Sacred geometry

Renunciation and Joy

Date1st October 2006
Retreat/SeriesSilent Autumn Retreat, Finland 2006


So tonight I would like to talk about renunciation and joy. Do we have a Finnish word for renunciation? [laughs] Okay. So even in English, this is not a very common word. It's not a word that one hears a lot. I'll go into what I mean by it. Renunciation and joy. It's not a word one hears a lot. It's not a word that -- in our society, it's not an ideal that people give a lot of respect to. It's not something that's valued highly -- barely even talked about. And sometimes even in the Dharma world it's not actually talked about. It's not, also, given perhaps the respect or consideration or investigation that it perhaps deserves. So I had been practising I think at least ten years, maybe fifteen, before I discovered that renunciation was actually part of the eightfold path that Kobe was talking about last night. It's one part of Right Intention, one part of what our intentions are. No one had ever said that; I had never heard it.

So we, all of us here, are not monks or nuns. We're not monastics. We're lay people, which means that most of us sometimes have romantic, sexual relationships, we have money, we have possessions, etc. It's interesting what the reactions can be or often are from lay people around renunciation. Sometimes it's just like a horror. It's like, "Ahhh!" It's just a complete door slamming shut, "No, thank you." No considering. Or sometimes the opposite thing happens and a person thinks, "Oh, my practice is completely useless. Unless I'm living in a cave in the Himalayas and eating only snow once every three days, I'm not really practising." [laughter] It's like there's no Middle Way. Something is not very alive there. So if I only want to do one thing tonight -- what I certainly don't want to do is tell anyone, "You should do this," or "You should give up this," or "This is how much you should give up," or anything like that. What I would like to do is just invite all of us -- can that question become alive again? Is it possible that we can move through our life, that that question, among other questions, is really alive? Can we ask ourselves what does it mean for me? What is its value? Let me experiment with this.

This isn't about 'should,' either coming from me or coming from some place inside oneself, some inner superego or whatever it's called, the inner authority. Can it actually come from the heart? Can it come from the heart? Something deep inside. That keeping alive of the questioning in our life is one of the main things that keep our vitality as we grow older, keeps our passion and our fire in our life. We need that. We really, really need that. Absolutely we need it in practice, and we need it in our life. It's actually quite a rare thing for a human being to really keep that passion and fire for life, for questioning, alive all through their life. You know, I'm old enough now that I can look back at my sort of teenage years, and some of the crowd we hung out with -- you know what it's like, everything that you get up to -- and yet there was such a beauty there of openness, and questioning, and vitality, and creativity, and experimentation. And then some of those people, a couple of decades on, where has it all gone? What happened? How the vitality, the questioning, the openness, the fire has gone.

So there's, for me, what I find, a very beautiful story in the Gospels where Jesus -- a famous story -- he says a rich young man came to him and said, "Master, rabbi, what do I need to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, to see the Kingdom of Heaven?" And Jesus said to him, don't steal, don't cheat on your wife, don't murder, etc., and outlines basically some ethical behaviour. And the young man says, "But I've done all that." Very beautiful, it says, "Then Jesus looked at him and he loved him." And he says to him, "You're lacking one thing. One thing you lack. Go and sell your possessions and give all the money to the poor." And it says then the man's face fell, because he was rich and he couldn't let go of that, and he went away. Afterwards Jesus turns to whoever is near him and says -- that's the famous quote -- "Easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

So it's there in the spiritual traditions, deep spiritual traditions, but it's really not popular. It's not popular for us to sort of even go into it. Why do we brush it aside? I remember many years ago talking with a kind of New Agey guru-ish person, and he said, "That's all rubbish. Enlightenment in Bloomingdale's now" -- Bloomingdale's is this huge, very fancy department store in New York, in Manhattan, very expensive. He was like, "Renunciation is less advanced. The advanced stuff is to really go for all this pleasure and riches and stuff." [laughs] But, you know, when we look at the spiritual traditions, look at the Buddha, look at Jesus, look at Rumi, the people who are just bursting forth with some kind of spiritual depth or vitality, they're all talking about it.

So sometimes when we approach the spiritual traditions, we take what we like and we don't even bother to go near what doesn't suit us. We don't even question what doesn't suit us. But sometimes in doing that, we're preserving the status quo. We're not transforming at the level that we may otherwise transform, if it goes unchallenged. Dharma is radical. It's radical. It turns all the worldly values upside down, all the worldly values upside down. Everything that typically the world aspires to, it's really a turning inside out and upside down of all the values. But it's funny, having spent some time with monks and nuns over the years, very common for them to get into this kind of what you might call renunciate machismo, like a macho thing. Very eager at first, and then they get into this, "Right," and I've met people who don't lie down for three years or seven years, sleep in the lotus position. You know, all kinds of quite extreme practices. And then they realize, hopefully, after not too long -- but sometimes really quite long [laughs] -- they realize, "I'm being so stupid." They get in this competition with the other monks and nuns, who can be the most macho, you know, the one who's still there in the lotus position. [laughter] This is quite common to hear monks and nuns -- they laugh about it after the fact, "God, I was really stupid."

In a way, that's another extreme. What's happened then? The renunciation has either become an end in itself, it's become like a goal in itself, or something that the ego takes to start feeling good about. And that's not the point. That's completely not the point. The Buddha, too, he recounts from when he was older and he was speaking to his monks and nuns, he said, "Actually, back then, I too did not leap up, my heart did not leap up, did not jump up at the thought of renunciation." He wasn't very excited about the idea. [laughter] He said he had to contemplate the whole idea. He had to really think and reflect on it. He says, "Contemplate the drawbacks, the disadvantages, in indulging in pleasure for pleasure's sake, and contemplate the benefits of renunciation." So I think I should just say right now, what does it mean? I'm talking about pleasure for pleasure's sake. Like I said, we're lay people. So before anyone sort of goes into cardiac arrest from shock, I'm not ruling out sex and sexuality. [laughs] But what is it when sex becomes something that's really just about pleasure for pleasure's sake? What is it when sex becomes something that doesn't have care in it, doesn't have love in it, doesn't have respect in it, and doesn't have a sense of the profound mystery of life? As I said, we are lay people. This is an investigation. But just to say that. [laughter] Whew ... Or else I get all these notes. [laughter]

So what does it mean, renunciation? What are we actually talking about? Giving up, doing without, cutting down, letting go of certain pleasures or comforts or conveniences or securities in order to experience a deeper meaning or a higher meaning or a more important goal, to accomplish a more important goal. That's a very simple definition. In a way, everyone on retreat now, you know, the food has been really lovely, but we pretty much don't have any choice -- it just gets put on the plate, and you can't really eat after the three meals, there's no food available. We're sharing rooms. The beds could be great, but they could be uncomfortable, etc. So there's a lot we're doing without for the sake of freedom. What that means is that things like going to the gym or dieting, which is really popular in the West, don't actually count as renunciation, because in a Dharma sense they're not for freedom. Most people diet because they want to look more attractive, because they feel bad about their body, or they want to find a partner or to feel they're attractive or something. So there's a difference here. Nowadays it's quite rare in the world for people to say, "I'm fasting." What you hear is, "I'm dieting." Some people are dieting all their life. What's going on with all this?

[14:21] It's for the sake of freedom, for the sake of insight, for the sake of spiritual joy. This is where I want to make this connection tonight, renunciation and joy. Freedom, insight, spiritual joy. It's not, also, for the sake of self-control. You know, sometimes, "I want to master myself. I want to be able to control myself" -- not particularly interested in that. So there's the giving up of pleasures and comforts, etc., that are not conducive, not leading to freedom. Again, including pleasures that are -- you know, say the pleasure of enhancing the ego, or of power, or of being in a certain role, or having a certain image with others. All of that, all of that stuff which is so often what our lives -- particularly in this society, but it's a human thing -- can get diverted into, possessions or money or pleasure or status. And of course, it's for the sake of compassion and love. I'm sure I don't need to go into again what the state of the planet is, and if we all had everything that we might want to pursue, forget about it. For the sake of love of the planet, for the sake of others who have less, to make do with a little bit less out of compassion, out of love.

I was reading in this magazine -- it's a magazine called Resurgence; I think it's only published in England, but it's about spirituality and environmental issues, both together. There was an article, I think it was called "The Religion of Consumerism." There was a sentence that struck me. It said, "The fact that societies of high consumption tend to be highly secular" -- highly non-spiritual, non-religious -- "is not likely accidental." It's not likely an accident, the fact that societies of high consumption tend to be also highly secular. So renunciation is a very powerful thing, it's extremely powerful. It's not obvious at first that it would really do us any good, but it's something extremely powerful, extremely valuable on a spiritual path. It feeds other factors of the path. The quality of renunciation feeds the other factors that we need for opening, for transformation, for freedom.

So renunciation, exploring renunciation in our life, feeds, enables a quality of spaciousness. This is not something that we're that acquainted with, that we're that familiar with. Mostly we're used to quite a narrow sense in life. Sometimes on a meditation retreat one gets a sense of spaciousness. It doesn't have to be confined to a meditation retreat. Sometimes our life, our minds, our busyness, it seems so constricted that we're yearning for spaciousness, we long for it. And sometimes we fear it, too, and we have a very ambivalent relationship even with the idea of spaciousness. The spaciousness brings with it so much -- the lightness of being, a sense of the burden of life being lifted for some time at least. There's a sense of expansion. Renunciation brings spaciousness. Brings also simplicity and clarity. And again, these are things that are not that common to us. We need these qualities. Sometimes we feel our life is too complex. There's too much going on. There's too much confusion. We lack the clarity.

We can begin, with renunciation, to -- it enables us to see life more clearly and more deeply. And it enables us to feel our humanity more, the fact that we are human beings. We are human beings. Sometimes we can forget that. This body comes from the earth and will return to the earth. We are human beings walking on the earth, breathing the air with the atmosphere. Sometimes, with too much comfort, too much acquisition, we actually lose contact with that. And in a way, we lose contact with a kind of most basic honesty about life, which is the fact of our death. We lose contact that we are living and one day we will be dead. Somehow, too much stuff, it's just like a veil over all that. When a human being loses their awareness of death, then it's like they're unhinged, in a way, from life. They're not living in reality. We're not living in reality. The honesty about life and death, which is a beautiful thing.

Renunciation also feeds love. How can it possibly be that there is a strong and continuous flowing out of giving, of care, flowing out from the heart, if I'm spending so much energy and concern and time trying to get the flow to go in -- what I want, and acquiring? How can it be, if I'm focused on getting? Deep love, I mean really deep love, and service and the willingness to serve, depend on renunciation and on that space that opens up. If sometimes we feel in our hearts, it's almost like the whisper -- and sometimes it's a very loud calling -- something that wants to love in this boundless way, wants to do something for humanity. Having too much, wanting to get too much, a lack of renunciation is going to stand in the way of hearing that and of acting on it. Spaciousness, simplicity, clarity, honesty, love, confidence. Renunciation also provides a confidence. When we practise renunciation, we realize actually -- you really realize for an absolute, indisputable fact, I can be happy with very little. We really feel that our happiness is then less dependent on outer circumstances and what may be there or may not be there in the world. That lessening of the dependency gives an enormous confidence in oneself and one's ability to be happy. Some of you may have tasted on the retreat -- we don't have very much here. You realize, I could probably get by with a blanket and a cushion and a little bit of food every day, and there's a lot of happiness.

Sensitivity. When we indulge too much, it gets dulled. The senses and the sensitivity actually become dulled. And maybe even more important, our sense of spiritual urgency, our sense of this spiritual passion can become really dulled almost to the point of extinction, that it's a flame almost gone out if there's too much indulgence. So renunciation can provide enough space for the depth of life to be felt regularly, that there's this sense of wonder, of awe, of mystery, of being really touched by life. Not something that we say when we're older, "Yeah, I remember about twenty-five years ago, one time I looked up at the stars and for a couple of minutes I sort of felt something." It's sad, because a human being -- the possibilities are much more, much more. Two or three times of deep wonder in a lifetime is not, in a way, enough. It sounds harsh to say, but it's not enough. That wonder, that awe, that being touched by life is crucial. It's crucial to the journey, for our well-being and the journey towards freedom, and it's transforming. We're transformed by that kind of openness and that kind of being touched by life.

Krishnamurti, the Indian philosopher, died ten or fifteen years ago, I can't remember, sometimes he would put things quite harshly, sound very judgmental, but he had a sentence -- very strong -- "We come to the infinite well of life with a thimble and so we go away thirsty."[1] Do you know what a thimble is? It's hard to translate. Does everyone know what that is? So we come to the infinite well, the well of life, the infinite well of life with a thimble, and so we go away thirsty. Why are we asking so little from life? That's actually quite an interesting question. Why do we ask so little for ourselves? When we think the possibilities for me are just small, then we actually ask a little, just a little -- a little bit of pleasure, everything to be quite convenient and comfortable, secure. That's very little to ask from life. Why is it that we do that?

So when we let go in this way, we begin to feel this is our life, and we begin to come in contact with it, and our earthiness, our humanity. We are earth, and we begin to feel that more because we're not so busy protecting ourselves from being a little bit uncomfortable, cushioning the earth, cushioning reality. We feel connected. I went into this the other day, the importance of feeling connected. And we're less numb, less comfortably numb. In that connection and in all of this, the spiritual urgency and the connection and the earthiness, comes this joy, comes this joy out of the renunciation, out of the space, out of the sensitivity. Allows the joy, allows the joy to come. And this sense of something deeper in life, some deeper sense in life is possible. The Sufi mystical poet, Rumi, who I mentioned, has a beautiful poem. When he says "you" in this poem, he's talking about that deeper sense of life, that mystical sense of something greater, ultimate truth, God, whatever name. That's what "you" means.[2]

[27:16 -- 27:48, poem]

So sometimes it is cold and rainy, at home or on retreat or whatever it is, and we don't feel like going for a walk. This is quite interesting. I had a teacher who said, "When you don't feel like going for a walk, when it's raining and you don't feel like going for a walk, go for a walk." Why? Because actually, it's not that the rain is a problem or it's cold or anything; it's actually that the heart has become a little bit closed. It's more to do with the heart. Actually going for a walk can just enable something to open. We get too caught up in what's going on in terms of the comfort or the convenience. It's actually a matter of the heart that's the central theme here. He continued, "If you're hungry, when you're hungry, don't eat." Obviously not every time, but. [laughter] Sometimes there's hunger and of course we eat, but maybe don't eat. What would it be not to eat? When you're tired sometimes, don't go to sleep. What would that be? There's something about the heart and the openness and closedness of the heart here. As I said at the beginning, to experiment with this, just to experiment. Can that be alive? It's not coming from 'should,' not at all coming from 'should.'

So in the path, in the Dharma path, we investigate different kinds of happiness. That's very much a part of what the path is and what the Buddha put emphasis on. Different kinds of happiness and different kinds of pleasure, okay? How long do they last? How deep do they go? What gives rise to them? How do they fade? All this becomes interesting, the depth and the life of different kinds of happiness. So, you know, the happiness of a really nice taste -- there is a happiness to it, there is a pleasure to it. No one would deny that. But there are lots of other kinds of happiness, and just to really begin to investigate and know for oneself the way it all works. Sometimes we have expectations that some thing or event is really going to make me happy. When we notice that we have this expectation, just to track that: "Okay, this is the expectation. Let me actually see: how much does this thing deliver, how much depth, how much long-lasting happiness does it deliver?" Just to see, to experiment.

I remember years ago, almost in another life, I was a musician. I was a composer of music. I was living in America, and one of my -- I had a long piece, and one of my long pieces, a very well-known orchestra in London said they would play it. This was huge, great. All my composer friends, "Fantastic. Great career break. It's going to be brilliant," da-da-da-da-da. And I got very excited. I thought wow, they're going to play it fantastically, there's going to be all these people there, it's going to go on the radio, all this. So a lot of excitement, and some little voice in the back of my head saying, "Watch. Just watch." [laughter] "There may be some dukkha. There may be some unsatisfactoriness involved in this." I had been practising a little while. So the time came and I went, and there was really a lot of dukkha involved. [laughter] They had miscalculated the rehearsal times, so this very long, very complicated piece had very little rehearsal time and was going to be played on the radio in front of thousands of people. I won't go into the details, but there was quite a lot of -- it was very tense for me. There was quite a lot of suffering involved.

I flew back to America, and a few days later, I was just doing my laundry. I took it to the laundromat and was walking back with my laundry in my arms, and the sun came through the clouds. I was not particularly thinking of anything, just relatively tranquil but alive, and just watching the sunlight as it came through the clouds, and just touched the houses and the trees, just the tenderness of that and the beauty of that. And joy. Joy. Lovely, simple joy. It was a very interesting contrast. Very interesting -- no expectation of this, no hype. All there was was a simple presence and a simple openness to the moment, and the beauty and the wonder of the moment, and the gift of joy. This other thing was really quite painful. It wasn't all bad, but.

So what I'm saying is to track, to track. This question of joy, there's a lot of different kinds of joy, a lot of different levels of joy. Track it all. Pay attention to happiness. Are we really, really interested, passionately interested in happiness? Not just superficially interested in happiness. Really, really interested in happiness, so that all this becomes really clear. So clear that all the advertising that -- I'm sure it's the same in Finland, but certainly in America and England, bombarded by advertising: "Buy this. You need this," da-da-da-da. It doesn't make any impact, or what someone else says. There's such a certainty about happiness and joy and the depth of it and where it comes from that we're unshaking with this stuff. None of that with money or with anything is going to really shake that conviction when it's there. So we have a lot of assumptions and beliefs about what we need to be happy, and most of them go unexamined. It's really, I think, important to start shaking that up and really keep examining that.

So that kind of investigation begins to be able to feed our capacity for renunciation. We are able more to renounce when we start investigating this way. But when we also start opening to spiritual joy and getting a taste for more and more spiritual joy and the depth of it, then renunciation becomes something that we want to do, and it becomes easier. What do I mean, spiritual joy? I mean joy that's not based on ego or even acquiring things or someone saying, "Wow, you're really fantastic." It's a joy that's not about the self getting something. So the openness to nature, to wonder. These things are free. They're free. Moonlight is free. Sunlight is free. You see, certainly there are some people -- the depth of happiness that's available in meditation, this is where the spiritual joy is, in the calm mind, in the mind collected, a mind of samādhi, a mind of insight. The joy of like-minded people going into these things together, sharing together, supporting each other in these questions. The joy of Saṅgha and community. All this feeds our capacity for renunciation.

We usually think of renunciation as, like I said, this horror, like it's a huge sacrifice, "Oh, we'll really be sacrificing a lot." What if we turn that around and say, actually, who is sacrificing what? Who is sacrificing what? If I live a life that I am closed off to the fullness of joy, the fullness of openness and that kind of receptivity, which is the bigger sacrifice? To sacrifice some comfort and some convenience, a little bit of pleasure, or to sacrifice that fullness, that depth? Who is sacrificing what? So another thing that feeds our capacity for renunciation is of course insight. The more practice we do, it becomes very clear that grasping, trying to get, trying to hold on is suffering. Just in doing that, it hurts. Not only because what we try and grasp and hold on to will go, because of impermanence, but the very act of grasping is a constriction of the being. As practice deepens, one gets quite sensitive to when there's a constriction in grasping and when there's the openness. It's very clear grasping is suffering, grasping is painful. Letting go is freedom, is a kind of joy.

So we see the suffering in grasping. We also contemplate impermanence. This is a very central contemplation in insight meditation -- seeing the change, just keep seeing the change on a moment-to-moment level, on an everyday level, and on a lifelong level. So to reflect, you know, can we reflect, many times in our life, regularly, on the fact of our death? Again, this sounds morbid or scary. But our life is, what, maybe sixty, eighty, max 100 years. The universe is 14 billion years old. Vast amount of time. Probably going to last at least as long, and then who knows what -- maybe another one. [laughs] To begin to contemplate that vastness of time and our life within that -- so tiny, so fleeting -- that we live, in a way, in the light of death, have that consciousness of death be something that comes into our life to make our life precious, to give our life depth, to put it in perspective.

This moment right now, there's sight and there's sound, it's all in the context of that vastness. It's in the context of death. This may sound scary or morbid, but there's beauty and freedom there. Basically, as a culture, we tend to repress death, we tend to put it away, but in terms of freedom, in terms of living deeply and openly, we need to contemplate this. So the pain of grasping and impermanence and death. Also looking into, in a way, the emptiness, the meaninglessness, really -- real meaninglessness -- of what has come to be so valuable in society. The other day in the newspaper in England, there was a picture of -- they found the world's biggest diamond, and it was worth, I think, £6.5 million, about €9 million or something. It's a stone, you know. [laughter]

What has come to be invested with value? In a way, there's a real madness here. Or a fantasy car -- okay, so it feels a bit better and goes a bit faster. What has come to mean something? It's complete social convention, completely artificial. And in a way, we're all just collectively brainwashed and deluded together, so that kind of thing gets respect and value, and other things, which actually do have a deep value in terms of freedom, in terms of love, often don't get that value. It is a kind of madness; I don't know another word for it. Are we doing that? What are we getting sucked into? Even people who have been involved in Dharma for a long time, so easy to get sucked into that kind of comparing or valuing something just because it's so much in the culture. Social conventions, empty. Empty. They mean nothing in themselves, nothing. You can see, what does the fantasy car, what does this piece of stone mean when you find out you have cancer, or your child or your partner has cancer? It means nothing, absolutely nothing. What does it mean when at the end of your life you realize, "I've kind of wasted it"? It becomes absolutely meaningless. Worse than meaningless. In other words, their perceived value is not independent of what mood I'm in. The mood I'm in when the doctor tells me I have cancer, given that mood, the diamond is going to be meaningless. A diamond, car, etc., in itself, is nothing independent of my mind, what the mind gives it.

From another perspective, actually anything that we say, "I own this," all it can ever be is an impression in awareness. I can say, "I own a house," or "I own a car," or "I own this watch" or whatever. How can it ever be anything other than some sensations on my fingers and some visual image? How can it be more than that? In a way, the whole notion of ownership is a myth. It's an unreality. It's a fiction. And to reflect, too -- this, again, is very powerful, important -- what forces are really driving our life? What's really, really in the driving seat? And you can do this as a creative sort of imagination or meditation. Imagine oneself on the deathbed. You know sometime in the next hour, maybe day, maybe two days, you're going to die. One looks back at one's life -- or perhaps just after death and you're above your body or whatever it is, and you're looking back at your life and you have a sense of your life. Imagine getting a sense. You cannot go back at that point. You cannot change anything. You cannot do it again. You cannot return.

Imagine realizing that what has been in the driving seat has been these little impulses for comfort, convenience, a little bit of pleasure, a little bit of security. Can't go back. Versus, at the time of death, looking back and saying, "I feel, as much as possible, a lot of the time, I put freedom first. I put love and care first. I put the truth first." In a way, when we live our lives and we're living just to get pleasure, to get as much pleasure as we can without going to jail [laughter] -- which, in a way, is sometimes what human beings find themselves doing, sometimes not even being conscious of it, you know. What does it say about our perspective of life? What does it say where our faith is? It's actually quite a nihilistic view that's underlying that. It's saying, "I don't really have faith in anything deeper. I don't really have the faith in the possibility of anything more, of any transcendence or freedom or really boundless love. I just accumulate. I have faith in nothing but this accumulation and this little bit of pleasure." What's it saying? Where is my faith? This is a very deep question: what do I really have faith in?

So in opening to this question -- and to say again, it's a question; sometimes the job of a teacher is to really kind of comfort and support, and sometimes the job of the teacher is to actually challenge, so I'm kind of stepping into that role a little bit. Do we dare to challenge our habits about this? Habits of what we have and what we usually do, our attachments, our assumptions. Even something like -- if you really want to kind of experiment with it sometime, say food, tasty food. What would it be, "Right, I'm just going to do an experiment. I'm going to eat really tasteless food, as tasteless as possible, for the next three months." Someone might say that's a completely stupid idea, but I don't think it's stupid. It sounds crazy, but I don't think it's stupid. What would that be? Soon, I think one would notice it's not an issue. It becomes -- I'm actually speaking with some experience -- just not an issue. I was forced into this for health reasons. [laughter] For nine months I ate plain steamed rice, plain steamed vegetables, and plain steamed tofu, and nothing else. It was for health reasons. After a while, it just becomes not an issue, and one realizes, one may realize, that if it is an issue or when it is an issue, it's only because there is an inner lack of well-being. The more the inner happiness, the more the spiritual joy, the less that stuff really even makes much of an impression.

Again, when we see this connection, that when there's happiness and joy inside, then things like my need or addiction to taste become irrelevant, when we see that connection, it also tells you that need is empty because it depends totally on my lack of really deep inner well-being. So this mindfulness that we go on and on about, and sensitivity that I in particular sometimes go on and on about, it's a little bit of an acquired taste. So at first, you know, obviously our pleasure and our joy is in other things, in comfort and taste and all that. With a little bit of practice, a little bit of quietness, mindfulness and sensitivity themselves begin to feel beautiful. We begin to get a taste for them. There's something, in a very quiet way, that's very satisfying and lovely, just in being mindful, in being sensitive. There's something about that state of being, that way of being, that is very nourishing, very fulfilling. And we become sensitive to the subtle aspects of life, and we love that sensitivity -- versus boredom, or versus, as I was saying I think the first night, seeking more and more intense experiences. It's interesting. If you really start to pay attention to all this stuff, you notice there's a certain amount of comfort, maybe just that extra biscuit, or a certain amount of comfort in the room or whatever it is, that just almost imperceptibly puts the mind just a little bit to sleep. Again, to check this out, check it out. Just be open and ask. There's something that just goes a little bit -- I'm not even talking about huge luxury stuff. Just to see, when does the mind go to sleep? It's just a little bit more comfortable, and something goes to sleep, something closes in the heart, there's a bit of dullness, a bit less sensitivity. It's not like we're snoring or anything. Just something closes.

Preoccupation with comfort, with convenience, with pleasure for pleasure's sake, and security, it closes the heart. It closes the flow and the access to, what I would say, really deep and wide feelings. The really deep feelings in life and really wide feelings, feelings that are not so wrapped up in me and my story. A lot of times, a lot of our emotional life is very much wrapped up in me and my story, my drama, and what I'm going to get, or what I might lose, and what so-and-so said to me or didn't say, or who's with me or who left me, or who I might ... There's a whole other dimension of the heart's range, depth and width, that too much of a preoccupation with comfort and all that will actually close that off.

So all of this is available to us. All of this, what we've been talking about tonight and the other nights, it's all very available. It's not abstract stuff. It's stuff to, like I said, investigate. The Buddha said, "Come and see for yourself." Ehipassiko in Pali. Come and see for yourself. Experiment. Question. Try. See where the joy is. See where the freedom is. I'm not talking about things that are not possible for anyone in this room.

I'd really like to finish with this poem by an American poet called Mary Oliver. It's quite long, but very beautiful. It's called Am I Not Among the Early Risers.[3]

[53:32 -- 57:04, poem]

  1. Cf. J. Krishnamurti, Letters to a Young Friend: "We go to the well with a thimble and so life becomes a tawdry affair, puny and small,", accessed 9 June 2021. ↩︎

  2. Rumi, "The Freshness," The Essential Rumi, tr. Coleman Barks (Edison, New Jersey: Castle Books, 1997), 266. Archived at, accessed 2 Nov. 2020. ↩︎

  3. Mary Oliver, "Am I Not Among the Early Risers," New and Selected Poems, Volume 2 (Boston: Beacon Press, 2005), 124--5. Archived at, accessed 2 Nov. 2020. ↩︎

Sacred geometry
Sacred geometry