Posts Tagged ‘Buddha’

enlightenment

it happens daily —
the world turns, the sun rises
— my own blindness kills

This poem was born out of a feeling of regret. I dreamed I turned up to play French horn in an orchestra, but then realised I had no French horn. Awake, I fell to thinking of my teenage years and how lazy I was in regard to French horn practice. I now practice yoga on a daily basis, and because my body is old, I notice the stiffness immediately if I miss a day’s practice. I fell this morning into wishing I had realised the importance of practice. Who knows I might now be a professional musician. And this feeling of regret forced me to consider the totality of what we owe to this life or to ourselves by being alive. I suppose you could say I fell to regretting not having achieved enlightenment in this life. The subject of enlightenment was already fairly close the surface of my preoccupations since Friday night when a Buddhist friend used the term in a Buddhist sense and I found myself rebelling inwardly — I doubt whether it’s either helpful or meaningful, to accept enlightenment as something the Buddha achieved and the rest of us can only strive after in a futile sort of way. My poem wanted to bring back ‘enlightenment’ to the literal meaning of the literal light which fills our physical world. But of course I end up, in the poem, with a metaphorical blindness nevertheless.

buddhahood

without attachment
there’s no possibility
of loss — without loss,
there’s no finding and without
finding — no world, no being

Almost the only image I could recall from last night’s dreams, was of a container full of papers. They were precious memories, mementoes, and they were being upended and scattered downwards into a bottomless void. I dislike the highly abstract nature of the poem, but there we are. I suspect there is some kind of connection with having heard Bowlby mentioned in a talk yesterday evening. I know little about Bowlby except he is famous for attachment theory.  And I don’t know much about attachment theory though I am disposed to believe it because it arose out of Freudian thinking. It’s very odd indeed to observe my own willingness to believe two utterly different sets of theories about attachment — Bowlby’s and the Buddha’s. Neither of which I can claim to have studied. I know somewhat more about Buddha’s ideas on the subject, and yet I have the sense of psychoanalysis as my true cultural home in contrast to the exotic, imported flavour of Eastern wisdom. Why am I so ready to accept an external source of knowledge (in this case, Bowlby and/or Buddha)? I feel I must be some kind of naive schoolboy, still, at heart. Treating the whole world as though it were some kind of academic test. Crazy. The broad difference between Bowlby and Buddha seems to be, Buddha claims attachment can be (and needs to be) transcended, while Bowlby does no more than observe how it actually works in practice. The idea that Buddha succeeded in transcending attachment altogether, leaves me simultaneously sceptical and excited. What a wonderful vision! The Tale of the Man Who Achieved the Impossible. I only know it’s impossible for me, and that I’m unable to accept on faith that it’s even a wise goal to strive for. Of course Buddha said accept nothing on faith. But how on earth can anyone strive for an impossible goal except through faith? But the vision stands. And I’m pleased with my poem as an attempt to capture that vision.

brainpower

life is hard — this truth
is so easy, the mind baulks
— have we trained our minds
quite wrongly to solve problems
rather than to accept them?

Well, I was so pleased yesterday because my poem used imagery from the previous night’s dream. Now this morning, this poem goes off at a complete tangent, apparently bearing no relation whatsoever to last night’s dreams. I dreamed of my stepmother’s mother — a sexual dream which was quite weird. And of missing a train by a hairsbreadth. What’s clear however is that this morning I am pondering Buddhism. Not that I intended to. But I can see, now that the poem’s written — it relates strongly to the Buddha’s 1st Noble Truth of Suffering. This isn’t surprising as I spent yesterday evening in the company of two committed Buddhists.

symbols of nirvana

the going out of
a candle — the shutting down
of a computer —
death — waking up — breathing out
— symbols choose us, not we them

Poor attempt to capture a dream in which a computer had insufficient power with which to complete the task of booting up. Apparently this was experienced by the computer as a dangerous situation, and it displayed an image on its screen of fire and flames, before shutting itself down. The meaning of the dream has to be something to do with powerlessness, and feelings of powerlessness, but I got distracted away from this by remembering Buddha’s classic symbol of nirvana (the going out of a candle).

Cambridge

to understand sex
would be to understand life
— but please — with heart and
soul — an understanding which
binds rather than separates

So the high value (ultimate, even) placed by Buddha upon non-attachment is counterintuitive, and questionable after all? Is the rational intellect a help or a hindrance – both in general and in the particular realm of sex? This issue arose in the course of my blog post two days ago (last sentence of the commentary) and I seem to be revisiting it again here. Cambridge is my symbol of the intellect. I spent 3 years at the university, but my intellectual growth was severely stunted by my emotional problems, and I never really engaged with any of the people or communities around me. Soon after leaving, I started puzzling about the words intellect and intellectual. I noticed that whereas intellect (particularly in a Buddhist context) suggests something pristine, positive and full of clarity, intellectual suggests an outlook somehow muddied (in what to my mind is a shameful way) by too many thoughts.

Yesterday I contributed a post elsewhere, on an online forum, on the subject of Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen (which I blogged about here last week some time). I remember vividly a conversation in Peterhouse College Bar with a fellow student who explained to me the basics of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Cambridge did have an impact; the intellectual ferment didn’t pass me by quite utterly. Another similar moment was when I got into conversation late one evening in the street on the way home back to my college, with a young intellectual (I never saw him again) who enthused as only young people can, about a new talent who was going to be the biggest thing in music very soon — by the name of Bruce Springsteen. Ten years later in 1985 I finally forced myself to find out what all the fuss was about, and to my surprise (which has never quite left me) found myself utterly bowled over. So Cambridge gave me Springsteen and Heisenberg. Heart and soul in the poem above is a quote from a Springsteen song called Drive All Night. In my dream last night, I was observing the genitalia of a girl from behind as she bends down.

Buddha solved his pain,
his craving — the rest of us
simply live with it