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words of radiance the heart can see

Updated: Jun 3, 2022

In zen, it is said that a dharma talk is obscure to the mind but radiant to the heart.

In Saint-Exupery's 'the Little Prince' we read: "It is only in the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

And, in les Pensées, Balise Pascale writes: “Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point” : The reasons of the heart are obscure to reason.

A possible connection between these sayings?

What then is a dharma talk?

Words of radiance that only the heart can see.

This is the thread we pursued in our silent retreat in April, in Monchique, Portugal. What follows is a condensed version of these talks presented as a short text to our attendees on the last day of the retreat as we were all holding and held by silence.


‘To be full of things is to be empty of God, to be empty of things is to be full of God. ‘Master Eckhart

The emptying of the hand of thought is an opening. We let the mind open up. The opening is happening when we drop the thoughts we hold onto. To drop body and mind is to return to the wholeness of all things by becoming empty.

Only when we become empty do we become a vessel that can receive the gifts of life in their fullness, in their wholeness. To become immersed in the wholeness of life means to be without picking and choosing. What presents itself is the awareness that the great way is now in front of us, outside of us, inside of us. This emergence is the recognition that there is no inside, no outside, there is just the great way and it permeates everything. Permeates everything for it is everything.

Only something that is no-thing can be everything. No-thing is beyond what the mind can grasp but what cannot be grasped is itself the mind. The ungraspable mind is thathata, things as they are, it is suchness. The mind that is free of picking and choosing can at once see the two facets of suchness: things in their fullness, and things in their emptiness.

The greater forces around us are beyond our comprehension. We are asked to surrender not fathom them. Surrendering means to keep walking attuned with the great way or said differently to get out of one’s own way so that the walking is just the unfathomable walking of the great way.

When a mystic says: All is well and all manner of things shall be well, what is meant is not that the universe will align with me to fulfill my desires. My desires are just bubbles appearing and bursting on the surface of the stream. All manner of things will be well is the realization that all is not in my hands for what I am holding in them are just bubbles. In the bursting of each bubble though we see a wave returning to the ocean. This understanding propels me to do my best without concern for any outcome. To no longer be concerned by outcomes means to begin to learn to trust. Trust: realizing that the ocean of life is not something we can step out of and that the movement of its waves is beyond our control.

Trust is to continue to care but to care without concern. Care freed of concern is the savor of equanimity.

It is the outcome that didn’t turn out the way I wanted to that can create despair in me, not the failures we inevitably meet and need to accept. But how can we fail and what is a failure? Not the least are failed encounters, failed communication, and failure to listen to and for the other since, as Martin Buber expresses it " In the beginning is the relation" and, "All real living is meeting."

Isn't a perceived failure another expression for loss? If so, isn't the whole human journey but a long and uninterrupted experience of going through losses big and small and learning not to resist but become intimate with it? Intimacy with loss is the subtle humble light we carry as we move through inescapable passages of darkness in life. Could this be a way of revisioning the deep work of patience at work deep within each one of us?

A drawback can be a moment of pause but also an invitation to poise and stillness. A moment of allowing more veils to fall away as a result of the experience.

There is ultimately one failure and the measure of that is the refusal to heed the call for simplicity.

Simplicity then is the obligated passage of the heart to radiance.

photo by jennifer van der toorn/ karuna center, monchique

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