The Empty Room

When I first entered the big room it was entirely empty,
and so I began filling it with all sorts of interesting stuff.

However, after a time I felt that stuff was not enough, and so
next I began populating it with various fascinating people,
creating many webs of intertwining relationships, experiences,
events and memories, drama, excitement, and adventure —
more than enough to fill the empty room to overflowing —
but eventually, it seems, I began to weary of all the activity,
all the busy hustling and bustling that filled the room
with so much sound and motion, and thus it was that
I began to yearn for the simplicity, the serenity,
peace, and quiet of that original empty room.

What I discovered was that I had to disentangle myself
from whatever I had placed in the now crowded room —
all the memories, events, experiences, intertwining relationships,
all the interesting people, and even all the delightful stuff–
all were left to go their way, migrating on to other rooms
or just disappearing from lack of further attention.

Of course, this was not easy, since I had a certain fondness
for the many inhabitants who now populated the room
and made it so attractive, but finally I came to see that
if I really wanted to return the room to its original state,
there really was no option but to let it all go, surrender it.

And so it came to be that the room gradually emptied out,
the party goers grew bored and moved on to more exciting venues,
stuff was sold off or given away, and at last the room was empty again,
all except for myself, here in the middle of tan enormous empty room,
wondering where the peace and happiness was that I had so long sought.

I stood in the middle of the empty room, and as I gazed around
I saw nothing but empty space everywhere, extending
infinitely in all directions.

Impressed by such pristine emptiness, I forgot something very crucial.

Even though I had managed to let go of everything and the room
appeared completely empty, the one who admired the emptiness,
who had longed for such emptiness, was still standing in the room.

As long as someone remains in the room, it is not truly empty —
the room is only truly empty when that one goes.

Indeed, it has been that one all along who represented
the only impediment to tranquility, and when this simple fact
was finally recognized, that separate one also vanished.

Only a spacious peace remained, the pure and transparent
impersonal awareness of vast and all-pervading emptiness.

After a long while, I become curious about that big empty room.

Because it is so vast and empty, I begin filling it with all sorts
of interesting stuff, but that is not enough, and so next I begin
populating it with various fascinating people, creating many webs
of intertwining relationships, experiences, events and memories,
drama, excitement, and adventure . . .

empty room

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Gift of Tears

Since Love and Emptiness are not-two,
I feel our tears before they begin,
before the world looms into view,
the world that is just about to break our heart.

These are the tears of that world, crying out,
weeping for itself in the midst of the suffering
it brings on itself again, and yet again.

In this, and even in a way that we can’t say,
these tears are a gift we grant to ourselves,
a gift of salty water streaming down,
pouring across our own cheeks in the face
of all that we have inflicted on ourselves,
the inexplicable sorrow we blindly recreate
again and yet again, the everyday horror.

I feel you poised here, just on the brink of tears,
swaying on the precipice of a cliff from which
the whole wild display is visible — a palpable,
pulsing panorama of joy and sorrow,
hope and regret that somehow make us human,
that make us laugh and cry and ponder why.

And no, there is no final answer.

We really don’t know — we only feel it. We feel it,
and the more we feel, the more we are capable of feeling,
until it all coalesces into one single thing.

This thing we can’t name — is it living?
Is it dying?

We really don’t know, but only feel so profoundly
that we are moved to tears, the tears of a whole world
crying out for itself, weeping in the midst of the suffering
it has brought upon itself, again and now again.

In such suffering we burn, before the mirror we cry hot tears,
but can our tears ever burn through to the end of grief?

Perhaps the great gift of tears is found in the recognition
that there is a secret joy hidden in our sorrow.

Can we summon the courage to allow ourselves to feel so deeply,
so completely, that we begin to awaken to that joy breathing there,
within our pain, but beyond all fear, silently, patiently waiting?

In such guileless vulnerability, life and death will cease to threaten,
cease to be the source of any anxious grasping or avoidance.

Here and now, in the midst of our tears, the only question is:
can we accept such a gift, dare we let that much in?


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Seven Tales of the West Wind

In the first tale, I awoke in a kind of form that could feel.
This was so miraculous — I could feel with the whole form!
There were so many sensations, so many points of contact,
though I could not say them, for I was before all names,
prior to any words, but I could feel the warm wind on my face,
and later I knew it as the dear West Wind, and this became
my very first tale, my first of the seven West Wind tales.

In the second tale, I now became a child, a child of a child
in a long line of children, stretching back to the very first one,
the one who stood up and walked, then somehow learned to run
with the wind, as if with a sweet and close companion, as if there was
nothing else but the wind and my feet, running for the sheer joy
of movement, to move with the wind, like the wind, as the wind,
and so this was my second tale, running with the wild West Wind.

In the third tale, the wind that I had known and loved blew off
to the West without me, for my widening attention now was drawn
to the waiting world and all of its many strange and fine, mysterious,
wonderful, enchanting and complex ways and means, its people
and places, scenes and events, that filled my life with the play
of time and space, relations and glad elations, so that I almost
forgot my Friend the West Wind, and thus was my third tale.

In the fourth tale, I dreamed I rode again on the swift West Wind,
and I was swept up off my feet and carried far towards the distant West
where many unknown but strangely familiar Beings came riding out on
their own little breezes to greet me and welcome me home to the womb
of the world, the birthplace of wind and rain and cloud, of day and night
and the stars and moon and sun so bright, and I was shown in the dream
I dreamt that here lay my heart when it came to rest, and here was
the secret place where my soul returned when I was done with the toys
and games of the windy world, and so this dreamy tale became the fourth.

In the fifth of these tales, my magical Friend, the kind West Wind, brought
my own True Love to me, who flew my way on the wings of the wind, then
she spread her loving wings over me in a canopy of pure delight, and
as I stood in the filtered light she opened my chest and reached within,
then placed a solar kiss upon my heart that shone so bright we disappeared
and what remains until this day is the shine of Love that can’t be dimmed
by the coldest gust of the cruel North Wind, and if there’s more that needs
be said, it’s Thanks and Praise to flowing Grace of my life-long Friend
for bringing me my Heart’s True Bliss, Whose loving touch and then
Her kiss through the parted veil became the fifth of the West Wind Tales.

In the sixth of these tales of the wandering wind, the one I call
the Western Wind, my Love and I were taken far to a land beyond
the ken of men, and there we learned of the secret Breath that fills
the multi-verse with life, and on that celestial Breath we roamed, as if
in the arms of the true West Wind, beholding the whirling clusters
of stars that make the dome of night so bright, and at their core
there’s a waiting door, a magnetic dark, a portal to the other side, and
here without a moment’s pause we were drawn in by the urgent Wind
that sought its fate through that ebony gate, and this became sixth
Wind Tale, where words and names, forms and figures, conceptions and
speculations, even time and space, were swallowed up without a trace.

In the seventh and final tale of the Wind, that blest West Wind,
we re-emerged in a realm of light, surrounded by multitudes of lyrical
and colorful breezes, among them of course that wandering Friend,
the Breath of the Source of the vast multiverse, and so we awoke
in a form that could feel, and this was so miraculous — we could feel
with the whole form, and there were so many sensations, so many
points of contact, though we could not say them, for we were now
before all names, prior to any words, but we could feel the warm wind
on our face, which later we knew as the dear West Wind, and thus
was born the seventh tale, at the end of which we begin again.


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On Reading a Sloka by Lakshmanjoo in Praise of Sri Ramana

When we pause to consider our life, isn’t it as if
we are reflecting on a vaguely remembered dream?

When we contemplate our inconsistent efforts,
must we not honestly admit that they amounted to
nothing but the jerky movements which are made
by closed-eye people turning, twisting in their sleep?

Therefore, should we chance to encounter some unaccountable
trace evidence of the real world, the world beyond the mind’s
elaborate dreaming fantasies, beyond the play of whispered
rumors and artificial fabrication, it is almost too much to bear,
and so we habitually retreat to the conditional safety and comfort
of the familiar, which for every dreamer is after all the dream
in which they so helplessly drift, absorbed in the scenes of time.

However, if we are somehow by a grace, a blessed power
which is unspeakable and beyond any common description,
able to persist in our focus of attention to the timeless substratum
upon which all of the manifest and even the unmanifest realms
depend for their very existence, we may discover by such grace
that only the poetry of mad savants will prevail and serve
to transmit the exquisite and ineffable light which is awakened
in those gifted few, those rare ones, who submit themselves
to the unimaginable infinite which is our own true nature.

That light is none other than the mystery of what lives us
now and always, whether with our knowledge and consent,
or not, it matters little — it is what is, there is only that,
and thanks and praise be to it!


“When I was in twenties, some one told me of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Then and there I left Kashmir and went to South India. From Madras I took another train for Tiruvannamalai. There I took a cart and reached the blessed Sri Ramana ashram.
As I entered the Hall I saw Bhagavan seated on a sofa with his legs stretched. I was thrilled with joy on having darshan of Bhagavan, who asked me to sit in front of himself. I sat and gazed on the Feet of Bhagavan and entered the blissful state of samadhi.
I felt those golden days were indeed divine. I used to go on Arunachala Hill with Bhagavan. Bhagavan used to sit on a rock and I would be seated at his Feet.
One day I was overjoyed by the nearness of Bhagavan and composed these slokas to offer them to Bhagavan:

‘There are four kinds of body: the gross (sthula), the subtle (sukshma), the causal (karna) and the void (sunya). For Sages (achalanam, lit. those who are motionless) as well (there are four kinds of body).
Transcending these (four kinds of body) is the great Hill Arunachala, which is praised as the form of the all¬-knowing Supreme (lit. the form of the supreme Knower).
We worship Sri Ramana, who blissfully abides in His own true nature (swarupa), which is named Arunachala, the foremost among the foremost of Hills.
I take refuge of a great personage Maharshi Ramana who had realized his identity with the Lord. I utter the name of accomplished yogi Maharshi Ramana ceaselessly. I always contemplate on Maharshi Ramana the realized soul. I offer my salutations to celestial being Maharshi Ramana whole heartedly.

When these slokas were placed before Bhagavan, He was so pleased that he explained them to the devotees who were seated in the Hall.”

Yours as ever,
In the name of Bhagavan Ramana
Swami Lakshmanjoo

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Toothpick Tantra


I place a toothpick between my teeth,
relax, and stare off into the distance.

Everything to see and be is included
in the space between myself and that.

Some say it’s all merely imaginary figments
to which we tend to grant solidity, based on
a conjunction of prior causes and conditions.

Maybe that’s true, or maybe it’s not —
let those who give a damn sort it all out.

I’m done with their religions.

In any case, for the human race,
that’s not our real problem —
if we care to look, this is:

we divide the world into what we love
and what we hate, what we crave
and what we avoid, what we want
and what we don’t, what we hope for
and what we fear, what we adore
and what we abhor, what we cling to
and what we flee, what we worship
and what we unreservedly curse.

This is called “making a difficult thing worse.”

Although there are many fascinating things
which we can do with this amazing body,
such as moving from place to place or
standing on one’s head, or reaching up
and bending down, climbing over rocks,
or touching another body with a soft caress,
and although there are many modifications
to thought, memory, and perception which
we can accomplish with this marvelous mind,
such as concentrating, relaxing, projecting,
dissolving, and focusing inwardly or outwardly,
and although there is certainly plenty more
that could be said about any of it, isn’t it better
to sit down, stop speaking, and keep silent?

Yes, perhaps you might agree, but then look:
despite our very best intent, the streaming mind
cannot stay still for long in that quiet state.

Just so, if we say this mind is a mere nothing, see
how it jumps around like a mad little monkey.

However, if we say it is actually something, see
if you can find it anywhere and exclaim:

“Here, this is it — I’ve got it!”

Isn’t that the way it is with mind?

Such clear recognition may be the view,
but what is the appropriate conduct?

Sitting down or standing up,
speaking or remaining silent,
free from clinging or attachment,
accepting or rejecting, hope or fear,
even though a light appears brighter
than a million suns, and even though
a fragrance appears more intoxicating
than the senses can bear, and even though
a thought arises more brilliant than
any sutra or secret holy teaching, and
even though you feel sensations more
comforting than a mother’s warm touch,
and hear music more entrancing than
a symphony of some high angelic chorus,
don’t be distracted, no, don’t be distracted!

Switch the toothpick from one side to the other,
relax, and calmly stare off into the distance.

Everything for us to see and be is included
in that space between here and there.

Resist the tendency to indulge in preference.
Read that line above again.

What has preference ever brought us but stress —
chasing after a phantom composed of a mirage,
a dream within a dream, a child’s soap bubble,
and other metaphorical clichés like those?

Alternately, we could remain perfectly wide awake
in luminous emptiness, recognizing all phenomena
as our own stainless display, the purity of our own
natural innocence, and smile without any hesitation,
regardless of our present and habitual inclination
towards ignorance, boredom, doubt, and discomfort.

After all, it’s not that big a deal, but we won’t know
unless we make the effort, at least until we try.

Nobody is going to help us — not God nor Guru
nor Pastor Jim — we already have whatever we need,
and that means, my Friends, that we don’t need him.

Why go around wearing someone else’s hat
when our own hat fits just right?

When fixation on all identity is released,
what can harm us, day or night?

Resting in our native state,
we’ll simply let it be.

Then we’ll be like those happy fish
who’ve ceased searching for the sea.

We’ll no longer wonder if it’s real or not –
what a comedian, that crazy mind –
let’s leave all that behind!

When hope and fear, craving and aversion,
are severed at the root, the endless sky
is cleared of every darkening cloud —

a great day for a walk in the woods,
with frequent stops to laugh out loud!

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The Mind That Never Was

Ah, this is the mind that never was.
It never was, because, because . . .

No one could ever find such a one, but
all the same, we loved the way it created
our world, filling it with things, people,
and places — the wondrous ingredients
of every life, all unique but interconnected.

We loved how it could make everything and
anything appear out of nothing, the very same
state in which we now exist, but without ever
having any real existence itself, like magic!

If that seemed strange, we didn’t care —
we loved this mind as if it was our one and
only best friend, a friend who would be loyal
to the end, even when all else disappeared,
this no-thing remained to keep us entertained.

Some said it was a window, others a mirror,
reflecting a universe of infinite possibilities.

Some danced before their mirror of mind,
entranced by their own reflection, granting
themselves the power to expand out into
the furthest reaches of their own being, as if
they were no mere nothingness, but a miracle
too marvelous for names or words to describe.

They wandered there, as if in a hall of mirrors,
forever enamored of their own creation, and thus
it was that time was born, to measure the distance
between one mirror and the next, one life and
the next, just so that everything did not happen
all at once, at least in the mind that never was.

This mind was change, it fed on change, it relied
on change, its delight was change, its very
continuity depended on the law of change, and so
when it encountered that which doesn’t change,
it suddenly ceased moving and fell silent.

Within that silence a nowhere space appeared
in which this mind itself is spawned and dies.

We loved that space, that spaceless place, where
nothing rises up to be stroked or poked, praised
or blamed, gathered or loosed, freed or bound —

we turned around, and there it was, the one and
only perfect ground from which all minds appear
like trees, we love their leaves, we truly do,
and when the autumn wind blows through,
we’re carried off on a wanton breeze,
adrift in a mind that never was,
silently, silently floating.

falling leaf

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Hiding out in a cave is easy,
once you get the hang of it.

Chopping wood, fetching water –
really, how difficult is that today?

It’s only when you come back down
to the red dust town that you’ll recall
why you chose to climb those hills,
leave all behind, and rush to get away.

High up on the mountain, obscured
by clouds and mists, you may at times
feel loneliness or vexing reservations, but
it seems that’s part of the price you’ll pay
to avoid the messiness of life’s relations.

You may tell yourself that you’re in the cave
to attain a special state of spiritual grace,
but unless you confront your conditioned
preferences face to face, there will be no
authentic liberation, but only another weary
round of that ancient game of karma creation.

While you lounge about in pseudo-bliss,
swooning in those meditative sessions,
all that you’ve actually managed to do
is postpone this realm’s intended lessons.

“Mind like vast space, radiant transparency” –
how profound it all can sound, and yet
if you happen to meet another who questions
your contentment, you may discover just how
swiftly that your self-imputed loftiness
can descend into resentment!

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