1000 butter lamps

I walked inside the temple, darkened and silent, completely undisturbed; I noticed the colors, the familiar designs, the empty seats marked by the heavy woolen robes resting like ghosts on the benches, the teaching throne. Everything in its place. Only breathing.

Then, in a slow wave, all the “things” in my view became only one thing. Everything became teachings. Down to the smallest detail, the fake flowers, the decaying fresh fruit, the wooden bowls, the gold, the fading paint, it was all teaching. All the activity outside the temple space was also teaching. Everything beyond was teaching, the weather, the mountains, the pilgrims on the way. Everything in every living moment. I was inside the space of all teachings, all schools, all teachers, all of the past and stretching into an undefined future, a vast dynamic universe of infinite nuance, the tiniest ripples part of a vast ocean, having no language, no structure, no predetermined activity.

I wasn’t expecting this.

I dissolved into all of it, the heart-mind of the enlightened ones. “I” was a part of it, even as “I” no longer existed. The barrier between the perceiver and the perceived was dissolved. Everything was image. Not many images. One image. Nothing I saw had any solidity, any material quality or substance whatsoever; it was none other than teachings. I don’t mean words, not the deities on the walls, the colors on the ceilings, nor the figures by the altar; neither the hands that crafted those figures, nor the statues of teachers nor the teachers themselves. Not even the Buddha himself.

They were not words–or thoughts or concepts–at all. They were a simple and direct knowing, an all-knowing that needs no words, without a source, a wind blowing across centuries, populated by beings, know-ers who don’t know that they know, permeating everything and every one, “my” thoughts, all thought, my body of light, the light from the doorway, the sky beyond.

There was no differentiation between words and thought and knowing. There was no time. The truth lives outside of time. It permeates the construction we call time and it is not time at all. Then again, neither is it something other than time. I was not standing there at that moment—or any moment. I was standing there my entire life, without beginning or end, in every “event,” yet not separate from any other event.

The material nature of a temple, a book, a sutra, a speech or treatise, the perceptual apparatus that produces them all, the sky, the mountains rising to that sky,…it is all the same, a dynamic display of color for which we have no name, nuance beyond comprehension. It is generation itself, arising and disappearing in every instant.

There is no longer anything I can call not-teaching, anything other than truth, anything other than a bottomless knowing that cannot be spoken. The sacred may not always be apparent. But it does not lie at the edge of..or within…anything. It is already everything….without any edges, living beyond the illusion of anything being separate.

It is all mandala. It is all Buddha-field. It is all Buddha. Nothing is other than Buddha, not the suffering of the lost, the greed of the wealthy, the deceit, the derangement, manipulation or ruthlessness of the powerful, the self-delusion and striving of the seekers, the nobility of the compassionate, nor even the amorality of the violent. Every look on every face is a changing color in the ever-shifting magic mural of the living dharma. It is all Buddha. It is all perfection. There is nothing out of place. Nothing “happens” at a wrong time.

No decision we face can be postponed or avoided. We are always coming home and we are always at home. There is no place that is not home. There is no place to go. We are home. There is no remote cave of feeling that is not worth exploring. There are no chambers of the heart to be abandoned. There is no dead-end of relationship. There is no end to commitment to truth or to the invitation always present. There is no wrongdoing that cannot be faced, no darkness that remains unseen, no search for justice to be abandoned. There is no sleep that cannot be interrupted. Nothing exists outside the temple. The temple is everything. The Buddha field is everything. We cannot give everything–or anything– to it. It is already everything we are. We have nothing. Our absolute poverty is our true nature….and we have everything in every moment.

Yet we still retain will. Or at least that is what we imagine. We both exercise it and surrender it to realize essence nature. Not “our” essence. Essence does not belong to anyone or anything. It has no source. Yet, it is not other than everything. We exercise will to pursue what we do not yet believe we already are. Will, entwined with self, is both freeing and also a form of bondage. The exercise of will that releases bondage is the great surrender, the great paradox, the Two Truths in operation, inextricable, inexplicable, perpetual and ineffable, without condition or attribute. The Great Mandala.


Visiting Lukens Lake

Lukens lake–Yosemite Park

In June, 2014, nearly three years ago now, during the last vacation trip we would take together, my former partner and I made a brief trip to Yosemite Park.

 On the final morning of our visit, we left the car and took a short hike at an early hour to a lake about a mile from the road. The trail went up a hill and over, meandering down the other side in dense forest and intermittent sunshine, down to a flattened bank and a green and densely populated marshy meadow.

The path followed the edge of the meadow toward a small lake, maybe a hundred yards across, absolutely serene in the clear and crisp morning sunshine. We found a log next to the water to rest and sat silently together.

There was no movement save a dragonfly hovering and flitting on the surface. Then there was the brief flutter of a bird overhead and behind us in the trees. A duck floated out from behind shore cover not far away; then another, and then two more. Then they disappeared. The surface midway across briefly broke as a fish lunged for prey. Then, again. Bright stillness reigned.

As the moments passed, I became still inside as well, more a part of this place, a timelessness overtaking me in which all things take on a soft nature, a stillness that is not really still at all, a shimmering hyper-vivid motionless motion. I recalled another moment much like this one some years ago in which the awesome timeless beauty of every moment was revealed, along with the truth of time itself– that it is no more than imagination, part of the seamless suit of consciousness that we all wear and out of which we may only ever break free for brief random moments. Such moments reveal the sublime and supreme paradox: that everything we know is illusion, here and not here at the same time. All objects appear to have some material nature, yet exist only in some fathomless, timeless insubstantiality.

The sky was as clear as a dream. Even these movements that occurred infrequently, randomly, could not break the silence. No, they were not other than stillness. They were stillness itself, sparkling in movement and sound.

I held her more closely, imagining I was feeling our common essence in the same manner in which I felt the essence of this place, the perfect stillness of the moment, our eternal nature in breathing forms with desires, needs, fragile and unique expressions of an eternal nature, flawed, finding each other for no purpose other than to experience moments like this one, exposing ourselves to be caressed, to fall, to rise, to be realized in the eyes of another. I felt complete acceptance and love for her and for myself.

Nothing else mattered.

Why I Love the Mall


It could be the fountain, its mesmerizing spray rising in perfect symmetry from an infinite source, freshening the air with its sparkling abundance. Or the way the lights create an eternal noon. All darkness is subdued, all suffering banished. I … Continue reading