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Buddhadharma : Summer 2012
SUMMER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 43 TThe Sufi sage Rumi brings us a famous story- poem of adultery and wisdom. He describes a jealous wife who is so careful that, for seven years, her husband is never alone with their attractive maid. Then one day while out with her maid at the public baths, she discovers she has left her silver washbasin at home and sends the maid to fetch it. The maid eagerly runs to her task. No sooner is she gone than the wife realizes what is at stake and races home herself. Rumi sums up the narrative, saying: The maid ran for love The wife ran out of fear And jealousy. There is a great difference. The mystic flies from moment to moment The fearful ascetic drags along month to month. You can’t understand this with your mind. You must burst open! — The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne Rumi takes the occasion to contrast the burn- ing love of the maid with the fear-based motiva- tion of the wife. We can understand that he is describing two different qualities, or energies, of attention and intention. He is suggesting that for our spiritual work to be effective, we must plunge ahead, burning with love and longing, not burdened with fear and jealousy. Our love for the path is the only force that can counter the power of the patterns we inevitably bump up against as we practice. These are the patterns that mold our lives. But we don’t generally care to look at them. We underestimate their importance. We don’t love them and we don’t fully understand that they are not only the gateway to what we love, but the actual fabric of it. Not recognizing this, we sometimes feel that the thing we call “practice” is more important than the thing we call “daily life” or “our stuff.” But this is just another way of expressing the dual- ism that is our greatest error. It is precisely this false bifurcation that keeps us from flying whole. The flight of the sage, as Buddhist paths under- stand this, is not a flight from the days of our lives to the nights of our realization; it is a passionately open encounter that encompasses all. To support this possibility in ourselves it is helpful to have an all-encompassing language, to recognize ways of expression that, like love, are inclusive, not dualistic or divisive. The lan- guage of jealousy is the language of calculation and logic; it is reason at its most impoverished, a zero-sum game. “If she has more, I have less.” “If I see my afflictions, I won’t see the path.” Such concepts make meaning through separation and distinction. When we describe a particular object of attention, such as breath or a specific image, we also make such distinctions. But when we look at the feel of attention in the body, we see that the energy supporting attention can indeed be encompassing, acknowledging both the obsta- cles and the potential to remove them. For example, in learning to focus on our breath, we can’t help but notice how our atten- tion gets deflected. Sometimes we scatter to other objects, sometimes emotion overtakes us, some- times we go dull, sometimes we daydream. If we attend to our sensations while our mind is moving in these ways, we can experience all of these events as movements of our own energy. Asian culture in general and Buddhist traditions in particular picture the mind as riding a wind- horse, a steed of wind or energy, or lungta. When mind moves to an object, it is our energy that takes it there. When our mind is still, the energies throughout our body are settling down. So it is (Opposite) What Remains by Faryn Davis