Sayings of the Church Fathers

‘St. Anthony the Abbot and St. Paul the First Hermit’ – Diego Velazquez, 1635 – WikiArt

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The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God.”
~ John of Damascus

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The birth of a religion is always a time of effervescence. This was the case with Christianity, when appeared many monks, hermits, writers and theologians who contributed to build what would become the foundations of this religion. They were later called the Church Fathers, for they were the first Christians, who cleared the grounds. They took the teaching of Jesus and put it to the test, to the fire of experimentation. They explored it in Greek, in Latin, in Syriac, in silence, in poverty, in the desert, in knowledge. They were the first commentators, the first bishops, popes, exegetes, monks, martyrs of a religion that was still under construction. They came to it with fresh minds. They popped up from Syria, Egypt, Arabia, Turkey, Algeria, Italy, Spain, France, some of them still hungry to find out in their body and mind the traces of truth. They bore the evocative names of a distant time: Anthony the great, Moses the Black, Augustine of hippo, Papias of Hierapolis, Polycarp of Smyrna, Isaac of Nineveh, Maximus the confessor, and many more. Some of the oldest ones had been the direct students of the apostles. Others went to the desert where they lived in reclusion, as was the case with Anthony the Great.

Anthony the Great was born in 251 in Egypt. He was one of these Desert Fathers, and amongst the very first ones to live the hardships of a solitary life in the wilderness. For decades, he remained a strict ascetic. His purpose for doing so was clear enough: “The person who abides in solitude and quiet is delivered from fighting three battles: hearing, speech, and sight. Then there remains one battle to fight — the battle of the heart.” Towards the end of his life, he organised the many people who had finally gathered around him into the first body of monks in history, which is why he was later known as the ‘Father of All Monks’. He died in 356, leaving to his companions this very touching message: “Be earnest to keep your strong purpose, as though you were but now beginning. You know the demons who plot against you, you know how savage they are and how powerless; therefore, fear them not. Let Christ be as the breath you breathe; in Him put your trust. Live as dying daily, heeding yourselves and remembering the counsels you have heard from me. […] And now God save you, children, for Anthony departs and is with you no more.”

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To one whose mind is sound, letters are needless.”

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To say that God turns away from the sinful
is like saying that the sun hides from the blind
.”

[…]

Discover many more excerpts of the first Christians’ writings… (READ MORE…)

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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.
[…]
If you doubt mountains’ walking,
you do not know your own walking
.”
~ 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 Ballet of Life

The Ballet from ‘Robert le Diable’ – Edgar Degas, 1876 – Wikimedia

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See what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love!

~ William Shakespeare in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (Prince 5.3)

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Tonight I’m out to see a ballet for the first time. Not any ballet, but one of the prestigious classical ones, namely ‘Romeo and Juliet’, which the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev created in 1935, based on the play by William Shakespeare. As I entered the shell like old royal theatre of Copenhagen, my eyes scanned the prestigious room, with the four golden balconies circling over our heads, one above the other, and the spectacular royal lodge down on the left, close to the stage. In front of us, hidden in the orchestra pit, the musicians were already according their instruments, and enveloped our expectation in a soft and pleasant cacophony.

I found my seat, and my gaze landed on a quote placed right above the curtain. It said in Danish: ‘Ej blot til lyst’, which means ‘not only for pleasure’, stressing that Theatre as an art was also created for learning. It reminded me that in India, the theatrical experience was created as a fifth Veda, for the humble people to whom the old religious texts could not be transmitted orally as was the tradition in these times. On both sides of the saying were two faces in relief. The one on the left was a sad one, and the other on the right was laughing. The ballet that was about to start could have adopted this passage from the ancient Indian treatise ‘Natya Shasta’, where the nature and purpose of the performing arts are described as follow: “Sometimes the law, sometimes gambling, sometimes wealth, sometimes peace, sometimes laughter, sometimes war, sometimes passion, sometimes violent death… Showing the ways of law, glory, long life and grace, strengthening the mind, this theatre will be a source of instruction for all.” As the room acquired silence and the lights slowly dimmed, I was ready to both enjoy and learn, maybe laugh and shed a tear, and if grace allowed, strengthen my mind. The curtain was raised.

[…]

Some reflections on seeing Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet ‘Romeo and Juliet’… (READ MORE…)

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Hunger

‘Raager på Pløjemarken’ – Laurits Andersen Ring, 1891 – Wikimedia

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So this is the mystery,
That there is no mystery,
That it’s all out in the open:
Consciousness being aware of itself.

No dark intrigues, no hidden thoughts,
No story — what an insanity!
Nothing that you were meant to
Invent, project, and be afraid of.

And you were not left away
from the banquet table — never!
Didn’t have to be hungry, to be thirsty,
Had no necessity to believe in any thing.

Your hungers? They were your
Desperation, your final lassitude;
The only thing you could come up with
For not facing death.

So hunger for one thing only:
That one which is without hunger;
And thirst for one beverage and no other:
The beverage of your heart.

Care only for that one spark of light
That will ignite your world
And reveal it to be devoid of hunger,
of thirst, of story — whatever.

But don’t think too big here,
Only have a little hunger,
An infinitesimal thirst,
That will suffice.

That will break
Your hunger
In a thousand
Golden pieces.

It will precipitate you into that
Which is before all hunger,
Incapable of even conceptualising it,
Of only conceiving of it.

The peace of satiation?
Not even that;
The bliss of fulfilment?
That’s too far ahead.

Listen, I’m not admonishing you;
I know about hunger,
To what untold extremities
It can lead us.

Yet its destructiveness
Comes short compare to that
Which will be given to you when
You can be hungry no more.

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Text by Alain Joly

Painting by Laurits Andersen Ring (1854-1933)

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Website:
Laurits Andersen Ring (Wikipedia) 

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The Fountain of Dark Silence

‘Above the eternal tranquility’ – Isaac Levitan, 1894 – WikiArt

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There is a fountain inside you.
Don’t walk around
with an empty bucket
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~ Rumi

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Dorothy Walters is my newly invited guest on ‘The Dawn Within’. The ‘fountain’ refers here to this deep source at the core of our being, this “fountain of dark silence”, as Dorothy wrote in one of her poems. Dorothy experienced a profound Kundalini awakening in 1981, at the age of 53, which she described as “God moving through your body”, “the Beloved within“, “the goddess above all other goddesses”, or a “relentless agony of ascent”. This was her first expression of the ‘fountain inside’, a fountain of bliss in which she dipped again and again until, as she beautifully expresses in one poem:

“… nothing is left of us
but a fine ash
at the core
and then that, too, melting
to a nothingness,
a no place,
only a marker
where a somebody,
a something
once was.”
(Marrow of Flame)

Profoundly transformed by her experience, Dorothy began writing numerous spontaneous poems which are the direct expressions of the beauty and freshness of this inexhaustible source. They have been gathered in her website “Kundalini Splendor”, and in her numerous books.

Dorothy spent most of her youth as a lover of language and books. She took a PhD in English and American literature and taught both classical and contemporary literature at university. She had a life-long interest in some of the great poets and philosophers like W.B. Yeats, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and later on Rumi, Hafiz, Mirabai and Kabir, which had a deep influence on her poetry. She also helped to found one of the earlier women’s studies programs in the U. S. and directed it for many years. She continues sharing and writing on the subject of Kundalini awakening to this day. After an extended residence in San Francisco, Dorothy now lives and writes in Colorado. I have selected here a few of her poems, which are like the “raw honey of God”. I hope you will enjoy…

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Turn me to gold.”
~ Kabir

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Preparing to Meet the Goddess

Do not think of her
unless you are prepared
to be driven to your limits,
to rush forth from yourself
like a ritual bowl overflowing
with sacramental wine.

Do not summon her image
unless you are ready to be blinded,
to stand in the flash
of a center exploding,
yourself shattering into the landscape,
wavering bits of bark and water.

Do not speak her name
until you have said good-bye
to all your familiar trinkets –
your mirrors, your bracelets,
your childhood adorations –
From now on you are nothing,
a ghost sighing at the window,
a voice singing under water.

(from ‘Unmasking the Rose’)

[…]

Discover more of Dorothy Walter’s beautiful poems… (READ MORE…)

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The Guard and the Prison Breaker

‘The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog’ (part) – Caspar David Friedrich, 1818 – WikiArt

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Without freedom there is no self-knowing 
and without self-knowing there is no meditation
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~ J. Krishnamurti 

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Few sensations are as boisterously exhilarating as freedom is. Freedom is something that we all love to feel. To be freed! Freed from all weights and limitations. Freed from everything that bullies us and pins us down. But most of the time, this feeling is experienced from the vantage point of the little thought in our head that thinks it runs the show. This entity thinks that its freedom comes from being separate, and from its capacity to do what it wants. This is what being free means to most people. But is this really what freedom is, where freedom lies? In expressing all that comes from the lack and desperation of a limited, vindicative little self? If that is so, then this freedom takes us nowhere but in the already known boundaries of our self. How could that account for the power and magnitude of this feeling? Freedom cannot be so small and contrived. What is it then? Where is true freedom to be found? 

Freedom can never be fully felt within the conglomerate of our thoughts, feelings and perceptions, between the four walls of our prison cell. We may feel some occasional bursts of pleasure but this is not the real deal. If you search for freedom through that portion of yourself that is fleeting, fragile, untrue, you will by definition prevent the advent of any meaningful freedom. You will have limited freedom, something to be achieved, something to be added that becomes just another object, another aim in view. And don’t forget that this limited freedom can never be achieved anyway, for we in truth can never do what we want. And of what advantage would it be to follow the clumsy, limited, fanciful ideas of a mind that stands on false premises. Because of this impossible claim, we feel bitter, sad, violent, jealous, regretful. Let’s move away from such dangerous idea. 

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An inquiry into the question of freedom… (READ MORE…)

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