I Will

It’s Valentine’s Day when we celebrate all things romantic, a day of candy hearts, chocolates, flowers, love poems and love songs.

I thought that since this week we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the arrival on these shores by The Beatles, I would share my favorite Beatles love song with you.  Actually, it was more of a solo effort by Paul McCartney for the “White Album,” and while he has received some flack over the years for his “silly love songs,” this is one of his best.

By the way, in case you don’t know, the girl who appears in the photos with Paul in the video below is Jane Asher, an English actress and author, and sister of Peter Asher, of Peter and Gordon, a respected record producer.  Paul and Jane were together from the early days of Beatlemania until mid-1968.

So, as you sally forth on this Valentine’s Day, just remember, as the Fab Four told us all those years ago, all you need is love and love to you all.

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What We Call Love and Enlightenment

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the Indian philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986). He was only 14 he met one of the leaders of the Theosophical Society who tried to groom him as the next “World Teacher,” a concept loosely based on Maitreya, the so-called future Buddha.

In 1929, Krishnamurti, then 34, rebelled against the World Teacher gig and disbanded the organization created to support him. From then on, he was a sort of roving iconoclast, who considered himself unaffiliated with any nationality, religion, or philosophy. He wrote books, traveled the world speaking to audiences large and small, and punched holes in many a cherished notion.

At first glance, it might appear that Krishnamurti’s philosophical view is at odds with Buddhism. That would certainly be the case with some traditional Buddhist concepts, but overall Krishnamurti had great respect for the Buddha and his dharma. Asked once which of the great religious leaders came closest to teaching and realizing the ultimate truth, Krishnamurti replied ‘‘Oh! the Buddha . . . the Buddha comes closer to the basic truths and facts of life than any other. Although I am not myself a Buddhist, of course.’’ [1]

He made these comments on the subject of love in 1983 [2]:

One of our difficulties is that we have associated love with pleasure, with sex, and for most of us love also means jealousy, anxiety, possessiveness, attachment. That is what we call love . . . Is love the opposite of hate? If it is the opposite of hate, then it is not love . . . Love cannot have an opposite. Love cannot be where there is jealousy, ambition, aggressiveness.

And where there is a quality of love, from that arises compassion. Where there is compassion, there is intelligence – but not the intelligence of self-interest, or the intelligence of thought, or the intelligence of a great deal of knowledge. Compassion has nothing to do with knowledge.

Only with compassion is there that intelligence that gives humanity security, stability, a vast sense of strength.”

You’ll notice that Krishnamurti says the word “intelligence” several times. As he used it, intelligence did not refer to mental capacity, but rather to the faculty of recognizing that which is false, seeing that we are “surrounded by false illusory things.”

Here is what he had to say about enlightenment in 1973 [3]:

Enlightenment is not a fixed place. There is no fixed place. All one has to do is understand the chaos, the disorder in which we live. In the understanding of that we have order and there comes clarity, there comes certainty. And that certainty is not the invention of thought. That certainty is intelligence. And when you have all this, when the mind sees all this very clearly, the door opens. What lies beyond is not namable. It cannot be described, and anyone who describes it has never seen it.”

– – – – – – – – – –

[1] Susunaga Weeraperuma, Living and dying from moment to moment, Motilal Banarsidass, 1996

[2] [3] Selection from “What is Creation?” from the public talk at Brockwood Park on Sept. 4, 1983, “Enlightenment is Not a Fixed Place” from the public talk in San Francisco on March 18, 1973, in This Light in Oneself, Shambhala Publications, Ltd., 1999

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“Love’s gift is shy”

Hot on the heels of Tuesday’s Mardi Gras and yesterday’s Ash Wednesday, it’s Valentine’s, that day of romance, flowers and candy and sweet nothings whispered into hopefully receptive ears. . . and poetry.

RTagore3I’ve posted many poems on this blog during past three years, but too few by the man who inspired the blog’s title, The Endless Further: Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), teacher, philosopher, playwright, and sublime poet. Sadly, his works are almost unknown outside of India. But as the great master of the sitar, Ravi Shankar, wrote in his book, Raga, if Tagore “been born in the West he would now be [as] revered as Shakespeare and Goethe.”

In 1913, Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for Song Offerings, a collection of poems he translated himself from Bengali into English, based on Gitanjali, a collection published in Bengal three years earlier. He became the first non-European awarded a Nobel Prize.

Tagore’s poems are songs, chants. In English, they become prose poems. It is difficult for me, since I do not read or speak Bengali, to tell how much is lost in the translation. Yet, I find that his words are lyrical, and the beauty of his simple imagery, mystical. Many of the poems are songs of a love triangle between the poet, nature, and the divine. Others, however, are of love between two people, a devotional kind of love that transcends mere romance.

To commemorate Valentine’s Day, here are a three selections from Lover’s Gift, published by Macmillan in 1918:

II

Come to my garden walk, my love. Pass by the fervid flowers that press themselves on your sight. Pass them by, stopping at some chance joy, which a sudden wonder of sunset illumines, yet eludes.

For love’s gift is shy, it never tells its name, it flits across the shade, spreading a shiver of joy along the dust. Overtake it or miss it for ever. But a gift that can be grasped is merely a frail flower, or a lamp with a flame that will flicker.

IV

She is near to my heart as the meadow-flower to the earth; she is sweet to me as sleep is to tired limbs. My love for her is my life flowing in its fullness, like a river in autumn flood, running with serene abandonment. My songs are one with my love, like the murmur of a stream, that sings with all its waves and currents.

V

I would ask for still more, if I had the sky with all its stars, and the world with its endless riches; but I would be content with the smallest corner of this earth if only she were mine.

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Eat Pray Love, Pray Love Eat, or Love Eat Pray?

I haven’t read Eat Pray Love, and probably won’t. I only heard about it this week because of the Julia Roberts movie. I usually stay away from the spiritual-journey-memoir genre. I suspect that a lot of them are actually fiction. I haven’t had much luck with spiritual fiction either. I remember being very disappointed with The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. I thought it was mostly about gossip. Very little spirituality. Both movies, the original 1946 version with Tyrone Power and Bill Murray’s remake, sucked, too.

I don’t mean to cast any aspersions on Eat Pray Love or its author, Ms. Gilbert. I am sure she is a fine writer, a nice person, and that every word in her book is true. Checking out her Wikipedia page, I see that one of her articles, “The Ghost”, a profile of Hank Williams III published by GQ in 2000, was included in Best American Magazine Writing 2001. Now that, I wouldn’t mind reading. What I would really like to read, though, would be an article by a psychologist on the Williams family. If there was ever some people deserving of in-depth psycho-analytical study it’s the Hank Williams brood. Don’t get me wrong, I love Hank I, II, and III.  Let’s just say the word haunted does come to mind.

What I wonder about, in relation to Ms. Gilbert’s book, is why Eat Pray Love? Why is love always the be-all, the end-all, the summit, the apex, the final solution? Why is love last? Is it supposed to be better than the other two? Why couldn’t it have been Love Eat Pray or Eat Love Pray or better yet Pray Love Eat. I have a suspicion that a lot of people would rather eat than either pray or make love.

Lest you think I’m very cynical, let me tell you that I’m an idealist, a hopeless romantic. I believe in love, the romantic kind. All my heroes have been romantics at heart. I love romantic movies. I love to fall in love with the leading lady. I love movies that make me cry. So, if  a book like Eat Pray Love were a fictional romance/spiritual journey, that would be one thing. But it’s supposed to be a real life account and in real life, love doesn’t always triumph and you don’t always live happily ever after. I know, tell you something you don’t already know.

Of course, this is Ms. Gilbert’s story, and her life, and that must be the way it played out. I thought that I might be prejudging her; after all, I haven’t read the book. So I looked up the synopsis on her Wikipedia page to see just exactly what love is in Eat Pray Love, and it says, “She ended the year in Bali, Indonesia, looking for “balance” of the two and found love (Love); in the form of a dashing Brazilian factory owner.” So I was right. True love wins in the end. Not only that, but I swear I remember a Love Boat episode just like this. The dashing Brazilian factory owner was played by Fernando Lamas (or was it Alejandro Rey?).

In Buddhism, romantic love is called pema (Pali). It’s considered a form of craving, along with kama (sensual pleasure), chanda (desire), kamachanda (desire for sexual pleasure), raga (lust), even companionship (samsagga) and fondness (sineha).

Now this may make you stop and ponder. It’s all bad? We can’t feel, have friends, have sex? There’s only Eat and Pray? No love? Wait, eating is bad also, so it’s just pray? Krishnamurti wondered about the same thing, only he put the questions differently:

Why is it that whatever we touch we turn into a problem? We have made love a problem, we have made relationship, living, a problem, and we have made sex a problem. Why? Why is everything we do a problem, a horror? Why are we suffering? Why has sex become a problem? Why do we submit to living with problems; why do we not put an end to them? Why do we not die to our problems instead of carrying them day after day, year after year?

The problem isn’t really with love or desire or sex, the problem is us. It’s how we deal with these things. Our obsession with idealized love and romance is clinging. Looking at love as the ultimate state of being or a highly desirable state of being is looking for something outside of ourselves for satisfaction and happiness. But we know that. And we keep on loving.

Love makes us feel good. And why shouldn’t we feel good? We are not here to suffer life but to enjoy it. When we do suffer then we need to examine what it is inside us that’s suffering. It’s not love. Love doesn’t make us suffer.

Anyway, I still wonder about the title of the book. Apparently Gilbert used an advance she received on a book she planned to write to pay for her trip in “Search for Everything,” as her subtitle reads. So maybe she knew all along it would be Eat Pray Love.

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Desire

This is a poem I wrote some years ago after listening to a tape of songs by Francoise Hardy.

desire

someone
is singing    a song of love
made from alien words
i am listening
“je vous désire”

the songs are songs
of nights     of tongues
thoughts dreamed by fire

i dream     i hear
the flowers sing
i question the sky    (i would
hold up the sky)    between
the sky and     my face
tears

come into my heart
empty place    the unoccupied zone
come shivering     naked
i am alone

i dream that you are smiling
love is not dead     you say
without breathing

touched by the lips
on some far shore
passionate     sad

for love is an affection
the other limit
a hungry word
found
beyond the cry    of dawn

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