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#2308 - Sunday, November 6, 2005 - Editor: Gloria Lee    


Teisho by Ton Lathouwers (part III)

[for details see part I] First English translation by Ben Hassine



This is the heart. Do your work here.


There is a deep feeling there must be something like this. A lot of people have experienced a little bit of it in their lives, a notion that there is such a thing as compassion towards us. Just the way it saved me in my life. If I had never experienced this in my life in decisive, desperate and terrible moments! Someone reaching out a hand to me, looking at me; there being a gesture, so real and warm, it made me conclude: if this is here, than I can imagine what it means when this is present boundlessly. Then I can allow that which ultimately is the deepest thing operating in me. Like it is formulated in the Dharani of Compassionate One: ‘This is the heart. Do your work here.’ Whatever this ‘you’ is.


The last word is not: silence and indifference, but rather deep involvement. The question here is, to repeat it: What is it that saves? Methods, techniques, concepts, laws, forces?—we have the tendency to escape in all that. Or is it a living person that saves? A living person, boundless, limitless, for whom nothing is impossible, like it is said in the Heart Sutra. Or the way Kierkegaard puts it, saying there are no limits for a living person. Methods and techniques are limited. We feel it that way somehow. We also feel it is not satisfying in the same way that images remain unsatisfying. However, sometimes this image becomes alive through experiencing the cries of the heart. Something like this is Kuan Yin, emerging 2000 years ago in people who were questioning; is it really true we cannot be of any help to each other? And here this deep notion arises, against everything Buddhism consisted of at that time. The people interpreting this notion for the first time felt they no longer belonged to Buddhism. Something like: I have fallen out of it, I have fallen outside of existence, what I experience now is impossible!  This was accompanied by desperation and a lot of tear shedding, it was accompanied by a lot of hurt but still there was this faith of heart, this staying with the heart. We are related to each other, we are mutually involved; we can help each other.


You can read it in the Avatakamsutra. Initially it was expressed hesitatingly, but after it was broken through, it was expressed nearly with a hallelujah, with a joy, a profound opening. We cannot always experience it this way when we read it. However it can touch us when we see how people having struggled so intensely and who were so desperate suddenly made a new discovery in their hearts and articulated it. Of course they articulated it stumbling, like with all words in this field, like it is the case with my own words now [and mine attempting to translate all this]. Still something found expression, with words and images, with calling and songs. It is in this way Kuan Yin arises. Listening to the cries of the world and knowing: it is true we are being heard; even though I am not given a reply, even though I can’t see it, and even though I can’t lay my finger on it. Knowing with the heart and right there where heaven is silent.




Teisho by Ton Lathouwer (part IV)

[for details see part I]




Without the warmth and compassion of Kuan Yin everything remains dead


The statement by Suzuki that this is the deepest mystery in Mahayana Buddhism was recently brought to life for me. I received a letter from Indonesia of someone who had visited my old ch’an master Teh Cheng or Jinarakkhita. He is now [it is 2000 at the moment of speaking] far in his eighties and it seems life is coming to an end for him. He uses a wheelchair, and despite the climate of Indonesia, he feels ice cold wearing double socks and thick gloves. He is partly paralyzed and can hardly speak. However he is still very bright. He received my book and still can read. It touched me that I read in this letter that he listened to the CD on which we sing our sutras, also the sutra of Kuan Yin and that he was deeply moved by it. He said that to him Kuan Yin was of the most important stature within Buddhism, the most important stature in existence. This touched me deeply; he was nearly unable to speak nevertheless was able to say this. I have heard him saying this before. When he was already a ch’an master, he set out to train for eight years in a Burmese monastery in the Theravada tradition with the famous Mahashi Sayadaw. Here symbols are not being used and Kuan Yin is not known. He became a Mahastavira in that tradition because he wanted to express both traditions in an open manner, putting all forms in perspective.

Still he once said to me: ‘Without the warmth and compassion of Kuan Yin everything remains dead.’ Even after training for eight years in a famous Theravada monastery with a well-known master he had missed this warmth. And now that he is old and his time has come, the only thing he expresses is how important Kuan Yin is. Whatever that is, whoever that is! It also affected me to see how upset he was when he couldn’t help someone. I found that magnificent, not to think immediately: ‘oh, I know of something.’  I have experienced that myself when I went through a terribly difficult time. I have seen him at that time with this quality of upset and surrender at the same time. Not being able to do anything and to be there with that. Maybe this is what helped me more than anything else; the absolute faith in life, in Kuan Yin. Not in techniques, but in life, in meeting life.


[to be continued]


image of Kuan Yin: 


  "When we are so involved with trying to protect ourselves, we are unable
to see the pain in another person's face. 'Self-cherishing' is ego
fixating and grasping: it ties our hearts, our shoulders, our head, our
stomach, into knots. We can't open. Everything is in a knot. When we
begin to open we can see others and we can be there for them. But to the
degree that we haven't worked with our own fear, we are going to shut
down when others trigger our fear.
When we are not so self-involved, we begin to realize that the world is
speaking to us all of the time. Every plant, every tree, every animal,
every person, every car, every airplane is speaking to us, teaching us,
awakening us.

To experience this we begin to make a journey, the journey of
unconditional friendliness toward the self that we already are."

~Pema Chodron

posted to Daily Dharma by DharmaG

Here's your Daily Poem from the Poetry Chaikhana --

A single word can brighten the face

By Yunus Emre
(1238 - 1320)

English version by Kabir Helminski & Refik Algan

A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words.
Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy for work.

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there's a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

Let a word mature inside yourself.
Withhold the unripened thought.
Come and understand the kind of word
that reduces money and riches to dust.

Know when to speak a word
and when not to speak at all.
A single word turns the universe of hell
into eight paradises.

Follow the Way. Don't be fooled
by what you already know. Be watchful.
Reflect before you speak.
A foolish mouth can brand your soul.

Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words --
Only the word "I"
divides me from God.

-- from The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre, Translated by Kabir Helminski / Translated by Refik Algan

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