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Let me tell you a story . . .

Let me tell you a story - Peter Malakoff

"The universe is made of stories, not atoms."

– Muriel Rukeyser
Hear this silent river flowing

Feel this soft breeze blowing, down out of the hills of dark

See again and again as we watch the miracle of story unfold,

and  praise this endless giving
In the night of a freight yard, many voices jungle up around the wee hours waiting . . .

waiting for the train

around the fire in the eyes of a lonely hobo

a great dark land looms as fear

and as promise

We huddle and stare and watch and listen

and the story flows like a river
Big trains making up for long away destinations,

you hear them crashin' in the yards,

your hands are black and sooty.


A Zen monk asks if it is permissible to pray while smoking.

Galaxies spinning violently seem a good way to be.

You accept this night.

The light seems brighter in your chest.
In these lonesome hours all the sorrows of your life

come to watch and listen,

storying up their own causes for future rejoicing,


and this is the greatest pain . . .

that in our tea of  joy,

leaves of sadness float.

This is certainly a 'religious' Truth
The only way to explain what a story is, is with another story.

This must be how religion got started, at least it seems that way to me.

So many stories crowd in upon us.

But why tell a story?

    So when she turns her head and looks at you,

you do not look away like I did.  

Not once, but many times,

I was not ready for grace,

not now,  not yet . . .


       A Naked Girl, A Dead Cat, A Blind Man

    It was 1969 and I was seventeen, hitchhiking out of Saratoga, California,

all charged up on religion and some sort of "other-worldly" paradise.

I was praying over and over again for God to show Himself

and anyway, she pulled up in an old Plymouth

and she was naked,

totally naked and blonde,

her skin tan and golden,

her eyes glowing with invitation,  

her gloried hair all over her breasts

and beautiful and young

and offering me a ride . . .


She was the perfect vision of a surf Goddess!

I had dreamed of her all my life,

and now,

here she was.  

   I was confused, caught off guard, flabbergasted, dumbfounded.

I had been dwelling on the attainment of another world,

I had been thinking of the lack of happiness in this one,


although I had not attained anything other than my own mind and prejudice,

I said, I actually said,

"No Thanks"


and smiled the worst, most fake and regrettable smile I ever smiled

and  she said


and pulled off, unbelievingly,  

and so I tell you this story . . .

   So when your moment comes again, and again you look back . . .

say 'Yes,'

reach out and grasp the hand that is given you,

for God shows Herself

in unthinkable ways . . .

for grace is too quick for thought,

too quick for any philosophy whatsoever . . .



   Driving down Route #1 north of Mendocino in a sports car, 60 mph.

I did see the kids playing by the side of the road,


I did not see the cat that shot out of their midst

until it was too late.

I swerved the car, trying to miss the cat,

but hit it anyway,

a dull thump,

tried to straighten out, went into a spin,

cracked up and was thrown from the car

as it rolled down an embankment.  

   The impulse to avoid hitting the cat was based on a deep rooted "ideal" of non-violence.

From the age of fourteen,

when I realized that hamburger was a dead cow,

I had been attracted to the ideal of non-violence.

But I almost killed someone in the opposing lane . . .

I almost killed myself.

Non-Violence towards a cat almost led to a greater violence to humans.

It seemed my philosophy was not quick enough for Life.

     It seems all ideals,

no matter how benign

are blinding.

Life happens too fast for Idealism.

It was certainly too quick for my idealism of nonviolence towards animals.  

I was blinded by the light of my ideals.

Now this is a most difficult issue.

Does this mean we shouldn't have ideals?

Well, the only way to consider a story is with another story, so . . .



   Once a master and his disciples were gathered in the jungles of India.

The Master was telling his disciples: "Everyone is God, everything is God

and we should bow down to God in everyone and everything."

   Now, all of a sudden, off in the distance was heard the bellowing, trumpeting and crashing

of a great bull elephant,

wild with rage;

He was in fact crashing through the jungle,

precisely in the direction of the assembled group of the Master and disciples.


The mahout, (the man who rode the elephant) was shouting,

"Get out of the way! Get out of the way! The elephant is mad!"

Seeing the approaching terror,

all of the disciples and the Master began to run,

except for one who remembered the Master's words:

"God is in everyone and everything and we should bow down to God in everyone and everything."

   The elephant was thundering towards him and the Mahout was shouting,  

"Get out of the way! Get out of the way!"  

but he only bowed down to the approaching elephant.

The elephant, plunged on towards him,

smashed him to the side with his trunk

and thundered on through the jungle.

   The Master and disciples came back, and finding him unconscious, revived him.

When he came to his senses,

the Master asked him ,

"Why did you not run away?"


The disciple replied,

"Master, you yourself had said that God was in everyone and everything,

and one should bow down to God in everyone and everything.

I have simply followed your words."

   The Master replied,

"It is true, God is in everyone and everything.

There is God in the elephant,

but there is God in the mahout too,

and the mahout said,

'Get out of the way.'"
   The elephant of my ideal appeared in the form of


and it was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who first told me about the




Costa Rica
   I have always been attracted to what religion seemed to promise

and had always thought that to really practice religion one had to become a renunciate.

When I was 16 years old,

I was full enough of youthful idealism

and had read just enough of Indian philosophy to think,

that if I was really to be happy

then I had to renounce the world.


Because all things had a beginning and an end,

it seemed that attachment to anything whatsoever brought pain.

It seemed obvious that attachments to friends, to parents, to sex, clothes, career and all the rest of it would ultimately bring suffering

and thus would have to be given up, left behind, renounced.

   One night, after an awakening brought on by reading

Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse,

I left home,

leaving a note for my parents

and after traveling around the United States hitchhiking,

eventually came to live in a religious commune in Costa Rica,

the "flower garden of the Americas".


After I arrived there,

I sought to distance myself even from the small group of Americans around me.

I became their goatherd

and lived in a little hut, by myself in an upper valley,

secluded from the rest of the small community.

I was very lonely and sad,

but I thought that this was a necessary trial

through which I must pass.

   There was a young man of 23 at the community,

his name was Michael;

I took to him

like a young man takes to his hero.

Michael quickly became the personal focus of all my spiritual hopes and aspirations.  

He was very quiet,

in fact he hardly ever spoke at all.

Even his motions were very slow.

I took this all as a sign of great spiritual advancement.


 Often, when I would come to visit him in his small cottage,

we would just sit in silence,

and move very slowly,

when we moved at all.

At the time, it seemed to be the sad

and wonderful way to be

   I would milk the goats in the upper valley regularly

and every day I would take the milk in metal containers

down to the community in the valley below.


One day, instead of bringing the milk along the jungle path,

I decided to venture down the river,

over the large round boulders.

As I came around a bend in the river,

I saw just ahead of me, Michael,  

and one of the married woman of the community


making love on top of one of the large flat rocks by the river.


I went into a mild state of shock.

I literally could not tear myself away from the scene.

It was the first time I had ever seen anybody making love.  

and I also somehow knew they were  doing so in secret

and that it was somehow "wrong."


I was fascinated, I was crying softly and I felt terribly betrayed 

and finally, without them ever noticing me,

I backed up the river

and came down the usual path to the main house

   I had experienced something I could not resolve or integrate,

something I did not have the words or feelings or understanding to deal with.

I now avoided Michael

and I never sat with him again


I never discussed the event with anyone else.


In the following months,

I became more and more withdrawn

and eventually came down with Pellagra,

a vitamin B deficiency disease,  

forcing me to leave my upper valley for medical care and attention.

Even under the care of the main community,  

I only became more and more isolated with my heavy secret.


After a few weeks,

I regained my health,

and decided to leave the community.

I returned to the United States after only one year.

Michael represented my first  vision of what I thought  was a "spiritual" person.

When I saw him on the river,

not only making love,

which at the time I thought  was a definite non-religious act, (certainly not the act of a renunciate),

but making love with another man's wife,

I felt he had failed terribly

and that it was more than ever up to me to persevere where he had not.


I did not in any way have insight or understanding into his or my 'personality'.

I had not yet failed myself

I did not in any way understand his 'failure' or my idealistic attempt to 'succeed'.

I was blinded by an ideal.


(End of Recording here. Will complete one day soon)

    Michael and the ideal of spiritual life I thought he exemplified-(renunciation),

was an ideal I bowed down to

in the face of much "shouting" to the contrary.

It was an ideal by which I judged him,


and ultimately everyone and everything.

This caused myself and some others great pain,


I even interpreted the pain as some sort of spiritual purification.

I thought my ideals were, or should be,



as my experience over time showed this not to be the case,

I began an attempt to avoid reality itself,

or what I thought to be


In this process,

I progressively shut myself off from life,

thinking all the time that I was opening up to the Truth.

   Four years later I came to a meditation course in Mallorca, Spain

to be with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

I thought I had finally come to a time and a place where I could devote myself wholeheartedly to "Enlightenment",

a state I conceived of as being totally free of all desires.

Surrounded by all the outer trappings and strivings of "Religion" at a meditation course,

I was more than ever determined to become a "Renunciate".

But thankfully,

it was here that Maharishi pointed out the voice of the mahout.

   As I mentioned before,

it seemed to me, that happiness involved renunciation,

and that renunciation involved a psychological and physical disengagement from the world.

When I read scriptural verses (such as the one below in the Bhagavad Gita),

I took them as a prescription for a religious way of life:
"Know him to be ever a man of renunciation
who neither hates nor desires;
free from the pairs of opposites,
he is easily released from bondage..."
           -Bhagavad Gita V:3
   I  would try to imitate in my life the qualities set forth in the scriptures.

I tried to neither hate nor desire.

I tried to not get attached to anyone or anything.

I failed at all of it.

My failure increased my sense of guilt and inadequacy

and only hardened me in my stubbornness.

I thought I just had to try harder.


Maharishi, however,  showed me otherwise.

The wisdom he gave me was the equivalent of putting the horse before the cart,

after many years of trying to get it to work the other way around.

Maharishi brought me an insight that would radically change the way I viewed my life,

present, past and future.

He showed me a first step to entering back into the river of life.


Every evening

after meditating and doing yoga all day,

our group of people who were training to be teachers of meditation

would meet with Maharishi in the small ballroom of a hotel overlooking the Mediterranean.

These meetings would usually last late into the night or early morning

as Maharishi would talk freely

ranging over a variety of subjects.

One of the topics Maharishi addressed was renunciation.

   Maharishi, a  formal renunciate himself,

said that  renunciation is both a particular way of life,

as when a person takes formal vows,

and a state of Realization.

Verses such as the one  above, he emphasized,

are not a  prescription for a way of living,

rather they are a  description of the "Realized" disposition,

    When one Realizes the Truth,

the state of renunciation is naturally attained,

but to try to imitate the qualities of renunciation,

brings not only confusion,

but the waste of life.

   Let me tell you a story:

   Late one night in Mallorca,

Maharishi had been sitting quietly with us when he asked for questions.

A  young man walked up to the microphone.

   "Maharishi,"  he said, with a forced but weak voice,

"what is humility?"

There was something fawning and fake about the individual,

but I could not put my finger on it.

   Maharishi, however, laughed and replied,

"Humility is like a fruit tree,

so heavy with fruit that it can't help bowing down to the ground.

It is the fullness of life, not the lack of it, that brings about humility".

   I was deeply touched by this simple and profound answer.

I saw the shoes of the young man who asked the question were also on my feet  

and Maharishi's answer had given me a new way to look at ideals

and their place in religion and in my life.

   Maharishi was saying,

that to imitate the state of humility,

as in the case of this young man,

(or to imitate the state of renunciation, as in my own case),

was based on a misunderstanding of what humility or renunciation represent.


True humility is not a weak or timid state.

It is the result of an abundant fullness.

Similarly, renunciation, (outside of the formal lifestyle of a "renunciate"),

is not the imitation of an ideal state where one "neither hates nor desires",

rather it is the natural state of one who has become so full, so happy,

that one is naturally and spontaneously free of hating and desiring.

There is no true imitation of these states.

Just as one cannot imitate the state of sleep

and as a result gain the same state of rest,

just so,

one cannot imitate the state of renunciation or humility . . .

These qualities are the result of the prerequisite state of realization,

not the cause of it.  

In this simple observation,

I felt the clarification of years of confusion.

   Maharishi often said that even death is better than taking up the 'dharma' or calling of another,

(or of imitating an ideal for which one is not qualified).

If one dies living one's own path in life,

then nothing is lost,

as even death can be in accord with the path of one's own evolution.

(Based on the Hindu concept of reincarnation).

But if one is attempting to imitate the life of another ,

or an ideal, because it seems a better way to be,

then this may have nothing to do with one's own dharma,

one's own life,

one's own lessons to learn,

and this is a fate worse than death,

because it wastes ones own life.

He often pointed to a verse in the Bhagavad Gita:
"Because one can perform it, one's own dharma,
even though lesser in merit, is better than the dharma of another.
Better is death in one's own dharma,
the dharma of another brings danger"
       – Bhagavad Gita  III:35        
   That there could be something worse than death was shocking to me.

It was the sobering shout of the Mahout, "Get out of the way!"
   Maharishi pointed out that when the practice of religion became identified with renunciation as a way of life,

then religious life became shut off to the common man,

and such has been the fate of religion in India for a very long time.  

Even today, such an idea permeates the consideration of religious practice throughout much of the world

It has been the cultural inheritance of many young people

and well meaning religious idealists.

   This does not mean that renunciation is not valid as a lifestyle,

nor does it mean that the principle of renunciation is not valuable as an ideal.

And here we could say is the whole point:

    It is in the way we relate to our ideals,

the way we "hold" them,

understand them as ideals,

that makes the critical difference.

I think that ideals are unavoidable.

They give us a context, a descriptive feeling,

a direction and way of picturing and intending our lives.

But, if we become identified with our ideals,

then we lose touch with our own reality.

Let me tell you a story about this



   In ancient Greek theatre,

all the major actors wore a mask with a fixed expression of the character being portrayed.

"In both tragedy and comedy the actor wears a mask,

fitted with a resonant mouthpiece of brass.

The acoustics of the Greek theatre,

and the visibility of the stage from every seat are remarkable;

but even so

it was found advisable to reinforce the voice of the actor ,

and help the eye of the distant spectator to readily distinguish the various characters portrayed.

All subtle play of vocal or facial expression is sacrificed to these needs."


The mask would project a particular quality of character to the back rows of the huge open air theatres.

The actor would literally speak or sound (sonar-sonare) through (per) the mask in the process of the play.

The Greek word for the mask is

persona ,

which is where we get our word 'person', 'personality'.

Carl Jung used the word persona to define that aspect of the being which is who we are on the stage of life.

It represents our 'self',

in clothing, car, food, walk, house, partner, taste in music, etc.

But, what if a being comes to identify with the mask or role who they appear to be?

Then, they become a neurotic or a hypocrite.

One of the definitions of "neurosis" in Jungian psychology,

is the identification of the being with the persona.

It would be like an actor on stage believing they are the king or wife or beggar or god who they portray.


Going back to Greek theater once again,

the Greek word for actor was hypocrites

from, hypo (under) + crisy/ krinein (to separate).

It is where we get our word– hypocrite,

a person who pretends to be what he or she is not- in real life,

an actor who takes his or her "role" or mask

'too' seriously.

   When a being comes to identify themselves completely

with the idealized presentation of themselves,

the persona,

they lose touch with the unused or opposite qualities

or what becomes the shadow side of their being

and then


". . . All subtle play of vocal or facial expression is sacrificed to these needs." (the "needs" being the role of the persona or mask)

This means that the subtle nuances of the being,

the alternative voices and stories that do not support the idealized version of the assumed role

are lost.


It is in this way that we lose touch with our own reality,

our own lives,

by identifying with the bright idealism of what we wish to be

instead of the paradoxical wholeness of what we are.

   The young man who tried to be humble,

lost touch with his own feeling

and became a poor imitation of the ideal he hoped to embody.

My own struggle with renunciation led to a similar fate.

This blind imitation of an ideal is like bowing down to the raging elephant.  

The elephant here represents the beast of idealism which overpowers the person . . .

if one does not relate to it in a proper manner.

   In ancient Greece,

a primary "fault" of man was hubris,

or what we today translate as pride.

Hubris meant that a mortal individual would identify with divine qualities,

as if one of the Gods,

no longer human;

It meant that he thought he controlled his own fate.

The individual ignored the difference

between the divine and human worlds.


we can see that hubris when someone unconsciously identifies with an ideal:  

Swerving to miss the cat,

the disciple bowing down before the elephant,

the young man trying to be humble,

my imitation of the state of renunciation . . .

This is where we see a person possessed by the Gods.

This is where we find people unable to distinguish out their own humanity from the Divine. . .

And then that person is brought down by the Gods,

the 'ideal' or idealistic forms of life.   

   To participate as a conscious human being

first involves us being able to take the moat of idealism from our eyes.

We can always put on our ideals as glasses,

to look about and consider,

but when we become immediate,

when we become passionate,

when we climb into the bed of life as with our lover,

we must be able to take our glasses off

and see with the eyes of human feeling.

   Sometimes we are in bed

and sometimes we are not.

Sometimes we put on the glasses of our ideals,

but we must be able to take them off. . .

perhaps even to try on other new ones.

But, at all times,

we must see that they are only glasses,

ways of looking and never the "thing itself".


And in the heat of immediacy,

when the press of ' Love' is upon us,

ideals are inappropriate altogether,

for then we see with different eyes . . .  


As Lao-Tzu said:

"When true love is lost, idealism and right action arise.

   It is in the acknowledgment of our humanity,


we "hear" the voice of the Mahout.

It is not that we should not have ideals,

what one could call the  "Gods",

but that we must have a right relationship to ideals, to the "Gods".

Perhaps, this is the critical point of the previous stories.


It is in this sense that ideals are not quick enough for life.

Ideals represent the "Divine" state,

not the human condition.


Negative Idealism

   The ideals we have mentioned above are all based on "positive" qualities,

such as humility, renunciation, non-violence, etc.

The stories I have recounted here,

so far,

tell of the 'harm' can occur as a result of identification with positive ideals.

I have focused on positive idealism

because it is the form of idealism that is most disguised

as regards its harmful aspect.

I have focused on this

because it lies largely un discussed,


without distinction in the common mind

and thus its potential for harm is vast,

like anything that is unconscious.


And finally,

I have focused on positive idealism,

because it is the peculiar form of idealism

that I have identified with in my life.

   However, I  also want to consider negative idealism,

for a similar pattern occurs in instances

when a person identifies with a "negative" ideal.

Examples of this may be seen in the case of Hitler and the Nazis,

or a person who feels he is 'absolutely' no good or worthless.

In both instances

we have the same loss of the 'human' or balanced or middle dimension of the situation,

and the concurring loss of human feeling,

of sympathy and compassion.

I lost touch with my humanity through identification

with what is generally held to be a "worthy" or "Religious" ideal,

others lose touch

through identification with a life-negative vision or an obsessive focusing on their faults.

Both types of identification cut one off from the human realm.

Both types of identification,

whether with positive or negative ideals,

lead to tragic results.


 The Greatest Idealist of Modern History

   During World War II,

Gandhi wrote an "appeal to every Britain"

in which he called upon them to abandon the struggle,

lay down their arms

and quietly accept whatever fate Adolph Hitler and Mussolini had reserved for them.  

Gandhi felt that if you resist violence with violence,

you only perpetuate violence amongst mankind;  

He wrote, in an open letter to the English people:
   "You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the
   countries you call your possessions.  Let them take possession of your beautiful
   island with your many beautiful buildings.  You will give all these but neither
   your minds nor your souls."
   I remember the first time I read this story about Gandhi . . .

Before this moment,

he had been my ideal modern hero, my warrior of Truth.

His advocacy of non-violence had always just seemed to be obviously true.

I accepted it as an ideal in my own life.

But now, faced with this new information and powerful consideration, I just couldn't agree . . .

it seemed all wrong.

Hitler was like the raging elephant.

It didn't seem at all wise to 'bow down to him',

to allow him into one's country,

or to practice non-violence in the face of his attack.

   Gandhi felt that the only way to change Hitler's heart was through non-violence.

One of Gandhi's contemporaries,

Sri Aurobindo,

when told of Gandhi's point of view responded,

"The only way to change Hitler's heart is to bomb it out of existence!"

I agree.

   It is the exceptional that provides the comprehensive context for the commonplace.

It is the consideration of outstanding Men and situations

that enables us to better understand our own more "common" lives.

Gandhi's "extreme" position on Non-Violence

(and Hitler's extreme violence)

enables us to re-vision our own.
   The Jews have a saying:

"If you study history, you lose an eye. If you don't study history, you lose both eyes."

This is one way of stating the paradoxical situation that presents itself whenever we try to understand something.

It seems we are, at best, half-blind.

In philosophy this is called the Hermeneutical Circle.

We cannot get out of history,

we cannot get out of the story.

Moreover, we are always prejudiced by our moment in history.

We are always prejudiced by our 'story'.

   However, history  can change in two ways.

First, because we find out some new information,

for instance a new bone at Olduvai Gorge, or

a long lost city 10,000 years old underneath the sea

and second

because our understanding changes,

understanding  based on insight into our own, always prejudicial nature,

our own always present bias, our own story. . .

we "see" the Hermeneutical circle, and ourselves within it.

It is this second type of change,

the change of understanding,

that is the concern of  my Story.

   About this kind of change,


   Let me tell you a story:


Saved by Jesus Freaks

   Once I was 'saved' by 'Jesus freaks'.

I was on the beach in Santa Barbara.

I had just finished meditating and was watching the sunset.

Two men approached and sat next to me.

One of them asked,

"Would you like to meet Jesus?"

I was in a very relaxed and non-sarcastic, emotional state,

a very open, receptive mood.

"Sure," I said.

They asked me to get down on my knees with them and pray to God.

It seemed a very vulnerable thing to me,

something I had never done with anyone before.

It seemed so intimate.

But, I did it.

In the midst of our prayer,

I was filled with a most incredible sweetness and light.

A liquid nectar from somewhere 'up there' seemed to pour into my body.

My arms and hands were spontaneously drawn up above my head,

my body was lifted up

and I began to dance about ecstatically and talk in tongues.

I was weeping with joy.

Both men seemed strongly affected  

and began to shout and praise the Lord.

This went on for about 5 to 10 minutes.

After the  experience subsided,

we tearfully embraced each other

and they emphatically told me that I had been filled with the Holy Spirit

and touched by Jesus in a very strong and special way.

They invited me to their church.

I declined courteously

and with some difficulty,

excused myself from them.

   The experience I had was real and true,

but my understanding  was very different from the young men I was with,

for I had heard a  different story:

  As mentioned before, in 1972, I was in Mallorca, Spain,

with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

It was a Training Program

for teachers of Transcendental Meditation.

During this period, many of us were meditating for 15-20hrs a day.

All day and much of the night we would meditate in our rooms.  

Many extraordinary experiences would occur:

visionary experiences,

the hearing of wondrous sounds,

even ragas,

the spontaneous movements of the body ( kriyas),

the tasting of mysterious nectar. . .


Every evening we would meet with Maharishi

and he would repeatedly remind us that these experiences,

however amazing,

were the result of a purification and awakening of the nervous system. . .

and, although they might be tremendously beautiful,

none of them was "It".

All of it was to be noticed and let go.

The ancient Yogic Tradition  had recorded such experiences,

thousands of years before the Christian culture had even come to be.


However beautiful, powerful, enchanting

or seemingly 'Divine',

we should merely allow the experiences to come and to go,

"to take it as it comes",

as he would say.

None of these experiences were 'God'

They were only the boiling off of our own psyche, what Maharishi called 'unstressing'.

   In the Buddhist tradition it is said that the bird of Wisdom has two wings.

It needs both of them to fly.

One wing is Experience.

The other wing is Understanding.

Experience by itself can be deluding and misleading without  understanding.

For instance, if you were watching a play

and saw someone about to "kill" someone else,

and you didn't know it was a play,

you might try to prevent it or to punish the killer.


Similarly, understanding alone is misleading.

Understanding the scriptures of a Religion

does not give one the experience of God.

I think  my Christian friends probably had a very limited,

"provincial" understanding of the ''experiences we shared on the beach.

The story they had to make sense of what had happened was the Bible

and the non-mystical, American born-again, talking in tongues,

filled with the holy spirit tradition.


Because the extraordinary  phenomena we experienced

had occurred, for them,

only during activity associated with 'Jesus',

they came to take the experiences as proof and confirmation

of this particular, and for them, exclusive

form of God.


   I heard this story from Buckminster Fuller:
   "A band of men of a primitive tribe are walking through a forest.

They come upon a great Tree that has fallen across another tree.

At one end of the great Tree a huge boulder, that has

fallen off a cliff has lodged.


The men all walk up on the opposite end of the great Tree.

All of a sudden, the great Tree lifts the huge boulder up into the air as they go down . . .

The men are awestruck. They talk excitedly amongst themselves,

"All of the men in the village could not have lifted that boulder. This must be a sacred Tree".

They make plans to drag the great Tree home.

When they get the Tree to their village,

they tell the story  to their tribe

and they all set up the Tree in a special place and worship it."

   When we hear the story of the Tree,

we recognize the principle of the experience.

For us, it is an event that could happen anywhere with many different variations...

it is the principle of leverage with the tree being the lever .

We have a different story.

We do not need to drag the Tree home

because we see the a principle of science operating there.

   When the Christian Missionaries first came to India,

they told the Hindus of Jesus;

of his Virgin Birth,

raising the dead,

walking on water,

curing the sick,

his doctrine of Love and Forgiveness,

of how he said that He and the Father or God were One

and how belief in Him brought Salvation.

Many Hindus listened to these stories with great appreciation and reverence . . .

   "This is an Avatar", they said.

"We also have Avatars.

There is Rama,

there is Krishna,

there is Buddha.

Similar ideas and stories surround their lives too".


The Christian Missionaries were frustrated.

The Hindus represented a far more ancient and sophisticated culture than theirs

A culture that had a principle as opposed to their 'special case' experience of Jesus,  

A culture that had a more comprehensive and far older story,

one that could include and absorb the story and miracles of Jesus

as they had shown.

   The great Sufi Idiot-Wise man,

Mullah Nasruddin

was invited to a Mosque to read and comment on the Koran.

He finally agreed to come.

He ascended the podium,

opened the Koran

and began to read.


Then, after he finished, he closed the book and asked,

"Have you understood the reading?"  

No one raised their hand and the Mullah picked up the book and left.

The head of the Mosque came running after him;

"Mullah, Mullah, come back! Why have you left so abruptly? We want you to speak to the congregation."

The Mullah answered,

"No one has understood the reading, so I left."

"Come back next week," said the man,

"and we'll make it right."

The Mullah agreed to do so.

   The next week the Mullah again appeared at the Mosque,

ascended the platform, gave the reading and asked:

"Have you understood the reading?"  

Everyone raised their hands.

The Mullah closed the book and left.


The head of the Mosque came running after him:

"Mullah, Mullah, come back! Why are you leaving?"

The Mullah replied:

"Everyone has understood, what do you need me for?"

"Come back next week," said the man,

"and we'll make it right."

The Mullah agreed to do so.

   The next week the Mullah appeared at the Mosque,

ascended the platform, gave the reading and asked:

"Have you understood the reading?"

Half the people raised their hands.

"All right," said the Mullah,

"You all explain it to the other half"

and he left.


 In Alcoholics Anonymous,

the very first step involves recognition that one is powerless . . .

that your life is not in your control.

This, one could say, is the 'First Noble Truth' of AA.

This realization opens the door to the Spiritual Awakening

which is the essence of the AA

and all "Twelve Step" programs.

   The story of Mullah Nasruddin,

is the Sufi equivalent of the first step.

It brings us right up against the impossibility of change,

up against the wall of no-where-to-go,

the dead end of options.

We can never get it 'right'.

Some stories,

like great beauty or a work of art to one with great appreciation,

bring the mind to a point of contemplation.

Some stories, stop the story.

It always seemed to me,

that when I really  heard, felt or saw a work of art,

a remarkably beautiful woman, a strikingly handsome man,

a vision of nature or a incredible sunset,

the mind simply contemplated,

going over and over and over,

until it did not move at all.

There was no urge to possess or avoid,

just a resting, swollen fullness.


Some stories are like that

and sometimes. . .
like a virgin spring just discovered


humor flows out,

or tears

   water runs over the earth

  fertile images seed forth

she stops

   and you say 'yes,'


       and throw yourself laughing into the car
             and the mountains and trees rush past in wonder between you


   Her eyes mirroring your own


all 'Yes' with Love

and play
and the story flows like a river


perhaps it's this dilemma,

this unease

these stupid, impossible problems

that keep the story going.

   Rilke wrote to a young poet who had written him asking for advice:
"I tell you I have a long way to go before I am-

where one begins . . .

You are so young,

so before all beginning,

and I want to beg you as much as I can,

to be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart

and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms

and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.

Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you

because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is, to live everything.

Live the questions now.

Perhaps then gradually, without noticing it,

live along some distant day

into the answer."


(thus I have heard)


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