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Cherish your winters: Remembrance of a old winter, five years past. Read an old post here about beauty in winter
For a more Zen experience, read my poetry series :The Awakening of Silence


I woke up dreaming of music. A faint echo of the final chords, of the dream, fades within me.  I feel old. I am suddenly afraid of the aloneness I trusted so dearly only yesterday. I try to squint and focus on the hue of brightness around me. I had fallen asleep under the table lamp. I realize morning would be a while.

In the windows there is no light
so I am sure waiting outside,
and trying to hide,
is the darkness of the night.

window

In search of lightness, I decide take a walk, watch the sunrise, run a few rounds… all these were plans of a cowardly self to escape an infinite solitude that was creeping in.

When I was young, 
I whispered secrets to the winds.
beautiful melodies they composed,
never heard but forever sung.

When I was young, I whispered secrets to the wind. The winds composed their melodies from secrets, that dreamers like me have, confided in them. The winds have always carried melodies and played it for everyone, yet very few are aware of the elegant symphonies even the lightest breeze renders.

The winds carry secrets to far away lands, and over time the secrets grow into memories. The winds once carried their own secrets but over the years the heaviness of remembering one’s own past weighed them down. It is the winds that prayed for mankind to be given the gift of hearing. Why? because they were lonely as they sang their memories for millions of years. Although, heard by the trees and tiny forms of life. They longed not just to be heard but also to be understood. And that understanding they knew, could only come from a human soul.

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On this cold December night, the winds found me walking on a solitary path. The trees close by had withdrawn into their silence and darkness. I knew I was cornered by the winds. The shadows were thick and dark, and so were the memories the winds ushered to me. I stood and listened in silence.

We are but beings of our own forgotten past. This remembrance of things past, awakened a sadness deep within. I was at a loss for thoughts. A resonance of unapproachable sorrow was felt within. This inner vortex of heaviness, suffering in the most innate form. It was there along with the silence of the trees and the path I was walking.

I felt sorry for all that within. The human condition, Dostoevsky called it. I felt a compassion for the human condition, my human condition, this constant undercurrent of turmoil within. And in the silence I was also able to sense the compassion, that this suffering we have built up within, was feeling toward us as well. Our vantage points though different, creates a movement that shall culminate in universal good. I was for a while, on this cold December morning, at peace with all within.

On this cold December morning,
I was  for a while, at peace with all within.

snrise1

P.S: 
I feel I have been a little uncharitable to the art of verse, during recent months. Yet I must not blame myself for greats things that have decided not to bless me with their presence.  “Works of Art are of an infinite solitude”, any approach to understand their origin and their ways are useless. The works write themselves. I am but a mere scribe for these words. Words that are so delicate and the meaning which they point to ever obscure.

Photo Credits:
flickr.com/photos/willrad/         CC-redistributable
flickr.com/photos/andrein/       CC-redistributable
flickr.com/photos/todesengel/  CC-redistributable

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The wild winds weep,
And the night is a-cold;
Come hither, Sleep,
And my griefs enfold!

…William Blake

Glimpses of reality fade away,
as I slip into gentle sleep,
But what I see at the other end,
is just as sad and deserves a weep.

Sleepless night. I hear the leaves rustling in the trees outside my window. Its late , too late into the night. I decided to step outside and have a look at the clouds, half expecting a rain. The air turned still as I walked into the night. The trees fell silent. The turmoil inside was still there. I walked as a man worn down by the load of the world. I sat down at a place close to the trees. The voice inside wondered why the trees fell silent, and winds deserted me.

The heaviness inside was reminding of its existence every now and then. I looked at the sky and could see only a few stars. The moon must have been hid by a few clouds sharing a thought or two about taming the winds. The stars reminded me of the story about the astronomer:

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In the shadow of the temple my friend and I saw a blind man sitting alone. And my friend said, "Behold the wisest man of our land."

Then I left my friend and approached the blind man and greeted him. And we conversed. After a while I said, "Forgive my question, but since when hast thou been blind?"

"From my birth," he answered.
Said I, "And what path of wisdom followest thou?"
Said he, "I am an astronomer."
Then he placed his hand upon his breast, saying, "I watch all these suns and moons and stars."

-- Kahlil Gibran

I wondered how many men like me came and sat near these trees over these years. I wondered what these trees thought about mankind. Man who walks by it frowning every day. man, with his endless problems. man with his need to reach some where, every time he walks. man the neurotic beast. man with his burden of listening to the incessant radio inside. Our pathetic little condition, our restlessness, our search, our unsatisfactoriness, our noise.

I was growing weary of the voice inside. If the the winds could carry our thoughts, I wonder if the trees would wish to hear them. The trees stood beside me full of green leaves. The trees stood very quietly, in all their purity, in all their dignity. The trees exist completely, utterly, simply fully. In their vastness you are to realize your own. In their quietness you are to recognize your your. In their purity you are to allow your own to surface.

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The winds gently came wandering back after a while. I felt them running through my fingers, I could sense an affection in their touch. They made their way toward the trees. And then began the great discourse , the discourse the trees gave me. The tree sutta. A quiet discourse. In their endless rustling, and moving with the winds was a silence that made its way into me and awakened the stillness within. I sat there simply and fully listening to the tree. For in the absence of words, the voice within had nothing to judge, nothing to interpret. For the beginning of the listening to absence of words was the very end of the noise within. I sat there among the trees. A silence within listening to a silence throughout.

I know not how long I sat there. For in their grace and quietness was the forgetfulness of time. For then, I was one with the Trees. its Silence.

The trees speak to us all the time, it is when we choose to listen fully and quietly that the we are one with the tree, with its purity, its serenity, its quietness, and its vastness. And more importantly it is then that we are at one with The Wholeness of Life.

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I am back from my retreat. I am busy typing and editing a few new posts to be published here soon. Quite sad to know that Buddhist Torrents(BT) is closing down. Over the few years that it was active, I had grown fond of the site, its moderators and members.  The SepticPen(SP) blog received a lot of visitors form BT for a few months, and some of them have become regular and active readers of SP.

I am sure we were all greatly benefited by BT, and its noble(albeit a little controversial) ideal of sharing dharma materials.

Regards,
SP

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I am taking a few days off, for a retreat. 
This isn't exactly a ‘rains retreat’. Its just rains a lot these days, a nice coincidence. I am reminded of the rain sutra.

Mu-shin Gassho.

trail3
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Know that in life there is suffering.
There is cause to this suffering.
There is a cessation to this suffering.
There is path that leads to this cessation.

One can be sure of only these,
sickness is inevitable,
old age is inevitable,
death is inevitable

When ignorant,
Sickness is suffering.
Old age is suffering.
Facing death is suffering.

I want to keep this simple. We know this , we have read this countless times. And we nod our heads every time we hear it. And then what? I know I can sense that my approach to knowing and truly understanding this has been perfidious to some degree. But its ok, cause this verse is meant to cause exactly those reactions within us. and so we need to explore this a little more, and understand what's really going on in our minds when we nod our heads to this very important verse.

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Recently I attended a talk “The State of the Nation - Inflation of Food prices, Corruption and our Civilizational Fabric” by Rajeev Srinivasan ,an Indian columnist. Rajeev raised a point about poverty in India which i would like to share. He says that though the poverty in India is not as graphic as say in Ethiopia, the Indian poor aren't better off. In fact,the statistics make the Ethiopian poor look better off than the Indian poor. But the poverty of India is more subtle and isn’t easily visible. Its systemic and harder to trace, and its everywhere and intertwined into the national fabric. Its far more difficult to deal with it since it doesn't have a image. That's why it doesn't stare and intimidate you like the poverty in Ethiopia.

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( i know this probably isn't the best way to make a parallel to dharma). But coming to think of it, the case for suffering is also the same, it can be both stark and vivid, but it can also be subtle.

Surprisingly the mind(veiled by ignorance) makes us believe that even the inevitable sufferings of life(sickness, old age & death) are somehow (though profoundly true) are not applicable to us! In the catuhsatakasastrakarikanama by Acharya Aryadeva. (The Treatise of the Four Hundred Stanzas on the Yogic Deeds of Bodhisattvas), the very first chapter very cleverly deals with the ignorant views the mind can form about the inevitable sufferings of life.

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Since death is common to others to,
You have no fear of it.

Sickness can be cured and aging treated,
Therefore you do not fear them.

Yet there is no cure for the last ordeal;
Thus obviously you fear it.
If because the time is uncertain
You think you are eternal.

That which cuts craving for reward and honor,
The best spur to practice with effort in seclusion,
The excellent secret of all the scriptures,
Is initially to REMEMBER DEATH.

Now having gained some insights into how wrong views can be formed about inevitable hardships of life, let us look into the far more difficult the more subtle form of suffering.

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When the Buddha spoke about suffering, he wasn't referring simply to the superficial and visible problems like illness, but to the fact that the dissatisfied nature of the mind is itself suffering. Because all it takes is some tiny external thing changing, often something insignificant going the wrong way and before you know it you are upset. And it is such subtle sadness and dukkha that can slip into your inner space , like water seeping through rocks, and unleash a new level of restlessness within, through the back door.

T.B.C…

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This is a really short post.
I came across this verse today, and it just overpowered my restless mind(?) and lazy body(!).


Every breath you take is a breath closer to death.
Every step you take is a step closer to death.

Its not meant to be life-negating or pessimistic. On the contrary, it is life-affirming in the truest sense.

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buddha1

Kalama Sutta

 

References:

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I came across a nice documentary about the Thai forest tradition of monasteries, based on one led by Ajahn Chah.
http://www.watnongpahpong.org/videomfw.php

The video link is given above, it is hosted by the website of Wat Pah Nanachat (WPN)

Wat Pah Nanachat is a Buddhist monastery in Northeast Thailand, in the Theravada Forest Tradition. It was established by Venerable Ajahn Chah to provide English-speaking people the opportunity to train and practice in the way the Buddha taught his monks in the forests 2600 years ago.

007 Coming back from Almsround

010 Sign in front of the Kitchen

S01E03.the.young.ajahn.chahYoung Ajahn Chah

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