Month: February 2016

The Josephite Heart


Bronx Op Monastery


Turned to the immaculate within,
Refusing to admit the shadow soul,
Sisters banded strong in holy thought,
Relinquishing to Christ supreme control,

Days of pure devotion offered up,
Within the silence of the stony walls,
A gift of pooling stillness on the earth,
Emanating through the convent halls,

Prayers and soft devotions spoken low,
Rising to St. Joseph overhead,
Rosaries that trace the beaded string,
Worship blossoming along the thread,

Hanging there, like sunshine lost in time,
The beatitude of Mary set aglow,
Epitome of service and of grace,
Humility that only angels know,

Let your labours sing across the land,
And call us to the sacred heart of Christ,
Flood us with the love that knows no bounds,
The legacy of what He sacrificed,

Elevate us in your holy song,
Your attitude of praise a perfect art,
Build in us a heaven standing true,
Bless us with the strong Josephite Heart.


Renfield H. Bizarre, 28.02.16

 

The Dawn of Revelation


The Dawn of Revelation


Can you feel a warm glow on your right?
The ever present light of Christ ascended,
The golden temple, keeping us in grace,
The place we come to humbled, one knee bended,

Hold us in Your ever burning fire,
That heaven-tempered seat of intuition,
That place where love redoubles in its force;
The well spring that devours all inhibition,

Bravest love of all, command the skies!
Make the sign that spells the Son of Man!
The one to gather up the kings of earth,
From every tribe and tongue and every clan,

From on high reveal the face of God,
To triumph with an all-pervading view,
That casts the sly accuser into chains,
And sees the earth and heaven built anew,

Fuse our hearts and minds with Your pure will,
And help us to endure the raging Beast,
Spinning in a froth of manic rage,
As he confronts the army from the east,

Keep us from the scourge of blasphemy,
The vitriol against Your holy name,
Keep us from the plagues and snares of death,
That put our holy nature into shame,

Make the wine of Babylon run dry,
No longer to defile the lips of men,
“Babylon is fallen” shall we cry,
As we start o’er and begin again,

Let the whirlwind idols of our day,
Find redundancy against Your might,
Forgive us for exalting aught but You,
Pray relieve us in our sorry plight,

Make us see You now, just as You are,
Towering in splendour and command,
Lord of Lords, with Michael at your side,
Opening the seals that grip the land,

One by one, the riders gallop out,
Unseating death and Hades from their place,
Reigning in the demons of the pit,
Calling them to rise from their disgrace,

Fleeing millions scurry in their wake,
Searching out the shaded rocks and caves,
Hoping to avert the guilt of sin,
That cannot brook the searing light that saves,

But the star from heaven is now cast,
The trumpets sounding shrill across the air,
Seven thunders brawling on the plains,
With Adam’s sons and daughters in despair,

Sorcery of old engulfs the scene;
The ten horned dragon fleeing his disguise,
Murders and the crimes of yesteryear,
Dragged up with all the truths that we despise,

One woe is past, behold still two more come,
Scorpions that sting and bitter bread,
Men in rampant war and strife unbound,
Stricken in a panoply of dread,

But God on High, observing, flinches not,
For still the hope of mercy is alive,
The one that causes death to flee calls out,
“From the pain of loss you shall revive”,

The Alpha and Omega fuse as one,
The light of Stella Maris softly shining,
The Spirit and the bride call out in faith,
“Hark ye well, the Bridegroom, He is Coming”.


Many thanks to Ashley Hearod for encouraging me to write this, a post inspired by her recent offering “The Bridegroom is Coming“.

Renfield H. Bizarre, 22.02.16

Le Tête-à-Tête


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“You know you are like a spider in a jar don’t you?”, I said, holding the little devil in my gaze, stretching my legs out long, then folding them up again, my tight shoes cupping my feet comfortably. “Is this analogy some sort of a taunt?”, he returned sharply, a glint of venom flashing across his black face, his claws nestling anew into my waistcoat. “Oh certainly, very much so, I would suggest, but one I feel I should elucidate in the interests of contemplating the truth of your situation. It is brave of you, little friend, to have somehow summoned the gall to craft yourself into the entity I see here before me, a creature of deception, springing around from one falsehood to another, like a mountain goat lost for a footing, ever dancing, ever repositioning, devoid of any solid ground. Let me see, like a shadow in the breeze, tossed around and flicked hither and thither by the sun, with no landing place or repose allowed you. What a sorry state.” I conjectured, looking at him plainly. He ran his mind over my words, then regained focus and looked down his pointy nose, twinkling with wicked mirth and a flashing grin as he said, “Well I’m here with you, and that means we have something in common; perhaps my needles in your chest are a telling sign that you, sir, are not quite clean of shadows and deceptions of your own?” I gathered in this countering comment and found my reply, “Very good, dear fellow, very good. You posit an interesting suggestion with that, but I should say you overlook one fairly prominent thing. Please take a moment to think about what I represent. Consider me a token of something else. Take a second or two to consider me in silence and see where all the implications run. Take the input you receive and extrapolate on that; extend it to its logical conclusion and what do you see? Where does it take you? Pray be honest.”I perceived his beady intelligence searching me for tricks and subterfuge of some kind or another. “Do it”, I said, “Don’t be a sissy about it. Where does it take you? Where do you go?” I pressed. He leaned back, loosening the pressure of his talons and reposing, using my legs as a rest for his back. His gaze searched mine and he tumbled into a connection with my thoughts. I ushered him along, from one impression to the next, calibrating my frequency to keep him attentive to each successive modulation. He stared, and allowed himself to be led. I had a thing of triumph harboured within me, like a silent mountain, ready to crack apart the lithosphere, ready to split apart the earth and manifest like a cataclysm before my friend, but for now it lay in wait. The devil ran from one footing to the next, following my thoughts as though looking through a kaleidoscope, interested and at points amused, trying to decipher my game. For a while we parried thus, drawing along an odd path to the heavens. Then, as I perceived he had extended himself to the limit, I knew we were at the precipice, and I stood there with him, waiting. He peeked for a moment over the edge, then recoiled suddenly, quivvering and becoming tense with fear, his spiny feet jabbing furiously into my body, squirming to get away. The forces of chaos shot through his being like a maelstrom. But he knew he was hooked. That little spec of his soul he knew he could never cast away was harboured on the other side, calling him, requiring him to leap into the bosom of destruction, and give himself into the hands of God. I snapped my fingers in front of his face and composure sharply returned to him. His glance jumped across to me again and he snapped, “Curse you! What in blazes was that? You, you devil! You sadist!” he accused. “Hahahaha”, I laughed, looking gladly up at the sky, then back to his irate face, “Me the devil?! I’m sure it seems that way to you. What do you think that was? What did you see as the conclusion? Now be honest”. His swarthy face was beading with sweat and his system shivering still with impressions of a new terror. He said, “I don’t want to know. I curse you for your troubles. A thousand armageddons reigning from the skies is what I felt. A violence and a tumult I have never known”. I looked at him very steadily and said, “you know what that terror is? It is the mercy of God. This is what we call Christ, and his most triumphant offering is mercy. Now mercy, my friend, is the one thing that is missing in hell. You have never known it or seen it because you have never been out of hell, but I have. That thing that is the culmination of all your fears? That place where chaos fills you like a cyclone? There is an eye in the storm. A still place in the middle where the pelting, abusive motion cannot go, but you have to trade something in order to get there.” He looked at me scornfully, “Well what is that?”. “Your illusions”, I explained, “you must leave behind the anti-matter of sin. This is consumed in the fire. It can’t withstand the light. It has to go. It has to be jettisoned. To stand in the eye of the cyclone, that holy place, is to stand in the presence of God. You have to go to Him. He won’t condescend to come and stand among your lies because they are not real. The one thing He does do, though, is leave his stamp. This is imprinted on you like a tattoo that says who your owner is. Your owner is God. The tattoo is on me too. It is on all of us. You recall that little part of yourself you saw on the other side? That is the ONLY thing about you that is real, and that is the part that resides within Christ, the keeper of your truth and the arbiter of mercy. You may ask for mercy at any time and it will be given freely, because that is how heaven works. But to turn aside, as you are wont to do, to cover this up and entertain deceptions and the delusion that mercy does not exist; this leaves you slinking and scuffling in the shadows, like a wretch. But your actions and movements appear plainly to God, because he is the jar that has you trapped, little spider. No matter where you scurry or what web of lies you weave about yourself, still, there you stand, plain as day before God, whose eyes penetrate the fog of sin like lasers.” The devil had calmed down in accordance with the unexcited frankness of my speech. He searched me and said, “But it felt like destruction. It felt like…”. I motioned him to silence and added, “like the destruction of your lies. This means the end of what you thought you were. It is the beginning of a life elsewhere. You have seen it now. You know the way. There is no recovering from this knowledge. But, I assure you, this represents a much more agreeable and upright situation. And why fear the destruction of things that are not? This should be a welcome innovation, my good devil?” He looked dumbfounded, but calm enough. He patted my jacket down and removed a few shreds of grass that had blown onto me. He leaned back and looked up at the sun, glimmering in the clouds like a silent seraph. His face grew silent and he appeared as though captured by a dream. His breathing grew faint and finally ceased. And there he died, right there on my lap.


Renfield H. Bizarre, 19.02.16

Warfare Prayer


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Introduction:

I have spent a few weeks looking into the colourful world of C. Peter Wagner, via two books, a number of videos online, a number of websites, and a brief look at his FB profile. His area of study is church growth and his home base is Fuller Theological Seminary in California.

The first book I read was “Engaging the Enemy: How to Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits”. Pretty fascinating read. It tracks the experience of various evangelical churches across the globe, but particularly in South America, and the various challenges, set-backs or triumphs they have achieved or suffered in their missionary efforts. Wagner looks at the reasons for these various wins or losses.

One of the key concepts is the idea of territoriality in the supernatural realm. To Wagner, this is the unseen, silent dimension which sits behind and directly informs the occurences or ‘happenings’ in our world. The spiritual realm dictates the manifestation of physical phenomena and human experience. The contention is that certain malevolent or power-seeking entities observe dominion over spiritual territory -which can often have affiliated geographical territory- and this needs to be understood and combatted, through holy observances and prayer. Often these unholy regimes will work through national agencies or be harboured within human institutions. People or groups of people can influence the supernatural using concentrated and willfully directed thought energy.

This state of affairs, this sin-stricken landscape, is an ingrained consequence of fall of man; the idea that Adam, the inclusive archetype of human kind, relinquished his God ordained dominion to the unsavoury and deleterious clasp of Satan. We are in the grueling contortions of wrestling back that power. Wagner is all about reclaiming that divinity and authority by rejecting and overpowering the forces that would see humans defiled, mistreated or destroyed.

I want to present some of the main concepts that I find interesting or thought provoking, most of which come from the book Warfare Prayer. I should say that I do not subscribe fully to this wing of protestant Christianity, but I am very interested in what C. Peter Wagner has to say. I have read quite a number of objections and protests from online sources that would cast Wagner as a charlatan or as an extremist. I figure fleshing out some of his material is worth the effort.


Idea 1: Defining demons that operate in the Spirit Realm

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*St. Anthony plagued by demons, engraving by Martin Schongauer in the 1480s.

Wagner regularly return to Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”.

Wagner’s theory is that our daily trails, stresses and vicissitudes are the product of conflict in the heavenlies. Demons represent that portion of the cosmic agency that is at odds with the authority of the Most High God. It is the incompatibility of ethereal or spiritual modes of manifestation -godly and ungodly modes- that causes disharmony and a confusing disarray of human agendas. Suffering is borne of this clash in the inherent manner in which something wants to manifest itself.

In general, the bent of a demonic force is one that treats the property of God with disrespect. The property of God refers to absolutely everything, everything that is, all creation -all beings and matter. The demonic refers to those intelligences or dispositions that would use God’s property as part of an agenda or expression that is: selfish, perverted, hurtful, aggressive, domineering, greedy, jealous, impious, egotistical, competitive, oppressive, lustful, angry, idolatrous or manipulative. These things do not speak of God’s holy character. Forces that perpetuate or encourage such behaviour, or a combination of these behaviours, may be thought of as demonic. They detract from the holy character of humankind. They compromise our divine nature. Satisfaction in God, wanting to give expression to and honour to the truth, is the reverse of this.

Wagner describes various cases where human individuals or groups are infused with one or more of the insalubrious characteristics mentioned above, for instance Pastor Lorenzo facing a demonised woman, or Carlos Annacondia mounting a prayer and conversion crusade in the city of La Plata, which harboured a real stubbornness against the message of the gospel.

Wagner’s belief is that “social structures, like demonised human beings, can be delivered from demonic oppression through warfare prayer” (p.95).


 Idea 2: Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare

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Wagner promotes “Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare” (SLSW) which involves the practice of learning the names and assignments of demonic spirits as the first step to effective spiritual warfare. How this is supposed to be ascertained is not especially clear, but the theory is that knowing names of entities assists in confronting them. Further, SLSW involves assembling large numbers of focused intercessors -prayer agents- to identify and then pray against some identifyable malaise that might be afflicting a geographical region.

For example, as a generalisation, a town might be all about appearances and material show, and dwell too much and too overtly on status and ego. The role of the intercessor group might be to find a place of silent humility within themselves and put that into the universe, in that region, with solid and unwavering intent. They find the inverse emotion or feeling and then stay with that, planting it in the atmosphere and hoping that it is felt and noticed by those in the grasp of a ego-centered existence.

Wagner describes the conscious and planned dispersal of intercessors across a city to make a geographical grid, so that when those thoughts and sentiments are energised, they meet the city with greatest geographical effect.

This is essentially a conscious and willful battle against the forces that draw us away from God. We are all mutually implicated, and indivisible as a group, so the practiced and premeditated directing of positive or God-fearing thought enegy is something that cannot really be reversed or disregarded. The thoughts go out and meet the universe, so the likelihood of that reality changing or shifting to something brighter and more harmonious is increased.

Sometimes this concentration of holy energy can result in major power encounters and aggressive interplay between conflicting parties. Wagner depicts some hair-raising anecdotal scenarios where power encounters combine willful sorcery or the use of violent magic to undermine the position of church members. So it is worth remembering and appreciating that these encounters are generally downplayed in our society as unreal and undeserving of attention, because they don’t fit a rationalist world view, but actually seeing their ineluctable place in shaping our reality, and understanding the dynamics, is, absolutely, an important thing. These clashes and power encounters happen to us all. Understanding how to pray and direct thought energy effectively is an integral part of success in this respect, if one is to be of assistance to everyone else.

This supernaturalistic world view encourages us to see God as an intimate and ever-present force for good, as we go about our daily business, something infused in the very fabric of our daily affairs, which can be called upon for strength and hope, and as an ultimate arbitrator, the final authority which can, without hindrance, stamp down a final outcome. Warfare prayer helps to facilitate a godly or God-fearing outcome when power encounters occur. Prayer invites God to intervene for the good of others. “Good” being synonymous with finding inner peace and freedom from hurt.

The ability to name evil spirits is not so important as to perceive the brand of sin or immorality that might be afflicting an area, and then work concertedly to combat that.

I was pretty inspired about what might be achieved with this. The prospect of sizable, organised groups of people coming together to give expression to thoughts that might shape a better world I found utterly compelling. How else are we going to do it? We must think something better into reality. The better we get at coordinated thinking, the more adroit we become at defining the shapes and characteristics of our thoughts, particularly in group situations, the better positioned we will be to craft a world we are proud of and inspired by, rather that systematically and predictably sickened by.


Idea 3: How to Pray

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Wagner outlines a set of principles that will assist warfare prayer, or targeted prayer. This includes:

Submitting to God: That means be committed and obedient to God. This means being reluctant to stray from holy things. Understand that you are the property of God and your personal free will sometimes will be overridden by God’s will, since God created us and knows how to lead us and draw us to good (Himself), better than we do. Be okay with this happening. Ensure that you participate only in agendas that you are absolutely proud of. Do not enter into the spirit of ridicule or unkindness, ever. Fear God’s power. It is immense and will put us in our place in an instant. Be humble and penitent before God. Hope in God; sure He will provide, as always.

Draw Near to God: You MUST desire God’s holy presence. In prayer, desire is everything. Desire to know the truth within and remain in the silence that is with you and upon you always. This, according to Wagner, means striking up a close and trusting relationship with life. It means expecting that thoughts that are emitted in the form of questions will be answered, but generally in a completely unpredictable way. It means respecting God’s right to answer our prayers in a fashion decided by God, not in a fashion that we hope for or preempt. We need to regularly engage in a personal prayer life. This can be assisted by a prayer book or devotional literature that can promt and draw us to a holy place within. This requires time and practice and faith and belief. Not necessarily easy!

Cleanse Our Hands and Purify Our Hearts: This basically means keep yourself from evil to the greatest extent you are capable of. Give minimal attention to pursuits or behaviours that drag us away from a holy position. Do not indulge, engage or fuel sordid or harmful activities. Use quotes, prompts and images of people that represent the highest virtues and attitudes within human experience. Make this part of your reality. This will help to craft a version of yourself that approximates your highest capability.

Carefully Choose: The place (somewhere safe and quiet), the time (prefeably at the same time each day, Wagner suggests one hour, gradually bumped up from smaller timeframes), the attitude (one of quietness and sincerity and desire for God), the format (either something of your own creation, or something formal like the Lord’s prayer), the quality (aim for something genuine, enter into your thoughts and feelings with the conviction and aplomb of an actor. Mean it. Make sure it comes from you. Want and desire whatever outcome you are looking for. Sincerity is THE most important factor in prayer.)

Consider Fasting: Wager notes that fasting can help us to eneter into the spirit of not needing to slake desire. It is a statement to ourselves and God that we are strong enough and determined enough “not to want”, which connotes freedom. This is potentially a helpful exercise, rather than something essential.


Idea 4: The Reality

The purpose of the post above is to set out a few of the main concepts from Wagner’s work and consider the value or potential. Many of the objectives and theories embody a target only, and are obviously subjected to the reality that demonic or negative forces plague our existence and are difficult to extricate or abstain from altogether. If one person is participating in them, we all are, as our actions are shared.

The point is to identify some areas that could be of assistance or promise, like understanding what demonic or negative forces look like, the potential of choreographed and planned group thinking or prayer to propagate material outcomes of a positive nature (to counteract demonic influences), and to provide some of the basic tenets and practices Wagner puts forward for effective prayer. Solidarity of purpose is perhaps the most essential factor in making warfare prayer efficacious.


Renfield H. Bizarre, 07.02.16

 

 

 

Still, Flowing Water


 

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Introduction:

I have known a few Buddhist monks, both of whom ordained at the same monastery, though at different times. Their names; Venerable Anenja and Venerable Mudu. Bodhinyana, in Western Australia’s Serpentine area, is a beautiful, peaceful monastery and the atmosphere is welcoming and friendly. Residing for any length of time in the temple is like being softly cradled in the embrace of a great seraph -magnificent, overwheming peace. With my visits, at various occasions over the years, to catch up with Mudu and Anenja, I perceived a notable alteration in their demeanour and outlook, a perceptible shift to a more bright, joyful and imperturbable place within, a positive progression from their previous station in life outside the monastery gates. Part of this success, I believe, can be attributed to good teaching. Both monks undertook discipleship below the highly accomplished Ajahn Brahm, the monastery’s leader, whose teacher, in turn, was Ajahn Chah. This post looks at a few compelling ideas in Ajahn Chah’s Dhamma talk, “Still Flowing Water“, and makes a few connections to Christian ideas.


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Idea 1: Calming the Defilements (Killing Sin)

Excerpt: “What people usually refer to as peace is simply the calming of the mind, not the calming of the defilements (ignorance, hatred and desire). You’re just sitting on top of your defilements, like a rock sitting on the grass. The grass can’t grow because the rock is sitting on it. In three or four days you take the rock off the grass and it starts growing again. The grass didn’t really die. It was just suppressed. The same holds for sitting in concentration: The mind is calmed but the defilements aren’t, which means that concentration isn’t for sure. To find real peace you have to contemplate. Concentration is one kind of peace, like the rock sitting on the grass. You can leave it there many days but when you pick it up the grass starts growing again. That’s only temporary peace. The peace of discernment is like never picking up the rock, just leaving it there where it is. The grass can’t possibly grow again. That’s real peace, the calming of the defilements for sure. That’s discernment.” (page 3)

Interpretation: Calming the mind through regular meditation practice is helpful, but not enough to enshrine lasting peace. While this is, assuredly, a nurturing discipline, that sets a salutary tone, elevates one’s position, and sheds the dross and turmoil of stress, the cycles of behaviour and thinking borne of the defilements -hatred, ignorance, desire- must be reigned in and quieted before a more substantial peace can set in. Conscious awareness and scrutiny of one’s own tendencies to succumb to such defilements needs to be observed. A mindful regime should be enforced to divert the suffering that springs from hatred, ignorance and desire. Explained further, defilements could take the form of censuring or ridiculing others (hatred), refusing to listen to the professed beliefs or position of others (ignorance), or lusting after people or things (desire). If these areas are not identified and treated with due trepidation, if conscious attention and discipline are not applied with respect to these danger zones, then those unwanted habits of heart and mind remain alive, they endure below the surface, they will reemerge and wreak pain in your life, they will grow, again and again, like the pestersome grass.

I was listening to a conversation of Baptist church leaders recently and they were discussing a similar thing, where the influence of sin persists and endures like a smouldering fire, even after the claiming of Christ by an individual. This state, this reality, this “holiness atop the enduring, heaving refuse of sin”, seems to be the way things are. The forces and dynamics that prompt the defilement of our fundamentally holy character are part of the fabric of our world, raging and boiling anon, below our feet, in the cavernous depths, and we must be aware of this. Although, it seems, the defilements can never be quelled and arrested to a zero point, the stilling and reduction of the defilements to the greatest possible degree should be the aim of anyone wanting to nurture and support a deep and persistent interior peace, and keep themselves from being thrown around as though in a washing machine. It is simple (but incredibly difficult). Don’t pick up the stone. Don’t touch. Leave it on the grass and do not disturb. Don’t let these things surface in any degree, if possible. Be vigilant and strong at a thought level. Guard from evil. Hold your tongue when goaded to anger, listen with patience and an open heart, know that you are perfection itself and therefore need nothing beyond what you already have. “Be killing sin or it will be killing you”, they say!

Archangel Michael is the Christian representative of this task. The image below, the “Altar of Archangel Michael”, by Gerard David, captures the spirit of maintaining a holy place that keeps evil underfoot, like the troublesome grass of the defilements under the stone.

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Idea 2: Neither Right nor Wrong

Excerpt: “People these days keep studying, looking to understand what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s good and evil, but they don’t know neither-rightness-nor-wrongness. All they’re looking to know is what’s right and wrong (…) People keep searching for what’s right and wrong, but they don’t try to find what’s neither-rightness-nor-wrongness. They study about good and bad, they search for merit and evil, but they don’t study the point where there’s neither merit nor evil. They study issues of long and short, but the issue of neither long nor short they don’t study.”

Interpretation: It’s somewhat awkward considering this concept of “neither right nor wrong” straight after a section promoting discernment, or the deliberate avoidance of defilements, as this concept certainly entails some degree of differentiation between right action and wrong action, what has a good or bad effect on one’s life. However, the emphasis here is different. Ajahn Chah is reminding us that it is not necessary to make an overt or overactive habit of putting things or experiences in categories of good and bad, right and wrong, merit and evil. Perceiving and appreciating things as they are requires the relinquishment of the will to categorise. It is necessary to be comfortable with “neither-rightness-nor-wrongness”, as he puts it. The dissolution of the desire to subject experiences to the categories of good and evil affords a liberation and peace of its own. The will to judge and categorise the world around us is often a fruitless diversion.

“If your attention is pulled to categorization, you overlook what is uncategorizable. If you imagine differences to be real, rather than appearances in reality, you suffer unnecessarily. Discovering reality releases you from the bondage of differences.” -Gangaji

Still waters, Lake Taymyr


Idea 3: Always Right is Wrong

Excerpt: “Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn’t cause suffering.”

Interpretation: Obviously a critical point, and worth underscoring, again and again, as we attempt to become better listeners. So essential to understand that the failure to listen to those around us results in relationship deterioration and suffering. A delicate skill, no doubt, as we seek to preserve a distance that shelters our own sanity, but make equal effort to reach out and connect thoughtfully and appreciatively with the characters that shape our world and lives. The willingness to relent and revise an old position in light of new information, or a newly communicated idea, is a core life-skill. It is particularly important, I think, to exercise this sentiment towards our greatest enemies and detractors, to open up to those we see with disdain. To be willing to understand and learn from those we mark as most different from ourselves is a pivotal thing. An exciting and hopeful prospect, though, should a viable and mutual connection appear. The ability to view one’s own philosophy as probational rather than fixed, evolving rather than reified, is a poignant proviso to be conscious of.

This ties in closely with the idea from Colossians of suffering together and bearing with each other. A closed heart and mind forsakes this togetherness, which is the overriding objective, before all else. Togetherness, oneness, is the goal of foremost worth. “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13

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If we make an island of ourselves, rather than listening, rather than regularly processing and communicating with others, we become like a dammed up body of water, according to Ajahn Chah. If we can’t listen, we have to inevitably scramble around at a future point, trying to balance up the scales, feverishly taking on board the messages intended for our consideration and use all along.


Idea 4: Not For Sure

Excerpt: “You have to let the mind encounter different things, then register them and bring them up to contemplate. Contemplate to know what? Contemplate to see, “Oh. That’s inconstant. Stressful. Not-self. It’s not for sure.” Everything is not for sure, let me tell you.

“This is so beautiful, I really like it.” That’s not for sure.

“I don’t like this at all.” Tell it: It too is not for sure. Right? Absolutely. No mistake. But look at what happens. “This time I’m going to get this thing right for sure.” You’ve gone off the track already. Don’t. No matter how much you like something, you should reflect that it’s not for sure.

When we eat some kinds of food we think, “Wow. That’s so delicious. I really like that.” There will be that feeling in the heart, but you have to reflect, “It’s not for sure.” Do you want to test how it’s not for sure? Take your favorite food and eat it every day. Every single day, okay? Eventually you’ll complain, “This doesn’t taste so good anymore.” You’ll think, “Actually I prefer that kind of food.” That’s not for sure either! Everything has to go from one thing to the next, just like breathing in and out. We have to breathe in and breathe out. We exist because of change. Everything depends on change like this.

Start knowing from your own mind and body, seeing them as inconstant. They’re not for sure, neither body nor mind. The same goes for everything. It’s not for sure. Keep this in mind when you think food is so delicious. You have to tell yourself: “It’s not for sure!” You have to punch your likes first. Whatever the mind likes, you have to tell it, “It’s not for sure.” Punch it first. But usually these things just punch you every time. If you don’t like something and suffer because you don’t like it, it’s punched you. “If she likes me, I like her”: It’s punched you. You don’t punch it at all. You have to understand in this way. Whenever you like anything, just say to yourself, “This isn’t for sure!” Whenever you don’t like something, say to yourself, “This isn’t for sure!” Keep at this and you’ll see the Dhamma for sure. That’s how it has to be.

If you meet a sakadagami, go and pay respects to him. When he sees you, he’ll simply say, “Not a sure thing!” If there’s an anagami, go and bow to him. He’ll tell you only one thing. “Uncertain!” If you meet even an arahant, go and bow to him. He’ll tell you even more firmly, “It’s all even more uncertain!” You’ll hear the words of the Noble Ones: “Everything is uncertain. Don’t cling to anything!”

Interpretation: I really enjoyed reading these simple lines and ruminating on the idea of all-pervading impermanence, and, further, the practice of preemptively treating all people, things, experiences and situations as not for sure. Consciously designating them as not for sure. This awareness fades and slides with time; it’s good to assert the ephemeral quality of it all as a habit of mind. It is a liberating and consoling notion, rather than a frightening one. The drama and torture of our condition is fueled by forgetting this simple truth and taking things as highly important, definite, fixed or non-negotiable. The urge to perpetuate and fabricate enjoyable experiences, and suppress negative ones, is a natural impulse, but the evanescent and fleeting quality of it all should be borne in mind as a mechanism to see the truth, as it is. One of the underlying themes within this talk is willing mutability. It is the capacity to face the challenges of alternative perspectives, but not feel threatened by them, because they are as ‘not for sure’ as your own position, they are important to listen to, important to understand, but are most decidedly ‘not for sure’.

In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, “It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not”.

impermanence.of.body


Idea 5: Still Flowing Water

Excerpt: “Have you ever seen flowing water?… Have you ever seen still water?… If your mind is peaceful it will be just like still, flowing water. Have you ever seen still, flowing water? There! You’ve only ever seen flowing water and still water, haven’t you? But you’ve never seen still, flowing water. Right there, right where your thinking cannot take you, even though it’s peaceful you can develop wisdom. Your mind will be like flowing water, and yet it’s still. It’s almost as if it were still, and yet it’s flowing. So I call it ”still, flowing water.” Wisdom can arise here.”

Interpretation: The aim is comfort in a paradox, a personal facility with a dual yet united mode of existence; deep peace superimposed over total instability. Motionlessness integrated in unrelenting flux. Some might use the words, the union of microcosm and macrocosm, where the human interface with the divine finds perfection and its truest expression. The willing dismissal of the concept of a set or real self, in exchange for the humbling and humorous thought that the whole parade is predictably not for sure.

flowing water


Renfield H. Bizarre, 06.02.16