East West integration
            
 

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What is the sound of one hand clapping?  From the rational point of view, this is an impossibility.  One hand simply cannot clap!  No way.  Yet this famous Zen koan (or 'mind puzzle' designed to break through the limits of ordinary ways of thinking) speaks volumes about the possibilities for new insights and discoveries of harmonious relationships between science and spirituality, psychology in all its diverse forms, ecology and technology.  In all truthfulness, this non-dual consciousness eluded to by the 'sound of 1 hand' is far more valuable than the conventional two hand clapping sound, it seems to me.  Left vs right, reason vs intuition, self vs Self (or God), white vs black, rich vs poor.... we can go on and on with the polarities of our earthly life if we so choose.  Yet the Oneness realization which allows for and appreciates complimentary forces, uniqueness and diversity is perhaps the key to happiness and world peace.  Unlimited wisdom, love and compassion will flow from this gradual new awakening.  East West integration, I believe, will continue to evolve in humanity's consciousness in the 21st century and be a major factor in helping to solve the worlds problems.

If you have read this far, hey, you are most likley on a similar vibration!  We are all one—in spirit.  It has been a real joy to create this web site.... a dream of many years, really!  My friend Mark was very helpful in getting me started (please see the bottom of the page Web Links for info about Mark, the homeless man turned web developer).

I first began my interest in Eastern thought with the study of Zen in the early 1980s.  I was very much influenced by the writings of Thomas Merton, stolz_von_berlin2.jpgthe famous author and Trappist monk who died in the late 60's while traveling in Asia. Merton was truly a pioneer in exploring  Eastern spirituality from within the Catholic faith and sharing his deep experience and insights with millions of readers.  Perhaps my favorite Merton book was Zen and the Birds of Appetite.  Cool title.  Very very deep... includes a most interesting dialogue with DT Suzuki on the many similarities of Christian mysticism and Zen. 

 

Here is a beautiful quote from Thomas Merton's Zen and the Birds of Appetite:

The man who has truly found his spiritual nakedness, who has realized he is empty, is not a self that has acquired emptiness or become empty.  He just “is empty from the beginning” as Dr. Suzuki has observed.  Or, to put it in the more affective terms of St. Augustine and St. Bernard, he “loves with a pure love.”  That is to say he loves with a purity and freedom that spring spontaneously and directly from the fact that he has fully recovered the divine likeness…

Thomas Merton was also a very good photographer.  I imagine that he would probably have liked this beautiful dahlia (above). Its called  'stolz von berlin' and I found it free at this link

 

Here is a sample of  two of Thomas Merton's many poems.

 

Follow my ways and I will lead you

 

Follow my ways and I will lead you
To golden-haired suns,
Logos and music, blameless joys,
Innocent of questions
And beyond answers.
For I, Solitude, am thine own Self:
I, Nothingness, am thy All.
I, Silence, am thy Amen.

 

—from A Thomas Merton Reader

Edited by Thomas P. McDonnell

 

 

 

O Sweet Irrational Worship

 

Wind and a bobwhite
And the afternoon sun.

By ceasing to question the sun
I have become light,

Bird and wind.

My leaves sing.

I am earth, earth

All these lighted things
Grow from my heart.

A tall, spare pine
Stands like the initial of my first
Name when I had one.

When I had a spirit,
When I was on fire
When this valley was
Made out of fresh air
You spoke my name
In naming Your silence:
O sweet, irrational worship!

I am earth, earth

My heart's love
Bursts with hay and flowers.
I am a lake of blue air
In which my own appointed place
Field and valley
Stand reflected.

I am earth, earth

Out of my grass heart
Rises the bobwhite.

Out of my nameless weeds
His foolish worship.

 

—from Selected Poems of Thomas Merton  

For more online poems of Thomas Merton, and other mystic poets click here .

To see perhaps the most official Merton website, which includes information on the Thomas Merton Center in Kentucky, please click here .  For a much more informal and entertaining view of Merton's life written by some of his best friends, visit here.  Be sure to click on the link below the picture which states 'The Thomas Merton We Knew'.

 


Peace to all beings in the ten realms of existence.

 

 

Let’s take a look at another of the pioneer thinkers and teachers in the meeting of faiths (Christian and Hindu) and cultures (Western and Indian) in the person of Bede Griffiths.  He was a Catholic priest and a monk who spent 25 years living in Benedictine monasteries in Europe.  In 1955 his spiritual search took him to India where he spent the rest of his life participating in and leading the life of an Indian community or Ashram named Shantivanam.  Father Bede lived the life of prayer and meditation, synthesizing the authentic contemplative practices of Christianity and Hinduism.  He also envisioned “the marriage of East and West” in his writings, becoming in the eyes of many people a prophet of our age (as was Thomas Merton) publishing more than a dozen books.  Amazingly, at the age of 85 Father Bede gave a series of lectures at the 1991 John Main seminar­— a yearly seminar sponsored by the World Community for Christian Meditation  since 1984.  Bede Griffiths passed into the light in 1993 at the age of 87.

 

Here is one of my favorite quotes about his writing taken from Bede Griffiths, A Life in Dialogue by Judson B. Trapnell.

 

             “Speaking of the subtle or psychic realm of experience which opens through meditation, Griffith writes:

      

The ordinary, rational, mental level of mind has no access to this realm and ordinary scientific methods are useless to map it.  It is important to remember, however, that in these investigations we do not discard our reason.  The method is to open ourselves through intuition to these deeper insights  and then try to understand them. Reason and intuition always have to be used together… It is a matter of the right and left brain, the right being the intuitive and the left the rational…

 

Regarding the larger questions of social and cultural transformation, Griffiths is clearly intrigued by the image of a “paradigm shift” suggested by Fritjof Capra (see the Tao of Physics), Ken Wilber (see the Spectrum of Consciousness), and others marking an abrupt change in the worldview of civilization as a whole and the onset of a new vision of reality.

 

One of Griffiths' books on this topic of global change is titled A New Vision of Reality: Western Science, Eastern Mysticism and Christian Faith (1989).  If you would like to see more information on Griffiths’ life and the ongoing contemplative dialogue of East and West click here.

 

I would like to add one more quote from Bede Grifiths' classic work Return to the Center:

 

The knowledge of things and persons in their state of separation apart from Brahman (or God) is maya, illusion.  This is the ignorance which goes by the name of science today... it is a partial, incomplete knowledge, a knowledge  of appearances which is true as far as it goes. To know things as they [really] are, one must know one's self; one must go beyond sense and reason and know the Self in all things and all things in the Self.  This is wisdom, this is enlightenment, this is to know the Truth.

 

Another contemporary teacher whose approach to spirituality embraces the wisdom of the East freshly interpreted for Western audiences is Eckhart Tolle, author of the bestseller The Power of Now.  Commenting on the evolution of human consciousness, he writes:

 

When consciousness frees itself from identification with physical and mental forms, it becomes what we may call pure or enlightened consciousness, or presence.  This has already happened in a few individuals, and it seems destined to happen soon on a much larger scale… Egoic mind has become like a sinking ship.  If you don’t get off you will go down with it…. If the human race is to survive, it will have to go on to the next stage…

 

To listen to the silence, wherever you are, is an easy and direct way of becoming present… And what is stillness, other than presence, freed from thought forms?

I am reminded by so many of our present day spiritual teachers of the simple Biblical sentence, “Be still and know God.” Psalm 46  A difficult assignment for anyone who suffers from bipolar disorder, but well worth the effort!  Silence itself is healing, and restores balance to body and soul.

 

 

Yet another truly wonderful teacher promoting East- West harmony is the Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.  He was nominated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize in the late 60’s for his work as chairman of the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace delegation during the Vietnam war.  He is one of the world’s most influential teachers on the value of mindfulness or living in the present moment with love and understanding for one’s self and others.  He is the author of twenty-five books, one of my favorites is called Living Buddha, Living Christ.  Here are  a couple of sample quotes which I especially like:

 

“No single tradition monopolizes the truth.  We must glean the best values of all traditions and work together to remove the tensions between traditions in order to give peace a chance.”  In another part of the book he states…”On the altar in my hermitage in France are images of Buddha and Jesus, and every time I light incense, I touch both of then as my spiritual ancestors.”

 

 

I was delighted when I found this book!  It was (and is) an affirmation for me of my own inner vision that both Jesus and Buddha, and their followers, have much to offer the world in the creation of deep and lasting peace.  In my own way, clumsy and slow learning as I have been, I have found that the principles of mindfulness practice, as admirably expounded by modern teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh and  Jon Kabat-Zinn (founder of the highly successful Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center) are essential to personal health not only for individuals but also for society at large.  We all need mindfulness in our daily lives!  We also need love and genuine caring for each other.  So, if Jesus gave us sacred (non-exclusive) teachings about love and healing and service to each other, and the Buddha gave us essential teachings on mindfulness and wisdom and compassion... what would the integration or synthesis of these two great teachings look like?  
 

Paradise, I suspect.  Cosmic consciousness manifesting in everyday reality.  Growing awareness of the infinite and eternal light, which is love, permeating every cell of every tree, flower, insect, animal and human being we meet.  The flow of chi streaming through the meridians of the cosmos as well as our own bodies.  Prana visible as dancing light particles in the atmosphere!  Millions of relaxed and smiling faces.  Seasonal celebrations and festivals of art, music and drama.  Healthy and delicious vegetarian organic foods.  Animals free from cruelty and domination enjoying human companionship.  Gentle, loving, blissful and responsible sexual relationships.  Meaningful work.  The end of war and hunger on planet earth.

 

Mindfulness and Love, I believe,  are key elements to joy and peace for us as individuals, as families, communities, and nations of a global cooperative civilization.  A vision of world peace may seem to be only a dream or a fantasy, but with enough people participating in the dream, contributing those postive thoughts and good vibrations, together with the help of God and our elder brothers and sisters in spirit, all things are possible!

 

Here is a beautiful quote—a timeless message— from the Bible which I feel supports this vision of peace:

 

        The loving-kindness of the heart of our God

        who visits us like the dawn from on high...

        will give light to those in darkness...

        and guide us into the way of peace.

 

        from The Song of Zechariah
        quoted in The Abbey Psalter,

        1981 by Missionary Society of St Paul 
        the Apostle

     

May the Great Spirit bless us all with unending love, much needed courage, and understanding!

 

Meditation, Mandalas and Politics 

 

This may seems like a strange combination to consider in one sentence: Meditation, Mandalas and Politics.  Please bear with me!  As I write this in March of 2010, the U.S. government is battling it out over health care reform, while 30 million or more Americans are living without health insurance at the moment.  Hopefully this will change soon, thanks to Obama's courageous efforts, persuasiveness and determination.  What would the effect be of say 30 minutes per day of meditation practice (or yoga or tai chi) be on our men and women in Congress as well as our President?  This could be either group practice with an instructor, or private practice at home or office before beginning the official workday.  By loosening the grip of the ego barriers to cooperation and allowing a more unitive consciousness to gradually arise, which allows for compassion and listening to others points of view, working to find the greater common good whenever possible, real changes in the way our government works could be realized.  Of course, we would need to elect representatives who are open to learning these meditative and healing practices. 

 

This type of awakened government would, in my view, resemble a mandala.  All the pieces would fit together beautifully to form the whole picture!  A harmonious body politic, if you will.   Oh sure, there may be disagreements among the political parties or among individuals, but rather than the constant partisan bickering we read about today there would be more of a mature ability to empathize, to think with the heart-mind rather than the head-mind, to recognize that we are all interrelated in this life on planet earth, and that we spring from the same Source which is essentially divine love.   That life itself is a gift of love.  How can we help one another to realize this gift?   And to share it creatively? 

 

Here is a beautiful and inspiring quote on enlightened government from Emmanuel's Book, compiled by Pat Rodegast and Judith Stanton: 

It is time for a universal government.

Let the bonds of nationalistic resistance and illusion

be dissolved, and let all humanity join together

in the recognition of the Oneness

that is the true reality.

 

The governments in existence now

were formulated when humankind

was in kindergarten.

It is time to allow those who have at least graduated

from high school (not to mention those who have entered college...)

to formulate government of a much more mature outlook.

Regardless of who sits at the head,

each country is run by the Divine Presence.

 

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