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#2309 - Monday, November 7, 2005 - Editor: Gloria Lee    

Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge.


     *     Martin Luther King


posted by Michael Rawls  


Teisho by Ton Lathouwers (part V)

[for details see part I]


 A little door opened, and I have seen


I would like to bring it a little bit closer by narrating on a Russian writer who touched me very deeply. He is affiliated to the University of Sorbonne in Paris and teaches Russian Literature, as I myself did in the University of Leuven. He had never heard of Kuan Yin. He is an atheist, is politically engaged, wrote pamphlets; half porn, half political. He had been arrested and banned to Siberia, where he was forced to stay for seven years. I am familiar with the articles he wrote in the past, they were ironic and cynical. Not a drop of religion in it. And then something happens to him in Siberia after five years of desperation. He wrote it all down on little pieces of paper that have been published later. One of those tiny letters I find very seizing. Regrettably this little piece of writing has been left out of the first print because one didn’t know what to do with it. It was regarded as abracadabra— however it is profoundly stirring. He writes: ‘A little door opened, and I have seen.’ And this was all of a sudden and unexpected, not through books or the Bible, not through reading Buddhist literature, nothing of all that. He sat on the trunk of a tree yet another day, 365 days a year. In the night he is allowed to watch the setting sun and then it is off to work again and into the barracks. He watches and suddenly something opens up!

Suddenly, suddenly, he repeats it in nearly every sentence: ‘A little door opened, and I have seen.’  Afterwards, so he says, all the words come, all the concepts that are of no use.

Kuan Yin is just an image as well; however the significance lies in what it is referring to. The shape is just a facultative communications system, making it possible for us to talk a little. Further in the text he writes: ‘How shall I explain it? I don’t know! It was as if there was a sort of total passive availability. As if I was complete tension and desire to open myself. I don’t know what for. To be able to just see! And I didn’t know what or who. Just to be able to open myself and to see. Complete tension and at the same time a deep notion there was nothing in me, even not that tense expectation that could force the opening up to take place. I couldn’t, not even with this yearning, this expectation to do so.’  In other words it comes in such a profound and miraculous way, as grace. Maybe you find it irritating to hear me say it like this, but I can’t say it differently because I have so often experienced how true this is. It comes all of a sudden, unexpected, not being caused by anything inside of you. That is why I so often speak about faith. This was also the experience of Sinjavski, there being a door opened. He also calls it a sort of deedless doing. A sort of completely tensed letting go. I can’t do anything and still I yearn. However even this can’t extort it. He ends thus: ‘Only when you had to put everything aside, only when you had to give up everything, had to give away all your instruments and didn’t know what to believe anymore, only then have I been allowed to see the door open; suddenly, and all by herself.’

How is one to call such an experience; grace, a miracle? It is such an authentic testimony! Later he is allowed to leave Siberia and becomes a professor in Paris. It is there he writes about this episode, what had happened to him during the first interrogations, and what happened to him as an atheist, the cynic and political pornographic writer. This all has to do with Kuan Yin, a figure Sinjavski never heard of. When it came to religion he only knew something of the Russian Orthodox church of his youth. Nevertheless he writes: ‘You are being lead to the interrogations and you are beaten and kicked again. What is it then that all by itself, from deep within your heart, against all odds, against your own cynicism, bursts into prayer? Mother of God, help me! Help me! You shall withstand even when the whole world goes to pieces, even when everything is torn apart.’  He knew the cry for a living shape and is questioning: ‘What is it in us?’ He continues: ‘I have seen and heard it done by people of whom none would have expected it. This happened to me as well. It arose spontaneously. They will never touch her. She will come to rescue. There is someone listening. I couldn’t but allow that which arose in me spontaneously.’

You could say this is the same as what spontaneously emerged in Mahayana Buddhism in the shape of Kuan Yin. It is of this Daisetz Suzuki says in another publication: ‘The deepest religious experience in the East is better expressed in a feminine stature expressing boundless compassion; more so than the masculine shape, God the Father, who always carries something of law and punishment with him.’  Boundless and all encompassing compassion. What do we know of the Mother of God? We know nothing! We do not know where she intervenes in history. Moreover, there is a beautiful hymn in the Russian Orthodox liturgy we sing each month in Nijmegen: the Akathist. Sometimes it almost exactly resembles the sutra of Kuan Yin. Al those seemingly hopeless situations are mentioned: death, disease, all horrors of existence. And she will come to rescue; in the Akathist nearly the same words. What to think of that, miracles? Neither the writer of the Akathist nor of the sutra, nor Sinjavski would have believed in miracles. They saw that in life not so many miracles are taking place as for instance in Lourdes. Still they express with those very words a deep faith that she will come to aid. A certain faith that reaches far beyond all deadlocks; boundless. Again when we depict her in words, in icons and in hymns it is not even a reference to a reference to a reference. At most it is, as it is formulated: ‘sediment on the sooted backside of my skull.’  We cannot do more than create imperfect forms as human beings. However that is just what we need! Words, images—we try. These shapes are a reference. Kuan Yin is a shape referring to it; referring to the profound reality—as Daisetz Suzuki puts it. Sinjavski being someone who is still alive and who now lives from there expresses it as well.


 Last paragraph to follow next time.


image of Mary from icon


Compassion free from concepts is an expression of self-existing wakefulness.

What is the experience of true compassion?  While recognizing mind essence [pure awareness], there's some sense of being wide awake and free.  At the same time there's some tenderness that arises without any cause or condition.  There is a deep-felt sense of being tender and somewhat delighted at the same time. There's a mixture, that is the true compassion.  It's slightly joyful and slightly sad.  There's no sadness for oneself, nothing selfish about it.  Nor is there sadness for anyone in particular either.  Its like being saturated with juice, just like an apple full of juice.  In this way the empty openness is saturated with the juice of compassion.

- Tsoknyi Rinpoche in "Carefree Dignity",  Dzogchen teachings


posted by Xan to MillionPaths



  "I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.

"Thus the wise man residing in the Tao (ocean of oneness)
sets an example for all beings.
Because he doesn't display himself,
people can see his light.
Because he has nothing to prove,
people can trust his words.
Because he doesn't know who he is,
people recognize themselves in him.
Because he has no goal in mind,
everything he does succeeds."
~the Tao te Ching

From the book, "A Path With Heart," written by Jack Kornfield, published by Bantam Books.

posted to Daily Dharma




"A fresh wind is blowing,
In the bright moonlight,
I visit and bow in the Treasure Hall of Nirvana.

Sakyamuni Buddha and Lao-tzu
Have gone out to play.
Samantabhdra and Manujsri Were Dismissed.

Is that so?
Thirty-three Zen masters, is that so?

Sounds of birds and water,
Countless ornamental worlds!
As echo responds, resonating clearly."
~~Jynghoon Sunim

From the book, "Living Peace,"  published by Iris International.

posted to Daily Dharma

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