Part II, Chapter Seven


Part II

Chapter Seven



Chris in the Monastery


We have come to a point in history at which human consciousness bleeds into the temporal and non-temporal and beyond. We can say with the ancient Chinese that human consciousness is the self- reflective con- sciousness of the whole world—capable of great compassion and self- sacrifice. But also capable of the worst murder, torture and shortsighted, selfish abuse of persons, cultures and environment. Here is the problem that is the reason for all the effort represented in this work: Given the power provided by technocracy, this same light and dark capacity is capable of destroying the world and perhaps more, since a bizarre, self- destructive hatred lurks feral and hungry somewhere, always, in our communal consciousness. One advantage of historical awareness as opposed to the non temporal is that it provides adequate record of these suicidal urges on personal and international levels.

We approach this topic from extremes so that a golden mean, a solu- tion, may become evident. For example, what is the difference between pornography and a full usage and enjoyment of our physicality—neither sexuality nor its natural processes are inherently evil; arousal, ejacula- tion, orgasm (nor the esoteric, light-filled experiences associated with yogic sexual attitudes, in psychic relationship with the whole; universe or God.) So, where is the problem? And there is a problem! Religion has not been wrong to maintain that problematic emotional and social issues remain associated with sex. Though, so many in all camps seem to be obsessed with the sexual topic. Sex and money seem to be the ruling concern. What, then is chastity, if not just abstinence? Love that remem- bers the body of concerns associated with time, person, and eternity, i.e., God, the world—integrity of self and other.

I have taken a particular course in this vein. Mine is a love that uses one’s own sensations and needs to catalyze a relationship with the psy- che of the world. Perhaps that means the collective unconscious in Jungian terms, or the world soul, or that which is the animating spirit of all reality—the title does not matter. The significant matter is that the relationship is possible. Not just possible, but I would say always opera- tive. Here comes the rub. When the collective intention of people devel- ops great material power, technological power, eventually we will destroy ourselves because we are still at the mercy of our own sub-con- scious drives and intentions. Some of which have proved themselves murderous, collectively so in history. So much so as to repeatedly escape the control of moral and legal systems! Self-destruction is one of those drives.

Modes of expression are important in the formation of such experi- ence and perception. In reverse, such experience and perception are also formational for modes of expression. An example of this is how people now and in the past express themselves about the intricate connection between temporal matters and eternity. For instance, there has been for thousands of years a tendency to interpret the co-incidence of natural phenomena—earthquakes, storms, etc., as significant spiritually to a particular person or people. A scriptural example would be the plagues in Egypt that preceded the exodus of the Hebrews. There is substantial evidence that there was more than one Exodus over a period of time during which Egypt was subject to various natural disasters . Yet, this overall experience was poetically and mythically reinterpreted for moral purposes in a way typical of religious literature/histories that try to come to terms with the interaction between time and non-time, the world and God. Without excusing any of the dirty politics that might use or abuse such literature, this poetic, mythic technique is none the less a most effective vehicle for opening inner spiritual experience and insight—when such poetic accounts are not expected to perform in a literal manner. One can find the same format in much shamanistic experience. A ritual is performed or asceticism practiced and a storm happens. Therefore, the gods are thought to have responded. Well, nature is not merely mechanical. The world does not have to respond only according to religious expectations or scientific precepts. What to some might rightfully just be a breeze, or shift in climate, to another might be a valid form of communication from an ineffable quarter of reality. That scenario has been expressed in various ways according to the means available in any given culture. Just as my expression of this phenomena is according to what is possible in my life and my culture. Both the scientific and the mystical interpretation are important for any evaluation of phenomena.

Further, what has dominated human energy for the past 6000 years is the development of civilization. But civilization is inextricably linked to viciously, violent conquests—empire. And now, the same cruel ‘empiri- cists’ have the power to destroy everything. It is like giving a loaded gun to a petulant, drunken adolescent with the safety off. All the moral postur- ing in the world will not save us from the darkness within, if we ignore the need to dynamically resolve all of the opposites: masculine-feminine; matter-spirit; time and eternity… (The Christ and the Buddha—as nec- essarily male, but celibate and absolute pacifists—mediate between the dominant male warrior cult in the human psyche and the Goddess reli- gions of “eternal return.”) Mythological consciousness, ritual, and com- passionate morality interweave eternity and temporality that does not need an apocalypse at the end of a line of history—MYSTICISM!

So, as regards the thrust of this last selection, the dark dragons will be baited. As will those of the light—Art and Religion will do this. If you are weak in the faith or if you are easily titillated, I’d go back if I were you. Because what follows will be distracting to your spirit. I talk about sex and drugs because that is what seems to get attention in a wider audience. But also because our physicality is undeniably intimate with our spirituality. Because a prudish denial of our physicality is as wrong and dangerous as pornographic illusions. Both represent a vast and multifaceted distraction from more important issues, issues of survival and our real identities, at this, our first, “most desperate moment.”

Chris Goes to Monastery

(Bardo Plane/Dreamtime Pilgrim)

So many… many states of consciousness. Ordinary, extraordinary…

Zen Master preaches, but as the meditation teacher of this monastery is speaking, I [Chris] am remembering dreams, experiences insights… and then…) Ven. Shinzen Young says:

“There are many paths for entering the reality of Nirvana, but in essence they are all contained within two practices: Stopping and see- ing. Why? Stopping is the primary gate for overcoming the bonds of compulsiveness. Seeing is the essential requisite for ending confusion. Stopping is the wholesome resource that nurtures the mind. Seeing is the marvelous art which fosters intuitive understanding. Stopping is the effective cause of attaining concentrative repose. Seeing is the very basis of enlightened wisdom.

…a dream last night. This dream concerns the final stages of initiation of the dreamer as a shaman. This refers to shaman as universal priest/prophet, a creative healer who transcends time/space as his gift but in so far as the shaman pre-figures Christ as well as follows in his footsteps. Divine androgen rather than demonic hermaphrodite this one. The dream: The initial images of the dream seemed at first unrelated to the following sequence. As the dreamer remembers the dream, The dream re- conjures itself and continues as he listens to the meditation master’s ser- mon. I was a shaman. I was shamanizing. The object of my action is—myself!

…An image of the Globe appears, the earth. It splits open, white light bursts from the breakage, from inside the earth. Is there not a human figure in the midst of the light, the Christ?, perhaps ourself, walking towards us. That was the climax of the dream. The development is continued in a series of brief concluding images: the dreamer is praying over a certain novice. The novice begins to shake and to experience a vision of himself falling through the ice of a frozen-over lake. He descends into the dark water, near death. Then he breaks back through the ice. The novice who is usually abnormally warm; the type who would go outside on cold morn- ings in his undershirt, is quite cold during this experience. This is consid- ered in the dream to be a powerful breakthrough into the unconscious and the initiation of a strong right brain function. It is an initiation of the novice facilitated by the shaman dreamer. Both are the same person…


The person who attains both concentration and wisdom has all the req- uisites for self-help and for helping others. …It should be known then that these two techniques are like the two wheels of a chariot, the two wings of a bird. If the practice is lopsided, you will fall… Therefore, the sutra says: “To onesidedly cultivate the merits of concentrative repose without practicing understanding is…dullness. To onesidedly cultivate knowledge without practicing repose is called being crazed. Dullness and crazedness, although somewhat different, are the same in that they both perpetuate …an unwholesome perspective.The dreamer meets Christians working for an integration of Tantric medi- tation into Christian theology. They talk about a new theology of sexuality and the meaning of the above “initiation” and the high sensuality of the dreamer. This is a sensuality that is not per se sexual but had a powerful influence in the psychic breakthrough.

Yet, concerning basic principles, there is remarkable agreement among Buddhists as to what is involved in the meditative process. This distinctive Buddhist orientation towards meditation can be summed up concisely. The first, called “Samatha” in Sanscrit, is the step by step development of mental and physical calmness. The second, “Vipassana”, is the step by step enhancement of awareness, sensitivity, and clarity of mind. These complement each other and should be practiced simultaneously. Some techniques develop primarily calming, others primarily clarity, still others both qualities equally. It is of utmost importance, however, that one component not be enhanced at the expense of the other. To do so is no longer meditation. Tranquillity at the expense of awareness is dozing; awareness at the expense of calm is “tripping.” Samatha, if taken to an extreme, leads to special trance states; these may be of value, but they are not the ultimate goal of Buddhism. The prac- tice of clear observation, on the other hand, if developed with sufficient intensity and consistency leads to a moment of insight into the nature of the identification process. At that moment, awareness penetrates into the normally unconscious chain of mental events which gives us rock- solid convictions like “I am so and so” or “such and such really matters.” This insight brings with it a radical and permanent change in perspective, a refreshing sense of freedom which is not dependent upon circumstances. The attainment of this perspective, a refreshing sense of freedom which is not dependent upon circumstances. The attainment of this perspective and the full manifestation of its implications in daily life are goals of Buddhist meditation.

Samatha is the practice of stilling the mind through letting go. In Buddhist usage, it is virtually synonymous with the term “samadhi.”

This latter term is usually translated as “one-pointedness” or concentration. Unfortunately, the word ‘concentration’ often carries a connotation of repressing the mind, forcing it not to wander from a certain object. Such a tug-of-war between the desire of the mind to hold an object and its desire to wander is exhausting and produces unconscious tensions. This is the very antithesis of the samata state.

The nature of concentration is detachment. Realizing this marks an important step along the path to the attainment of a mental power. In real concentration one simply rests the mind of the object at hand and then proceeds to let go of everything else in the universe. The mind then remains on that object until it is appropriate to shift attention. Thus the ability to focus, to concentrate totally on one thing, is essen- tially equivalent to the ability to let go of everything.

Christian marriage is talked about as such a way of spiritual conversion, an alchemy of sorts, wherein the two become one as they practice a kind of Tantric transcendence through the very processes of the married state. It is not just for those who “can’t be celibate” but it is a way of union experi- enced physically that can open the doors of transcendent integration of divine and personal capacities. In this one’s marriage is more than an analogy for divine union. It is the experience of the divine in one another. Also, it is considered that a Christian theology of sexuality is needed that is broader than that which has currently developed only for heterosexuals per- haps fond of one another, who can perform the marriage act. There has to be a recognition of the reality that such sexual identity is to a considerable degree transitory and intangible, when we view the experience of humanity as a whole. This is evidenced by the large number of people who can or would neither be married nor be abstinent, yet, who are true seekers of knowledge, truth, even God. This is in light of traditional attitudes about chastity and the process that develops the chaste condition as the most authentic and compassionate way of relating to God, the world and self. First, one learns to keep the body upright and utterly motionless entirely through balance and relaxation without muscular effort. The ideal posture for this is the cross-legged “lotus” although satisfactory results can be achieved with a variety of postures, even sitting in a chair. The important thing is to align the vertebra, find a position of equilib- rium, and simply let the body hang from the spine by its own weight. This feeling of letting go then extends to the breath and finally to the mind itself.

Since samatha has the dual nature of letting go and one-pointedness, two approaches to the mind are possible. One is to simply allow the emotional and conceptual content of the mind to settle of its own weight. A way this may be achieved is through the elegant technique of analogy (anumana). One feels a part of the body such as the arm relax- ing, then discovers the mental analog of that feeling, i.e. what it feels like to relax thought.

The second approach is to rest the attention on a specific object and [eventually] habit weakens, then disappears. The object may be physical or visualized, outside the body or within. The so-called “elephant tam- ing pictures” of Tibet portray this process in detail.

It is common in all Buddhist traditions to give beginners some form of meditation which brings the mind to rest on the breathing. Chanting is also common to all traditions, but is not considered to be so efficacious as breathing meditations generally.

Samatha is thus a continuum of states of progressive settling of the mind associated with growth in detachment, concentration power, and a distinctive set of physiological changes. The characteristics of this process is fully defined in Abhidharma literature.

…knowledge that my father initiated me as a shaman by not doing certain things when a father would have done them. That was his gift. That ‘not doing’. It formed the ‘split’ that allowed entrance to the world of archetypes. It was done when I was about 7 years old, out in the wilderness in a com- pletely spontaneous situation. It was done daily by not guiding me in the normal social or sexual development. I was born to it. My father had little choice either. Then, my very strong and also gifted mother and grandmother nurtured this process through my growing up. The world of schools; public schools, monasteries, seminaries, shamans, monks, other teachers defined and empowered the process. Guided… At first in meditation, the body strains to remain upright during sitting, the breath is rough, piston like, and the mind wanders terribly. One may even feel more agitated than usual. Actually, one is just becoming aware for the first time of the appalling extent and intensity of the chaos within.

After that, the dream sensations dissipate in unconnected images. The dreamer wakes feeling cleansed and confident of identity in the world and God. One of the last images of the dream is that the dreamer has come to the end of school… “close the book, walk through the door”

This awareness is really the first state of progress. In the Tibetan tradi- tion, it is called “realizing the mind as a waterfall.” As with any other art, however, time and regular practice bring skill at samatha.

…For many samatha practitioners, the events of the day are seen as a sequence of opportunities to deepen and apply skill at one-pointedness. Peculiar inversion in values may take place. Normally unpleasant situa- tions turn into gold. Overwork and physical discomfort become “nega- tive feedback devices.” Uncomfortable? Go deeper! Chaotic and fearful situations are accepted as challenges to one’s meditative prowess. Wasting time is no longer conceivable. Being unexpectedly kept waiting for an hour somewhere means an hour of “secret use, hidden enjoy- ment.” The Sung dynasty Ch’an master We-men summed it up when he said, “Most people are used twenty-four hours a day; the meditator uses twenty-four hours a day.’

The eagle,

the Old Man are with me now.

Abbas Mundi— Servant of God,

feeds me on the Spirit,

Shows me the glory of creation,

the nearness of God. Heaven—


This is heaven, the presence of God-

but we cannot see. He helps me to see, shows me the life of everything.

He is the old man standing in a dark portal. I am brother to Christ


Golden eagle

the eagle rests.


—————oh my baby, my beautiful baby. why did you have to die…

The classical Raja Yoga of Patanjali distinguishes three states along the continuum of settling which are called the “inner branches” of yoga. The first is dharana, holding on, during which the yogi strives to hold the object of concentration, returning to it each time the mind wanders. When the second state, dhyana, is reached, concentration upon the object is unbroken, “like a flowing stream of oil.” Finally, all mental fluc- tuations cease, trance is attained, and the yogi feels the mundane limitation have been transcended. Patanjali call this last stage samadhi. Note that, while in Buddhism the word samadhi is usually used as a general term for any state of one-pointedness, here in classical yoga it refers only to the very deepest of such states. Nor is the experience of samatha found only within meditation, the arts, sports, and other “secular” activities which require intense concentration and relaxation, may also touch upon this state.

i live beneath a river of clouds;

rain masses moving beyond my reach.

i watch the slipping light-boats

run their rapids down

each white-capped undulation in the sea.

here jetty rocks hold for hanging froth,

for falling foam from full-bent breakers,

the last leaping roar of ocean-going waves.


Samatha is merely a tool which facilitates the attainment of Nirvana. The word Nirvana literally means ‘extinction’. Not the extinction of self, but the extinction of the Klesas, the afflictions which prevent happiness.

sea pull your sucking best, waves and sea— even if you held me firm in your limpid, liquid grasp, I would, from you or any holding hand, be free

The Klesas may be broadly grouped under three headings; raga, dvesa, and moha. 1) Raga, desire, is the drive to repeat pleasant experiences. 2) Dvesa, aversion or antipathy is the rejection of unpleasant experience. 3) Moha is confusion and lack of clarity. Moha is responsible for our sense of limited identity and prevents us from noticing the subtle malaise and discomfort which underlie all experience.

i live in a clean corner

beneath a river of sky

a giver of clouds and torrents

a bringer of gentle whispers in the evening breeze


Sustained Vipasyana leads to a moment of liberating insight when huge masses of moha fall away like chunks of concrete revealing a vista of freedom. In scholastic Buddhism, this is called “entering the stream of the nobles” or ‘catching on’, or ‘seeing one’s nature’, or ‘breakthrough’. At that moment, the wisdom eye opens, but wider for some than for oth- ers. In any case, it never closes again. This is no “peak experience” which later fades. It is a permanent change in perspective, a revolution in the basis of the mind.

i live beneath a river of dreams—

images and vast space crowding between moments,

feelings that hold their claim in waking,

sights beyond the grasping heart

and more and more that can’t be held by words

but only in the stillness

and silence,

and roaring, crashing moan given by glacial Arctic ice flows.


…what is meant by no-self is becoming free from the concept of self, Satkayadrsti. And this is not quite the same thing as losing self nor does it necessarily even imply the absence of a concept of self….in other words, a thought, concept, mental image or memory has no hold over us if we always experience it totally (vipasyana) and yet remain relaxed (samatha).

i live beneath a flood of stars

knowing the daily round— the morning prayers

and prayers to wash the dishes again

and breakfast

and serving it all

and all

and washing the clothes

and washing and prayers for lunch,

thanksgiving and praise the rite of it

in the afternoon

chores that move us into night

(we carry our boats and move beneath a river of night

a silent crew marching, marching… God knows where.)

Although in Mahayana, compassion is conceived of as on a par with wisdom, in practice priority is usually initially placed on gaining libera- tion. It’s just more efficient that way. …Further, after one is free from concept of helper, helped, and helping, there need be no feeling of cha- grin or loss of enthusiasm when one’s efforts to help fail.

…Samatha and vipasyana then are tools for attaining enlightenment, a non-self-centered perspective. That perspective is a tool which facilitates the achievement of complete Nirvana. According to some Mahayana con- ceptualizations, Nirvana itself is a kind of a tool… (These commentaries on Buddhist meditation are taken from the works of Venerable Shinzen Young.)

Oh, pluck the string,

climate of my dreams,

sound your timbrel, that I may sing

of Elevations and river dreams

of all that is

and all that seems.

…for as I wait

leaves fall glorious dead

magenta red

so much blood,

magenta red

so many friends

bruise red, glorious dead upon the damp ground


Finish my training Lord, for I must join the battle.

I go, in my mind’s eye, to a place in the desert that during my training I

had discovered to be a place of power. Steph and I went there once.

I want to be there now…

I am there. There is a rock, a promontory, not very high, composed of

volcanic mud; ancient, ancient mud from beneath an ancient, ancient

lake long dried. It is now a place where an eagle perches. I suppose because he can see so

far to watch for game. For an eagle is always hunting. I want to go there now.

When I arrive, we spend the night. I stand looking east.

Somehow from that place, I am able to see,

I am able to see,…

the war…

in the Middle East.

Through the light… Iraq.

Through the medium of light.

Some light. I see soldiers untrained, bombed, unprepared,

bodies torn apart, wounded, few that survive.

Tanks are coming I can hear them,

can you hear them, can you hear them

I can hear them so clearly, can’t you hear them,

I can hear the screams, the whine and the roar of huge machines, can’t you hear the screams and the huge machines,

can’t we stop the screams.

All for oil, hundred of thousands

Iraqi must be maimed or die,

George Bush and Saddam Hussein and their petty egos,

and the machines upon which they stand,

that so many must die

a country devastated

the princelings of Kuwait pampered

the Lies sold to the American public,

hundreds of thousands

can’t you hear the screams,

the cars and the oil

oil and cars

the factories

the lives enslaved to compete,

South Korea and Japan,

the other’s will to catch up

in this mad rush towards progress

mad rush towards security and comfort

the mad rush

Can’t you hear the madness screaming as the tanks top the hill and roll in our direction

the leaves fall magenta red

blood magenta red

hardly dancing

to the damp ground.