Defining Enlightenment

‘Saint Augustine’ (detail) – Philippe de Champaigne, 1645 – Wikimedia

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A thunderclap under the clear blue sky
All beings on earth open their eyes;
Everything under heaven bows together;
Mount Sumeru leaps up and dances
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~ Wumen Huikai (enlightenment poem)

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The words for the discovery of our true nature — like enlightenment, realisation, awakening, liberation, etc — are all very significant. They all point to truth and have numerous things to say. Take ‘enlightenment’ for instance. Its original signification is ‘to shine’ or ‘to make luminous’. So to enlighten means to put the light on. It means to cease being distracted by all that is objective in our experience and doesn’t define us truly, and make what is already and absolutely ours here and now apparent. It doesn’t mean to achieve, to reach, to attain, to get something new. Where did we get this idea from? But let’s be very cautious here: to make luminous — does this even require a doing? Why should we have anything to do when the light is already fully on? So to be enlightened is really more a matter of noticing what is already here, and that we have missed due to a pathological phenomenon of blindness. We are too occupied with a thousand things, worried, concerned, busy with this and that, distracted, ambitious, desiring, grasping, expecting, and god only knows what else we have in mind to so successfully avoid seeing the patently obvious. Our true reality and identity as consciousness is already present, luminous and shining in every corner of our experience and we are blind to it. That’s where the word ‘realisation’ comes in.

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An essay exploring the signification of enlightenment… (READ MORE…)

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A Fabulous Secret

‘Poetry of N. Gumilyov’ – Oleh Sokolov, 1973 – WikiArt

I’ve always had the intuition that writing hid a fabulous secret. That there lay a soft power, a beauty to which no other thing compares. That words could express harmony. That a particular form of them could take me into the unformed, into the soft ether of life. That words had the capacity to unravel the meaning of the totality of possible existence. That they were alchemists that could produce in all of us the perfume of their own land of birth — which is ours too. That they could clear all the mist that keeps lingering around this life of ours. This is the promise that words held for me. And I do not mean that they could do all of that through their explanatory power alone. Through their simple, logic, arithmetic value. They could and would comply to do so if you wanted them to. But it’s not quite why I had praised them all along. Words could seduce me through their music alone. Through their soft capacity for intimacy and poetry. Through the intrinsic harmony that they carried, and were a vehicle for. Words could be like Tango dancers. And their arabesque was love itself.

And yet. Yet words had eluded me all my life. I have always been short of them. They were never allowed to run freely in my field. They had been concealed by the majesty of pain. But would I be willing to engage with them, that they would come hastily as a balm on myself. Would I be willing to let them express their all, that they would arrive in bouquets that flowered with all their perfume. Words can act in us as clarifiers. They make clear and clean. And they can be hard workers, if you let them be. If you keep still while they come inviting you into their round. This is where they service you — in the power of their expression. This is where they silence you — in the stillness of their homeland. This is where they present you with the simple gift of being. Listen to them carefully: they will show you how they share the same ground of being than you. I’ve always had the intuition that writing hid a fabulous secret…

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Text by Alain Joly

Painting by Oleh Sokolov (1919-1990)

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Website:
Oleh Sokolov (WikiArt)

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Other ‘Ways of Being’ from the blog…

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The Substance of God

‘Neubrandenburg’ – Caspar David Friedrich, 1816 – WikiArt

How can we account for the beauty of the world? Because in spite of everything that is happening within and without, and afflicts us, leaves us distressed, the world bears at its core an intrinsic perfection. It’s not difficult to see. You only have to stand back, to release the grip, be less involved. To look afresh at the blue sky above your head. To see that a blue sky is an extraordinary thing. As is a tree, and the song of the wind in its foliage. As is a cloud, and the sudden tapping of the millions of drops that come to wet the land. As is any human endeavour, and the skill it takes to play a symphony from Beethoven. As is a chair, a blanket, a paper bin, anything that exists. Existence is a baffling thing. It is the core of the matter — that anything exists — and to understand it is to crack the nature of reality. What is the secret hidden behind any appearance? How can a form acquire beauty, a movement express harmony, a shape provoke love? And more interesting even, how is beauty made ugliness, harmony turned into disorder, love transformed into enmity, perfection changed into chaos? What are the workings behind it all?

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A meditation on the beauty and substance of the world… (READ MORE…)

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The Ways of Being

Have you ever tried to live just above yourself? Now look. There is a whole set of activities going on down below, but you don’t need to get involved. It’s all conditioned reactions anyway, so don’t get entangled with any of it. You know this ceaseless activity: The ‘thoughts’ and the ‘felts’. Perceptions mesmerising you with their belly dancing. They will precipitate you down. They will be your fall. As for the body, it can take care of itself for the biggest part. Attend to it only when it’s required. To go to the dentist or to the cinema. To give the mind a vehicle. Fair enough. These are the contingencies of life. Feed the body well though. And give it something to do to keep the joints going, or for pure enjoyment. Joy is not some kind of negligible. It’s a necessity of life.

So bodily activity doesn’t need your full involvement. Stay aloof. Enjoy the show. As for the rest, you can be with being. You know this place that’s immobile, that never changes. Trust it. It will keep you safe. Stay there, just above yourself as it were. And don’t think that you are being haughty or bourgeois in this. Being is not that sort of being. It is not really above. It mingles with the lowly too. Actually it is everywhere. It cannot be taken apart. It’s the very fabric of experience. Only give it a little attention, and it will take you with itself. It will invite you at its home. Beautiful. Spacious. Silent. Well situated. You wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. You can bring there all your messiness. She doesn’t mind. Even these noisy and shameful friends of yours. But give them a warning though. They might not be served their usual cheap wine. Being has its ways. Her friendliness is contagious. Your friends might fall in love. They might shrink eventually and disappear. And make ‘being’ their home… move there for ever… even marry her… and be happy hereafter. You know the whole story that goes with it…

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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Other ‘Ways of Being‘ from the blog…

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The Sadness of Life

The sadness of life is this –
the emptiness that we try to fill
with every conceivable trick of the mind
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~ J. Krishnamurti

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Quote by J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986)

Photo by Alain Joly

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Bibliography :
– ‘Krishnamurti’s Notebook’ – by J. Krishnamurti – (Krishnamurti Publications of America, US)

Website:
J. Krishnamurti

Suggestions:
Beauty in Essence (other pointers from the blog)
A Day at Brockwood Park (Homage to J. Krishnamurti)

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A Mountain Walking

Arthur Rubinstein mural, Lodz – Eduardo Kobra, 2014 – Wikimedia

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People are always setting conditions for happiness…
I love life without condition
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~ Arthur Rubinstein

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Thank you, Master Arthur Rubinstein. For you did it all for me tonight. No need for convoluted meditation postures. That effortless demeanour of yours in front of the piano was enough. All your thousand nuances of lows and heights, of patience and haste, of a suspended note, or a subtle release, all were concurring to deepen me. For it is all about profundity, isn’t it? About keeping a pointed inner eye on a vast array of forms dancing in and out of ourself, while staying like an unmovable rock. The play was prodigious in its complexity and nuances, but the maestro behind it all was at rest. Voraciously still. A fullness was produced at every empty second, as his fingers were slowly racing on the keyboard towards that never moving, never ending melodious symphony of presence. He was boiling life, and the fumes of it were like curls after curls of beauty. And yet all was kept in its pristine simplicity and humility. No effect and no affect. ‘A mountain walking’, to use that koan like image by Zen master Dōgen. That’s what art can truly do. It can take your breath away to never return it back in the way you have known it.

And the maestro is not busy in a cage of his own. He doesn’t perform. He has space, leisure. And he listens. Shhhh… Rubinstein’s listening, walking at his own pace, slowly mountaineering. Loving it all. You see it in his imperceptible smile. Or the minute rise of a couple of muscles above his eyelids. And in the glance exchanged with the conductor. Oh that glance! Rubinstein is not alone. He is conversing with Chopin; co-composing this Piano Concerto No 2. He is conversing with an oboe, or with a clarinet. Meditating with a line of supporting violins. And the maestro is teaching. He’s teaching you how to listen — not to the notes — but to yourself. This is where the notes acquire their meaning and purpose. This is where listening truly takes place. This is how you become a mountain walking. This is where is revealed the essential of life, of a piece of music, of anything. And this is where you find joy. Enjoying is all that the maestro is doing, and he gives it to you. That’s how an audience breaks in rapture, in screams and applauds of thankfulness. You are grateful because the maestro broke your heart, again and again, until you can be served one thing only: yourself. Your own gentle, pliable, undefeatable self. Hurrah!

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Mountains do not lack the qualities of mountains.
Therefore they always abide in ease and always walk.
You should examine in detail
this quality of the mountains walking.
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If you doubt mountains’ walking,
you do not know your own walking
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~ Zen Master Dōgen (Mountains and Waters Discourse, Trans. by Kazuaki Tanahashi)

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I have found that if you love life, life will love you back…”
~ Arthur Rubinstein

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At every concert I leave a lot to the moment. I must have the unexpected, the unforeseen. I want to risk, to dare. I want to be surprised by what comes out. I want to enjoy it more than the audience. That way the music can bloom anew. It’s like making love. The act is always the same, but each time it’s different.”
~ Arthur Rubinstein

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Yes, I am very lucky, but I have a little theory about this. I have noticed through experience and observation that providence, nature, God, or what I would call the power of creation seems to favor human beings who accept and love life unconditionally, and I am certainly one who does with all my heart.”
~ Arthur Rubinstein

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It is simply my life, music. I live it, breathe it, talk with it. I am almost unconscious of it. No, I do not mean I take it for granted — one should never take for granted any of the gifts of God.”
~ Arthur Rubinstein

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Quotes by Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982)

and Dōgen Zenji (1200-1253)

Text by Alain Joly

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Listen to Arthur Rubinstein playing Chopin’s ‘Piano Concerto No 2 in F minor, Op 21’ (with conductor Andre Previn & London Symphony Orchestra), which he recorded one last time, for posterity, when he was 88 years old in an empty Fairfield Hall, only months before becoming blind…

Read the ‘Mountains and Waters Discourse’ by Zen Master Dōgen…

Bibliography:
– ‘My Many Years’ – by Arthur Rubinstein – (Renaissance Literary & Talent)

Websites:
Arthur Rubinstein (Wikipedia) 
Frederic Chopin (Wikipedia) 
Dōgen (Wikipedia) 

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A Thing of Beauty

‘Saint Peter’s Basilica’ – Rome (Vatican)

Isn’t the world the most extraordinary place? I’ll explain. Take a tree. A single tree, with its roots spreading and fiddling deep into the soil. And its erected trunk that divides itself into branches, and a thousand twigs, and a whole foliage of leaves. The shadow it gives. The home that it is for birds and little animals. And the shelter. And a thing of beauty. To be admired, listened to, touched, felt. The roughness of its bark under your fingers. And the presence. There are millions — most certainly trillions — of such trees that spread over the world to form groves and vast forests. Extending their sheltering embrace to countless beings. And to you too, today. A tree! The strangest thing there is. To look at one is to be taken into a well of wonder. Feel that amazement. See where it takes you. You will be surprised.

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A reflection and meditation on the beautiful world that we are… (READ MORE…)

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