A Possible Gospel And New Testament

More Fun Than Fundamentalism.

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For further information, email Darius at possiblegospel@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Gospel, Chapter One: Angel

Small towns in northern New England tend to feature playgrounds and ball fields, but few large parks. Cemeteries can be one of the best places to jog or walk.

I am twenty-three or twenty four years old, pedaling my bike toward the two adjacent cemeteries where I jog. It’s a clear and chilly autumn night, the pre-dawn hour, when silence seems to gather, deepen, and pause. Stars are everywhere above and the moon is full.

The rare car is a fast, rushed glare of headlights, then back to such a concentrated quiet that the earth seems as alert and expectant as a meditating mind. I hear only the slender grating of my bike chain when I coast, how trees seem to breath the wind and toss back their branches in their sleep; and the odd dry leaf with curled stem, face downward, scuttering crab-like along the darkened pavement. Each sound is steeped in the meaning that comes with paying close attention, and I am steeped in dreamy air streams of autumn’s ancient pungencies: coldly warm, earthy but without form, seeming to implicitly remind me of things I never could have known but may somehow live to tell. I warm to the ride, pumping and gliding under intermittent streetlights past the gray and glassy stares of shuttered windows.

Entering the back gate, I am engulfed by the black cemetery grounds. I pass through the haphazard chatter of scattered leaves flattening beneath my tires, then knock the kickstand down unseeing into a soft leaf-pile that I can only feel has been raked into place there. I’ve parked beneath one of the dozen or so angels standing on pedestals at the ends of rows.

These are angels that I have known a long time, familiar figures from childhood summers. My cousin and I would roll down and play around the steep grassy hillside, while here and there among the rows our grandmother placed the bright, assorted flowers that we’d cradled over in her car.

Tall and white in the distance from which we usually saw them, the angels were imbued in meadowy greens and yellows when we happened to glimpse them through the shifting patterns of shade and swaying leaves in summer’s lazy breezes. Up close, these sentinels were plainly earth angels, with flakes of blonde-green lichen here and there along their robes and in their faces and hair. Fine brown weathered lines covered their surfaces, and they stood on unpretentious pedestals of brown or tan brick.

Now, in the dark, I look up into the angel’s face where I have parked and find myself transfixed. This sight is so loud it startles silence. She is luminously white, ablaze under a reeling backdrop of stars scattered like shimmering speckles among faint clouds and wispy strands of distant galactic mists. Her radiance seems not so much to reflect but to glowingly transform the moon’s borrowed light, making it her own, only frosted over some degrees colder- as the moon takes sunshine and turns it into moon-glow.

She is a beacon shouting directly into my face from out of all-engulfing space. Her plain eyes, pupiless, directed straight at me, give her the attitude of someone wide-awake but sleeping, like she is seeing everything without telling me. Shiveringly I too glow with something I have borrowed, not knowing how, making it warmer, making it mine; then step out across the lawn to start my run.

52 Comments:

At 8:35 PM, Blogger Keshi said...

very 'angelic' post whoaaaaa!

** Her plain eyes, pupiless, directed straight at me, give her the attitude of someone wide-awake but sleeping, like she is seeing everything without telling me.

Love that expression!

I have angels whipering to me all the time...I swear..

Keshi.

 
At 9:51 PM, Blogger Stacey said...

What a beautiful moment in time. It read like sheer poetry.

 
At 10:58 PM, Blogger Yves said...

Now your blog starts to make more sense to me, in this and the previous post. I find myself asking how long ago were the events of your "angel" post. By synchronicity, as CG Jung would say, I am now reading that man's Memories, Dreams, Reflections, in which at eighty-four years old, he recounts his dissenting feelings about Christianity, his father being a parson and he himself being someone who is open to raw experience with a savage honesty.

Between the three of us - you, me, Jung - something unfolds.

 
At 7:58 AM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Stacey is quite right: It is sheer poetry.

Ah, but the sacred geometry of life and the luminous moments it brings, if we just let it.

Beautiful one, Darius!

 
At 9:05 AM, Blogger Homo Escapeons said...

Fabulous imagery, thanks for transorting me there.

My grandparents lived next door to their Catholic church and had a cemetery surrounding half of their garden.
On hot summer days I use to laze away hours leaning against the guardian angels nibbling on fresh items that I had plucked.
At night I was too scared to even look out of the kitchen window for fear that I would witness an apparition.
Tragically, my ten years in the Pentechostile world destroyed all of my warm childhood images of angels both cherubic and noble. Now I am burdened with the idea of monstrously powerful uberbeings jealous of our free will. One third of them serving Satan as a reward for their mutiny.

The rest are now trapped in the southern USofA where they are despondent, spiritual butlers, serving at the beck and call of soccer moms hosting Amway meetings and plaid suited businessmen selling widgets to unbelievers.

What a drag.

 
At 9:19 AM, Blogger Gangadhar said...

That's beaaauutiful post,Darius!!
loved it!!

 
At 9:36 AM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Darius, Found the perfect music to go with this post. Clikc here and lisetn: http://www.don-iannone.com/AncientEchoes.wma

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger gautami tripathy said...

"Angel" is indeed angelic. The story holdsour attention.

 
At 11:28 AM, Anonymous Marissa said...

Beautiful writing!

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger Darius said...

KESHI, thanks. The kind of thing you write and go, "Where did that come from??"

STACEY, that's how it struck me after writing/reading it too - as a "prose-poem."

YVES, I mostly know Jung through an undergrad course I took on dreams. During the course I had a super-"archetypal" dream, and never could figure out if it's because I'd been reading Jung or would have happend anyway! Either way it was one of the most memorable dreams of my life.

The angel experience happened around 25 years ago.

DON I, thank you. As to your second comment with the sound link, I really appreciate it, but I'm afraid of sound links. I'm not that technical, and somehow things often seem to get fouled up when I download (upload? Offload?) sound/video. I need a technical guardian angel. Guess I have one, sort of. She works in the tech sector, but I hate to have to keep calling her up for help...

HOMO ESCAPEONS: So glad this was vivid enough to take you there. It's the kind of experience everybody's had in one form or another, but they happen when you're alone. On that one, I was just lucky enough to get struck by some words that caught something of the experience.

Yeah, angels may need some assistance with restoring their good name!

GANGADHAR, good to know something that I especially like myself resonates with another.

GAUTAMI, and likewise with you - thank you.

 
At 12:52 PM, Blogger kathy said...

I saw the movie "Michael" where John Travota plays an Angel that fell from the sky. It was a cute movie.

Great writing, i enjoyed it very much.
:)

 
At 1:14 PM, Blogger Darius said...

HI MARISSA, thanks, but this is getting a little strange...

On my previous post I overlooked your comment at first because I'd forgotten my reply to you was just a prereply - I think yours must have come in as I was typing the replies to everybody else, and I was about to get off the computer.

This time I had again replied to everybody else and just now was surprised to see your comment posted above my reply - I hadn't seen it. Now I look at the times on this one, and we both posted at exactly 11:28!

I say it can't happen 3 times in a row...

KATHY - Speaking of angels and their difficulties when they assume physical form, my grandfather once backed his car into the pedestal of one those angels in the cemetery I write about. Guess he put the pedal to the pedestal... {rimshot with cymbal crash...}

 
At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Rachel said...

Very vivid and moving story. It was a pleasure to read. (I was also going to simply say, "Beautiful," but that would have been redundant.) :-)

 
At 4:57 PM, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

I am going to be redundant Darius, this post, this story --- is so delightfully amazing. I am moved to inspiration by every word, every phase ... thank you!

I have enjoyed catching up on your articles, as I have been very ill and just now got out of the hospital a couple of days ago. What a treat to read this post...

I am in awe of your wisdom and the thoughts of others who comment here. I dare say dear Don has touched my heart with his comments. They are so in keeping with my own, that I have nothing to add, but so much to enjoy and give thoughts to.

Darius you inspire me to think beyond words.

 
At 7:36 PM, Blogger crystal said...

Lovely imagery, vivid and eloquent. Wish I could write like that :-)

 
At 8:53 PM, Blogger Darius said...

RACHEL, LIQUIDPLASTIC, CRYSTAL: Appreciate all of your kind words. LP, glad this was good timing for you, hope you're doing well now, and that Don catches your comment -

 
At 8:59 PM, Blogger Keshi said...

**KESHI, thanks. The kind of thing you write and go, "Where did that come from??"


didnt get ya mate ??

Keshi.

 
At 9:13 PM, Blogger SusieQ said...

Darius, this post was outstanding. Its imagery carried me right into your experience. I enjoyed the sight and sound of every branch bending to the whims of the wind and every leaf crunching underfoot.

You said in your previous post that you were raised Catholic. This post on the Angels is mystical. Do you think you were influenced in that way by your Catholic experience?

The reason I ask is because a friend of mine says that when she needs to be spiritual she will attend Mass and when she needs instruction on how to be a good person she will attend a Protestant service.

 
At 5:54 AM, Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Sounds like a beautiful place to jog. I get my best thinking done when I am walking in the park. I can only imagine what it would be like in a place like this. I wonder what all the souls think when you pass by their resting place. Are they summonsing your life source? Do they feel your feet on the damp earth? Do they whisper thoughts up to you? It's fun to imagine. Enjoyed your story.

 
At 6:29 AM, Blogger UARIDI said...

Beautiful. It feels like everything was frozen in time, and only you and the angel was awake.

I sometimes walk in cemeteries and read the headstones, and pray for both the bereaved and the dead.

 
At 7:24 AM, Blogger Darius said...

KESHI: Hi Keshi... No, I meant not you, but me - or anyone - you know, "one..." In other words, I don't understand how some of the stuff I've written "popped out," it surprises me myself!

SUSIEQ: Glad you enjoyed it and that I seem to have been able to include the sort of details that seem to be making it real to others.

There was one way in which Catholicism made a huge positive impact on me. When I was maybe 24, I spent a weekend at St. Joseph's Abbey, in Spencer Mass. Fr. Basil Pennington, the abbot - hope I'm remembering my monastic terminology right, but you know, the head monk and also a priest - taught me "the centering prayer," something he'd also written about. (Fr. Basil died a few years ago.)

It took a long time, close to a year, for me to get anywhere with it, but when I was just about to give up, things started to happen. Prior to Fr. Basil, I was clueless about the contemplative aspect of the tradition in which I'd been raised. It opened doors that have been very important for me, first in terms of religious experience; second in showing me how connected world religions are in their contemplative dimension, in striking contrast to how at odds they are in terms of belief.

LUCY: Yes, I've heard people say that walking does this same sort of thing for them. More than just physical exercise. Especially when you can go someplace where nature is there - a few trees, a field - a park...

UARIDI: "It feels like everything was frozen in time, and only you and the angel was awake." That's a good succinct idea of just what it felt like.

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger Dale said...

(o)

 
At 7:28 PM, Blogger kathy said...

Hi Darius,

I think you might enjoy this blog
http://cosmocracy.blogspot.com/

 
At 7:30 PM, Blogger kathy said...

I love my circle of blog friends. :) and I'm glad you are part of that circle!

 
At 8:29 PM, Blogger Darius said...

KATHY, thanks, and me too.

DALE - haven't seen that particular whatchmacallit used before...

 
At 10:03 PM, Blogger Gangadhar said...

Darius,
I linked your blog on mine...

take care

 
At 5:30 AM, Blogger Anvilcloud said...

You're a very descriptive writer. Thanks for the good comment over at my place.

 
At 8:51 AM, Blogger Darius said...

GANGADHAR, thanks, I'll link back...

ANVILCLOUD, you have a thoughtful-looking blog, and I'll be stopping by again -

 
At 10:12 AM, Anonymous dax said...

im fighting the urge to stand in the middle of a railroad and take a moment.

 
At 12:22 PM, Blogger SusieQ said...

Darius, I have a book about centering prayer written by a former Trappist, Frank X. Tuoti. I find it interesting and enlightening.

Do you practice centering prayer today in order to reach a higher state of consciousness?

 
At 1:06 PM, Blogger methatiam said...

In my childhood, I had a place like that (I blogged on it here if you’re interested).

Though I can’t say that I’m in agreement with many of the positions here, I am following the conversations with rapt fascination. Thank you for visiting my Blog.

 
At 1:21 PM, Blogger Darius said...

DAX: Your comment isn't clear or meant to be, but if you should mean you're driven to thoughts of suicide by an account of me riding a bike and admiring a statue - DON'T DO IT!

On the other hand, "fighting the urge" could also suggest you're out there in the heartland, on an empty stretch of track, no one's around, and you really really have to go.

Your call.

SUSIEQ: I remember that Fr. Basil didn't invent the phrase centering prayer. His book that I read referred to someone else - so maybe that would be your author.

I started with the centering prayer, and soon found myself doing some readings in Buddhism, which - this is just my impression from what I've happened to read (e.g., Thich Nhat Hahn's, "The Miracle of Mindfulness"), I've never studied it -seems to emphasize the contemplative aspect of religion.

Through Buddhism, in addition to what might be termed, "sitting meditation" - that's exactly the same thing as the the centering prayer, they just don't apply words like "Father" or "Christ" - I learned that there are also approaches to having perhaps a less profound and yet more constant meditative state of mind in ordinary life.

So at different periods in my life I've done different sorts of practice. I also found that after many years, it seems to have contributed to changing my outlook all or most of the time - I don't have to be practicing to be generally at least somewhat in touch with what it is to be alive in that way.

Have you tried doing it in addition to reading about it? It took so long for me to get anywhere with it... People should be aware that for probably for the vast majority of us, it takes lots of patience. I know someone for whom it "didn't work," and maybe that was true. But I bet most of the time people give up on it too early.

 
At 1:28 PM, Blogger Darius said...

METHATIUM: Thanks for giving us the link - sounds so beautiful. It's wonderful to be a kid and have a relationship with some land (what you describe sounds a lot like the feelings I'll always have for about 12 acres of woodland that used to belong to my grandfather).

Wish all children could experience it.

Your thoughts are always welcome whether or not they happen to agree with mine or anyone else's.

 
At 6:58 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

"Stacey is quite right: It is sheer poetry"

Ever the empiricist, and/or pragmatist, I must point our that it is prose. Not "sheer prose", but truly excellent illustrative prose. You are indeed gifted. I am not immune to the anthropomorphic draw of a visage frozen in time and stone. The artist speaks through the art. This is true of the statues, and of your mood-setting literary rendering of them. I had no trouble seeing this through your eyes. Thanks for sharing.

 
At 8:51 PM, Blogger SusieQ said...

Frank Tuoti was mentored by Thomas Merton a Trappist monk. The term contemplative prayer has been around for centuries. Only more recently was it referred to as centering prayer as I understand it.

I was raised in the Catholic tradition, too, by the way, although I am not a practicing Catholic today.

In 1997 I attended a spiritual retreat where I picked up Tuoti's book. It was in reading it that I discovered I had been engaging in contemplative prayer, or centering prayer most of my life beginning in my teenage years. I just did not know that was what it was called.

Psalm 46: "Be still and know that I am God" seems to say it best for me as to what I experience during this silent wordless time with God.

 
At 9:11 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Buddhism, which ... seems to emphasize the contemplative aspect of religion.

I think that's true, but maybe not as true as the impression you get in the West. Westerners have been until recently almost exclusively interested in the contemplative practices of Buddhism, which gives a somewhat skewed impression of it. Ritual, devotional, and ethical aspects have been downplayed or ignored here -- many Westerners came to Buddhism precisely because they were fed up with those things in their own traditions; they weren't about to import more of them.

 
At 9:19 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Oh, and sorry to use an unintelligible symbol! It's "leaving a stone," it's current in some blogging circles. Invented for when you've read a post, and have been impressed or moved by it, but have nothing to say or can't find the words to say it.

Like so, a lower-case 'o' in parenthesis:

(o)

 
At 7:15 AM, Blogger Darius said...

BREAKERSLION: Really appreciate that. And yes, anthropomorphism is fine for statues - that's my thinking too...

SUSIEQ: Sounds like a neat way to have gone about it, and suggests what seems pretty clear to me: that contemplation must long antedate religious institutions. For example, responses along those lines are spontaneously evoked by nature for many people.

DALE: So then I'm glad I qualified my statement with the word, "seems."

You mention that Buddhism has, "ritual, devotional, and ethical" aspects. I notice you don't mention doctrine or belief. In the west, it seems to me that the ritualistic and devotional reflects the dogmatic.

Does Buddhism have dogma? Dogma seems to be the chief thing that many westerners have questioned in their own traditions. I know about the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path, but these don't strike me as western-style beliefs. They're not assertions about the existence of supernatural beings, powers, or places.

Thanks for explaining "(o)".

 
At 9:22 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Very filmic and discerning, perceptive prose, Darius. Do you do much creative writing as opposed to what I would very loosely define as the contemplative theory of this site, for example? Writing stories probably has its own aspects of spiritual enquiry. And you have a talent, an ability.

I appreciate some of the insightful comments here. Of particular interest is your comment, Darius, about combining something of a general contemplative and analytical state (you use the term 'meditative') with discerning reading/enquiry of literary texts. I feel that a similar approach is beginning to work out for me...

Dale's comment that Western views tend to overemphasise the role of contemplative meditation in the Buddhist faith is very helpful.

I do not call myself a Christian and I don't call myself a Buddhist. Dale may be much closer to something of a Buddhist worshipper and may provide a much more knowledgeable answer to your question, Darius, 'does Buddhism have dogma'?

The practise of meditation or open contemplation has no dogma attached. The Buddhist faith, however, is based upon principles and fundamental truths just as Christianity is.

The first noble truth is that 'all life is suffering'. This is a statement, an opinion, for one may agree or disagree in the same way one may believe or not believe in the virgin birth, for example.

These are my initial thoughts and I would be interested to hear any response.

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Re: The above. The Buddhist faith, however, is based upon principles and truths fundamental to that belief system just as Christianity is, in my opinion.

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger Darius said...

BENJAMIN: Thanks Benjamin, and yes, I’ve done a lot of writing – that piece is taken from an unpublished book manuscript that’s going to stay that way. It’s possible to have it turn out that what you felt was your life’s work is a hobby. Our lives aren’t only what we make of them - at least I haven't had the luxury of thinking so. Circumstances count too.

By the term “meditative” I meant to refer not to, “combining something of a general contemplative and analytical state,” but to the contemplative state itself: that “one with the universe” aspect of experience (or, for believers, “one with God”) which is encouraged by the contemplative traditions of religions around the world. However, you’re exactly correct that my outlook and writing derives from reflecting on religious experience. The writing is experiential, but at the same time goes some way toward conceptualizing experience. (I should mention that I don’t take religious experience as restricted to contemplation. Love, for example, is a religious experience.) It’s interesting to me that you find yourself doing something similar.

I’d like to hear more from Dale too, and/or others who are more knowledgeable about Buddhism; and I’ve also left him a question. Meanwhile, I think I can at least say that if there are any Buddhists worshipping Buddha, that’s gotta be something the Buddha himself would not have endorsed. As I understand it, he lived into his eighties and explicitly rejected an attempt among some of his followers to divinize him.

I’d also venture that there’s one major difference between western creeds and the basic tenets of Buddhism found in the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path:

Buddhist statements can be tested by experience and reflection. “Life is suffering,” for example, I think would accordingly make at least some degree of sense to most people. (That is, if you delve into what the Buddha meant by this assertion – it’s easily misinterpreted, and doesn’t, for example, mean there is no joy, pleasure, or happiness in life.) In contrast, western belief systems assert the existence of entities and realms that are, in a word, supernatural, and therefore can’t be tested by consensual experience or reason.

 
At 3:44 PM, Blogger Dale said...

I'm certainly a Buddhist. I practice in the Tibetan tradition, Kagyu Shangpa, to be exact, and have for some ten years now. But I've never heard the phrase "buddhist worshipper," and it strikes me as a little comic.

Anyway -- does Buddhism have dogma? Depends on your definition of dogma, of course. It has teachings and scriptures and commentaries. Huge amounts of them. So in that sense, yes.

Our relationship to those scriptures and teachings, though, is not the relationship people ordinarily have in mind when they talk about dogma. The Buddha deliberately and repeatedly refused to answer cosmological or teleological questions. There is a huge body of buddhist philosophy, but buddhism isn't fundamentally a set of beliefs; it's fundamentally a set of practices. So the response to someone saying "I don't believe that life is suffering," is not to say "well, you're wrong, and you'll go to hell for having that opinion," but to say, "well then, examine your mind in this way and see what there is to see." Teachings aren't thought of as true or false, but as useful or not useful. We're trying to *do* something, in Buddhism, not to prove something or witness to something.

 
At 4:10 AM, Blogger Dale said...

I was a little rushed when I wrote that last note, and I'm not entirely happy with it. But I don't think I'm going to say anything more cogent at four in the morning :-) G'night, all.

 
At 7:24 AM, Blogger Darius said...

DALE: Makes sense to me. When you refer to Buddhist "scripture" though, I'm thinking the concept of scripture must be different from the west's. I'm guessing an important difference is that there's no thought of "divine dictation" - the words aren't thought to come from Someone Else...

That Buddhism should consist of a set of practices also seems to fit my understanding of Buddhists statements as consisting of assertions not about supernatural reality, but things that we can find to be accurate or not by way of our own actual experience.

While practice indicates a focus, as you say, on the practical, practice, in a way, is also a bit like an experiment. You're told that if you engage in these practices you'll come to experience life differently. You then verify for yourself.

Empiricism when it comes to the realm of inner life can sound like a dubious proposition to anyone unfamiliar with religion's contemplative aspect. I think the first reaction would be to put it in the same category of unusual, perhaps interesting, but patently subjective/non-truthful experiences like hallucinations, delusions, visions, voices...

But the contemplative traditions, and their capacity to help profoundly change people for the better, certainly have extensive documentation. A lot of the literature is discussed in terms of "mysticism," which is an unfortunate term, because it suggests something irrational to a lot of rational people - plus, you can find "mystical" as a label for stuff that's quite the opposite of profound and has nothing to do with contemplation.

"Varieties of Religious Experience" by Wm. James, is an oldie but a goodie for anyone who wants a systematic and rational overview of religious experience.

 
At 9:47 AM, Anonymous Rachel said...

Ever the empiricist, and/or pragmatist, I must point our that it is prose. Not "sheer prose", but truly excellent illustrative prose.

Prose poetry perhaps? That liminal place where prose and poetry overlap.

 
At 10:23 AM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Turn
toward the sun
that beats
hard
upon the darkness
casting smoke-like shadows
and blurred realities
on all who walk
unblazed trails
in search of truth.

 
At 11:35 AM, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Stacey said “sheer poetry”, Darius said, “prose-poem” and Breakersloin said “Not "sheer prose", but truly excellent illustrative prose.”

These are interesting observations, from the writer as well as the readers --- and looking at the diverse makeup of the readers here, based on their Blogs, I am in awe. I feel so out of place as it relates to formal education.

Still, not being a scholar, I had to really think these after-thoughts out, and I took “sheer as meaning to change from a course”. To me, in looking at the reception of this thought and/or subject, as Darius has submitted, in relationship to the others, I find it to be in the realm of a great and/or a divine dichotomy. In thought and mind, on the face value of what is shared, it does look like it’s in keeping with the course of this Blog, than again, the peace of mind this subject has brought, in a single commonality of the thought of “angels” regardless of what it means individually --- the common grounds being from the thought of this one word, “mystery” “unseen” “unknown”, hope in the grander side of humanity --- the magical nature that is evoked in the thoughts of the readers --- regardless of beliefs, well --- “sheer poetry”, “prose-poem”, and/or “sheer prose” verse “excellent illustrative prose” --- My thoughts are that every comment on this particular subject is “poetry in motion” --- indeed --- thought provoking, to say the least.

Don, if I may be so bold, you captured the moment well. I believe that individual truth, combined with tolerance is one of the paths that will take man from his primitive nature, into a universal "angelic" thought --- but alas, it may not be in my lifetime, or should I say in this lifetime. For indeed I must admit, that it is man primitive nature that sends him searching within himself for that grander side of self --- that, I dare say could be an angelic state of mind --- the beautiful side of love that allow stone angels to take on human feelings and expressions --- to bring peace to our spirits, collectively.

 
At 12:11 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Darius, I find your response to my comment interesting and puzzling. Your use of the word 'meditative' I took from this comment: 'Through Buddhism, in addition to what might be termed, "sitting meditation"... I learned that there are also approaches to having perhaps a less profound and yet more constant MEDITATIVE state of mind in ordinary life.'

I wonder if you could confirm here if these words refer to a state of oneness or a more effortful analysis of thoughts and motivating feelings than one is normally accustomed to. The latter kind of sums up my recent experiences and to compare this to your 'meditative' experience, as I did, may have been quite off the mark.

Other conundrums: 'The writing is experiential, but at the same time goes some way toward conceptualizing experience.' I can't quite figure what you mean by this. 'Life's work turning out to be a hobby' was interesting too, but from a kind of internet sort of mates perspective, you know!

Dale, Yeah, I got the drift of your comments. 'Depends on your definition of dogma, of course. It has teachings and scriptures and commentaries' seems an accurate response to Darius' earlier question.

'Buddhist worshipper' does seem a somewhat incongruous term to use so I wonder if, as a practising Buddhist, you could maybe elucidate a little on the ritual and devotional aspects of the... religion?

Cheers all x

 
At 12:38 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Benjamin, I'm among the least qualified people to talk about the ritual & devotional aspects of Buddhism -- I've never had much to do with them, never had much interest in them. But there's tons of magic amulets and prayers and that sort of thing, and, as in any other religion, they can either be infused with spiritual meaning or just mistaken for ways to manipulate external reality. And the Buddha, while never considered a god, let alone God, by educated Buddhists -- there isn't even the concept of a Creator or a Ruling Deity in Buddhism -- is nevertheless supposed to have attained all sorts of supernatural powers and insights upon enlightenment. So there are shrines to him and to other buddhas and bodhisattvas all over the place, and people bring gifts to them and ask them for aid. Again, with the same range of spiritual significance. One striking difference from most Western traditions is that all sentient beings are considered to have the capacity to attain buddha-hood. In fact, many schools hold that we are in fact already buddhas, in our inmost nature, and our task is not to make ourselves into buddhas but to recognize that we already are buddhas. So reverence for the buddhas is at the same time reverence for the buddha-nature that we have not yet learned to recognize in ourselves.

 
At 3:56 PM, Blogger Darius said...

HI RACHEL, I'll let you take up defining poetry with Breakerslion... Could be quite a discussion in itself...

DON I: Those words sum up a lot for me. I think everyone has to blaze a trail for themselves in one way or another in order to make it real, including those for whom doctrine is central. Unless it's deeply understood and made our own, it can be easy to pay little more than lip service so that we fail to practice what we preach.

LIQUID P: Sounds like you're in a trail-blazing process per Don's comment immediately above yours. As to education in these matters, there are very different ways of receiving it. And I very much agree that there are two aspects of human nature, one a lot prettier than the other, so to speak. How things end up for us on this planet as a species depends on which nature we go with...

BENJAMIN: Re. the book, I can appreciate your confusion. It's that I was talking so abstractly about it - would not be cryptic if read.

In any case the next post, tonight or tomorrow a.m., is going to be clear within the limits of a single post about a few substantive matters. It should give people a better sense of where I'm coming from.

Re. the word "meditate," yeah, it does have more than one meaning, so we're getting tripped up by semantics. On the one hand, it can mean collected, serious reflection on experience - which to me has been necessary in order to think about experience well enough to take some direction from it.

On the other hand, "mindfulness" meditations, which I first came across in reading about Buddhism, seem to involve - just my own take/words here - a relatively light "altered state of consciousness/non-dualistic form of experience/one-with-the-universe feeling" (there's not a great vocabulary for talking about this stuff).

But even though you don't go into it as deeply as you do when sitting down to meditate, these mindfulness practices involve bringing something of this same state of awareness into ordinary life. So it's lighter, but longer lasting. It also seems to develop on its own as a by-product of years of sitting meditation, at least that's something I seem to have noticed.

DALE: You write concerning Buddhism, "One striking difference from most Western traditions is that all sentient beings are considered to have the capacity to attain buddha-hood. In fact, many schools hold that we are in fact already buddhas, in our inmost nature, and our task is not to make ourselves into buddhas but to recognize that we already are buddhas."

I'd say that's the road not taken by Christianity as an institution.

 
At 5:18 AM, Anonymous Rachel said...

I'll let you take up defining poetry with Breakerslion... Could be quite a discussion in itself...

Here is a good definition of a prose poem:

"Though the name of the form may appear to be a contradiction, the prose poem essentially appears as prose, but reads like poetry. In the first issue of The Prose Poem: An International Journal, editor Peter Johnson explained, "Just as black humor straddles the fine line between comedy and tragedy, so the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels."

While it lacks the line breaks associated with poetry, the prose poem maintains a poetic quality, often utilizing techniques common to poetry, such as fragmentation, compression, repetition, and rhyme. The prose poem can range in length from a few lines to several pages long, and it may explore a limitless array of styles and subjects."

Heels on banana peels.

 
At 6:18 AM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

lqqoRachel,

I am a fan of prose poetry. Thanks.

Don

 

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