Hold It All

Category: Wisdom Traditions

Cal Newport, Again

In addition, as demonstrated during the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, online discussion seems to accelerate people’s shift toward emotionally charged and draining extremes. The techno‑philosopher Jaron Lanier convincingly argues that the primacy of anger and outrage online is, in some sense, an unavoidable feature of the medium: In an open marketplace for attention, darker emotions attract more eye‑balls than positive and constructive thoughts.

Digital Minimalism

Dedication

Nathalie Vanderlinden takes a passion for Proust to a new, public level!

Though Proust had a Jewish mother, he seems to me neither Christian nor Jewish. His wisdom is his own, and though it has an analogue to Shakespeare’s detachment, I think it is indeed closer to Hindu philosophy. There is a curious difficulty here. All of Proust turns upon erotic relationships, yet in time all of these are renounced or abandoned. And yet, without them, In Search of Lost Time could not have been composed. Marcel observes that Albertine fertilized him through unhappiness.

Harold Bloom, Possessed by Memory: The Inward Light of Criticism, 480

The Firstfruits by Sarah Hartmann Burkemper

Sarah shared this writing in our Facing the Future class this autumn, and I am happy to share it with you!

I generally am not a mindful eater. I eat breakfast standing at the counter, lunch at my desk at work, and dinner slumped on the couch with a bowl on my lap. I forget, neglect, and fail to pause before I eat to offer gratitude for my food and for those who worked to produce it.

But there is one time a year when my gratitude cannot be contained and manifests itself in a ritual celebrating the arrival of a perfect food. That is on the day of the first cucumber.

I harvest the first cucumber around the third week of June. The first one is never truly large enough to pick, but I have no patience to wait any longer. It is usually only one inch in diameter and three to four inches long, barely large enough to slice.

I pick the first cucumber, bring it into the house, and wait until everyone in the family is present. I slice it into pieces and place it on the glass plate reserved for this occasion. I carry the plate around the house, and offer slices to Liz, Ben, and Joe (and Anne, though she refuses). As I distribute the slices, I ask everyone, “Isn’t this incredible? Can you believe the flavor? Have you ever had a better cucumber?” I badger them until I get what I think is the appropriate response.

The first cucumber is incredible! It is perfectly crunchy. It has a subtle sweetness and a pure cucumber flavor. There is no toughness to the seeds. In fact, they are not even fully formed seeds yet, but merely little pockets of moisture embedded in the center. The color of the flesh is a light but rich green with no translucence. The cucumber needs no dressing, as any added flavor would diminish its essence. Read the rest of this entry »

Arise with a Brave Heart: Six Translations of the Gita, 2:3

It does not become you to yield to this weakness. Arise with a  brave heart and destroy the enemy.
—trans. Eknath Easwaran

Don’t yield to impotence!
It is unnatural in you!
Banish this petty weakness from your heart.
Rise to the fight, Arjuna!
—trans. Barbara Stoler Miller

Yield not to unmanliness, O Partha. It does not become thee. Shake off this miserable faint-heartedness and arise, O Parantapa.
—trans. unknown, from Mohandas Gandhi’s Gujarati translation from Sanskrit original

Yield not to this unmanliness, O Partha [Arjuna], for it does not become thee. Cast off this petty faintheartedness and arise, O Oppressor of the foes [Arjuna].
—trans. S. Radhakrishnan Read the rest of this entry »

Now

1.

Thoughts of the past and future spoil your time.

–Dipa Ma, in Amy Schmidt, Dipa Ma: The Life and Teachings of a Buddhist Master 

 

2.

If I had to use one single word to describe the atmosphere of the Gospel  narrative, it would be the word Now. The majority of us spend the greater part of our lives in the future or the past—fearing or desiring what is to come, regretting what is over. M. shows us a being who  lives in continuous contact with that which is eternally present. God’s existence has no relation to past or future; it is always as of now. To be with Ramakrishna was to be in the presence of that Now. 

–Christopher Isherwood, Ramakrishna and His Disciples Read the rest of this entry »

There is Nothing Jewish That Is Alien to Me

Gershom Scholem, On Jews and Judaism in Crisis: Selected Essays
Schocken, 1976

Recently I’ve read works that deal with Jews and Judaism in crisis—those in the Yiddish-speaking world in the first half of the twentieth century. Scholem’s journey was from Germany to Palestine some time before the khurbn. I find the interview and essays in this volume thoroughly stimulating, provocative, and moving. To wit—-

What interested me then was to find a way to the Jewish primary sources. I was not content with reading about things. This has characterized my whole life.
There was not a single observant Jew in my family circle.

Judaism interested me very much, but not the practice of observances.

After four or five years of intensive study I found that it was possible to master Hebrew.

As you know, it isn’t popular to say that Zionism has fascists, too. But I think it does, even in Israel.

A direct nondialectical return to traditional Judaism, is impossible, historically speaking, and even I myself have not accomplished it.

It is noteworthy that the only great Hebrew writer with whom Agnon felt perfectly at ease was the poet Haim Nahman Bialik, who in this respect had the same inclination for creative anthologizing. Read the rest of this entry »

The Good News of Dipa Ma

Dear Friends,

There’s a phrase I came across in the last twenty years—“news you can use”—which I think came from one of Pema Chödrön ’s books.

Which reminds me of U.S. poet Ezra Pound’s version of a Confucian classic— “In letters of gold on T’ang bathtub: as the sun makes it new/day by day make it new/yet again make it new,” which became a modernist credo.

Which reminds me of a poem I share frequently, “The Good News” by Thich Nhat Hanh, which he wrote presciently in the late 1970s (“The good news they do not print/The good news we do print”).

All of which is to recognize that Amy Schmidt’s book Dipa Ma has news that I can use, it is a work to make myself and others new, and it is a demonstration itself of good news.

Less than two hundred pages but packed with one-liners, stories, recollections, and contextual advice, I offer five examples of the Good News of Dipa Ma…

When I feel I am not up to a particular challenge, I do well to call to mind this simple story: “Dipa Ma and I were on an airplane coming to the States from India. it was very, very turbulent, and at one point the plane hit an air pocket and dropped. Drinks and other objects flew up to the ceiling as the plane dropped downward before hitting stable air again. I kind of screamed. Dipa Ma was sitting across the aisle from me and she reached out and took my hand and she just held it. Then she whispered, ‘The daughters of the Buddha are fearless.’” Read the rest of this entry »

“Holy the Supernatural Extra Brilliant Intelligent Kindness of the Soul!”

Sri Anandamayi Ma

The title comes from Allen Ginsberg’s poem, Howl

Medicine for the Sick

The Dalai Lama: We should have this [compassion] from the depths of our heart, as if it were nailed there. Such compassion is not merely concerned with a few sentient beings such as friends and relatives, but extends up to the limits of the cosmos, in all directions and towards all beings throughout space. The Bodhicaryavatara, xxiv 

 

Recently, I have read several books by the articulate proponent of Secular Buddhism, Stephen Batchelor. As a young person committed to the Dharma, he produced a translation from the Tibetan text of Shantideva’s classic, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. I went back to a translation from the Sanskrit by Kate Crosby & Andrew Skilton on my shelf, The Bodhicaryavatara: A Guide to the Buddhist Path of Awakening. Perusing it, I found the following verses*, to inform and inspire my slacker self…

1.8.  Those who long to transcend the hundreds of miseries of existence, who long to relieve creatures of their sorrows, who long to enjoy many hundreds of joys, must never abandon the Awakening Mind. 

1.28.  Hoping to escape suffering, it is to suffering that they run. In the desire for happiness, out of delusion, they destroy their own happiness, like an enemy.

2.37.  Everything experienced fades to memory. Everything is like an image in a dream. It is gone and is not seen again.

3.6-9. With the good acquired by doing all this as described, may I allay all the suffering of every living being.

I am medicine for the sick. May I be both the doctor and their nurse, until the sickness does not recur. Read the rest of this entry »

With Gratitude for Amy Schimdt

I am happy to be able to introduce friends to Dipa Ma in our “Facing the Future” class beginning next week:

Because Dipa Ma was able literally to see through the stories of the mind, she did not acknowledge personal dramas of any kind. She wanted her students to live from a deeper truth than their interpretations of, and identification with, the external events of their lives.

One night a student showed up who began asking Dipa Ma a lot of questions. He was quite challenging and confrontational and coming from an abstract intellectual place and trying to get her to argue. At one point she stopped and said in a very calm voice, “Why have you come here? What is your intention?” The sincerity of her question immediately silenced him.

Her heart, like the door to her apartment, was always open.

Dipa Ma and I were on an airplane coming to the States from India. It was very, very turbulent, and at one point the plane hit an air pocket and dropped. Drinks and other objects flew up to the ceiling as the plane dropped downward before hitting stable air again. I kind of screamed. Dipa Ma was sitting across the aisle from me and she reached out and took my hand and she just held it. Then she whispered, “The daughters of the Buddha are fearless.”

–from Amy Schmidt’s essential book, Dipa Ma: The Life and Teachings of a Buddhist Master