Wednesday, December 5, 2018

there is no puzzle, no problem, and really no "mystery"

Photo by Thomas Merton
Merton arrived in Kandy, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), on Dec. 2 and a car took him to Polonnaruwa, the site of an assemblage of large stone Buddhas carved out of a hillside, and “the most impressive things I have seen in Asia.”
Two days later, he wrote in his diary, “Polonnaruwa was such an experience that I could not write hastily of it and cannot write now, or not at all adequately.” During the visit, Merton’s spirit seemed to have opened to the point of bursting forth upon seeing the languid, relaxed forms of the Buddhas in peaceful repose.
“I was knocked over with a rush of relief and thankfulness at the obvious clarity of the figures, out of the habitual, half-tied vision of things, and an inner clearness, clarity, as if exploding from the rocks themselves, became evident and obvious. I don’t know when in my life I have ever had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination. I mean I know and have seen what I was obscurely looking for.  I don’t know what else remains, but I have now seen and have pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and the disguise.”
“Looking at these figures I was suddenly, almost forcibly, jerked clean out of the habitual, half-tied vision of things, and an inner clearness, clarity, as if exploding from the rocks themselves, became evident and obvious….The things about all this is that there is no puzzle, no problem, and really no “mystery.” All problems are resolved and everything is clear, simply because what matters is clear. The rock, all matter, all life, is charged with dharmakaya…everything is emptiness and everything is compassion.  I don’t know when in my life I have every had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination.”
This illumination came a week before his death.

[See also pollonnaruwa ]

2 comments:

  1. Merton’s description of his reaction to the Sinhalese Buddhas somehow reminds me of the premonition experienced by Elaine Pagel’s husband:

    Several years before his death, Heinz Pagels had a prophetic dream. “I was clutching at the face of a rock but it would not hold,” he wrote at the close of “The Cosmic Code.” “Gravel gave way. I grasped for a shrub, but it pulled loose, and in cold terror I fell into the abyss. Suddenly I realized that my fall was relative; there was no bottom and no end. A feeling of pleasure overcame me. I realized that what I embody, the principle of life, cannot be destroyed. It is written into the cosmic code, the order of the universe. As I continued to fall in the dark void, embraced by the vault of the heavens, I sang to the beauty of the stars and made my peace with the darkness.”

    From WHY RELIGION? A Personal Story
    By Elaine Pagels
    Her book is reviewed in the NYT
    ( https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/04/books/review/why-religion-elaine-pagels.html )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, what an extraordinary book review.

      This line really jumps out at me: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you,” they counseled. “If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

      Delete

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