The Unforgiven

There are rooms in the mansion of memory
where all of the innocent ghosts linger.

They are waiting patiently there for me —
the unforgiven.

With each remembrance, I open another door.
Here they stand, not as they really are,
but just as I remember them.

They are mute, imploring. It is now up to me.
It always has been, though I kept forgetting.

Will I forgive them at last for not being
who or what I wanted them to be?

Really, there are no ghosts, the past
is just an idea, behind every door there is
nothing but a mirror filled with faces.

Every face is my own, innocent, waiting for me
to forgive myself for not being what I wanted
to be, thought I should be.

One by one, I release each ghost into the light
shining behind the mirror of mind, behind
the old resentments, disappointments,
misunderstandings, desires, fears.

Without judgment, the light receives itself
in the form of every luminous ghost.

Perhaps we will keep returning here until
every room is empty, all finally forgiven.

In the meantime, I open another door.

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Straight Ahead

She mixes peas, green onions, chopped celery,
spices and herbs into the basmati rice, fries it up,
sprinkles a handful of crispy onions over it —
every mouthful reveals the richness of love,
its warm fullness and humble simplicity.

I don’t want to hear anymore about separation
and oneness, emptiness and experience,
karmic causality or pristine space;

I don’t want to listen to another wasted word
about the famous nondual nothingness;

I don’t care anymore about conditioned concepts,
wisdom systems, intriguing mental fabrications,
or the persistent illusion of individuality.

Friend, whatever you imagine you have to say
about consciousness, wouldn’t silence
be a more elegant option?

Buddhas and gods no longer have a place
here; any talk of enlightenment is a cloud
momentarily obscuring the full moon.

Last night as we slept, the whole sky
was filled with exquisite light.

Outside, there are overgrown blackberry bushes
in need of being cut back; plum, apple, pear,
and apricot trees to be tended; garden beds
to clear and turn over; fallen leaves
to rake and burn.

Maybe I’ll get to them, maybe not.
It’s all grace, inexplicable.

After these many years, finally
I surprise myself:

carelessly gazing straight ahead —
everything, nothing.

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8 Preludes

Prelude #1

He was arrested, tried, wrongly convicted, and sentenced to 200 years in solitary confinement without possibility of parole for a heinous crime he did not commit. For the first hundred years, he aged gradually as one might expect. Half-way through his term, however, his body began to reverse the aging process. By the time he had completed his full sentence, he was 23 years old again in every physical respect.

On the day of his release, he was given the following: a loin cloth, a rough blanket, a stone knife, a wooden spear, a flint tool for making fire, some dried meat, and a skin bag filled with water. Apparently, during the time he had been incarcerated in isolation, the world outside the prison had changed considerably. We imagine things will always be a certain way, but life tends to confound our expectations.

Prelude #2

She had finished her household chores, and now was ready to curl up on the sofa with a snack and a soft drink to watch her favorite game show, which she had recorded earlier that morning. Eventually, it came to the part of the program in which the game show host presented the winning contestant with the reward, usually in the form of a check for many thousands of dollars. She paused the recording right at the moment when the host was placing the check in the winner’s hands. The thrilled look on the face of the recipient fascinated her. What must it be like, she wondered, to experience that intensity of joy? A great surge of envy welled up within her — why couldn’t it be me?

No sooner had the thought arisen in her mind than she found herself miraculously transported into the game show program, where it was she herself who was now being handed the winning money. The only problem was, the program remained in the “Pause” mode, and so she was frozen with her hand extended to receive the prize. This condition lasted for several hours, until at last her husband came home from work.

He wandered into the entertainment room, where he noticed the television program paused on a scene. Without looking closely, he just pressed “Play”, and credits from a game show began to roll, interrupted by a commercial for Bob’s Big Burger Shack. Moments into the advertisement, the prerecorded program ended, so the man flipped off the TV and began searching around the house for his wife. Alas, his search was unsuccessful. He guessed that she must be out somewhere. Grudgingly, he realized that, if he wanted dinner, he would have to make it himself.

Prelude #3

It all seemed so tragically unfair — completely paralyzed from the waist down at the tender age of 8 years. This sad condition was due to a terrible automobile accident that had taken the lives of both of his parents, and left him confined for life to a wheelchair. At the Institute where he had become a ward, he was wheeled every morning after breakfast to the Great Room overlooking the meadow.

From his seat in front of the large picture windows, he watched the many varieties of local birds sporting about in the trees, hedges, and grasses, and a particular yearning eventually formed in his heart. “If only I could fly as free as those birds!” he silently prayed. Day in and day out, month after month, this became his fervent wish, his sacred mantra.

Then one day, a very rare and miraculous day, it seems that his consuming wish was to be magically granted. He suddenly felt lifted from his chair, transported through the window glass, and set free to fly like a bird through the crisp morning air. How amazing, how absolutely astounding it was — to be feel the thrill of flight, to twist and turn, to swoop and soar! His heart was simply bursting with joy. In his air-borne ecstasy, he was apparently not aware of the deadly talons swiftly descending from above, even as the predator hawk dived down, snatched him up, and carried him off for a meal.

Prelude #4

When Chester got up from his bacon and eggs breakfast, there is simply no way he could have connected that strange, uncomfortable feeling in his intestines to some squealing, genetically-engineered “frankenpigs” who had escaped from a research laboratory months before and subsequently entered the food chain. However, it would be on this day that causes and conditions so conspired as to change the fundamental human DNA structure in ways that would not be clearly comprehended for many generations to come.

Chester and Bea usually had sex after breakfast on Sunday while the kids ran squealing up and down the block outside on their nifty little motor scooters, and this Sunday was only different in the sense that, despite having used all the usual precautions, Bea was to become impregnated by Chester’s squealing little sperm, and the child that would result from this post-breakfast engagement would himself reproduce twenty years later in a marriage with someone whose parents had shared a meal of genetically-altered salmon just prior to their daughter’s conception.

The child that would issue from that union would consequently casually mate with a stranger picked up at a U. S. Department of Agriculture Trade Show, who happened to be the product of parents who had themselves been test subjects for a research project back in college, where they had been injected with a harmless trial Cold Prevention compound isolated from the rarest Amazonian Bromeliad.

The anonymous female from that one-night stand would give birth to what initially appeared to be a normal healthy child, but when the little tot first was allowed to wander out near the shore, nobody expected him to rush out into the tides and dive beneath the ocean waves, squealing in a kind of raspy delight strangely reminiscent of a piglet yearning for a sow’s teat.

After a thorough search, hope was given up for finding the youngster, and of course nobody could have guessed at the time that this child would emerge from the ocean two decades later, trident in hand, and ready to drown the earth with water. He came to be called Neptune by some, Poseidon by others, and small vague fragments of the story which unfolded were to be romanticized thousands of millennia later by an island tribe called Greeks, while some odd variation even turned up in flood stories of the desert Hebrews, as well as in many other ancient myths that even today trigger some familiar memory within the DNA of those who would hog up all the water.

Prelude #5

Gyatso Myojo (AKA Duane Pitkins, Duluth, Minnesota) had spent enough time as a member at Nondual Cyber-Sangha to consider himself somewhat of a senior defender of the faith and expounder of the true dharma. In this self-appointed role, he was not adverse to the verbal tactic of metaphorically cutting off others’ heads to appear taller in debate, and he would not relent until his perceived opponent was humiliated and chased off the thread.

Consequently, it was with a good deal of surprise one night when he pushed back from his Mac in the middle of a reply on an umpteenth “Who’s the Real Buddhist?” thread, suddenly struck by the dawning realization that all he had ever been trying to protect and defend was merely some image he’d fashioned in the face of the great unknown of his existence. When examined closely, his sense of identity was another dreamy story concocted out of suffering and hope that had now revealed itself to be nothing other than a mental fabrication.

From here, things could have gone in several different directions, but as it so happened, two Lineage Ancestors subtly manifested in karmically-agreeable forms to Duane’s further astonishment. After a moment of rapturous woo, one turned and said to the other, “Open his breast and take out his heart.”

When this was done, he said, “Wash his breast as you would a receptacle.” He then summoned the great mantra of Ahimsa and it was placed in Duane’s heart, which was magically returned to its original bodily location. Then one said, “Sew up his breast.” They sewed up his chest so that the wound could not be seen, then placed a seal between his eyebrows, so that all he could see was love, and all that he could know was love, and in this way, Love came to recognize itself as all and nothing.

Three hours later, Duane opened his eyes, deleted his unfinished reply to Cyber-Sangha, turned off his computer, and walked out into the fresh air to enjoy the moonlight – it was such a lovely night!

Prelude #6

Teka was raised on an island where nature had favored the inhabitants with all that they required for a pleasant and uncomplicated life. The sea swarmed with abundant marine life, fruit trees were plentiful and generous, the soil was fertile, animals abounded, and soft cool breezes moderated the sunny days. Time passed effortlessly, with one balmy day following another.

Nevertheless, Teka was always restless. Even as a child, he was never satisfied with the traditional explanations he was given by the elders regarding the nature of the world. He sensed that the only way he would fulfill his destiny would be to go beyond the known, beyond the old beliefs. One night, as he sat in the gathering around the fire, he interrupted the usual flow of conversation to inquire whether anyone had ever traveled out to discover what lay beyond the horizon.

At first there was an awkward silence. Finally, one of the elders spoke up, explaining that it was impossible to journey out that far. They would surely be swallowed up by the sea, or by whatever monstrous creatures might lurk in the uncharted waters, and why would anybody want to risk their life in such foolishness, just to satisfy some childish curiosity?

Teka spoke no more of this, but secretly set about making his plans. He began by constructing a boat big enough to carry provisions for a long trip, and while fishing with the others, he ventured out a little further each day, studying the ocean currents. Eventually he was ready for the adventure to which his whole life had been leading him. Despite the pleas and warnings from the village, he set out on his voyage one morning, and in a short time, his island home was receding in the distance behind him, until he was alone at last on the vast ocean, pursuing his life-long dream.

The weather remained benevolent, and time passed without much incident. After many days at sea, however, he began wondering if this was all there was – just this vast and endless ocean. Not only that, but there were no landmarks to plot a course. Would he ever be able to return home at this point? Such thoughts now troubled him, for he realized that his dwindling supplies of food and water would not last much longer. He had been hopeful that he would have reached a destination by now, but all he faced was an infinite expanse of sea and sky, and a horizon which seemed no closer now than when he first set out.

One night he was roused from his slumber by the sound of a distant roar. It was growing louder and more ominous by the minute, but at first he could not discern its source. It seemed vaguely familiar, like the waterfalls on his island, but enormously louder. He climbed the sail pole to see what lay ahead, but as he did so, his jaw dropped open in sheer amazement. Apparently, in those days, the world was flat, and Teka was now plunging headlong over the edge, and off into the starry sky!

Prelude #7

It was nearly dusk, and the local fishermen were out on a pier casting for the salmon and steelhead trout which were running up the estuary of the river. One angler managed to land a good-sized fish — a multi-colored wonder of creation, with rainbow streaks streaming down its silvery sleek body.

After some flopping about, and raging impotently against the invisible hand that had delivered it to this desperate end game, it surrendered to the inevitable and wearily watched its last sunset from the suffocating vantage point of dry land, never to know the fluid freedom of the river and sea again.

Suddenly a sea lion emerged from the water offshore, and raising its head, began to bellow into the vanishing light. The ocean animal’s piercing bark echoed through all the hearts lined up along the pier, and in the benediction of that moment, all was absolved in the enormous silence from which that poignant cry had issued.

Prelude #8

Eight years in the California State prison in Eureka for manslaughter had hardened the character, here played by a swarthy Bogart-type, to the spiritual consistency of turpentine wine in a tin can, and when he broke out and made his desperate escape down the coast, it was a volatile vintage ripe with a malicious bouquet and a lingering, angry finish.

The year was 1947, and it was easy for him to find an open door to a Ford flatbed parked in town, hotwire the ignition, and high-tail it south. He maneuvered through the Redwood-lined cow trails over the last mountain ridge before the Pacific Ocean spends itself in bewilderment along a narrow thread of shoreline called “The Lost Coast”.

A one-lane dirt trail ran parallel to the lonely, drift-wood strewn beachfront, and the seastacks of craggy rock eruptions offshore gave evidence that nature had had its way with this part of the world and was picking its teeth in after-supper satisfaction.

It was food the fugitive wanted now, alright, but all thought of eating fled from his mind when he came across the vehicle parked just off the road about two miles down the strand. He knew that things had progressed while he had been eight years in “stir”, but nothing had prepared him for this — it looked like some kind of strange craft from another world, a world far from the 1947 automotive technology he had fleetingly noticed on the dash out of town.

Although somewhat streaked with the dust of the road, the futuristic machine was unlike any car he had ever seen. Inside, the instrument panel alone was like the interior of a spaceship, and the slightly open rear trunk appeared to be stocked by some kind of naturalist with a decidedly eccentric curiosity. Odd volcanic pitted rocks, weird animal skeletons, and strange dried shapes of wood and bone spread out on some kind of unfamiliar material, all combined to form a mystery he couldn’t fathom. A book in the corner featured a photo on the cover of a fierce-looking grizzled Indian, entitled “I Am That”, and he couldn’t take his eyes off that face until he heard the sounds of laughter coming towards him from the dunes.

A man and woman were approaching, but rather than the apprehension he normally felt in the presence of strangers, he simply felt a kind of disassociated moment of something he couldn’t quite identify – familiar, but not in a way he could pinpoint. Their arms were filled with more beach gatherings, but it was the kind and easy way with which they greeted him that somehow drew out a comfort level rare for the jail-hardened convict.

“Hey, is this your car?” he asked.

“As much as it is anybody’s!” chuckled the two, winking slyly at each other.

“What the hell is it?” he then blurted out.

“Damned if we know!” they blurted back in unison.

“Hey, what year is it?” he persisted.

“2002, or is it 3?” chimed the female, trying to be helpful.

“Where am I?” the fugitive’s voice rose in a kind of panic.

“Here!” offered the beach-combing man, as compassionately as humor would allow.

“Well . . . what’s happened to me,” he groaned, “when I last looked it was 1947!”

“Simple,” answered the couple, “you’ve apparently just switched movies – ‘happens all the time out here. It’s why it’s called ‘The Lost Coast’!”

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That Special Something

The soul said: “I’ve seen enough of this show,
I’m ready to settle up and head for home.”

The body replied: “Hey, not so fast —
I still may want something else!”

What do you imagine that “something else”
is which the body still thinks it wants?

So much depends upon your answer,
a lot more than you might think.

This world can be a wish-fulfilling tree,
everyone is lining up to take their turn
at picking their favorite fruit.

The wise are patient — when the fruit
drops down on its own, they know
it will be ripe and ready to eat.

Could it really be so simple, that all
we have to do is just show up?

There are practices for climbing trees,
many strategies to get at the fruit.

Some may spend years in preparation
but never enjoy a single bite, so busy
are they with their training.

We’re standing in a sunny orchard now,
surrounded by sweet and juicy fruits,
yet we fantasize being somewhere else,
where the pickings may be even finer.

More money, more sex, more fame,
more spiritual enlightenment —
our wish list keeps expanding.

Here, I picked this ripe delicious apple
for you, fresh from the Garden of Paradise!

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The Sound of Me with You

There’s a poem I cannot write —
I just don’t have the words.

What lyrics could ever fit themselves
into a silence that lovingly swallows
them whole before they reach an ear?

This song came before any ears,
before any tongue began to move.

It’s a tune we hum together, me and you,
twined sounds from our own silence.

We rhyme — one sound me, one sound
you — it works, it hums, so we become
one singing poem, no longer merely
made-up words, not a thing that one
can hear or not, sing or not, or say
in any way except with silence.

Still, we hum away, not knowing
one song from the next, just tunes
to instantly forget while captivated
by the next – a cavalcade of greatest hits,
played again for the ones we missed.

A poem-song’s humming through us,
not a memory or tingling sensation,
nor refrain from some by-gone day –

just the bliss of what we cannot say,
and yet we say it anyway, the word
that goes unspoken, the same way
we go too, a hum of rest in motion –
the joyful sound of me with you.

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That time we knew might come has now arrived:

reading the obituaries of our contemporaries
has become a regular occurrence, nor do they
surprise or shock us like they once did.

It was a victory to appear here, a victory
to leave — a “win-win” proposition.

From the point of view of eternity, what happens
in-between the two is neither victory nor defeat —
just another pearl strung on Kali’s necklace
as she dances in and out of time.

Dance, Kali, dance, flashing that mysterious smile!
Dance, Kali Ma, with the darkness in your eyes!

Within your deathly goddess gaze, all the dearly dead
are dancing — you’ve graciously taken their heads
and replaced them with the endless night sky.

Every beaming star is a soul, headless and happy.
Such glorious celestial happiness is your play.

Everything and everyone combines to be you,
and so you just get brighter and brighter —
infinitely, joyously expanding!

The open transparent space in which your play
transpires is not other than my own mind,
so I do not fear that virtual death.

I bow down to you for your divine compassion,
that everything can shed its skin and become
something even more magnificent, more alive
in the midst of its death, in the terrible
glare of your holy darkness.

Great are you, great we are, and great
beyond great is your victory!

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Sampling Shri Dasbodh

The one named “Lord of the Universe” drives
a neon bus, maneuvering through the star clusters.

Its garish side panels are filled with hot flashing
advertisements for the latest liberation technology.

Just as a sudden wind appears out of nowhere,
so should the inception of the Prototype be
regarded, the prime illusion, God.

This type of understanding is not possible
without keeping the company of the mad.

The claim that illusion itself is the Basis
is not easily understood by sober minds.

The brilliant sky is empty, then all of a sudden
clouds appear — that should sum things up,
but still we have doubts, so consider this:

it may seem as if something has happened,
but in essence, the sky remains the same.

Likewise, if you lay down and gaze at the sky,
what you’ll see is the miracle of your own mind.

It will appear to be blue, or it will appear to be
empty or clouded, it will appear to reach down
and kiss you, it will reach down and kiss you!

What an amazing mind, and utterly free of attributes!
If you try to say something, no words are enough,
but if you remain silent, it will kiss you again.

You’ll fall in love, but you won’t know with whom,
nor will it matter, because love is enough.

Reality hasn’t changed, but the primary illusion
never rests, and thus is the basis of big bangs, birds,
and beautiful beasts who fall in love beneath heaven.

Illusion arises like this. Within the still and nameless
expanse of Reality, the notion “I Am” appears.

That itself is the illusion. Everything issues forth
from here, no other love can hope to compare!

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