Monday, June 8, 2015

Wilderness Inspiration

These are some quotations that I found particularly thought-provoking as I participated in and reflected upon my experience with the Boulder Outdoor Survival School in southern Utah (24 May-6 June 2015, field course J106). 

"Nature and instruction are closely related.  For instruction remodels man [changes his rhythm or shape], and having remodeled him, it creates his nature" (Democritus, ap. Clem. Strom. 4.151).

"The civilization of nations consists in tempering nature with reason, where nature has the greater part.  Consider all the nations of the ancient world, the Persians at the time of Cyrus, the Greeks, the Romans.  The Romans were never such philosophers as they were when they bowed to barbarism, that is in the time of tyranny.  And likewise, in the preceding years, the Romans had made great progress in philosophy and general knowledge, which was something new for them. We can draw another conclusion from this, which is that the safeguards of a nation's freedom are neither philosophy nor reason, which are now expected to regenerate public affairs, but virtue, illusions, and enthusiasm, in other words nature, from which we are very far removed.  A nation of philosophers would be the most small-minded and cowardly in the world.  Thus, our regeneration will depend on what might be called an ultra-philosophy, which, through a complete and intimate knowledge of things, brings us close again to nature.  And this should be the outcome of the extraordinary enlightenment of this century" (Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone 114-5, ed. Caesar et al).

"And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matthew 8:19-20 KJV).

"And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20-21 KJV).

"My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" (John 18:36 KJV).

"To be like the immortals / you need a mind as hard as iron" (Meng Chiao).

"Advancing or retiring, grasping or letting go / people all have their own ways / Heaven and Earth let me be lazy / profit and fame put others to work / gulls sleep on piers with their backs to the sun / swallows build nests above house beams / misled by passion distracted by things / they remain unaware of the Master of Emptiness" (Stonehouse 74).  Bill Porter's comment: "The Master of Emptiness refers to the Buddha, who taught that since all things depend on other things for their existence, they are themselves empty of self-existence, and thus not ultimately real" (78).

"Live without making visits / die neither kind nor just / words include limbs and leaves / thoughts contain lies and betrayals / people who clear a small path / thereby give rise to great deceit / claiming to build a ladder to the clouds / they whittle it into splinters" (Cold Mountain 189).

"The whole Buddhist canon is worthless old paper / seventeen hundred tangled vines / who can see through the mess / one thought is still too many" (Stonehouse 132).

"Letting go means letting everything go / buddhahood has to go too / each thought becomes a demon / each word invites more trouble / survive instead on what karma brings / pass your days in freedom / make the Dharma your practice / lead your ox to the mill" (Stonehouse 181).  Bill Porter's comment: "Buddhists recognize an infinite number of demons, or maras, one for every thought, word, and deed. The purpose of these demons is to obstruct us from understanding the true nature of reality. Dharma is the Buddhist word for what is held to be real, especially the Buddha's teaching. As early as the T'ang and Sung dynasties, Chinese monks used the ox as a metaphor for the untamed mind" (196).

"People ask the way to Cold Mountain / but roads don't reach Cold Mountain / in summer the ice doesn't melt / and the morning fog is too dense / how did someone like me arrive / our minds are not the same / if they were the same / you would be here" (Cold Mountain 16).

"Before the cliffs I sat alone / the moon shone in the sky / but where a thousand shapes appeared / its lantern cast no light / the unobstructed spirit is clear / the empty cave is a mystery / a finger showed me the moon / the moon is the hub of the mind" (Cold Mountain 10).

"Born thirty years ago / I've traveled countless miles / along rivers where the green rushes swayed / to the frontier where the red dust swirled / I've made elixirs and tried to become immortal / I've read the classics and written odes / and now I've retired to Cold Mountain to lie in a stream and wash out my ears" (Cold Mountain 131).

"I have a single cave / a cave with nothing inside / spacious and devoid of dust / full of light that always shines / a meal of plants feeds a frail body / a cloth robe masks a mirage / let your thousand sages appear / I have the primordial Buddha" (Cold Mountain 163).

"Pole your three-winged galleons / ride your thousand-mile stallions / you still won't reach my home / it's called the darkest wild / my cave is on a distant ridge / clouds and thunder last all day / I'm not Master Confucius / I have nothing to convey [var: teach]" (Cold Mountain 29).

"The Dharma realized and taught by the Tathagatha is incomprehensible and inexpressible. It is neither a dharma, nor is it not a dharma" (Diamond Sutra 7).

"Parrots live in western lands / hunters bring them back in nets / courtesans tease them dawn to dusk / somewhere behind palace curtains / they're given a golden cage / but locked away their plumage fades / not like the wild geese and swans / flying up in the clouds" (Cold Mountain 19).

"People search for cloud roads / but cloud roads can't be found / the peaks are high and sheer / the streams are wide and dark / ridges rise in front and back / clouds stretch east and west / I'll tell you where cloud roads are / Cloud roads are in space" (Cold Mountain 255).

"I longed to visit the eastern cliff / countless years until today / I finally grabbed a vine and climbed / but halfway there met mist and wind / the trail was too narrow for clothes / the moss too slick for shoes / I stopped beneath this cinnamon tree / and slept with a cloud for a pillow" (Cold Mountain 9).

"One bottle is cast in gold / another is moulded from clay / take a look at these two / which is bound to endure / knowing these bottles differ / surely you know that karma does too / examine the seeds of rebirth / cultivation begins today" (Cold Mountain 190).

"I saw some trees by the river / more weathered than I can describe / a couple of trunks remained / with thousands of ax-blade scars / their dry yellow leaves had been stripped by the frost / their rotten hearts battered by waves / but this is how habitats are / why blame Heaven and Earth" (Cold Mountain 198).

"Heaven and Earth are heartless / treating creatures like straw dogs / sages are heartless too / they treat people like straw dogs / between Heaven and Earth / how like a bellows / empty but inexhaustible / each stroke produces more / talking only wastes it / better to protect what's inside" (Lao-tzu 5).  Su Ch'e: "Heaven and Earth aren't partial.  They don't kill living things out of cruelty or give birth to them out of kindness.  We do the same when we make straw dogs to use in sacrifices.   We dress them up and put them on the altar, but not because we love them.  And when the ceremony is over, we throw them into the street, but not because we hate them.  This is how sages treat the people."

"A state relies on people / just as a tree depends on soil / if the soil is deep it thrives / if the soil is thin it withers / and if its roots are exposed / its limbs produce no fruit / draining a pond to catch fish / gains only a short-term profit" (Cold Mountain 222).

"True emptiness is clear and always present / masked by delusions for reasons we don't know / how could what is real and what is fake exist apart / flowers bloom and flowers fall when the spring wind blows" (Stonehouse 92).

"Calligraphy unrestrained / physique robust enough / alive a body with limits / dead a ghost with no name / it's been like this since ancient times / what else can you do / join me inside the clouds / I'll teach you magic mushroom songs" (Cold Mountain 25).

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