Went out for a walk in the fog.
Things were indistinct, yet spoke
clearly. Plants were intimate, but
wet. They dripped with affection
on the dirt. The soil remained
unmoved, but receptive. And, in such
discreet company, I walked along
feeling glaringly nonexistent.
What can I say! Things are, and they
are not. And this gives them the
pungent odor of Eternity. “What is”
disappears like a skunk in the fog,
but its pervasive presence lingers
like a persistent smell.
The poet walking along the lonely road
is startled by the sudden barking of a dog.
The barks come from the darkness ahead. He looks
around for a weapon, but the only rock around is the moon.
Its pale neutrality is shocking.
‘What is’ doesn’t care who lives or dies.
Villains and heroes, humans, and dogs,
are not born equally, but equally die, without
the moon’s meddling.
As evening falls the light ebbs fast,
and the sadness of winter gathers
around the half sunk sandal pelted by the sleet.
Busson was born twenty years after Basho’s death,
so this haiku could be taken as a variation on Basho’s
most famous poem. Yet, Busson’s, in my opinion,
is just as good. It shows how things ( the old pond in this case) are never the same. In Basho’s Poem the old pond is vibrant with the inexhaustible energy of Summer, while in Busson’s the old pond incarnates the melancholy of rain in a winter evening.
I took the liberty of translating Busson’s haiku slightly differently.
The original reads:
The old pond,
A straw sandal sunk to the bottom;
Once, on vacation in a strange city, I found Truth.
Knowing I wouldn’t remember what it was for long,
I shipped it to myself via UPS.
Of course, you know how this story ends, back home, on
opening the box, I founded it empty.
I was deeply disappointed, what a dunce! I found Truth,
and had no idea what it was.
But all is not lost. Now, every time a thought occurs to me, I
know for sure, it is not Truth.
Funny that! We can forget, and still remember what
we forgo is not.
Between the birth of flesh and its end,
there is the flux of sensations, and the
accumulation of concerns. And the game
of acquiring this, and avoiding that begins.
It’s the score keeping of memory which
brings victory and defeat to the game.
Can we forget the score, and just play?
As small children do, yelping with delight
with every move they fall, get hurt, cry
and forget, and play again. And when
night comes, they fall sleep without regrets,
nor hope of ever awakening again.
Form is an abrupt stop. The border between
something and nothing, but that something
has no substance, it’s not a thing. It’s
the behavior, the dance of the unknown.
We are that dance. Can you feel the
Words don’t reveal it, they only
obscure it, but sometimes (as in the case
of Buddha’s words) in that obscuration,
we could catch a glimpse. Words like iron
filings in a magnetic field could take the
ghostly shape of magnetic field lines.
Can you out of a the corner of your eye,
discern that outline, that shape, that
presence, that fading away?
The Dancing Elephant.
If you ask me to give you an allegory for creation, I would say:
An elephant dancing on an anthill the elephant dances with abandon, the ants run around in panic, but there is always an ant dancing with the elephant. Inevitably, the dancing ant will be crushed, but another will take its place, and inexplicably, magically that ant will always be you. If you figure this riddle out you will be completely free.
The effulgent presence dances with its shadow; at sunrise, a monstrous shadow; at noon, no shadow.
at all. Go figure it out!
Once, when the monks of the Western and Easter Halls
were quarreling about a cat, Nansen holding up the cat,
said, “If you monks can’t speak a true word (a Zen truth) I will kill the cat” No one could utter that word, so Nansen killed the cat.
Josho returned to the temple later, and Nansen told him the story.
Josho took his sandals off, put them on his head and walked off.
“If only you had been here, I could have saved the cat,” shouted Nansen
Why did Nansen kill the cat? This is probably one of the strangest koans there is. The wanton killing of an animal is a horrible act.
How can we find a rational explanation?
The story reminds me of another cat koan, a scientific one, this is a quantum theory thought experiment. Quantum theory postulates that the simple act of observation changes quantum reality. Until observed, particles are only a probability function and have no actual value. So a live cat is placed in a box, with poison gas in a sealed container and an atom of uranium. If the uranium decays the particle will hit the container, which will release the poison, and kill the cat.
The theory goes that the act of decay will remain as a probability until we open the box. Therefore, is it our observation that will kill the cat or not?
Did Nansen kill the cat? Or did the cat die because the monks had selves that were observing. Does anything change or exist when there is not a you (as an observer) watching? When the observer is absent is there doing or doer?
Sensation (the ability to be aware
of stimuli) is a two way street.
It discloses both other, and self.
The hand that touches reveals, not
only itself, but the touch, and
that which it feels.
Normally, we have an outward focus,
and sensation becomes a one-way
street, an arrow pointing to the
world. It’s when we let sensation
lead us inward that we begin to
recognize the infinity within.
When we begin to dwell in the
naked sense of being, we come to
apprehend a knowing beyond words,
and in this knowing, we get a
glimpse of not knowing- an
impenetrable darkness revealed
only by the absence of knowing.
Mysteriously, miraculously, we
come to sense this lack of all
knowledge, as true nature.
That this infinite not knowing
has been reflected in knowledge
somehow satiates our hunger for
knowing. Great peace descends,
“What is” is totally free. Free,
even not to know, and free to forget
its own existence.
A Monk asked Nanquan, “Master, where will you be found
in a hundred years?”
“Nanquan said, “I’m going to be an ox living down
at the foot of the mountain.”
P: This can be viewed at two levels:
1) Nanquan was poking fun at the idea of transmigration,
that he, a master, would be reincarnated as an ox would
for the monk be sacrilege.
2) The ox in Zen could symbolize Buddha Nature. So in
a hundred years, Nanquan’s Buddha Nature wouldn’t be any different than it was that day.
“The monk said, “May I follow you to that place as an ox?”
“Nanquan said, “If you follow me, you must do so
with a single blade of grass in your mouth.”
P: Which meant, to follow me, you must be one with me (Buddha Nature)
The master then became ill. He said to the monks,
“Starlight is dim but eternal.
Don’t say that I’m coming or going.”
When he finished speaking, the master died.
P: It’s quite irrelevant whether we lived only once or a million lives.
Our true nature is clear and perfect as the void. It doesn’t need to store memories or thoughts. And even if it did, and we could remember our previous lives, what could we have done then, different than now. We eat, we sleep, we love, we fight, we hope, we suffer. It’s
always the same. Now if you could remember when you were neither born, nor dead, that would be something to crow about. Then you could join Nanquan bringing him a single blade of grass.
Like an animal, a beast, a bird, a bug perched on a rock, just seeing, hearing, sensing, just being there without a notion in the brain, apperceiving what is, being the eye of God; that’s the animal way, the natural meditation.
Most people have this notion that the spiritual way is akin to progress, an evolution into a superior being, or ubermensch.
And that this evolution, requires discipline, the acquisition of knowledge, and the practice of virtue. In reality what is required is pure animal sensitivity, sensuality, (in the sense of a lack of intellectual, spiritual, or moral connotation) a total immersion,
a total indwelling of the body.
To explain reality, to understand it, to strive for a theory of everything is a game that has no end, and leads nowhere.
Ontologically nothing can be said. What is, is. There is no method to illumination, it is just being a lizard on a sunny rock, lost in contemplation.
Of course, there is no need to eradicate personality
or intellect, and that can’t be done unless a lobotomy is performed.
It suffices to see through these tools, not to wear them welded to the forehead like antlers getting entangled in the brush.
To label, to identify a self, no matter how nebulous or lofty, is to fall from that blessed state of pure and simple animality.
The Matter with Matter
The matter with matter is we take it for granted. We stand on it, we breath it, we eat it, we piss it, we give it no respect. What the heck! It’s all around us,
and of course, we are not it. We are much better: we are spirit, soul, the Unknown, God, It. Ha, ha!
We idolize the Spirit and all its derivatives because we can’t touch it, see it, or even know it. We think we know matter, that we touch it, and see it, but do we? Only those that don’t read modern physics think they understand matter.
There was a time when we thought matter was made of round little balls; then we discovered the little balls were tiny solar systems with smaller balls revolving around each other, but still acting very predictably. No big deal, balls are balls no matter what size they are.
Enters Quantum Theory. The little balls in the solar system are made of still smaller balls. So what? Balls are balls. But wait, these balls could behave like
waves, and are no longer so predictable. They might be here, they might be there, they might not be anywhere at all. They might be just a probability. Randomness rather than predictability rules the quantum world. Time and space may act quite differently there.
Then, enters M String Theory. The quantum balls are made of tiny strings of energy vibrating at different rates. There are eleven dimensions, and parallel universes
floating around, and even sometimes, colliding with each other in cataclysmic events such as the Big Bang.
So if this is correct, and quite a few physicist, ten times smarter than I, think it is correct, matter is energy, and energy is movement, but movement of what?
Something mysterious, unknown is moving, and that mystery is matter.
Science won’t give us the answer as to what is moving and why. Science only answers the how. The what and the why is left to each of us.
Using concepts can be tricky. Oh yes,
they are great pretenders. They have
aspirations. They are not content
to portray, but want to be that which
they represent. And if you’re not careful
they will fool you. They have fooled the
wise and the mighty, and from simple tools
of manipulation, they have been enthroned
as the Truth Itself.
The only useful concepts are killer concepts,
terminators concepts. Concepts that kill concepts.
And when the last killer stands at last alone.
You must walk to it, shake its bloody hand,
and kill it too.
The beingness must stand alone, unexplained,
naked, and unknown.
How does it feel to be on your own, like a
It feels like nothing else. Stop pretending you
know. There is no knowing, there is only Being.
Whatever you do, please, don’t eat the fork.
The Invisible man
When an invisible man looks in a mirror, he sees nothing but the mirror. Yet, he is there as an unseen presence.
In the morning, as your brain wakes up, the mirror of consciousness reflects nothing, and yet, a presence is there, lurking unseen before thoughts come to cloud the glass. And if the presence is felt by the presence, it will expand , and swallow the world. No titles stick to that, neither God, nor Self, nor I am.
It’s what it is, beyond consciousness, beyond life, and beyond death. Of it, never say, that it exist; nor that it does not exist.
No, this is not about the Internet, or any advance
in human communication. This is about information
itself, Information in its most rudimentary form: the transmition
of change from one quantum field to another. It’s
obvious, that for information to have ocurred a change
of some kind must have taken place. For example the
transmission of spin from particle A to particle B. Viewed
in this way, energy itself is information.
Quantum information laws form a consistency network that
creates all fields, particles and even space/time itself. So,
we could correctly label phenomena as information instead
of energy/matter. It’s been shown that large scale quantum
fields could be used in computation. Therefore, the theory
that these fields are involved in the creation of conscious states
has, if still unproved, some experimental validation in the field
of computer science.
Consciousness might very well be only a self-referential information
system. Information, reaching critical mass, and exploding
into self awareness.
Atoms are us. Hydrogen + oxygen = water. And
water makes 98% of our bodies with a little carbon,
calcium, nitrogen, zinc and a dab of other minerals
added for good measure. Those are our atoms,
but… are they really ours? Those atoms in your
blood, your flesh, your bones, they have been around,
you are not the first body they form. They have been
oceans, rivers, rocks, lizards and birds. For billions,
and millions of years building and destroying countless
forms, always changing, but always the same. Your
oxygen, your calcium no different than mine, no different
than Buddha’s, no different than Christ’s.
So if not the substance, are we the form? The form changes,
the form melts, flows, dissipates like smoke. No, we are not
the form. We are more like the sound, the music of atoms
which lingers and vanishes in the emptiness of space.
Claim nothing for your own, you’re neither this, nor that. Just
a few sounds, faint against the silence, and the awesome
darkness. Just an atomic choral sung by crickets chirping in
Creation by the Numbers
The Pythagorians theorized that the substance of all things
were numbers and that objects were only the perception
of mathematical ratios. Curiously, this view seems to be
upheld by modern physics, which affirms, the only difference
between one element and another is the different number
of identical protons and neutrons in the nucleus. And of course,
each proton attracting a negative charged electron.
So form is numbers. One is a point; two is a line; three, a triangle, four a square, etc. Substance is irrelevant, and numbers reign supreme as the creator because even considering that there is one underlying substance to all things, this substance, by the mere fact of having no second, is inapprehensible and therefore, moot.
Only multiplicity creates.
And how could this be so? Simple, think of a machine made only of iron. It’s no different, in nature, from a solid chunk of the same metal , but quite different in function because the different shapes of its parts when properly assembled gives it qualities and functions absent in a solid chunk of iron. So is the universe, a living machine, created by the magic of numbers out of the same unknown stuff.
Why are we so hypnotized by the word, “I”? Why this
compulsion to particularize existence? It’s almost
as if light desired to know itself without movement.
Would still light, be light still?
The “I” is also another word for “the here and now”
of existence, but does the here and now really
exist? Existence speeds away as light does, and
yet, it wants to catch itself in “the here and
know” and that impossible craving is embodied in the
Things are what they are. Philosophy will never dull their edge.
Hunger and rice, rocks and hurts, kisses and blows, pleasure and pain will always be the same. Your words, and their meanings are in vain.
You could be free, free from meanings and words. You could stand naked in the mystery, divested of beliefs, silent, mute like a beast.
It’s not things that tie you down, your chains are words, and you
pretend to understand, and sort, and analyze, and classify your words, yet never stop, no never stop talking because you love them, and like a verbal hog, you wallow in your words.
In Good Company
When I sit in my front yard, I don’t sit in the same
spot every time. But on each occasion, place
my chair by a different plant. Plants impart
a unique feel to the mind. By the bird of paradise
I feel different than by the palms, or under the
pine tree with its cool somber cast. I can’t tell you
how it’s different, but it is. An octopus knows
about these things, their skins mimic what they
see. Maybe I have a mollusk mind, a good thing
to have when in good company.
Anyway, my neighbor has a cat. A proud
looking tom, gray, almost black, thick with
hair and no tail, but for a proud stump he
parades always erect. This fearsome creature
comes sometimes and honors me by sitting by.
He doesn’t rub against my legs, or greet me in
any way, he just sits next to my shoes, as if they
were his kind. And so we share the communion
of kindred silent minds— the cat’s, the man’s,
the plant’s. And when he leaves, he doesn’t say
goodbye. No goodbyes are needed in such
Consciousness stands accused of a nameless crime.
And if put on the stand, if mercilessly interrogated it
may crack, reveal, and confess its hideous heinous
crime. Is that what you really want? This confession
could trigger a revolution that will subvert and cause
the collapse of the habitual and familiar, and leave
you stranded on an unknown land.
Here are the questions, but remember, don’t let the
accused answer you in words. It must answer by
divesting of verbal trappings and denuding its
Is the accused aware of anything other than change,
time, the contrast of opposites, or their commingling,
copulations, and the subtle shadings of pleasure, pain,
suffering and joy.
Without duality, multiplicity, and something to reflect,
would the accused be said even to exist?
Why does the accused fear its absence? Could any
unpleasantness exist without it? Could even fear exist
Is not the accused the cause of all disquietude? Could
there be the least trace of ill in its absence?
Has the accused any knowledge regarding its absence,
or how it would feel? And if not, why the fear of not feeling,
when without feeling no evil can be?
Let’s talk about Pete. Who is he? Pete is change,
time, a role in a cosmic play. Lest you think I’m
getting conceited, let’s substitute my name for
yours because when I talk about Pete, I talk
about you, and he, and she, and they, too.
So let’s talk about time, which is change because
if we understand those, we will understand eternity
and everything in between. Time is the rate of
change as experienced by an observer.
Once we believed time was inexorable, an inflexible
tyrant, but it’s not so, time is flexible, accommodating,
almost elastic. If change speeds up, time slows down;
when change crawls, time runs away. What a contrary
spirit! Just like a kid! This is, of course, part of the
theory of relativity and is supported by many scientific
experiments. But you don’t need any experiments to tell
you that. You remember how long a day was when
you were a child, and ran around at the speed of
sound, and never stopped until mom yelled, “For
crying aloud, won’t you stop that?”
Now, you are old, well all right, middle aged, settled
in your daily grind, and time, that fickle fiend, is rushing
by like a cannon ball. Time is a trickster, and not to
be trusted, it speeds if things slow down, but it also
stops if things get too fast. At C ( celeritas for velocity
in Latin) or the speed of light, time stops. Yes, a
photon doesn’t change or decay on its own, it reaches
us from the farthest corner of the cosmos as good as
new. A Billion years mean nothing to it. But then, as
I said, time is a trickster, if things get too slow, it stops
too. When nothing changes, when change is not, then
time is not. Then, the immutable appears like that
notorious cat, you know the one I mean, the one that is
only a smile.
So we have arrived through time to the immutable, which is
no time, no change, eternity, God, This and That and
Nothing all the same. And where could there be a place for
Pete, which is change, and is time in That? Pete, the role,
or his memory, in That can not abide. And yet, and yet,
Pete is acted by That. And yet, This which is not Pete
realizes itself acting such part. Don’t get me wrong, the
part will be forgotten, it’s not memorable, it won’t win an
Oscar, No immortality for Pete. But the actor, director,
producer will go on to make other films, play other roles,
the Show will go on.