Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality:

Click here to go to the next issue

Highlights Home Page | Receive the Nonduality Highlights each day

How to submit material to the Highlights


Nonduality Highlights: Issue #4032, Sunday, October 3, 2010

Before this old monk studied Zen twenty years ago seeing a mountain, the mountain was a mountain; seeing water, the water was water. Later, I met my teacher and attained some realization. Then a mountain was no longer a mountain, water no longer water. Now after further accomplishment, seeing a mountain, a mountain is a mountain, seeing water, water is water, are these the same or different?

If you can answer, you'll meet me intimately.

- Ch'in-yuan Wei-hsin, posted to allspirit

A monk asked Joshu, "All dharmas are reduced to oneness, but what is oneness reduced to?" Joshu said, "When I was in Seishu I made a hempen shirt. It weighed seven pounds."

More than a thousand years have passed since Joshu gave that response, originating one of the many classic koans that recount his provocative teachings. To this day seekers are still struggling to find a way out of the shirt. What does it mean? What is he getting at? I don't understand!

We don't just struggle with a shirt in a Zen koan. We struggle with the shirts in our hampers. With the pants, the blouses, the sheets, and the underwear. Laundry presents a mountainous practice opportunity because it provokes a never-ending pile of egocentric resistance.

It's not important to me. It's tedious. I don't like to do it!

The monk in this story is like the rest of us, seeking wisdom through intellectual inquiry. If we're not careful, this is how we approach mindfulness: as an idea, one we rather like, to elevate our lives with special contemplative consideration, a method for making smarter choices and thereby assuring better outcomes. The problem is that the life before us is the only life we have. The search for meaning robs our life of meaning, sending us back into our discursive minds while right in front of us the laundry piles up.

In his commentary on this koan, the late teacher and translator Katsuki Sekida rinsed Joshu's shirt clear of obfuscation. "Joshu's words remind us of the keen sensibilities of people who lived in the days when things were made by hand. The seven pounds of hemp was woven into cloth and cut and sewn into a shirt. When Joshu put on his hempen shirt, he experienced a sensation that was the direct recognition of the shirt for what it was."

- from an article by Karen Maezen Miller in the March 2010 issue of the Shambhala Sun, posted to allspirit

Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.

Aldous Huxley, posted to Distillation

The lion of destiny is dragging our souls,
preoccupied with the business of the world,
into the jungles of death.
People fear poverty,
plunged as they are up to their necks in briny water.
If they feared the Creator of poverty,
treasures would reveal themselves.
Through fear of affliction,
they sink into the very essence of affliction:
in their quest for life in the world,
they have lost it.

- Rumi, Mathnawi III:2204-2207, version by Camille and Kabir Helminski, from Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance, posted to Sunlight

A water-carrier, meeting another, asked him for some of his water. The latter said: "O you who are ignorant of spiritual things, why don't you drink your own?" The first said: "Give me some of your water, you who have spiritual knowledge, for I am sick of my own."

Adam was satiated with familiar things, and that is why he brought himself to take the wheat, a new thing for him. He sold the old things for a little wheat. He became one-eyed. Love came and knocked at the door for him. When he was completely destroyed in the lightning of love, both old and new things disappeared and nothing was left! But it is not given to everyone to be disgusted with himself and to die completely to his old life.

- Fariduddin Attar, from The Conference of the Birds, C. S. Nott version, posted to SufiMystic

Renunciation is always for a purpose; it is to kindle the soul that nothing may hold it back from God, but when it is kindled, the life of renunciation is not necessary.

Bowl of Saki, October 3, by Hazrat Inayat Khan

Commentary by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan:

Renunciation has an automatic action on the heart of man, an action which very few realize because very few arrive at that stage where they can renounce. By this action a spiritual spark is kindled in the soul; and when a person has arrived at that stage he has taken the first step on the path of spirituality. The spark produced by this action in the depths of the heart culminates in a flame, a torch in life; and this changes the whole outlook on life. The whole world seems changed, the same world in which one has lived and suffered and enjoyed and learned and unlearned - everything appears to change once renunciation is learned. He alone is capable of renunciation who finds a greater satisfaction in seeing another eat his piece of bread than in eating it himself.

Only he whose heart is full of happiness after an act of renunciation should make a renunciation. This shows that renunciation is not something that can be learned or taught. It comes by itself as the soul develops, when the soul begins to see the true value of things. All that is valuable to others a seer begins to see differently. Thus the value of all the things that we consider precious or not precious, is according to the way we look at them. For one person the renunciation of a penny is too much; for another that of everything he possesses is nothing. It depends on how we look at things. One rises above all that one renounces in life. Man remains the slave of anything which he has not renounced; of that which he has renounced he becomes king. This whole world can become a kingdom to a person who has renounced it. Renunciation depends upon the evolution of the soul. One who has not evolved spiritually cannot really renounce. Toys so precious to children mean nothing to the grown-up; it is easy to renounce them; and so it is for those who develop spiritually; for them all things are easy to renounce.

Be obstinate in the path of success. Nothing should keep you back from your effort when your resolution is once taken. Renounce your object of attainment only when you have reached it and you have a better one in view. But when you have attained the object and you cling to it, then you hinder your own progress, for the object is greater than yourself. You are greater than the object when you are able to renounce it after attaining it.

Some lead the life of renunciation, others have family, friends and all things, because renunciation is always for a purpose. It is to kindle the soul, that there may be nothing to hold the soul back from God, but when the soul is kindled the life of renunciation is not a necessity.

It is as Fariduddin Attar, the great Persian poet, says, 'Renounce the good of the world, renounce the good of heaven, renounce your highest ideal, and then renounce your renunciation.'

- posted to SufiMystic

top of page