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#1505 - Sunday, July 27, 2003 - Editor: Gloria Lee
I AM - 4
Satsang with the Friend
Jerry Katz ~ NDS http://www.tathagatasatsang.de/start_noflash_en.html
By PICO IYER
eith Kachtick's novel, ''Hungry Ghost,'' begins very much like an article you might read in Esquire (where, in fact, a nonfiction run-up to it appeared): a dashing, slightly slippery photographer from New York finds himself on assignment for Details magazine in a Mexican beach resort, and starts to take note of the forms all around him. A connoisseur of surfaces, he takes in the ''black bikini top'' of a young woman from Germany, her ''wine-colored sarong'' and ''drowsy, full-souled smile.'' Then, turning to the items in his seduction kit -- Discman, cigarettes and dope -- he starts to plan his conquest. Getting his shot and getting the girl begin to seem like very much the same thing.
The only trouble is that Carter Cox is, at least nominally, a Buddhist. And the most important of all the vows he's taken is not to have sexual intercourse on this trip. As he lures the German woman to his bed, therefore, and starts to satisfy all his desires at once with her, a part of him keeps remembering his inconvenient vow. With an agility worthy of an ex-president he manages, even in his moment of surrender, to satisfy the woman without actually penetrating her. Then, as we realize that Carter has somehow sacrificed his companion on the altar of his vows, and spent much more time thinking about his own spiritual well-being than about the woman he's ostensibly making love to, we start to wonder what penetrating another person really means.
The first generation of Buddhist writers in America -- Kerouac, Snyder and Ginsberg, for simplicity's sake (and ignoring, for the moment, their godfathers, Emerson and Thoreau) -- all seized on Buddhist notions of evanescence and illusion to fight their way out of the walled-in America of the 50's, and to commit themselves to something more enduring. Part of the allure of the faraway discipline then was that it belonged to a world that John Doe could not comprehend, and so mixed the glamour of the foreign with the excitement of the new. Nowadays, almost every other person on Fifth Avenue is talking about mindfulness, and even a ne'er-do-well photographer, like our protagonist, can pick up a Javanese Buddha at a store called Zen & Now. The exhilarated mutual discovery of the honeymoon period between Buddhism and America has given way, you could say, to the more rigorous pressures of a longtime relationship.
Much of the charm of ''Hungry Ghost'' lies in its evocation of a newly open America in which young couples pitch woo at a dharma retreat near Woodstock and even a Roman Catholic grad student in art history thinks nothing of referring to the Mundaka Upanishad, or to Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Bhagavad-Gita. A Buddhist teacher, in this all too human universe, turns out to be a canny Englishman who dispenses his wisdom in cockney proverbs, even as he lives out his teachings about death in the grip of AIDS. And the central Buddhist protagonist of the book is something of a good-for-nothing who is only partly redeemed by his interest in goodness and in nothingness.
Carter Cox, whose consciousness chaperons us through every page of ''Hungry Ghost,'' is, to all appearances, as slick and lubricious as his name. He collects gadgets and clothes -- not to mention women -- with an almost bottomless avidity, and the narrative indulges him in his cravings by serving up long, sensuous descriptions of ''a multi-tiered 300-watt Japanese sound system'' and ''a $120 four-pack of Paul Stewart white-silk pocket squares.'' A sort of Bret Easton Ellis refugee in the realm of Maya, Carter all but stands for a world in which Samsara is the name of a perfume, and Zen of a chain of fancy Chinese restaurants around London.
Yet Carter's Buddhism, however quickly acquired and easily forgotten, speaks for his desire to try to get the better of his lower impulses and to break free of his prison of delights. And though he wears his conscience a little like his mala beads -- as much fashion accessory as reminder of something deeper -- he does at least acknowledge the need for a conscience. The particular distinction of ''Hungry Ghost'' is that Kachtick (who leads meditation courses around New York and has studied at the Iowa Writers' Workshop) has actually devised a literary form that gives voice to this awareness, or, as he calls it, the ''Buddha Nature.'' The whole novel is narrated in the second person -- ''to a visitor, you decide, a silent Buddhist retreat must look like an insane asylum on mute'' -- with the result that part of us is always inside Carter, as he checks out ''tight white T-shirts'' and ''meditates pretty much every day,'' and part is outside, looking in. Every now and then the point of view suddenly swoops into another time, or a passing flight attendant, say, and we are abruptly reminded of how limited Carter's perspective is, or how he looks to that 74-year-old neighbor on whom he foists his dog whenever he's going on retreat.
Review continues, signing up at the New York Times online is free. www.nytimes.com/2003/07/27/books/review/27IYERLT.html?8bl (link intentionally deactivated)
By Keith Kachtick.
322 pp. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. $24.95.
Jerry Katz ~ Nondual Parent
an article on parenting within Buddhism http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/06/15/LV142971.DTL (link intentionally deactivated)
Here's how Fischer describes one of their first sessions:
I stepped into my office five minutes late for our meeting. Three of the boys were already there. They were in the midst of an argument.
"You owe me one dollar," James was saying to Tony, with some heat.
"No way," Tony said dismissively
"You do," Sam said.
Tony slowly turned to face Sam and gave him a withering look. Sam shrank back.
James, his chin trembling, was about to say something else when Rashid burst into the room, disheveled. He looked at the other three boys with a sense of utter disconnection, as if he had never seen them before. They looked at him like an invading force.
Watching all this, I felt invisible, as I often did in the boys' presence. They had a way of being together that was so all-encompassing that anything not within its sphere seemed nonexistent. I resisted the temptation either to ignore them by drifting off or, in schoolteacher fashion, to dispel what was going on and call the meeting to order.
Instead, I listened. . .
Bee gathering pollen - photo by Al Larus
Ben Hassine ~ NDS
The Thinking Heart
Etty Hillesum's remarkable Holocaust writings are often lost in the shadow of Anne Frank's famous diary
By Tai Moses
IN HER LUMINOUS foreword to An Interrupted Life and Letters from Westerbork, Eva Hoffman writes that "all the writings [Etty Hillesum] left behind were composed in the shadow of the Holocaust, but they resist being read primarily in its dark light." This is a significant statement, for, unlike authors of many Holocaust memoirs or diaries that leave a reader nearly paralyzed with depictions of Nazi horrors, Etty Hillesum left an incomparable record of the meaning of life that embraces both horror and beauty.
An Interrupted Life and Letters From Westerbork by Etty Hillesum; Henry Holt & Co.; 375 pages; $15.95 paper.
Michael Bowes ~ Million Paths
One of the treatises
that Ramana Maharshi quoted was
the Ashtavakra Samhita (Gita). The following is taken
from Chapter 9, verse 5. The translation is by Swami
"What man is there who, having observed the diversity
of opinions among the great seers, saints, and yogins,
and become completely indifferent to learning, does
not attain quietude?"
Range" photo by Ben & Diana
XAN ~ Million Paths
THE CREATIVE FORCE OF EGOLESS
A Dialogue with Andrew Cohen
The following dialogue took place during a recent teaching given by Andrew Cohen in New York City.
Q: You say we need to transcend ego. But my experience is that ego can be a positive and necessary thingwithout it I don't know how I'd get through the day. Especially in my work, I use ego as fuel; it gives me motivation and energy to act. It's kind of like starting a motorboatyou have to pull that cord to get the motor going. The ego, for me, is that cord that gets me going.
A: But the whole idea is to rip out that cord and then see what happens to the boat.
Q: It won't go anywhere.
A: That's where you're wrong. It will go, but not in the direction it's been going. It's going to turn around and go in a completely different direction.
Q: What do you mean?
A: There is a different motive that can easily equal the energy of the ego, if not far surpass it. I call it egoless passion. And the goal in what I'm teaching is to awaken this egoless passion in human beings. This teaching is all about awakened, deeply conscious, profoundly passionate, committed participation in the life process. Usually the word "passion" is automatically associated with ego or a very strong self-sense.
But there is a different kind of passion that is absolutely free from ego. It's very powerful. And the way I understand it is that this passion is synonymous with the energy or the impulse behind the evolutionary process itself, the force of creation itself. When that creative impulse is unleashed within the individual, extraordinary things become possible.
Q: Can you explain how that works on a practical level?
A: Well, for example, I produce a magazine called What Is Enlightenment? But personally, I have no previous life experience or skills that would put me in a position to be able to create something like this. So what makes it possible? It's the passion that I'm speaking about.
This egoless passion really does make it possible to create and manifest things that one would never ordinarily be able to do if it were coming from ego. One begins to express something that's very profound, and very meaningful in a non-personal way. And it seems that this passion has no end to it. There's never a point where it's over, because there's always more to be done.
When a conscious human being who has transcended the fears and desires of the separate ego to a significant degree feels this intense passion for evolution, for life itself, awakening in them, it's recognized as a sense of care, a sense that something must happen that's more important than anything else. It says this must occur. And there's a tremendous impersonal, non-egoic passion in this. One has nothing personal to gain from it. But it is possible to begin to care that much about something that one has nothing personal to benefit from.
When it's egotistical passion, of course, one has everything to gain from it. It's all about personal glory. But in what I'm speaking about, this passion comes from an overwhelming compulsion. It's not for oneself. And as a result of giving oneself that much to the task, one wins one's own personal liberation. As a result of giving oneself to this deeper passion one loses one's hypnotic attachment and slavery to the fears and desires of the separate ego.
For the rest of this dialogue -- http://www.andrewcohen.org/teachings/egolessPassion.asp
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