Dhayana. Meditation. Abandon

Attending. Meditation is loving the one you are with. 

Concentration. Meditation is shoveling the snow from the path, so that more snow can fall, be seen, and shoveled, until spring. 

Cultivation. Meditation is the practice and realization of malleability. 

Abandoning. Meditation is leaving nothing behind and taking nothing with. 

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“Through me you pass into the city of woe:

Through me you pass into eternal pain:

Through me among the people lost for aye.

Justice the founder of my fabric moved:

To rear me was the task of power divine,

Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.

Before me things create were none, save things

Eternal, and eternal I shall endure.

All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”

― The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, the Purgatorio and the Paradiso.

Canto 3, Line 9.

Dante Alighieri

__________________________

I can, in newly quickened inner life,

Sense wide horizons in myself.

The force and radiance of my thought –

Coming from the soul’s sun power –

Can solve the mysteries of life,

And grant fulfillment now to wishes

Whose wings have long been lamed by hope.

  From The Calendar of the Soul, Verse 28

Rudolf Steiner

Dear Friends,

I have not read Dante’s Inferno, but line nine and especially the final phrase “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” which is posted outside the gates of hell where Virgil and Dante traverse the Inferno, has permeated the culture for this entire life. It has been used at least 84,000 (inside buddhist joke meaning countless) times in literature, movies, parental guidance, even video games. 

From the beginning of consciousness  and until I stumbled onto a spiritual path that focuses on original goodness rather than original sin, I thought that these words were a warning against doing anything that had been labeled bad by the prelates, or a warning against having any feeling or thinking that all beingness is goodness and all beings are good. I had faith in the teaching that I should construct a barrier to hold back any actions, feelings or thoughts of fear, desire, lust, anger, hate, greed…etc. That I should construct a crystal cathedral of perfect behaviors, feelings and thoughts whose walls were double sided mirrors allowing me to remain safe in the sanctuary of a delusion that there is a separate “I” and to maintain the ignorance of the suffering, my own and the that of world around me, that was a result of this cathedral. I believed that this was my only hope to be a good boy and get the promised reward when I died and that if I abandoned this cathedral and let it decay into ruins, I would also “abandon all hope” and enter the realms of hell.

Weeeelllllll…. not so much.

With the exhortation from Gangai to “Just stop!”, the invitation in the teachings of A.H. Almaas to be curious about just what is here and its origins, the teachings from Rudolf Steiner about child development and unconscious imprints of karmic activity, and the wish fulfilling gem of dharma through Shakyamuni Buddha that provides a guide to the abandonment of all concepts, attachments, feelings and even profound realizations, so that all that remains is the truth of goodness.

Approaching the practice of stillness in meditation is similar to approaching the gates of hell. Before the approach there is curiosity about what will happen and enticement from the stories of other folks who have crossed the threshold. There  is even a seduction of release from suffering similar to the inticements of the archetypical devil. As we are at the threshold in the beginning of practice, there might be a sense of heat or foreboding of what is to come. If the threshold is crossed and stillness practice is begun, there is often an avalanche of thoughts, emotions, and physical discomfort that might feel a little like hell. Fear of failure and feelings of inadequacy arise; “I can’t stop the distractions, it’s impossible.” “I just don’t have it in me to be still.” The instruction to attend to whatever is arising with open handedness is forgotten and the urge to stop practicing is present. The reminder that seeing things just as they are and staying with the practice is also present. With consistent practice , there may be an experience of going through these feelings, thoughts and discomforts leading a little quieter and even calmer experience.

“Through me you pass into the city of woe:

Through me you pass into eternal pain:

Through me among the people lost for aye.

Practicing meditation moving through these internal sufferings, and not leaving anything behind, or taking anything with. i.e. staying with what is present without following, attaching or avoiding, the thoughts, emotions, and discomforts of daily experience. These are the things that “people” the cluded mind  “are lost for aye” through meditation. Little by little they are abandoned; not by force or intention but naturally as a result of seeing these experiences as they really are. There is a glimmer of the light of understanding that this internal suffering might be the result of habitual and fixed ways of approaching life.

Justice the founder of my fabric moved:

To rear me was the task of power divine,

Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.

Through continued practice of staying with what is here, compassion, as a quality of the essence of being human, steps forth as merciful “justice, the founder of my fabric”. This compassion, our true nature is “power divine, supremest wisdom and primeval love” and has always been present  and it “rears” us to see that this suffering is illusory, empty, and impermanent. This compassion is the source of the strength that allows the “open handed staying with” practice and the cultivation of a malleable quality of being that allows divinity, “supremest wisdom and primeval love” to grow. 

Eternal, and eternal I shall endure.

All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”

According to buddhist canon, in three countless eons and in one instant, this instant of practice there is comprehension that all ”things create” are fabrications arising out of the habitual ways of thinking, feeling and doing. These fabrications are seen, in the full light of compassion, wisdom and love, as being “none”. And that all the longings, self doubts, fears, conditioned love, all suffering and the hopes to attain freedom from suffering or abolish it are also seen as passing moments of experience in endless and beginningless time. They all turn to dust and slip through the open hand of eternal, enduring Universal Goodness, abandoned without a thought, or intention of abandoning.

And then:

I can, in newly quickened inner life,

Sense wide horizons in myself.

The force and radiance of my thought –

Coming from the soul’s sun power –

Can solve the mysteries of life,

And grant fulfillment now to wishes

Whose wings have long been lamed by hope.

_______________________________________

With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions.

William

______________________________

Practice

Practicing in sangha, even virtually, supports the practice of meditation differently than practicing solitarily. The members of the Sangha of the Pandemic, invite you to practice with us. No experience is required. There is no cost. Everyone is welcome. 

 We practice on ZOOM:

Mornings

  • Mondays – Calm abiding. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
  • Tuesdays – Body awareness. 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Thursdays – Tonglen, 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Wednesdays and Fridays – “Formal” Practice 7:00 AM Pacific Time.
  • Sundays – Paramitas. 7 AM Pacific Time 

ZOOM Link:   https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789 

Please feel free to reach out with questions or insights. Please also feel free to forward this post and invite others to join the sangha. You may find more reflections, poetry, art at sanghaofthepandemic.org . If you would like to comment or offer feedback and insight you may do so in the comment section on the websiteor by email to wrgentner@gmail.com 

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Check-In

If you have questions about meditation practice, or would like to have a conversation about the practice or anything else, you can check in with William by making an appointment. Go to “Check In Appts.”

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