Advertisement

Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

“Buddha in Glory” by Rainer Marie Rilke

You will find the poet Rainer Maria Rilke showing up on mindfulness teaching poetry lists. Here is his poem, “Buddha in Glory”


Center of all centers, core of cores,

almond self-enclosed and growing sweet —

all this universe, to the furthest stars

and beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.

 

Now you feel how nothing clings to you;

your vast shell reaches into endless space,

and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.

Illuminated in your infinite peace,

 

a billion stars go spinning through the night,

blazing high above your head.

But in you is the presence that

will be, when all the stars are dead

Advertisement


Rilke suggests that the Buddha, the “awakened one”; the thathagata, “the one who has gone thus” has accessed something cosmic, universal, and transcendent. What Rilke neglects to say is that the Buddha was nothing special. Of course, on the one hand, he was special. He was willing to forsake everything he had and had known in pursuit of the truth. He was a spiritual revolutionary and taught a radical new way of seeing the world. On the other hand, he was an ordinary man who practiced a methodology that he taught to others. Following the path the Buddha taught, anyone can make the same discoveries. That includes you and me.
BS07005.jpg
What is this awakening? Again, here, it’s something that is simultaneously commonplace and extraordinary. When we think of the Buddha’s accomplishment as “enlightenment” rather than the more accurate “awakening” it takes on more of this special sense–enlightenment as something that happens to you or a place that you get to. In Zen, the teaching is that we are already enlightened and if we are enlightened then there is nothing to do to get enlightened. We experience this enlightened nature when we get out of our own way as might happen during zazen.
The term enlightenment has a different connotation as reflected in this quote from Larry Darrel in the W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge:

Only my overwhelming sense of its reality. After all it was an experience of the same order as the mystics have had all over the world through all the centuries. It’s impossible to deny the fact of its occurrence; the only difficulty is to explain it. If I was for a moment one with the Absolute or if it was an inrush from the subconscious of an affinity with the universal spirit which is latent in all of us, I wouldn’t know”

Advertisement

This sounds like enlightenment as turning on a switch and suddenly seeing clearly what was obscured before. This sense of enlightenment sounds like it should be accompanied by fireworks or a parade. In the more ordinary sense of awakening, we move in and out of enlightenment all the time. Any time the stories stop, we have a taste of the absolute. And this can happen anywhere. I am reminded of Dr. Suess’s beloved story, Green Eggs and Ham.

I could not, would not, in a house.
Greenegg.gifI would not, could not, with a mouse.
I would not eat them with a fox.
I would not eat them in a box.
I would not eat them here or there.
I would not eat them anywhere.
I would not eat green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Advertisement

Just substitute in reverse fashion:

I could awaken in a house.
I could awaken with a mouse.
I could awaken with a fox.
I could awaken in a box.
I could awaken here or there.
I could awaken anywhere!


  • http://louellabryant.com Ellie

    Okay, so maybe I’m in process of awakening, not enlightening. As Rilke says, “…I can see farther into paintings./ I feel closer to what language can’t reach.” I’m not sure what that means, but I felt I could see through your painting on Tuesday..and language has always felt inadequate to express feelings.

  • http://assetebooks.com Thomas Retterbush

    I didn’t realize that Beliefnet has so much on Zen Buddhism. I am a fairly new, but enthusiastic follower of the Buddha, and I love your entire Buddha 101: July 2010 Archives.
    Thanks! Keep them comming!

  • http://exquisitemind.com Dr. Arnie Kozak

    Thanks for reading Thomas! There will be perspectives on Zen, Tibetan, and Theravada Buddhism as well as mindfulness perspectives on daily life. You keep reading and I’ll keep writing.

Previous Posts

Happy Birthday to His Holiness the Dalai Lama
July 6 will be the 80th birthday of His Holiness (HH) the Dalai Lama. I first encountered the Dalai Lama when he would have been ...

posted 2:06:43pm Jun. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Introverts and Extroverts at the Neuronal Level
Those of you who are familiar with my work know that I have a thing for metaphors. Those of you who have been to my workshops know that I have a thing for the brain. I have been delighted to read Giorgio Ascoli's book, Trees of the Brain, Roots ...

posted 12:11:28pm Jun. 23, 2015 | read full post »

Set Aside Greed and Distress with Reference to the World
The Buddha encouraged his monks to be "ardent, alert, & mindful" and to put "aside greed and distress in reference to the ...

posted 2:29:24pm Jun. 14, 2015 | read full post »

Tame Your Sabotaging Self-Talk Part 2
The second part of my interview with Self-Promotion for Introverts author, Nancy Ancowitz, is now available on her Psychology Today blog or ...

posted 7:34:40am Jun. 08, 2015 | read full post »

Laughter and Awakening
A recent column in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review discussed laughter. It was written by Bodhipaksa and debunks the quote that is attributed to the ...

posted 7:29:06am Jun. 03, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.