Ripples Following Ripples ~ INTRODUCTION

RIPPLES FOLLOWING RIPPLES is the third and final part of my memoirs, after SO MANY ROADS and NOT THIS, NOT THAT. For an overview of my life ~ for what it is worth ~ they should be read in that order, and if you’re unable to get hard-copies of the others, they are available on my website.

I’ve taken the title from Sir Edwin Arnold’s, Light of Asia, to show how one thing leads to another in chain-like sequence. There is no beginning or end to anything, but only a continual becoming. Whatever is subject to change ~ and that includes us ~ becomes something else.

The Books teach Darkness was, at first of all,
And Brahm, sole meditating in that Night:
Look not for Brahm and the Beginning there!
Nor him, nor any light
Shall any gazer see with mortal eyes,
Or any searcher know by mortal mind,
Veil after veil will lift -- but there must be
Veil upon veil behind.
Stars sweep and question not. This is enough
That life and death and joy and woe abide;
And cause and sequence, and the course of time,
And Being's ceaseless tide,
Which, ever-changing, runs, linked like a river
By ripples following ripples, fast or slow --
The same yet not the same -- from far-off fountain
To where its waters flow
Into the seas. These, steaming to the Sun,
Give the lost wavelets back in cloudy fleece
To trickle down the hills, and glide again;
Having no pause or peace.
* * * * * *

A pilot-friend recently made the observation: “Some Buddhist books I've read have been far more complicated than anything I’ve ever read about flying large jets”. Well, I don’t know how it is to fly jets, but I agree with him that we have made things very complicated in our desire to work things out ~ down to the minutest details ~ that there is little room for discovery any-more. As a result, religion ~ and even Dharma ~ has become a net that entangles us, and we can find no way out. Distrusting ourselves, and not realizing that there’s no substitute for direct, personal experience, we conform to what is written in the books, taking them for infallible guides ~ gospel truth ~ fearing to doubt or question. Many people, until today, still believe that the Bible is God’s word, when it has been pointed out, time and again, by people who have studied it objectively, that there are many thousands of errors in it. Nor do we need to be scholars with Ph.D.’s to find them, as they are so glaring. The four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contradict each other in so many places; read them, to see for yourself. You would soon come across errors in my books, too; for example, in Not This, Not That, I inadvertently wrote 7/11 instead of 9/11. The spell-check function on my computer wouldn’t pick this up, just as it wouldn’t notice the contradictions and errors in the Bible, but they are there, even so.

The wheel symbol, which I’ve often used, denotes revolution (for what is the purpose of a wheel but to revolve?) Whether or not we are revolutionaries, with visions of how things might be, we are all turning and changing on the wheel of life, becoming different and other than we were and are. We may have some control over the way we change, but we cannot prevent it.

Because of feedback from the previous books, maybe I should say that although I am a monk, I wrote them not only for those who, for whatever reason, call themselves Buddhists; there are other people in the world besides such, all with hearts that send red blood surging through their veins; all with hopes, fears, and aspirations, just like us; all with pains and sorrows. We need to focus on the similarities between us instead of clinging to names that divide us and cause so much trouble.

In this and the other books, I have written a great deal about myself ~ they are, after all, my memoirs ~ but I would ask you to disregard my personality, and not invest in me ~ or in any-one else, for that matter. What we should be looking for is far beyond personality with its limitations. I would be flattered if you read my books, of course, as I wrote them to be read, but I’d like it more if you read them discerningly, and ask yourself if there is anything in them that might be useful to you, and if there is, take it and leave the rest; it’s not God’s word, after all.

For those who might not know about such things ~ as also for those who need things spelled out (and alas, there are such) ~ let me say that I take my stand upon ~ and try to live by my understanding of ~ The Three Characteristics of Change, Suffering, and No-Self (Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta). Nowadays, the term Vipassana has become well-known as a kind of medi-tation. The practice aims at the realization of these things; but we would save ourselves a lot of time and trouble if we saw the contradiction here: Vipassana means seeing clearly how things are, rather than as we would like them to be. This is not something we can practice or do, but something that happens. Why insist on rubbing two sticks together ~ and wet sticks at that! ~ to produce fire, when we have better means at hand? Put aside fearful self-concern about getting something that you feel you do not have, and see, instead, what is here.

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