måndag 28 februari 2011

Of Gods and Men

Just came from the cinema, having seen Of Gods and Men, a French production based on a true story. The film portrays a group of French Trappist monks living in the monastery of Tibhirine, located in Algeria. Initially we follow the monks peacefully going about their daily lives – prayer, manual labour, and other monastic activities. Of significance is the way in which the monks interact with and assist the local, largely Muslim, community in a village which has sprung up around the existence of the monastery. It is understood that the village, despite religious differences, depends on the monastery and the monks in virtue of physical medical care, emotional stability, and spiritual guidance.

The tranquil existence is violently disrupted as a group of people described as Muslim extremists starts to cause unrest in the region, killing civilians for reasons which the movie doesn’t highlight. Instead it accentuates the intense emotional distress of the monastic community, as the monks realize they're becoming pawns in a political/religious conflict with the Muslim extremists on one side, and an unstable Algerian regime and army on the other.

The film’s core lies in the one difficult decision the monks are faced with: either they leave the country and return to France, thereby risking to deprive the local villagers of what hope they have left; or they stay, risking death and martyrdom. It is incredibly moving to witness the monks' ambivalence, their fear, their doubts, their courage, their honest fraternal love for one another, and their deep spiritual devotion in which they all find the strength to finally decide to stay.

Here one can read about how, on the 31th of May, 1996, the Algerian government announced they had found the decapitated heads of seven French monks in the countryside.

There are many things this film gave me, and on many levels. Apart from the beautiful depiction of monastic life and its gifts, it also inspired me to realize how incredibly grateful I am to be living in a modern, stable, and peaceful society; a society where one is not forced to deal with a worldly existence permeated by perpetual fear, repression, violence. I hope I will never for a moment forget how lucky I am to have been born in this country (Sweden), and at this point in time!

Finally, the film manages to highlight the monastery’s abbot Dom Christian’s intriguing insistence that even though the armed men reigning terror in the region were motivated by Islam, it is principally not the faith in and of itself that is the main inducement for violence. Instead, he touches upon the integral point which states that a person’s way of perceiving the world is the primary motivator of action, not necessarily any particular phenomenon or content such as a religious teaching. While that is not to say that particular content like scriptural dogma does not at all play into justifying certain actions, I do agree with Dom Christian that it is not the chief behavioural causal force. This evidenced by the countless examples of two different people reading one text, but interpreting it in two very different ways.

Not only for those interested in monasticism and spirituality, but for everyone, 
Of Gods and Men is a film I highly recommend.

"Love endures everything."

Of Gods and Men Homepage: Link.
Images: [1] [2]

fredag 25 februari 2011

Ekayāna 2

Monk Fa Ch'ang visited Ma Tsu and asked him what was the Buddha*. Ma Tsu said, "Your mind is Buddha." He immediately gained enlightenment.

Then he stayed in a remote mountain for many years. To test him out, Ma Tsu sent a monk to visit him. The monk asked Fa Ch'ang, "What did you gain from Ma Tsu which has enabled you to stay for so many years in this place?" Fa Ch'ang said, "He told me that the mind itself was Buddha." The monk said, "But Ma Tsu has changed his teaching now, he is now saying that it is neither mind nor Buddha." Fa Ch'ang said contemptuously, "This old fellow always tries to confuse people. Let him have his neither mind nor Buddha, I will still hold my 'mind is Buddha.'"

Being informed of this remark, Ma Tsu was very pleased and said, "Now the plum is really ripened."


If you think that the point of this story is that "the mind is Buddha", you deserve 50 blows.

If you think that the point of this story is that "the mind is not Buddha", you deserve 50 blows.

If you think that the point of this story is that "the mind both is and is not Buddha", you deserve 50 blows.

If you think that the point of this story is that "the mind neither is nor is not Buddha", you deserve 50 blows.

Image: Rena Jones
Quoted text: Garma C.C Chang
* For non-Buddhists: the word "Buddha" is synonymous with the word "Truth".

tisdag 22 februari 2011


Below we have a very cryptic and paradoxical text. Feel free to dig in!

Two monks, A and B, were arguing about a doctrinal problem; each insisted on his own opinion and rejected the other’s as fallacious. Monk A said, “I am going to see our master and let him arbitrate,” so he entered the chamber of the master who was at that time accompanied by an attendant monk who stood behind him.

“O Master!” cried monk A. “I just had an argument with B. My interpretation of such-and-such passage in a Sutra is this . . . but B had a different interpretation and insists that I am wrong. Please tell me who is right and who is wrong?”

The master said, “You are right!”

Monk B heard about this and rushed to the Master. “Master! How can you say that A is right? According to the authoritative commentary of so-and-so, my interpretation should be right, and his wrong.”

The Master said, “Yes, you are right!”

The attending monk who stood behind the master and saw the whole event could no longer maintain his patience. He proceeded forwatd and whispered to the master, “O Master, you can either say A is right or B is right, but how can you say both of them are right?”

The Master turned his head and looked at the protester, saying, “Yes, you are also right!”

Image: The Sword of Manjushri

lördag 19 februari 2011

At the Toilet

So I was sitting at the toilet minding my own business, when I suddenly discover, to my surprise, verses of delicate poetry printed all over the toilet paper. 

This one, translated from Swedish, reads: 

"They say that love can be glimpsed
at every corner
So why am I walking around
in circles?"

I do wonder who was behind this particular design choice? If you were a poet, would you be honoured to have your art published on the same paper with which folk use to wipe their arse after taking a dump?

Still. There is something about this I find to be deeply and incredibly profound.

When seeking God, or love, or truth, our eyes are set on the horizon, on ivory towers, on mountain peaks; it seems anywhere's good, as long as it's far away. 

We hunt for it with ravenous hunger and fierce determination, keeping ourselves ever busy searching for the next method, spiritual book, partner, job, philosophy, teacher, practice, etc, which will lead us, finally, to that glorious destination.


What if truth isn't to be found somewhere far away, somewhere in the future? What if, perhaps, truth is closer than you could've ever imagined? 

Indeed, what if it can be glimpsed, at every corner? Even at the toilet.

Master Tung Kuo asked Chuang Tzu, “That which is called the Tao, where is it?”
Chuang Tzu replied, “There is nowhere where it is not.”
“But give me a specific example.”
“In this ant,” said Chuang Tzu.
“Is that its lowest point?”
“In this panic grass,” said Chuang Tzu.
“Can you give me a lower example?”
“In this common earthenware tile,” said Chuang Tzu.
“This must be its lowest point!”
It’s in shit and piss too,” said Chuang Tzu.
Master Tung Kuo had no answer to this.

Photograph: Integral Monastery
Final quote: Thanks to Jeff Foster.

onsdag 16 februari 2011

Musitation — meditation with music

I just added a playlist at the bottom right side of the webpage (under the twitter feed), filled with carefully chosen contemplative music. This playlist will be updated with new stuff regularly.

Be the music

Sometimes our minds are so busy with noise and thought that it can colour our entire experience. We may become unfocused, stressed, and physically tense. At these times it may be helpful to employ some method capable of quenching the flames of distraction. One such method is music.

I call meditation with music musitation. Let’s try it? Start by firing up the music playlist below.

Sit down, drop all thought, breathe. If it feels natural to keep your eyes open, keep them open. If it feels natural to keep your eyes closed, keep them closed.

Experience how the music slowly enters into and fills your consciousness, washing everything away, allowing you to enter completely into this moment. 


As you’re nowhere but here, notice how your gut area may be filled with a sense of tight energy. This tightness occurs because our personal life often demands that we be constantly on our toes, ready to defend ourselves. Let's drop the need to fuel that demand, just for now. Instead, l
et the music penetrate into and reverberate throughout your entire body, as if the body was insubstantial, like open space.

Breathe, and feel how the tensions in your gut gently starts to disentangle, slowly evaporating like steam into thin air. Notice how, as that bundle of tight energy is released, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a concrete boundary between yourself, and space. Notice how it becomes increasingly difficult to find a boundary between you as a listener, and the music being listened to. Notice how, perhaps, there may not even be a need for a listener... :O

Be the music. Only that.

“When I heard the sound of
the bell ringing, there was no I,
and no bell, just the ringing.”
- Zen Master

lördag 12 februari 2011


Living a life
Seeing with eyes
How cumbersome!

Clip & Poem: Integral Monastery
Music: Hammock - We Will Say Goodbye To Everyone

tisdag 8 februari 2011


Chatter, chatter. Talk, talk. Prattle, prattle.

Ever noticed how we’re in constant conversation-mode? If not with someone else, we’re in dialogue with ourselves.

Sometimes the talk is engaging, stimulating, rewarding. Sometimes it is hollow, meaningless, ranting; as if we were only talking for sake of talking itself.

But question is, do we really have to talk all the time?

It seems language makes up who we are, and what we believe to exist. It is the very fabric of our worldly life, the place where we hang our proverbial hat of identity. Language makes us feel secure. Secure and comforted in knowing what’s going on, and why, and how, and where, and when. Without language — without talking — who would we be, where would we be, when would we be

Could this perhaps be the one of the reasons we’re so afraid of shutting off the television, afraid of not checking out the latest tweets, afraid of closing our mind’s mouth for but a second? Could it be that we’re talking all the time because we’re just so afraid of falling into that place of not knowing what the hell’s going on?


This is an invitation to shake hands with silence. Maybe even a hug is in order. For once, let’s close our mouths and just look. What’s going on here?

Make no mistake, this requires a lot of courage. The courage to let reality pull the rug of comfort from under our feet. The courage to admit we just don’t know what’s actually going on here...


WTF! Spiritual insight. 

As the vortex of the unknown swallows you whole, a delicious consequence is that along with that “you” goes all the problems, dissatisfaction and confusion you may be wrestling with on a daily basis. In this surrender, God flicks a switch and all suffering is effortlessly swept away. Alleluia!

And so, what is left at this point? Well, don’t start talking again - just look!

"no nothing only those wintry crows
bright black in the sun"

lördag 5 februari 2011


“A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 
- Luke 12:15

onsdag 2 februari 2011


Just read. Nothing else. True scripture is not about words, not about context, not about meaning. Instead, let yourself be absorbed. Experience how you're slowly being magnificently disentangled  liberated from the shackles of discrimination. Just read. Nothing else.

Hark! Reading in this way though, God will be throwing up all over your face. Eew.


Photograph and Layout: Integral Monastery
Text: The Flower Garland Scripture