13 May 2004 |
Posted by Lama Surya Das | 0 Comment.
I love water. Fortunately water and I are already practically one, at least according to my doctor.I always feel peaceful harmony around water. Whenever I see water, meditation naturally happens. Sitting on the beach I don’t even have to try; it seems as if the waves do it for me, like an outer form of the inner tide of my breathing, washing everything away. Trying to close my eyes or concentrate there seems extra. Sit happens.
The best time of my day is walking my dog around the lake near my house. I can tell she thinks so too, because she can’t wait to go. Actually, she always reminds me of that possibility.
I was a teenage surfer, but I’m more land-bound now. Owning an acre keeps my ship upright.
When I lived in a Tibetan monastery for years and never saw a body of water, it was frightening. My blood cells longed for their natural home. I would dream of oceans and rivers in my native land, and float in their embrace.
Tears water the soul. One tear of devotion or compassion can purify infinite transgressions.
My Tibetan friends say that water embodies the goddess Mamaki. Each natural element is like a goddess, and everything is sacred. Water reveals this truth to me, directly.
Water flows. it reminds me to allow things to proceed naturally, spontaneously, unhindered. Seeing the ripples on a pond or river helps melt my separate hard-and-fast self into oneness and intimate connection with everything, mysteriously returning me to myself and my groundless and boundless source.
If divinity were incarnate, I’d pick water as his or her way of being.
“Nature is the only book I need to read.”
Tibetan Yogi Milarepa, 11th century A.D.
Natural spirituality is all around us. We can hardly escape from it, although we do often tend to overlook it. I myself never feel more at home than when I am outdoors. It helps me almost effortlessly let go of everything and be totally present, centered, and in harmony with all things. My next door neighbor, who happens to be a Christian, says she never feels closer to heaven than when she is kneeling in her garden. This must be why Cardinal Newman wrote: “By a garden is meant mystically a place of spiritual repose, stillness, peace, refreshment and delight.”
Walking, sitting or lying down outside is a beautiful way to connect with mother nature and join the lineage of nature mystics. The Buddha meditated almost entirely in forests and on mountain peaks, and he realized ultimate enlightenment while sitting beneath a tree in Bodh Gaya in the wilderness. Nature also exists, more discreetly, in cities too. Meditating outside is a wonderful way to reconnect with our true nature, and find our place in the bigger picture. The earth is like an altar; all beings are the gods and goddesses arrayed upon it. I myself make a practice of walking outside every morning, often with my dog alongside.
Henry David Thoreau said that if he didn’t walk four hours a day outside among the hills and forests, he got rusty; his mentor and friend Waldo Emerson wrote: “Man is a spring whose source is hidden.” Walking helps me tread the spiritual path towards that source. In fact, when I speak in public people often ask me what is a simple spiritual practice that they can learn and do anytime, anywhere, and I always say — just take a walk outside, the longer the better. Let what you seek come to you. Shakespeare said: “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”
According to the tantric or all-inclusive, non-dualistic view of Tibetan Buddhism: everything is sacred, all is holy, all are equal. Human and animal, all creatures — all sentient beings, seen and unseen — are manifestations embodying pure and untrammeled Buddha-nature. This sacred outlook or spiritual sight helps us re-enchant our everyday human lives. Like children, we all are naturally endowed with luminous spirit or radiant heart; we only need to reconnect with what is already there, within us, and bring it more and more into our daily lives. The delivery system is called spiritual life, cultivating spirituality through practice, contemplation, prayer and unselfish action.
As spiritual seekers — fellow travelers on this sacred journey — we can practice awakening to this immanent reality: the “beyondness” in the most ordinary daily things. Through the practice of “pure perceptions” or sacred outlook, we learn to see the infinite in the finite. This Vajrayana (Diamond Path) Buddhist approach helps us transcend our ordinary, limited, dualistic perceptions and egocentric judgments, to enter directly into the magic of everyday reality, wherever we are. Try to look a little more deeply, and recognize the light shining in everyone and in every thing. Everyone is beautiful, everything is glorious, in its own way.
This is a daily meditation practice you can do at home, at work, alone or with others, with or without sitting down. Just cultivate this higher “view,” recognizing “this land is the Pure Land, paradise; this body is the Body of Buddha,” as Japanese Zen Master Hakuin once sang.
Tibetan Lamas teach us that each of the five basic elements — earth, water, fire, air, and space — are goddesses. We can learn to transcend ourselves and be transported into a more splendidly divine reality through the dharma-gate (or spiritual access) offered by the naturally moving beauty and grandness of nature as well as through prayer, bowing, or contemplation in any great cathedral, temple, or mosque. Is there a loftier, more uplifting cathedral than a redwood forest or a massive mountain; any shrine or sanctuary more soulful than a vast, shimmering desert, or a sunset over the ocean?
I myself take a walk outside first thing every morning. If I catch dawn crowning the world, so much the better. This is how I open the book of nature, and reconnect naturally with living spirit. Sometimes I take a walk alone with God or Buddha, my “eternal companion,” as it were; other days, with my dog, depending on whether I am at home or abroad. Either way, paradise is where I am. I feel at home, blessed, grateful, and content.
Nature is the original fountain of knowledge, beauty, sustenance, and inspiration for all people around the globe. Mother Nature or Goddess Gaia is mother womb to all of us. She belongs to no one, and she belongs to us all. We should cherish her, just as she embraces and holds us. She gives herself unstintingly to us, every day, every moment. Life is a gift. We would do well not to squander it.
In Tibetan we hear of the Dra-la Principle, referring to the intrinsic magic of reality: this “immediate beyondness,” which is available through each moment. We can call upon the drala as an ally, as a way to reach beyond ourselves, when we need to take refuge from confusion and distress and find a safe harbor for in the stormy emotions and travails of daily life. We also can simply recognize the drala through those moments of what I call “natural meditation,” when we are so moved that we are as if accidentally pulled out of ourselves, by whatever most transports us and reconnects us to that which is beyond — yet simultaneously within — each of us.
Natural meditation is familiar to us all. When as kids we used to lie in the grass on our back and stare up at the clouds and the sky, losing ourselves, forgetting ourselves, we experienced and learned many things — whether or not we were conscious of it. Or looking at the ocean’s waves, listening to a waterfall, or staring at a candle flame, a blazing fire in the hearth, or a bonfire — dissolving in the natural elemental energy of fire, water, wind, and being washed or burnt away while being transported far beyond our limited selves. This is the principle of natural meditation. It is not at all foreign to us. These are also some of the simple, practical essentials of nature mysticism.
Nature is our treasure; this world is our home and our garden. The earth is like an altar, and we are all the gods and goddesses, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, on that altar. In that light, reverence for all forms of life comes naturally. We are not merely human beings trying to live a more spiritual life, but spiritual beings learning how to live a human one here on planet earth, as Teilhard Des Chardin once said. We are part of nature, and nature courses through every atom of us. Human nature, Buddha-nature, mother nature — three in one.
The book of nature is our operating manual; try to read a small chapter daily. I think you’ll love it.
“Each one of us matters, has a role to play, and makes a difference. Each one of us must take responsibility for our own lives, and above all show respect and love for living things around us. especially each other. Together we must reestablish our connections with the natural world and with the Spiritual power that is around us. And then we can move triumphantly, joyously, into the final stage of human evolution–spiritual evolution.”