The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Upanishads

I’m rereading the Upanishads, Eknath Easwaran’s translation, which I quite like.

As with most religions, its philosophy can be summed up in a few simple sentences: (1) Find an enlightened teacher (one can only learn from One who knows), (2) Practice one-pointed meditation along with the abnegation of senses and the ego, and (3) When the time is right, your Teacher will confer enlightenment upon you. The result is pretty astonishing, because when you become one with Self—the first cause and underlying, unifying, undifferentiated consciousness of the universe—you will escape death by not having to be reborn in another lifetime. Pretty neat, isn’t it?

It’s far from easy, however.

There are thousands of teachers out there, most of them false, and in stopping your senses and destroying your ego through meditation, you are more likely to go mad than become enlightened. Which, of course, is very, very funny.

In my case, there’s no doubt I’m heading for another incarnation. In my next lifetime, I can see myself picking up another copy of the Upanishads and having another go at it. That is, if I don’t find myself reincarnated as a toad.

July 17, 2010   Comments Off on Upanishads

The Wind Journeys

The Wind Journeys (Los viajes del viento) is a very beautiful and moving film set in northern Colombia about a troubador, an accordian player, who crosses the country to return his bewitched instrument to his maestro. It depicts a shamanic journey of the type no one in modern society takes any longer, a journey of the soul. We are so far removed from what is important in life that we can’t even conceive of such an endeavor. It is the same type of journey that Gurdjieff made to the West, the kind of trip Carlos Castaneda took in his mind, to fulfil a promise to a master. It means living for the spirit, and through it, for all humanity, touching what is deepest and best about us, the sacred river of life.

This is a must-see film.

July 13, 2010   Comments Off on The Wind Journeys

The Mind Trap

One of the cruelest (and funniest) axioms about enlightenment is that you can’t find your way to freedom by using your mind. That is, the power of conscious thought will never get you there. This is cruel (or funny, depending on your point of view) because it means that you can’t make use of the only tool available to you, your mind. I personally think the whole idea of being enlightened is a crock of shit, though I think some individuals become “self-less” in a way that is enlightened. It’s kind of a koan, isn’t it? How do you make progress on yourself unless you try? And how do you try without using your mind to set goals and objectives for yourself? Of course, this is the problem. None of us have any idea what it means to be enlightened, so setting up a definition of any kind means that it is automatically invalid. This is not to say that I don’t believe in the “presence” of God. There is definitely something inherent in our minds that transcends our minds. To me, the oddest definition of enlightenment is the one invented by fundamentalist Christians. It’s so typically American. All you have to do is accept Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior, and voila, you’re one of the saved. Shortly thereafter, you can expect God to speak to you directly and help you guide others down this same path of instant enlightenment. In truth, I have a great deal of respect for these individuals, misguided though they may be. From the empty depths of their souls, they know there’s something out there larger than themselves and are trying their damndest to get in touch with it. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God.

December 17, 2008   Comments Off on The Mind Trap

Pictures at an Exhibition

It was not easy looking at the paintings
Depicting the important moments of his life
All lovingly framed by their creator,
And not choking on my drink.
Even from behind,
Talking with others,
He had that diffident and glowing
Manner dilettantes often have,
Knowing they’re contributing something
Important to the history of art.
Studying his back,
I searched for clues that would help me
Flatter whatever illusions he had about himself—
To dampen down the embarrassment
When we finally met.
I couldn’t believe he didn’t understand
How bad his work was.
But then he turned to face me,
And with growing shock I see
That that hopeless amateur is me.

December 11, 2008   Comments Off on Pictures at an Exhibition

Exit Laughing

At the point where you have no friends,
When no one shouts your name
(Or even whispers it)
When your children are gone
And your wife has her own clockwork existence
That goes on without you,
When the illusions of youth have fled
And you are no longer sexually attractive,
You discover what it feels like
To be a threadbare carpet of diminishing value,
And because there is no one left but you,
You decide to embrace life (such as it is)
With all its contradictions, pains, and trials,
Refusing to be distracted by your sins,
Accepting fate for what it is,
And walk erect,
Laughing when the mood takes you
Directly into the void.

December 8, 2008   2 Comments

The Roshi

Until I met Katagiri Roshi, I had always assumed that enlightenment involved discovering a dimly perceived and obscure way of living at the edge of mystery. I encountered him at a period in my life when I still tried to distract myself with the latest fads, sex, and food. I didn’t know the Roshi for long and only mediated and talked with him on a few occasions, so I didn’t get what he was about until it was announced that he was dying of cancer. He wrote then that he was focusing on his body and not trying to avoid death. His words hit me with the weight of a small satori. Through his example, he was saying that we must embrace life even as it fills us with physical pain and destroys us bit by bit. Do you see?

December 8, 2008   Comments Off on The Roshi