Tuesday, 31 July 2012

What is this?

Max Erdstein, Global Manager of Google, gave a great talk at the Insight Meditation Center about 'peeling back the onion' through a combination of vipassana and zen meditation. He said that after years and years of zen practice he went on a vipassana retreat and suddenly realized that he did not know how to meditate - and had a consequent breakthrough in deepening his mediation practice.

"The ritual is an elaborate ruse; a kind of kabuki."

The moral of the story seems to be letting go of learning how to do meditation is the way to learn how to do meditation. - To breathe in you have to first breathe out. - In a way, not knowing is a way to 'breathe out;' breathe out the ego-based practices by letting go of 'knowing' how to do something or about something; a kind of learning through 'don't know mind' as Suzuki Rochi says.

In the vein of celebrating not knowing, here is the poem 'A child said, What is the grass?' by Walt Whitman. It is a part of 'Song of Myself' and is one long and hopeful question.

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it is
any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the
same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mother's laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and
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