Faith: Passages from “And There Was Light” by Jacques Lusseran
12:54PM Oct 4, 2022
This is the second day of this September 2022 two day sesshin. And today we are going to be using a text that used to be called "Stories From the Heart." It's now called "Soul Food" by Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman, both of whom are Dharma teachers in various traditions, and are very well known. And then we may touch on self compassion by Christopher Germer.
We'll start with "Soul Food." And this is the commentary to one of the chapters called "Finding the Way."
Finding the way to authentic awakening presents us with an immense challenge. Naturally enough, we first listen to the voices of external authorities who seem to hold the answer to our questions. And it becomes more confusing as soon as we discover that the world abounds in a multitude of authorities who gladly and willingly offer us advice, solutions and formulas. Our bookstores overflow with prescriptions on how to be happy, fulfilled and liberated. We can be inspired by the example of teachers and sages of past and present. At some point, in the midst of our listening, a number of insights dawn upon us. We see that no single authority holds the hotline to truth. Nor is there just one way to awakening.
You know affinity is a word that's often used in Zen. This idea about affinity - people have different affinities which is why different people will resonate or move towards a particular teacher. And that's totally fine. Because every human being is a unique result of their circumstances, their environment, their their heritage. And so that's why finding the teacher that works for you is so important. And you know, Zen is one way this the Vipassana path with mindfulness and that is also an awakening path. Every religion has its path. And so just to be aware that affinity is an important aspect and it's very important in finding, finding your teacher.
It may also become clear to us that we what we hear are simply different melodies through which the great spiritual traditions have expressed one essential harmony. It is this harmony that is significant, and not the matter manner of its expression. The common elements of all who become wise or that they have learned to listen to this wisdom in their own hearts, to hear the underlying harmony and to travel their own path. We make a choice really. No one can travel our path for us. No one can substitute for us in our quest for awakening. And trusting that wisdom, joy and awakening are our spiritual heritage, we must discover what awakens them in us. No one else can free us from the confusion, fear and attachment that casts shadows of pain on our lives. In accepting this aloneness, we find it is not an aloneness of alienation or withdrawal. We are supported in our spiritual quest by all those of past generations of all cultures, who applaud and inspire our exploration. Our quest connects us with millions of contemporary companions who seek inner peace and freedom. And in the willingness to know our own aloneness, we began to discover a wisdom and compassion One that connects us to all others. There will be moments when we encounter feelings of despair, doubt and inadequacy, we may wonder how to bridge the apparently uncrossable devote gap between confusion and clarity, holding an opening, limitation and freedom. And in all moments of darkness, we need to remember that we are blessed with humanity's most precious gift, the capacity to be aware, it is a gift to rejoice in a capacity to be aware is the power to be conscious to be awake, and to transform. And that word transform is such a rich word. Because we are always changing, we're not stuck with our past, really, we're not stuck with some image of who we are, we we have, we just have this. Like everything in life we have this potential. And this transformation is what really happens. In, in in practice. If you look back to how you were two years ago, things have changed. People change even during a so sheen. If one has the privilege to be sitting in the private instruction sheet, a seat you see this transformation as people sit, their faces become radiant, and even if they're struggling, that tears are just beautiful. It's so we have to trust transformation.
It is an immense power, enabling us to penetrate the veils of confusion that limit us and enable us to connect with and use the inner resources of energy, focus and love that lie dormant. Interestingly, yesterday, somebody raised the question of emptiness and feeling very abandoned by it, you know, where was compassion, where was where was it where was loving all of that. And we don't use the word love in Zen, but that is the basis of the entire that's the cosmic basis.
exploring what it means to be aware we learn how to be wholeheartedly present in each moment, present with ourselves, present with all that each moment brings to us. For some of us being present with ourselves is extremely challenging. Especially those who have had a lot of trauma in their lives. It's really hard to be present with with ourselves. But we are encouraged to that, with our practice we are get better and better at doing that. Connecting with the present moment, we are able to set aside our anxiety about the future and with what we might gain or lose, have or become. We are able to free ourselves from our preoccupations with the past, or histories and the burden of our regrets. Or our awareness illuminates what is actually here one moment at a time. And it is in this moment that we are able to learn and to open. The present moment is the most profound and challenging teacher we will ever meet in our lives. It is a compassionate teacher. It extends to us no judgment, no censure, no measurement of success and failure. The present moment is a mirror and in its reflection, we learn how to see. Learning how to look into this mirror without diluting ourselves is the source of all wisdom. In this mirror we see What contrary contributes to the confusion and discord in our lives? And what contributes to harmony and understanding? We see the relationship between pain and its cause on a moment to moment level, and we see the bond between love and its source. We see what it is that connects us. And what it is that alienates us. In this seeing, we begin to learn from our own stories, what delights us and what saddens us, listening inwardly, and learning from our own stories, we see that we are in need, not so much of experts to define our way as our own clear, and direct inner attunement. Our stories reveal our path. In our listening, we can understand what we need to let go of, and what we need to develop, if we are to live in the spirit of peace and freedom.
Just a comment here. It takes enormous courage to move forward and develop oneself, especially as an adult because by that time, we've decided what will work out or what we won't. We have all kinds of barriers that we set up for ourselves, and to walk through, walk through pain, walk through suffering, walk through our inadequacies, walk through all of those stories we have. It's it's very intimidating. That's the one of the think the beauty is about Zen is it is. In that sense, it's a courage practice.
Our own stories differ only in superficial form and detail from the stories of all beings. There is no living being that does not share our yearning for liberation, to be free from fear and pain. Grief is grief, no matter the heart that endures it. And peace is peace, regardless of the heart that rejoices in it. To live fully, to love well, to find a wise and timeless understanding all of these grow out of our capacity to experience and to know what is present. The heart of the spiritual life is to live in the ever changing reality of the present. A sign in a Las Vegas casino puts it this way, you must be present to win.
What a loser. When we see with the eyes of simplicity, everything reveals itself to us. The bamboo of China, the trees of New England, teach us about the rhythms and mystery of life. What more need we asked for more sights, more sounds, more smells more thoughts. Goodness knows we've had enough already. What we seek is not to be found in more sights or sounds or tastes or thoughts. But in the living reality of any moment that we touch with wisdom and understanding. Imagine being separated for a long time from home, from family, from beloved friends, perhaps even from the planet. how extraordinary it would be simply to return and breathe the fresh spring air to feel our feet on the earth. To witness the birth of a child or the passing on if someone's spirit at death. The more intimately we touch what is present, the deeper our hearts will open, and the more our creativity and freedom will flourish.
The clutter of our lives blinds us to the precious simplicity that surrounds us and is within us. Too often we become imprisoned by the chains of our own accumulations. We live in fear of their loss. We evolve complex strategies to protect ourselves from failure and deprivation. This burdens this burden inhibits our ability to walk with light apart. The noise created through our own busyness defends us to the wonder of silence.
Simplicity and renunciation are acts of compassion for ourselves for the world around us. Gandhi once stated, There is enough in this world for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed. Simplicity in our lifestyles expresses a care and compassion for the world. Simplicity in our hearts, letting go of opinions and craving, is an act of compassion for ourselves. When we let go of yearning for the future, preoccupation with the past, and strategies to protect the present, there is no way left to go. But where we are. And to connect with the present moment is to begin to appreciate the beauty of true simplicity. Every moment is unique and therefore precious. The sunset on this day will never be duplicated. The caress of a friend, the life of a child will never be precisely repeated or felt again, the moment we are experiencing now can never be recaptured. And to be present is the only way we can appreciate life to the fullest and be touched by the wonder of each moment.
We could say the same thing about our little sushi in here, we, this moment will not be repeated. But we can deeply appreciate the fellowship, the effort, the aspiration, the joy, the even the pain.
So because we have talked a great deal about awareness in this particular little sushi and bars, I'm going to read what I think is an inspiring account. Some of you may have read it already. It's by Jack looser home. And he's a Frenchman. I don't know his actual dates, but he certainly was an adult during the Second World War. So that puts him in the 1900s which for some of you is a previous century. For some of us, quite familiar. So here we go. So Jack, actually had an accident at school, somebody put a ruler, I think through his eye and he became instantly blind. And this is his account of his life. And it comes out of his book which is called and there was light. It was a great surprise to me to find myself blind. And being blind. It was not at all as I imagined it. Nor was it as the people around me seem to think it. They told me that to be blind meant not to see it. How was I to believe them when I saw not at once I admit not in the days immediately after the operation. For at that time, I still wanted to use my eyes, I followed their usual path. I looked in the direction where I was in the habit of seeing before the accident. And there was anguish, a lack something like a void which filled me with what grownups call despair. Finally, one day and it was not long in coming, I realized that I was looking in the wrong way. It was as simple as that. I was making something very like the mistake people make, who changed their glasses without adjusting themselves. I was looking too far off and too much on the surface of things. This was much more than a simple discovery. It was a revelation. I can still see myself in the shoulder ma where my father had taken me for a walk a few days after the accident. Of course, I knew the garden well its ponds its railings, its iron chairs. I even knew some of the trees in person. And naturally I wanted to see them again. But I couldn't, I threw myself forward into the substance which was space. But which I did not recognize because it no longer held anything familiar to me. At this point, some instinct, I was almost about to say, a hand laid on me, made me change course, I began to look more closely not at things but as at a world closer to myself, looking from an inner place to one further within, instead of clinging to the movement of sight towards the world outside. Just a comment here, you know, we're, if we turn inward and prove our true nature, we are looking inward, we're so used to capturing the world through external objects. And he is reminding us of this inward vision. Immediately the substance of the universe drew together, redefined and people itself who knew I was aware of a radiance, emanating from a place I knew nothing about a place which might as well have been outside me as within, but radiants was there. Or, to put it more precisely, light, it was a fact for light was there. Remember, he's only eight years old, this lovely little boy. I felt indescribable relief and happiness, so great. It almost made me laugh. Confidence and gratitude came as if a prayer had been answered, I found light and joy at the same moment. And I can say without hesitation, that from that time on, light and joy have never been separated in my experience. I have had them or lost them together.
I saw light and went on seeing it though I was blind. I said so but for many years, I think I did not say it very loud. Until I was nearly 14. I remember calling the experience which kept renewing itself inside me, my secret. And speaking of it only to my most intimate friends. I don't know whether they believed me but they listened. To be fair, they were friends. And what I told them had a greater value than being merely true. It had the value of being beautiful, a dream and enchantment almost like magic. The amazing thing was that this was not magic for me at all. But reality, I could no more have denied it. And people with eyes can deny that they see. I was not like myself, I knew that. But I bathed in it as an element which blindness had suddenly brought much closer, I could feel light rising, spreading resting on objects, giving them form, then leaving them withdrawing or diminishing is what I mean, for the opposite of light was never present. sighted people always talk about the night of blindness, and that seems to them quite natural. But there is no such night for every waking hour. And even in my dreams, I lived in a stream of light. Without my eyes light was much more stable than it had been with them. As I remember it, they were no longer the same differences between things lighted brightly, less brightly or not at all. I saw the whole world in light existing through it. And because of it. Colors, all the colors of the rainbow also survived. For me, the child who love to draw and paint colors made a celebration so unexpected that I spent hours playing with them and all the more easily. Now they were more docile than they used to be. Light through its color on things and on people. My father and mother the people I met or ran into on the street all had their character turistic color, which I had never seen before. I went blind yet now this special attribute impressed itself on me as part of them as definitely as any impression created by a face. Still, the colors were only a game. While light was my whole reason for living. I let it rise in me like water in a well and I rejoiced. I did not understand what was happening to me for it was so completely contrary to what I heard people say I didn't understand it. But no matter since I was living it. For many years, I did not try to find out why these things were going on. I only tried to do so much later and this is not the time to describe it. A light so continuous and so intense was so far beyond my calm. prehension that sometimes I doubted suppose it was not real, that I had only imagined it, perhaps it would be enough to imagine the opposite, which is something different to make it go away. So I thought of testing it, and even of resisting it. At night in bed when I was all by myself, I shut my eyes, I lowered my eyelids as I might have done when they covered my physical eyes. I told myself that behind these curtains, I would no longer see light. But the light was still there, and more serene and ever looking like a lake at evening when the wind has dropped.
Think you could say here, an image that's used in Zen or an experience in the moonlight of wisdom. For those of you who have Moon as a part of your dharma name, this, this moonlight of wisdom is, is to be treasured. Then I gathered up all my energy and willpower and tried to stop the flow of light as I might have tried to stop breathing. What happened was a disturbance, something like a whirlpool, but it was still flooded with light. At all events, I couldn't keep this up very long, perhaps only for two or three seconds. And when this was going on, I felt a sort of anguish, as though I were doing something forbidden something against light life, it was exactly as if I needed light to live needed it as much as air. There was no way out of it. I was the prisoner of light, I was condemned to see. At eight I came out of this experiment reassured with the sense that I was being reborn, since it was not I who was making the light. Since it came to me from outside, it would never leave me. I was only a passageway, a vestibule for this brightness, the seeing I was in me. Just a comment here, I think in practice, we have a tendency to take so much responsibility for, you know, coming to awakening as if we could command it out of I don't know where but and he is his experience here. It was not I was making the light. It is not I who makes the the true nature the awareness. It's still, there were times when the light faded almost to the point of disappearing. It happened every time I was afraid. If instead of letting myself be carried along by confidence and throwing myself into things I hesitated, calculated, thought about the wall, the half open door, the key in the lock. If I said to myself that all these things were hostile, and about to strike or scratch. Then without exception, I hit or wounded myself. The only easy way to move around the house, the garden or the beach was by not thinking about it at all, or thinking as little as possible. Then I move between obstacles the way they say bats do what the loss of my eyes had not accomplished was brought about by fear. It made me blind, anger and impatient had the same effect, throwing everything into confusion. The minute before I knew just where everything in the room was. But if I got angry, things got angrier than I they went and hid in the most unlikely corners, mixed themselves up turned turtle muttered like crazy man and looked wild. As for me, I no longer knew where to put hand off foot. Everything hurt me. This mechanism worked so well that I became cautious when I was playing with my small companions, if I suddenly grew anxious to win, to be first at all costs, then all at once I could see nothing. Literally I went into fog or smoke. I could no longer afford to be jealous or unfriendly because as soon as I was a bandage came down over my eyes, and I was bound hand and foot and cast aside. All at once a black hole opened and I was helpless inside it. But when I was happy and serene approached people with confidence and thought well of them, I was rewarded with light So it is surprising that I love Is it surprising that I loved friendship and harmony when I was very young? Armed with such a tool, why should I need a moral code? For me this tool took the place of red and green lights. I always knew where the road was open and where it was closed. I had only to look at the bright signal which taught me how to live live.
It was the same with love, but let us see how the summer after the accident my parents took me to the seashore. And there I met a little girl my own age, I think she was called Nicole. She came into my world like a great red star, or perhaps more like a ripe cherry. The only thing I knew for sure was that she was bright and red. I thought her lovely and her beauty was so gentle that I could no longer go home at night and sleep away from her because a part of my light left me when I did. To get it all back I had to find her again. It was just as if she were bringing me light in her hands her hair, her bare feet on the sand and in the sound of her voice. How natural that people who are read should have read shadows. When she came to sit down by me between two pools of saltwater under the warmth of the sun, I saw rosy reflections. The sea itself the blue of the sea took on a purple tone. I followed her by the red wake which trailed behind her whenever she went. Now, if people should say that red is the color of passion, I should answer quite simply that I found that out when I was only eight years old.
How could I have lived all that time without realizing that everything in the world has a voice and speaks not just the things that are supposed to speak but the others like the gate, the walls of the house, the shade of the trees, the sound, and the silence. Still, even before my accident, I love sound. But now it seems clear that I didn't listen to it. After I went blind I could never make a motion without starting an avalanche of noise. If I went into my room at night, the room where I used to hear nothing. The small plaster statue on the mantelpiece made a fraction of a turn, I heard it's friction in the air as light as sound. That's the sound of a waving hand. Whenever I took a step, the floor cried or sang, I could hear it making both the sounds. And that song was passed along from one board to the next all the way to the window to give me the measure of the room
you always think of sounds beginning and ending abruptly but now I realized that nothing could be more false. Now my ears heard the sounds almost before they were there, touching me with the tips of their fingers and directing me toward them. Often I seem to hear people speak before they began talking. Sounds had the same individuality as light. They were neither inside nor outside. They were passing through me. They gave me my bearings in space and put me in touch with things. It was not like signals that they function, but like replies.
I remember well, when I first arrived at the beach two months after the accident, it was evening, and there was nothing there but the sea and it's voice precise beyond the power to imagine it. It formed a mass which was so heavy and so limpid that I could have leaned against it like a wall. It spoke to me in several layers all at once. The waves were arranged in steps, and together they made one music, the what they said was different in each voice. People often say that blindness sharpens hearing, but I don't think this is so my ears were hearing no better, but I was making better use of them. Sight is a miraculous instrument offering us all the riches of physical life. But we never get nothing in this world without paying for it and return for all the benefits that site brings. We are forced to give up others whose existence we don't even suspect and these were the gifts I received in such abundance.
And he had the same kind of experience with all of the senses smell touch taste
before I was 10 years old, I knew with absolute certainty that everything in the world was a sign of something else ready to take its place if it should fall, by the way, and this continuing miracle of healing, I heard expressed fully in the Lord's Prayer. I repeated at night before going to sleep, I was not afraid. Some people would say I had faith, and how should I not have it in the presence of the model which kept renewing itself. Inside me every sound every cent in every shape was forever changing into light, and light itself, changing into color to make a kaleidoscope of my blindness. I had entered a new world there was no doubt about it, but I was not its prisoners prisoner. All the things I experienced, however remarkable, and however remote from the everyday adventures of a child of my age, I did not experience in an inner void, a closed chamber belonging to me and no one else. They took place in Paris during the summer and fall of 1932 in the small apartment near the Shonda Ma, and on a beach on the Atlantic. What I mean to say is that all of these discoveries of sound, light smell and visible and invisible shapes, establish themselves serenely and solidly between the dining room table on the window on the court, the brick a BRAC on the mantelpiece and the kitchen sink, right in the midst of the life of other people, and without being pulled out of countenance by them. These perceptions were not phantoms that came bringing disorder and fear into my real life. They were realities, and to me the simplest of the more. But in it is time to make it clear. There's a long with many marvelous things, great dangers, lie and wait for a blind child. I am not speaking of physical dangers which can well be circumvented, nor of any danger which blindness itself brings about. I am speaking of dangers which come from the inexperience of people who still have their eyes. If I have been so fortunate myself, and I insist that I have it is because I've always been protected from perils of that sort. You know, I had good parents, not just parents who wished me well, but ones whose heart and intelligence were open to spiritual things, for whom the world was not composed exclusively have objects that were useful and useful, always in the same fashion. For whom, above all, it was not necessarily a curse, to be different from other people.
We should say that again, it was not necessarily a curse, to be different from other people.
As Zen practitioners, embrace embracing differences is our that's where our heart takes us.
Finally, mine will parents willing to admit that their way of looking at things the usual way was perhaps not the only possible one, and they liked my way and encouraged it. That is why I tell parents whose children have gone blind to take comfort. It is an obstacle but only becomes a misery if Folly is added. I tell them, to be reassured and never to act, the set themselves against what their small boy or girl is finding out. They should never say you can't know because you can't see. And as infrequently as possible, don't do that. It's dangerous. For anyone who grew up with a disability that don't do that it's dangerous. It develops a fear and a lack of trust and confidence in the in the little being. If you are a parent, it's important to know what you're saying, you know. For a blind child, there is a threat greater than all the wounds and bumps and scratches and most of the blows, and that is the danger of isolation. When I was 15 I spent long afternoons for the blind boy my own age one who went blind I should add, in circumstances very like my own. Today I have few memories as painful. This boy terrified me. He was the living image of everything that might have happened to me if I had not been fortunate, more fortunate than he, for he was really blind. He had seen nothing since his accident. His faculties were normal, he could have seen as well as I, that they had kept him from doing it to protect him. As they put it, they had cut him off from everything, and made fun of all his attempts to explain what he felt in grief and revenge, he had thrown himself into a brutal solitude even his body lay prostrate in the depths of an armchair. To my horror, I saw that he did not like me. tragedies like this a commoner than people think, and all are more terrible because they are avoidable in every case. To avoid them, I repeat that it is enough for sighted people not to imagine that their way of knowing the world is the only one.
According to many tread traditions of the occult man has a third eye, an inner eye, generally called the eye of Shiva, located in the middle of his forehead, an eye which he can bring to life in certain conditions by certain exercises, think that would be some forms of yoga. Certainly. Finally, the research is undertaken by the French writer and member of the Academy Jul for my have demonstrated the existence of visual perception outside the retina, situated in certain nervous centers of the skin, particularly in the hands of the forehead, the nape of the neck and the chest. I hear that more recently, this kind of research has been carried on with success by physiologist, especially in Russia. But whatever the nature of the phenomenon, I experienced it from childhood, and its effects seem to be much more important than its cause. The Indispensable condition for actually pointing being able to point out trees along the road was to accept the trees and not tried to put myself in their place. All of us whether blind or not, are terribly greedy. We want things only for ourselves. Even without realizing it, we want the universe to be like us and give us all the room in it. But a blind child learns very quickly that this cannot be he has to learn it for every time he forgets that he is not alone in the world. He strikes again, an object hurts himself and is called to order. But each time he remembers he is rewarded for everything comes his way.
And that is really an encouragement on us to dwell in awareness. And there's a lot that could have been said, we touched on trauma, and that's a whole other talk really.
And so I think I won't go there today, but does anybody have any questions?