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We provide transcribed talks by 35 different speakers
Vidyamala, Manchester, UK
Sravaniya, Boston, USA
Nagabodhi, London, UK
Candradasa, FBA Team
Samudradaka, FBA Team
Coleen, FBA Team
Kuladharini, Glasgow, UK
Sheila Groonell, Aryaloka, USA
We Have a Huge Barrel of Wine But No Cups
Audio Available at: http://www.freebuddhistaudio.com/talks/details?num=OM779
I’ve never given a talk in a skirt before so that’s a first. And I’ve never given a talk
with Kavyasiddhi before, and she’s going to be my beautiful assistant. She’s going to
do some reading for me as the talk's got quite a lot of poetry in it, and a few quotes
and things, and I thought I’d ask Kavyasiddhi if she would read for me because it
helps to have two voices: I find it quite engaging.
Rumi: “We have a huge barrel of wine but no cups, that’s fine with us. Every morning
we glow, and in the evening we glow again. They say there is no future for us. They
are right; which is fine with us.”
So this is a Rumi poem and if you’ve been on retreat with me you probably know that
I like Rumi, and I love this poem. It’s one of those poems where you love it and you
don’t have any idea what it means. So I read it before meditation and people say, “Yes
that’s a great poem - what does that mean then?” And I say, “I’ve got no idea but it’s
fantastic isn’t it.” I’ve got this sense that there’s something in it that I really liked, that
it was trying to communicate something I really liked that I couldn’t understand.
When you give talks on these things you often have to come up with a title long
before you’ve any idea what you’re going to talk about. So I’d read this poem
recently and I thought, well, I’ll use this poem. So I put the title in and thought I’ll
just use this poem, and I didn’t really know what was going to come out of it.
Giving a talk on Enlightenment is a bit tricky really. So because I started with the
poem I thought well it’s not a very sensible poem and I started pulling together a few
ideas for the talk.
And Rumi says: “Whoever is calm and sensible is insane.”
So I thought oh well that’s it. But now I do wonder if its become a bit too sensible. So
I apologize if it ends up being a bit too sensible. I was thinking how you have to be
really brave to not be sensible, don’t you? You have to be really brave to not make
sense. So I think I’m kind of getting there, but I’m still kind of working on it.
So the theme of Enlightenment, well I have to say that it doesn’t really mean very
much to me, Enlightenment. I don’t think in terms of Enlightenment. I don’t really
use that word at all. Yes obviously there is something, I do believe there is something.
Or at least I do believe that this isn’t it.
Rumi says, “If eyesight blurs find a railing to follow.”
And I really like that image of following a railing in the dark. I often feel much more
like that, that I’m kind of following a railing or a bit like I’m following some kind of
thread, but it’s very misty and mysterious, yet it’s quite definite. Anyway there’s
definitely something to follow.
So I’m just going to use some poems and symbols from Rumi. Rumi is a 12th C. Sufi
poet, a Sufi mystic with whom most people are probably familiar in the room; but I’m
not going to say anything else about him. In a way the whole talk is a bit like
following a railing in the dark. That’s what it felt like. Just following this sort of
railing in the dark.
So we have a huge barrel of wine. Wine appears a lot in Rumi’s poems and we can’t
say what wine is, we can’t say, “Oh, when Rumi talks about wine he means such and
such”. It means a lot of different things. I think if you realize this with symbolism in
general, and in Rumi the symbols that he uses he uses in different ways. You can’t
quite pin them down and just say that this means this; as a symbol it defies definition.
But we do get a sense of what the wine is. This wine that continually appears in his
poetry is something to do with essence or spirit or ‘soul’. So we have to use soul
obviously in inverted commas. But this kind of essence or soul or spirit, it’s not inside
of us; it’s neither inside nor outside.
Rumi: “ Last year I admired wines. This I’m wandering inside the red world. Gone,
inner and outer. No moon, no ground or sky. Don’t hand me another glass of wine,
pour it in my mouth. I’ve lost the way to my mouth.”
So if I were to ask you what you think Enlightenment is, and you tell me what you
think it is, really I wouldn’t find out anything about Enlightenment, but I would find
out something about you. So you would tell me something about yourself in telling
me what Enlightenment is. And in this talk you’re going to find out more about me
Rumi: “ Gone inner and outer.”
So Dogen says, and this is one of my favorite little quotes,
“To study the way is to study the self.”
So that is what we are doing when we say we are studying Buddhism. When we say
we are studying the Dharma, we are studying ourselves. There is no way or path
outside of ourselves.
Wine in Rumi is also the experiences that we have.
Rumi: “Drink the wine that moves you, as a camel moves when it’s been untied and is
just ambling about.”
So in Rumi we find themes of drunkenness, of surrender and abandon. But we also
find that these themes and symbols go hand in hand with strong themes of discipline.
In Rumi there’s a lot of staying up all night. He says, “don’t go back to sleep”. Stay
up all night, keep knocking at the door. There’s this kind of persistence, fasting,
meditating. So you get these two threads in Rumi of surrender and discipline.
Rumi: “ Last year I admired wines. This I’m wandering inside the red world.”
So he’s inside the red world. For Rumi this means that he does not admire God, he
sees nothing but God, he is in God.
Rumi: “ I want to feel myself inside the arc of your mallet when you work.”
So in our case it means that we don’t talk about Buddhism, or our practice, as if it’s
something outside of ourself. But it is about being completely immersed in our
practice, seeing nothing but our practice.
And I always remember my nanna [grandmother]. When my nanna was alive, I used
to go round there and she used to say, “How’s your Buddhism?”. Which I used to
think was really funny: my Buddhism, like it was this thing that I kept in a box under
Rumi: “There are thousands of warriors that can take over our minds. Don’t think all
ecstasies are the same. Drink from the presence of the saints not from those other
jars. Every object, every being is a jar full of delight. Drink the wine that moves you,
as a camel moves when its been untied and is just ambling about.”
So where do we find this wine, this essence, this experience. We find it in the tavern.
If you know Rumi you will know that the tavern appears in Rumi as well, and the
tavern is a sort of glorious hell that human beings enjoy and suffer and then push off
from in search of truth, and I really like this image. I used to sail a little bit, I used to
go in boats because I lived in the Norfolk broads and that sense where you kind of
push off from hard land in a boat, where you just kind of push off and you float out. I
really like this idea that you kind of push off in search of truth from this world, this
glorious hell, this tavern that we live in.
So the tavern is our human condition, so it’s joy and suffering. And Bjork has this
image, or this song called ‘[Who Is It] Carry my joy on the left, Carry my pain on the
right' – and I really like it, it’s just very much like that. That is the human condition.
There’s joy and there’s pain and they go together. And I think sometimes that what
can happen is we think that Dharma practice is about fixing samsara. So to some
extent I think that we can fix samsara. We come across the Dharma, and maybe we
become happier, healthier, and in a way we’ve become better at life. But because of
that, we can then stop that continual pushing off in search of truth because life
becomes more comfortable. I think it’s a bit like people being anagarikas, and this
idea of resisting settling down, not settling down.
What does it really mean to not settle down? It’s not on a superficial level that we
need to not settle down, it’s that we need to not settle down anywhere comfortable
where we’re not going to be pushing off, attempting to push off into the truth. So this
is why we say for the attainment of Enlightenment that I accept this ordination. It’s
not so that I can be more confident, more happy, or so that I can get on better with
people, all those other things that are really important and they do happen, (and it’s
great that they happen), but that’s not what we are doing in a way. We are trying to
push off into truth.
So what is wrong with ...