Definitions

Definitions

The Greeks have more than one word for love.

It begins with storge, family,

where we can find,

      if we are the fortunate few,

 philautra, self-acceptance.

So clear-eyed, well-fed

we make our way to philea or even, though rarely,agape.

The rest of us,who were planted in cold, rocky soil 

grow stunted, frozen

reach for fire, thinking it is the sun.

Romance is the name for our illusion of love

a fog that hides the shorelineas we navigate

by wishes and lies

instead of stars.

Tossed about, dizzied, bruisedby storms we name passion     

  whose dictionary synonyms are pain, obsession, mania. 

We think we will be saved 

by grasping,

clinging

tighter still

to the punctured hull.

The Aeon of myth and Tarot appears before us

the Star Goddess Nuith,

       her companion, Hadith, a winged ball of fire, 

       is omniscience

       their child Horus

       clear insight.

Aeon rises above the waves,

as an eagle now

wings spread 

calls out to us

philea, agape

philea, agape

agape

agape

agape.

Who Will Explain?

The brown-eyed children,
under silver blankets
that sparkle like Christmas tinsel
or gleaming party gowns
worn at country clubs,
sleep on the cold, cement floor
but do not understand
the wire cages,
their loneliness
the long, hot walk
through the desert.
Do they wonder,
as children will,
what they did wrong?

Who will explain
to them

this land that hates them,
these people who sleep
on silk sheets
walk on marble floors,

washed by brown-eyed women,
take cool rides
in shiny new trucks
through the desert

like cruel-eyed matadors

immune to the pain

of the bull,
drunk on their comforts.

Who can explain
why these people
never wonder
what they did wrong?

How Could She Choose Him? Why Didn’t She Leave?

Mostly she doesn’t remember

but this

hiding under the porch stairs

like a frightened dog.

The mother, who cannot reach her,
bares her teeth, screaming.
The girl knows 
it is all her fault.
Mothers like good girls
pretty girls.

No one tells her differently.
They are afraid.

The woman huddles on the floor
makes herself small, silent.
The man’s eyes blaze
screaming
it is all her fault.
Men like good girls
pretty girls.

She hears the echo.

The Dog Says Sit

Words mask meaning
which rises in silence
comes clear
with the attention,
the patience
of a dog.
We know this
but refuse to trade our talk
for wisdom.

Those who stop to still themselves
know how dogs know:
see the others’ eyes shift
flutter like a bird taking flight
how the mouth tightens
the shoulders rise.

Though we sit close to each other
we hear
from a distance.

Meditation: Cliches and Truth

There are a fair number of clichés in circulation about meditation. Let me point out right away that meditation is not an attempt to create a blank mind by blocking out thoughts—which is impossible anyway. Nor is it engaging the mind in endless cogitation in an attempt to analyze the past or anticipate the future. Neither is it a simple process of relaxation in which inner conflicts are temporarily suspended in a vague, amorphous state of consciousness. There is not much point in resting in a state of inner bewilderment. There is indeed an element of relaxation in meditation, but it is connected with the relief that comes from letting go of hopes and fears, of attachments and the whims of the ego that never stop feeding our inner conflicts.
Mastery that sets us free
The way we deal with thoughts in meditation is not to block them or feed them indefinitely, but to let them arise and dissolve by themselves in the field of mindfulness. In this way, they do not take over our minds. Beyond that, meditation consists of cultivating a way of being that is not subject to the patterns of habitual thinking. It often begins with analysis and then continues with contemplation and inner transformation. To be free is to be the master of ourselves. It is not a matter of doing whatever comes into our heads, but rather of freeing ourselves from the constraints and afflictions that dominate and obscure our minds. It is a matter of taking our life into our own hands rather than abandoning it to the tendencies created by habit and mental confusion. Instead of letting go of the helm and just allowing the boat to drift wherever the wind blows, freedom means setting a course toward a chosen destination—the destination that we know to be the most desirable for ourselves and others.
The heart of reality
Meditation is not, as some people think, a means of escaping reality. On the contrary, its object is to make us see reality as it is, right in the midst of our experience, to unmask the deep causes of our suffering, and to dispel mental confusion. We develop a kind of understanding that comes from a clearer view of reality. To reach this understanding, we meditate, for example, on the interdependence of all phenomena, on their transitory character, and on the nonexistence of the ego perceived as a solid and independent entity.
There is indeed an element of relaxation in meditation, but it is connected with the relief that comes from letting go of hopes and fears, of attachments and the whims of the ego that never stop feeding our inner conflicts.
Meditations on these themes are based on the experience of generations of meditators who have devoted their lives to observing the automatic, mechanical patterns of thought and the nature of consciousness. They then taught empirical methods for developing mental clarity, alertness, inner freedom, altruistic love, and compassion. However, we cannot merely rely on their words to free ourselves from suffering. We must discover for ourselves the value of the methods these wise people taught and confirm for ourselves the conclusions they reached. This is not purely an intellectual process. Long study of our own experience is needed to rediscover their answers and integrate them into ourselves on a deep level. This process requires determination, enthusiasm, and perseverance. It requires what Shantideva calls “joy in virtuous ways.”
Thus we begin by observing and understanding how thoughts multiply by association with each other and create a whole world of emotions, of joy and suffering. Then we penetrate the screen of thoughts and glimpse the fundamental component of consciousness: the primal cognitive faculty from which all thoughts arise.

ABOUT MATTHIEU RICARD
Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk who had a promising career in cellular genetics before leaving France thirty-five years ago to study Buddhism in the Himalayas. He is an author, translator, and has been a participant in scientific research on the effects that meditation has on the brain. Ricard’s work is held high regard in intellectual circles in Europe, and two books he co-authored, The Monk and the Philosopher and The Quantum and the Lotus, are best-sellers in France. He lives in Tibet and Nepal.