Tag Archives: Spiritual

‘A Rose is not a Rose’

The Buddha said to Subhuti: “In a place where there is something that can be distinguished by signs, in that place there is deception. If you can see the signless nature of signs, then you can see the Tathagata.” – Sutra 5, Prajnaparamita Diamond Sutra

The other night, full moon on the Thai island Samui, my family and I saw a more or less informal fireshow. Afterwards, we sat with the artist who turned out to be a slide of hand magician. The morning after, I woke up, realising I dreamt that I was present in a Sufi prayer ceremony; something I had never (at least not knowingly) witnessed before.

I don’t know how the slide-off-hand magician and the Sufi ceremony are interrelated, but yet the two incidences have something in common: they are both showing aspects of our minds; limitations and creativity resp.

The slide of hand magician uses his finesse to deceive our perception of reality, bringing us out of our usual thinking patterns: our minds, conditioned in a particular way is unable to classify these new experiences into one of its pockets and leaves us marvelling with wonder. Once we realise what is actually happening it feels like a leap in consciousness when in reality it is a simple insight, a quick restructuring of the patterns. In the dream I must have found refuge in a part of myself that hides in the subconscious and is far more creative and sophisticated than my mind in the waking state; still, in the end it must have been my mind that reorganised, restructured, or reinvented available patterns to reconstruct a conception of an already existing perception.

The Buddha in this little verse from the Diamond Sutra talks about the ‘signless nature of signs’. What he mentions is the emptiness of our preconceived concepts and ideas (signless nature) in the perception of objects, people or experiences (signs). Only by seeing this emptiness in all things, we ‘can see the Tathagata’ (‘coming from nowhere and going nowhere’). Our mind however is used to categorise all different perceptions according to previous experiences. The language that is used verbally or by the thinking mind is a static one, simple, insufficiently sophisticated to describe an ever-changing world of process, complexity and interrelations. (Rosenberg 2003)

In different situations, we call people lazy, stupid, bad or good; all judgements that say very little about who the persons really are and have little relation to the situation that made us cast this judgemental evaluation. In the same way we call people cooks, maids, diplomats or policemen; some of these generalisations like the latter one are often connoted with negative judgements that don’t need to be said, but are often heard. What these static labels, or the expression of these apparent signs don’t do, however, is express the totality of another person’s being. (Rosenberg 2003) In this regard, Thich Nhat Hanh describes, in his commentary on the Diamond Sutra, our perception based on signs as inaccurate and erroneous. The reason why they lead us into deception is the conceptualisation that takes away from reality and fails to describe the interrelations, the interbeing of everything. When we evaluate our observations or our perceptions, people tend to hear criticism instead of the intended message because they don’t feel sufficiently or rightly represented in our expression. (Rosenberg 2003)

Looking deeply into another person, we see that he/she is not self-existing. He/She is the environment, the culture, education and heredity that he/she was born in. There is an uncountable number of things that contribute to someone’s being. Only when we are able to see all of these interconnections we can say that we truly know a person. (Nhat Hanh 1992)

When we observe what we see, hear, or touch in the spirit of signlessness we are able to confront people and situations without evaluation them; then we can express clearly what affects us in a descriptive way based on time and context; say what actually happened instead of deliberately labelling perceptions; we can protect and cultivate the good qualities in us and in others. The slight of hand magician can leave us in wonder but not deceive us and the reality in the dream becomes the wonder of reality.

‘When the Buddha sees a rose, does he recognise it as a rose in the same way that we do? Of course he does. But before he says the rose is a rose, the Buddha has seen that the rose is not a rose. He has seen that it is made of non-rose elements, with no clear demarcation between the rose and those elements that are not the rose. When we perceive things, we generally use the sword of conceptualisation to cut reality into pieces, saying, “This piece is A, and A cannot be B, C, or D.” But when A is looked at in the light of dependent co-arising, we see that A is comprised of B, C, D and everything else in the universe. “A” can never exist by itself alone. When we look deeply into A, we see B, C, D, and so on. Once we understand that A is not just A, we understand the true nature of A and are qualified to say “A is A,” or “A is not A.” But until then, the A we see is just an illusion of the true A.’ – Thich Nhat Hanh, The Diamond that cuts through illusion – Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Diamond

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To be the change…

If I want change in this world I need to change my way of thinking: stop putting emphasis on failures and constraints, as I m just making them stronger; I ll fill my thoughts with positivity and optimism, trust and reciprocity. I ll embody these values and they ll enter the conscious of people.

I ll build communities where there is reclusion, i ll build bridges where there is walls, i ll show hope where there is despair, bring love where there is hatred, silence where there is anger and laughter where there is mourning…

Will you join me!? We ll stop accusing people and places, stop calling it fate and acting helpless and recognise that it s our own attitude that stands in the way of a fundamental change.

Bound to Rhythms

I wasn t made for religions, rituals and other traditional customs. Some of them seem useful – some of them seem to be made for me. I like to have a rhythm in life, a routine, and i know it keeps me healthy and going as all natural things are bound to rhythms: the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening; some animals go along while others roam the nights; the moon keeps coming and fading in cycles; and the earth is turning around the sun; the tree produces leaves, flowers and fruits, drops them all and starts the cycle again; some birds fly all the way to Europe for the summers and make their way back to Africa when the winter s coming over here; …

There is a reason for all of this just like there is a season for everything. Our body reacts to the moon cycles as well as weather changes and our mind and organs react in subtle ways to minor changes that most of us are not aware of.

If i m intelligent i ll find the right rituals and make them instruments to help me along – and cast away what has become dogmas, burdens and boundaries. The right rituals will be like the banks of the river that lead her towards her destination, the sea.

Living tree

When a tree grows, taking all its strength out of a tiny seed – a mystery in itself -, then the essence of this seed spreads into every part of the tree; in every branch and every leaf, in every flower and every fruit it is present. They are not separated from the seed that once was.

When we water a tree, we only water its roots, its foundation, the place where the seed is staying. From there the water will find its way into every branch and every leaf, every flower and fruit. We will not go and water every leaf seperatly. If we do so, the tree will lose its strength and rot.

If we see life as a tree, bringing forth branches, leaves, flowers and fruit, we will not restrict our love to a small, chosen number of these creatures. The simple act of giving water to the seed will make our love spread to all of its parts. In disconnecting ourselves from the seed, the primal source of life, we fail love.

A prayer to start with…

It took me a while to get into social networking and I m not really sure whether I ll manage well to keep an updated blog, but I thought it s worth a try.

After finishing my studies in environmental planning in Berlin I have now started a Permaculture Diploma in the UK. This blog shall give me the opportunity to share experiences, ideas and visions that I encounter on my journey through the jungles of life and serve as an online documentation tool for the designs I ll be working on and the travels that I m gonna undertake with my beloved partner Sweetcorn, who is studying Permaculture as well.

Following are a few ideas or core values that are dear to me. Knowing that I am an integral part of this cosmic dance of creation and destruction that materialises itself around us in every moment, I will contribute to

  • a world that makes past experiences a valuable asset in the realisation of a  more complete existence in the future;
  • a civilisation that values the earth as a living being and cares for the people and all other creatures;
  • a way of life and a consciousness that works in harmony with nature rather than against it;
  • a positive vision of healthy communities built on local resilience, reciprocity and diversity.

I believe in the inner goodness of human beings and in the idea that the work we do does not have to be or to become a burden on our shoulders – that every human has the right to live up to his/her full potential and walk this earth in love. Following is a prayer from the book Sadhana – The Classic of Indian Spirituality written by Rabindranath Tagore:

“O giver of thyself! at the vision of thee as joy, let our souls flame up to thee as the fire, flow on to thee as the river, permeate thy being as the fragrance of the flower. Give us strength to love, to love fully, our life in its joys and sorrows, in its gains and losses, in its rise and fall. Let us have strength enough fully to see and hear thy universe, and to work with full vigor therein. Let us fully live the life thou hast given us, let us bravely take and bravely give. This is our prayer to thee. Let us once for all dislodge from our minds the feeble fancy that would make out thy joy to be a thing apart from action, thin, formless, and unsustained. Wherever the peasant tills the hard earth, there does thy joy gush out in the green of the corn, wherever man displaces the entangled forest, smooths the stony ground, and clears for himself a homestead, there does thy joy enfold it in orderliness and peace.

O worker of the universe! We would pray to thee to let the irresistible current of thy universal energy come like the impetuous south wind of spring, let it come rushing over the vast field of the life of man, let it bring the scent of many flowers, the murmurings of many woodlands, let it make sweet and vocal the lifelessness of our dried-up soul-life. Let our newly awakened powers cry out for unlimited fulfillment in leaf and flower and fruit.”