The Fall of Icarus by Peter Paul Rubens, 1636 Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
A form seen in the distance
Becomes clearer the closer we get to it.
If a mirage were water,
Why would it vanish when we draw near?
The farther we are from the world,
The more real it appears to us;
The nearer we draw to it, the less visible it becomes,
And, like a mirage, becomes sign-less.
Translated from Sanskrit by The Dalai Lama from the Ratnavali (Precious Garland)
A recent comment by my friend and fellow blogger ptero9 on my recent posting (link above) brought me to consider more deeply the nature of the journey upon which I embarked so many years ago, and upon which I am still traveling, and it pointed to an interesting aspect of that journey which may illuminate some of the darkness which still surrounds it for me, and, perhaps, for some of my readers.
We can often view our relationships with others as both problematical and enriching, depending on where we are along the path which includes them, but many times, it is either in the consummation or in the elimination of those relationships where we discover their true value, and both extremes may prove painful in some way, no matter if we continue to nurture those connections, or find ourselves apart from them. There often is no way to know with certainty, which outcome might serve our aims more readily, and how enduring the pain which we experience in both cases might lead to a greater understanding of ourselves and our journey.
It is in this context that I began to consider the Middle Way, as described in my previous post, and my investigations, which were inspired by the comment by my friend, led me to consider more deeply, the principles upon which the “Middle Way” is based. According to the Buddhist text, “Setting Rolling the Wheel of Truth,” there are two extremes:
“Indulgence…in the objects of sensual desire, which is inferior…and leads to no good…and devotion to self-torment, which is painful…and leads to no good. The middle way…avoids both these extremes; it gives vision, it gives knowledge, and it leads to peace, to direct acquaintance to nibbana (non-attachment).”
Of all of the experiences which I have detailed so far, the awakening which began in Massachusetts on a sleepy Sunday afternoon so many years ago, pressed me into following a path which included many unusual and startling events, and it has taken me these many years in between to begin to see how it all fits together. Along the path, many new experiences steered me in different directions, some of which were enormously painful, and others which were enriching in ways that I never suspected were even possible. As I progressed on my journey, all along the way, the experience of these extremes pressed me inexorably toward the middle way, although I was not fully aware that it was doing so.
The experience which I describe in “Transcendent Awareness,” was a powerful and emotionally challenging one, but as I reflect upon it, and on many of the others that were similar as I traveled along this path, it seems very likely that they served a greater purpose than I ever could have known while enduring them. As you will see, in the postings which follow, I began to find my way and to arrive at a place where I could attain the “vision…knowledge…and peace,” promised in the attunement to the Middle Way.
“If Mankind is to achieve spiritual growth, the first essential is that the human units involved in the process shall draw closer together, not merely under the pressure of external forces, or solely by the performance of material acts, but directly–centre to centre–through internal attraction–unanimity in a common spirit.” – P.T.Chardin from “The Future of Man.”
After a meteor shower–a dazzling display in the wee hours of a morning not so long ago, I was moved to write about an ancient connection that illuminated aspects of one in my current lifetime:
“As I cast my eyes skyward, I sense that doing so is something I have done in some previous incarnation. It is familiar in a wonderful way, mysteriously, silently and lovingly, I am reminded of doing so centuries ago. For a moment, I am transported to a time long since past, where the inner knowing of just how it felt to be so enraptured by the sight; almost in a trance as result of concentrating on the sky in just this way. The memory of the pain, being apart from the one I loved, however undeserved that love may have been, and regardless of the pain it wrought, I wanted it no less.
To know love’s agony so well, and still wish for it, if it means knowing, even briefly, love’s ecstasy, is genuine love. The mystery that is love, with all its attendant joys and sorrows, successes and failures, realizations and disappointments, hopes and disillusionment, is one which all of humanity has hoped to solve, in one way or another, since the dawn of time.
I have tried with all my strength to maintain the connection without imposing myself. This has proven to be a formidable task. My ineptitude in presenting my thoughts that convey the deeper meaning of my attention, to bring the interior closer through a direct appeal to the core matter expressed through sensory appeal, has plagued me all along. Once I became aware of the connection, I fell headfirst into the abyss, and barely escaped with my life intact. As difficult as it is to distinguish always between what is true and what is simply desired, between what has substance and what is fleeting, attending to the sensory manifestations of the spiritual core, can often produce a positive energy that illuminates the interior world–and provides a connection to a much greater world of knowledge.”
“Every grain of matter, every appearance is one with Eternal and Immutable Reality! Wherever your foot may fall, you are still within the Sanctuary of Enlightenment, though it is nothing perceptible. I assure you that one who comprehends the truth of “nothing to be attained,” is already seated in the sanctuary where he will gain his Enlightenment.” — from the Zen Teachings of Huang Po