“Which you like most?”

Yang Longming pulls out from his collection a bronze Lohan, a porcelain Kwan Ching, and a miniature Buddha. He sits back with a half-smile and observes me, as if there is an obvious right choice between these three artifacts, and after having spent a week with him traveling through the sites and museums of Shanxi province, I should know that choice.

“So you say this is from the Ming dynasty period?” I ask, reaching out for the miniature Buddha.

“Ming da” replies Yang Longming in painfully sharp syllables.

“What was its original purpose?”

He pronounces a few more syllables to our translator, who replies, “Contemplation, like the small Christian icons that can be taken on journeys and used for worship.”

Yungang-BuddhasThe colossal Buddhas we’d seen in Yungang flash through my mind, identical in shape to the miniature nestled in the palm of my hand, though opposite in size. It had occurred to me that the miniature’s colossal cousins were carved to convey the scale of Enlightenment: it towers above and lasts beyond everything else. But even the devout worshiper who visited every day would still lose sight of this scale and significance in the simple domestic moments that comprised her life. After all, spending an hour a day visiting the Yungang temple meant spending the other 23 hours away from its message.

How to bring the reminder of the colossal Buddha into one’s small home? How to shrink the magnitude of its message into an effort applicable in this very moment? How to encapsulate a giant truth into a pocket-size idea? You couldn’t take the Yungang Buddhas on a journey, but you wouldn’t need to if you could encapsulate their significance in a portable miniature. Ming da dates this piece at around 400 years. Who knows, but that 400 years ago someone commissioned it for this very reason, traveled with it in their pocket from Yungang to Beijing, and pulled it out for occasional contemplation?

“I like most the Ming Dynasty Buddha.”

Yang Longming nods in approval. I have made the right choice.

“Keep,” he says; “Yours.”

Responses

  1. Jack

    After using our assigned prayer/ meditation and questioning Asaf about other ways to do a prayer that weren’t so slow, I am starting to see the purpose and more important, feel the prayer. I worked harder on attaching work meaning to each of the words. I have also taken time to think about what I want from the work and why I want it. The prayer is starting to come back to me once or twice during the day as a reminder. I don’t want this to become mechanical. I see this as my Ming Buddha. How do I work to keep it from becoming mechanical?

    1. John F. Walz

      Hello Jack,
      Welcome to Beperiod 2.0
      I have found that physical places where I have made efforts become reminders to make efforts again. For example, many years ago while driving across country, I set an aim to divide attention while driving through underpasses or under bridges. For the first half of the journey, (about out to Texas) I would find myself in imagination, and see an overpass. I would divide attention and stop thoughts and hold that as long as I could on the other side. After Texas, I noticed that I would be in imagination, I would notice a subtle change in the state, the “thoughts”(imagination) would stop, and then in the distance, I would see the overpass. This continued through to California and for years after while driving. I would say this is a “conscious reminder” rather than ‘mechanical”.
      Prayer in the way Asaf presented it becomes mechanical when it loses its connection to the directed part of the emotional center( “King of Hearts”). If the inner prayer is not connected to valuation for Presence, gratitude, compassion, acceptance, reverence, or other King of Hearts emotions, it becomes wrote and mechanical.

      1. Christine Mattera

        Hi Jack … Isn’t it so, when something is new we receive it in quite a different way than when repeated & repeated. In its repition a dullness forms. It seems that for it to remain as it first impressed upon us, we must return and relate it again to the truth of what is and to our changing state.

        1. John F. Walz

          Hello Christine, Welcome to Beperiod 2.0.

          I appreciated your response to Jack. Would you be able to give an example of this from your own work from this week?

          1. philippe bitton

            Shalom
            I found that repetition (mechanical living) is the result of my lack of attention. Unaware I will seem to be of myself. In the sense that if my prayers (not solely my words, but my thoughts, emotions, and actions) are expressed in a non attentive manner, they would be in my view, routine, and not rituals.
            The difference, even if at first unapparent, for both actions can be done mechanically, is the intend (the focused will – devotion that is directed not due to the object of the devotee, but from the devotee)
            My prayers, my actions, become rituals when I am aware and observing my being. The many tutorials from the site gave us ways to do so.
            Though, I have also mostly found, that yet mostly asleep and mechanical I seem to live. For only shortly did I awaken.
            Thanks
            Peace and Love

            1. John F. Walz

              Hello Philippe, welcome back.

              It is a good observation to say that mechanical living is the result of lack of attention. Another name that we can give to the mechanical parts (“Jacks” of centers) is the “Zero Attention” parts of centers.
              The next level up is the emotional part (Queens) “Drawn Attention”, the highest level available to the machine is called Intellectual parts (Kings) or Directed parts of centers.
              Most people spend most of their time in mechanical parts, often the Drawn parts are excited by the most recent mass shooting, politics and sporting events, Directed parts of centers are far more rare and some people spend some of their time there, often in their professional lives for which we reward them very highly.
              Directed parts of centers are the ‘shores of the Third State” that Mr. O writes about. We need to get first to the shore in order to dive into the Ocean of Presence.

              1. Georgios Apostolatos

                Hi from Greece!
                Beautiful said…
                Thanks a lot…
                Any Advice when u experienced the Directed… How to extend maximum?
                Is happening with the breathing… Or following bird flying with the direction of Attention… Any other idea that have worked for U so far?
                Great That Is Happens such as Beperiod… Happy Continued and All the Best!
                Ps:forgive my English…
                Greatings to All from Greece-Kefalonia

      2. philippe bitton

        “Prayer in the way Asaf presented it becomes mechanical when it loses its connection to the directed part of the emotional center( “King of Hearts”).”
        The Kabbalist Yosef Chaim, the Ben Ish Chai, once wrote, “A mitzva (a deed) without Kavanah (intention – Direction) is like a body without a soul”
        Prayers at a lower level is an introspection within oneself, an act that one does upon oneself. A reminder of the kind, to awaken.
        As a note:
        There is an interesting commentary on the name of Man as express in Hebrew – Adam
        First, it is written with the letters (alef -1-, Dalet -4- and Mem -40) which will bring a gematria total of 45
        We know that from one’s mom and dad one comes (Av dad, – alef beit – 3, Em mother – alef mem – 41- for a total of 44, ) and with the alef (1 symbole of alouf, or the master) — the blow of life, man is alive…
        if you now take the spelling of the letters of Adam
        Alef (alef pei)
        Dalet (dalet, lamed, tav)
        Mem (mem, mem)

        אלפ דלת מאמ
        starting from the last letter of the last word, (mem) then last letter of second word tav, and pei of first word , then second letter of first word Lamed, lamed of second word
        we get the word mitpalel (prays)
        מתפלל

        That in some way men existence is a prayer….men prays (as he lives his life)
        Thanks
        Peace and Love

        1. John F. Walz

          Thanks Philippe,

          More often than not, its the identification with a Queen or Jack emotion that makes the prayer ineffective. For example, I was at a concert recently, attempting to “Hear” with Presence, attempting to use the I-Want-To-Be-Serious-I “prayer”and it was not effective-no Presence was happening. I realized that, when I could catch it, there was still an identification with the negative emotions of anger and judgement present (in the “Queen of Hearts”) regarding my wife being late for the concert. I realized that my “inner prayer” needed to address this wrong attitude and identification first in order to successfully engage in a “prayer” to “Hear”. So I worked with a prayer to “Drop” and separate from the negative emotion. I could see how pitifully petty the negative emotion was. Then I was able to Hear.
          It reminds me of the biblical passage (paraphrase) ‘Don’t come to the altar bearing a gift to me if you have aught against your brother, go and resolve yourself with him, and then come to me’. Thanks for sharing the numerology of the Kabbalah.I find the Kabbalah an amazing expression of Esoteric Truth.

    2. Charles Rodkoff

      Hello Jack,
      From one perspective, the question of how to keep the prayer from not becoming mechanical is *the* question. The prayer is a more sophisticated alarm clock, like the exercises we practiced earlier; sitting on a book, drinking a beverage with the left hand instead of the right (the opposite for left-handed folks).

      My efforts in maintaining a deeper or higher degree of consciousness, depends on how committed i was at the beginning. Also, just like the alarm clocks we used previously, that eventually descended into habit, so too does the prayer. Alarm clocks, and the prayer, have a lifetime.

      When i find myself intoning the words automatically, without thinking or feeling, it’s fine that I stop. At that time, it’s good to take a look around, see what’s going on externally. Also, take a look at what’s going on intenally. It’s useful to observe what took me away from the prayer. After some time a few moments, minutes, hours, etc, my efforts to reconnect to the prayer are refreshed.

  2. Nishit Gajjar

    I have been using my ‘reminders’ app from the cell phone for day to day messages about remaining in presence. But after few days I tend to ignore them and snooze them, thus their importance decreases. I keep on creating new reminders every other week so as not to forget and snooze them. About pocket sized ideas I would suggest that maybe keeping a locket or ring or some form of small jewelry can act as an reminder to ourselves. Hopefully it doesn’t become mechanical as in the ‘reminders’ case it happens with me. But I guess sincerity, understanding the seriousness and conviction can be helpful.

    1. John F. Walz

      Hello Nishit and welcome to Beperiod 2.0.

      Yes, Mr. O said just the same thing that you have verified, we need to refresh our alarm clocks every week or so. The machine quickly reprograms itself to avoid such annoyances. I grew up in the quiet suburbs, then moved to New York City and could not sleep for a week because of the constant noise. Eventually, my machine learned to screen out the 4AM garbage truck and the sporadic, yet frequent police and fire truck sirens. Its a survival technique of the “King of Clubs”, the mind behind the machine, the very adversary that we are attempting to confront that learns to ‘hit the snooze’ on the alarms. Actually, if you could catch that moment of the desire to hit snooze, the attitude, the movements, it could be quite powerful to see it.
      One solution for this is to do exactly what you have done-join with a group of people who are trying to awaken. We remind each other, together we have a better chance that any one of us or more may not be asleep at a given moment and helps the rest.
      In time, you will develop the ‘internal self reminding factor’ that Mr. Gurdjieff wrote about. With time, valuation, and right efforts the part in you that wants to be serious, that wants to awaken, will become stronger and larger than the part that wants to hit snooze. This is called “The Steward” in the Fourth Way-and no one, not an enlightened master or teacher can give you one of these-you need to build it through your own sweat( and sometimes tears).

  3. Hicham B.

    A simple, small object can be charged with a great significance and remind us of higher states. The physical size does not matter in the same way the smaller Buddha reminds you of the huge one.