having nothing
in common first, from the injunction of a person who had become, without
the slightest desire on my part, the passive cause of the cause of my arising,
second,  because  a tooth of mine was knocked out by some ragamuffin,
chiefly on account of somebody else’s “slobbering”, and third, thanks to the
verbal formulation delivered in a drunken state by a person totally unknown
to me—a certain “Russian merchant.”
If before my acquaintance with this “all-universal principle of living” I had
manifested myself differently from other biped animals like myself, arising
and vegetating on the same planet, I did so automatically and sometimes only
half-consciously,  but  after  this  event I began to do so consciously and,
moreover, with an instinctive sensation of the two blended impulses of
self satisfaction and self-awareness, in correctly and honorably fulfilling my duty
to Great Nature.
It must be emphasized that although even  before  this  event  I  did
everything not as others did, my manifestations  scarcely  attracted  the
attention of those around me but, from the moment when the essence of this principle
of living was assimilated in my nature, then on the one hand all my manifestations,
whether directed toward an  aim  or  merely  to “pass the time,” acquired vivifyingness,
and began to assist the formation of “corns” on the organs of perception of every creature
similar  to  me,  without exception, who turned his attention directly or
indirectly toward my actions, and on the other hand I began to carry out all
these actions in accordance with the injunction of my deceased grandmother
to  the  utmost possible limits, moreover, the practice was automatically
acquired  in  me  when  beginning anything new and also at any change, of
course on a large scale, always to utter, silently or aloud:
“If you go on a spree, then go the whole hog, including the postage.”
In the present case, for example, since owing to causes not dependent on me
but flowing from the strange and accidental circumstances of my life I happen
to be writing books, I am compelled to do this also in keeping with that same
principle, which has gradually been fixed in me by various extraordinary
coincidences  created  by  life  itself,  and has blended with each atom of my
common presence.
This time I shall put this psycho-organic principle of mine into practice by
not following the custom of all writers, established from the remote past down
to the present, of taking as the theme of their various writings the events that
supposedly have occurred or are now occurring on Earth, but instead I shall
take events on the scale of the whole Universe Thus also in the present case,
“If  you  take,  then  take!”—that is to say, “If you go on a spree, then go the
whole hog, including the postage”.

North Beach Alba

waking half-drunk in a strange pad
making it out to the cool gray
san francisco dawn –
white gulls over white houses,
fog down the bay,
tamalpais a fresh green hill in the new sun,
driving across the bridge in a beat old car
to work.

– Gary Snyder


For All

Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
northern rockies.
Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
singing inside
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.
I pledge allegiance
I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
one ecosystem
in diversity
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

– Gary Snyder

Who says that my poems are poems?
My poems aren’t poems at all
When you understand
That my poems really aren’t poems
Then we can talk poetry together.

Ryokan (1758-1831)


Even in Kyoto —
hearing the cuckoo’s cry —
I long for Kyoto.

Basho (1644-1694)


Jade-hall silver- candle nights of song
gold-valley silk- curtain homes of the rich
can’t compare with a hermit’s thatched hut
where plum blossoms shine in unclouded moonlight.

Stonehouse (1272-1352)

Evening zazen hours advance.
Sleep hasn’t come yet.
More and more I realize mountain forests are good for efforts in the way.
Sounds of the valley brook enter the ears, moonlight pierces the eyes.
Outside this, not one further instant of thought.

Dogen Zenji (13th century)
Translated by Philip Whalen and Kazuaki Tanahashi


Given to Courier Nan
An explosive shout cracks the great empty sky.
Immediate clear self-understanding.
Swallow up buddhas and ancestors of the past.
Without following others, realize complete penetration.

Dogen Zenji (13th century)
Translated by Philip Whalen and Kazuaki Tanahashi


Number 16 Cold Mountain Poems
People ask the way to Cold Mountain
But roads don’t reach Cold Mountain
In summer the ice doesn’t melt
And the morning fog is too dense
How did someone like me arrive
Our minds are not the same
If they were the same
You would be here.

Hanshan Deqing (6th century)
Translated by Red Pine