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Nondual Highlights Issue #1553 Saturday, September 13, 2003 Editor: Mark

When John Daido Loori was a monk at the Los Angeles Zen Center, he remarked one day to Maezumi Roshi: " I have resolved the question of life and death."

"Are you sure?" Maezumi asked.

"Yes,"replied Loori.

"Are you really sure?:

Absolutely," Loori answered.

With that, Maezumi threw himself violently upon Loori and began to strangle him. Gasping for breath, Loori struggled to escape, but to no avail. Finally he swung back his fist and struck his teacher, knocking him aside.

Maezumi rose to his feet and brushed himself off. "Resolved the question of life and death, eh?" he laughed, and walked off.

Later, still bearing the marks of his teacher's fingers on his throat, Loori passed a senior monk, Genpo Sensei.

On seeing the bruises, Genpo did a double take. "Told Roshi you'd resolved the question of life and death, did you?" he said and strode away laughing.

- Sean Murphy from
One Bird, One Stone: 108 American Zen Stories published by Renaissance Books.

Image "Kali" from:

The greatest mystery in life is not life itself, but death.

Death is the culmination and "blossoming" of life, it is the "ultimate" mystery of life. In death, the whole of one's life is summed up; in death you complete life's journey. Life is simply a pilgrimage and journey towards death. From the very moment of your birth, the process" of dying starts; already you are moving towards death. And the greatest calamity that has happened to human intelligence is that we are in denial about death. Being in denial about the reality of death means you will miss life's greatest mystery. You will miss the whole point of having lived. You will miss the "true" meaning and purpose of life itself, because life and death are deeply involved with each other; they are not two separate phenomena. The journey and the goal are not separate--the journey has meaning only in relationship to the goal.

- Leonard Ingram


with no reverence
opposed to nature
and science

on a grand scale
the sanctity
of knowledge

in the emancipation
from structure
and being

beyond boundaries
of man’s truth
and musing

the simple sense
of lightness
and stain

a promiscuous
obscure and unclean

without fear
the chaos
and contradiction

as you live
with doubtless

- Poem "ARTIST" by Ralph Turturro, Image "Fall" by Ralph Turturro.

More here:

Guy Spiro of The Monthly Aspectarian interviews Ram Dass:

TMA: We were all very shocked at your stroke in 1997, and are very pleased you are making your recovery. What's the experience been like for you?

RD: It awakened me, and I think it was grace, because it tuned me back to God in a way that " Before the stroke, I was feeling like I had a graced life, but the stroke sort of " it was the end of the grace. I got down, had depression after the stroke. It was a dark period, and that dark period gave impetus to my spiritual work because in a way the stroke undermined my feeling of grace and that really started me thinking about the grace in my life. The stroke would be Fierce Grace.


RD: My guru once said there was a girl standing in front of him, an Indian girl, and she said: "I have so much suffering in my life," and it was so poignant the way she said it. He looked up, and he said, "I have some suffering. Suffering in my life brings me closer to God." That statement is so close to " We go into these incarnations, I keep wondering why, and the why is that we have to learn how to suffer and we have to learn how to love. Those are the things that we learn in incarnations. Just learning suffering, suffering reflects attachment, so as we lift those attachments, we get closer to God.


TMA: Is there anything that you would like to say now about the current reality in the world, the way things are? Perhaps your thoughts on 9/11?

RD: Well, 9/11. I got woke up with my stroke, I was stroked by God, and I wakened. I think that 9/11 stroked humanity. It's not just this culture, but all of humanity. Because, I've noticed that people speak more about who's up there. Fundamental questions, what are we doing here, and so on. That stuff never appeared on television or the radio or magazines but after 9/11, those topics are often discussed.

TMA: It has caused the mainstream consciousness to examine life in new ways.

RD: And examine death, and examine security, and examine security vs. justice.

TMA: How do you see it all shaking out?

RD: Well, I think we aren't going to be the empire that we anticipated. "We, the United States." I think this will mature the dialogue of man. More people will turn to their inner counsel. That's what will happen.

TMA: We're at a very interesting point in recorded human history. When in history, for instance, would a country like Israel not just simply conquer the region, and impose its will? When in history would the United States along with the rest of the developed world not simply conquer the rest of the world and impose its will? At any time in the past, if a country had the means, it used them. And now it's unthinkable.

RD: Because communication has improved tremendously. We all know so much. In the past you could do something, and not mention it. Great Britain did a huge number of things.

TMA: Without a second thought they created a global empire. Without even considering whether they should or should not. And now when you have a country like Israel in its region, and the U.S. in the rest of the world with the means, we don't. I find that just a remarkable development.

RD: Yes.

TMA: There has been such a shift in humanity that it's just such an interesting time to be alive.

RD: Yes. I used to think that it was much more exciting in the 60s. But I now know that this is much more exciting because this is more sandpaper to get us to get our act together. In the 60s we were very na´ve. Now we are so much more aware.

Image "Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, NYC." by Diane Arbus from:

For Ram Dass, in this moment of recognizing truth, the cerebral hemorrhage became what he calls "heavy grace," a shift to perceiving illness as a blessing rather than as misfortune. He admits in Still Here that he may have brought on the stroke by neglecting to take his blood-pressure medication and by ignoring a one-sided hearing loss a month earlier. As a renunciate, he had given his body negative value. With practice, however, after the stroke he finally experienced detachment--from the pain, from his high-profile roles, from his golf and surfing and cherished MG sportscar.

His healing has come from honoring his body rather than identifying with its pain. "Healing does not mean going back to the way things were, but rather allowing what is now to move us closer to God," he writes. Ram Dass may or may not walk again; he may or may not have full use of his vocabulary again; but his quest is no longer about achievement, it's about awareness rather than identity--being on two planes of consciousness at the same time, entering the body fully yet remaining grounded in soul.

Liberation as opposed to loss. Love rather than fear. Acceptance rather than suffering. These are some of the hallmarks of aging consciously, which also requires breaking down stereotypes and biases about aging--and about death itself. Ram Dass feels that the older generations are in the vanguard of illuminating what he calls a "social conspiracy" about aging that, for example, perpetuates the strange ideas that dependency is wrong and death is an outrage.

In his own journey of aging, Ram Dass has raised the bar on suffering. If one searches for wholeness and divine union, which is the soul's single purpose, then that quest must include everything; nothing can be pushed away or grasped tightly. In Still Here he writes, "The stroke was unbearable to the Ego, and so it pushed me into the Soul level also . . . and that's grace. From the Soul's perspective it's been a great learning experience. Although I'm more in the spirit now, I'm also more human."

Ram Dass said he has returned from this particular scouting party to announce that spirit is more powerful than the vicissitudes of aging. Faith and love are stronger than change, stronger even than death. Faith, we must ask, in what? His answer is simple: "That the universe is benevolent."

More here:

Image "Masked Woman in Wheel Chair" by Diane Arbus from:

Pat Enkyo O'Hara, who is now the resident teacher at the Village Zendo in New York City, was serving as caretaker of altars and offerings during a three-month training period at Zen Mountain Center in Idyllwild, California. During one very formal memorial ceremony, as she was carrying a tray of elegant, lacquered wooden offering cups between two buildings, one of the cups tumbled from the tray and landed among some rocks, resulting in a prominent chip in its highly polished surface.

Devastated, she went to Maezumi Roshi and announced her intention to order a new one from Japan.

"Why?" asked Roshi. "With the chip it is more valuable. See? Just as it is."

Over the years, says O'Hara, "this has emerged as his great teaching for me... He was broken. I am broken. And when we can see that we are all chipped and broken, we begin to see that we are truly perfect and complete, just as we are..."

- Sean Murphy from
One Bird, One Stone: 108 American Zen Stories published by Renaissance Books.

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Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality: