Monthly Archives: August 2012

Vision and Transformation

I write this to improve my own understanding-

I experience a gnawing dissatisfaction with what I try to cling to to find solace:  little experiences like buying things, watching a movie, having a coffee- hit, eating ice cream, winning an argument, to achievements like singing on stage, getting a good mark for an essay. As lovely as they are, none of these things work, none of them finish with that gnawing dissatisfaction.

A poem from Rumi on this topic of looking for solace:-
The core of masculinity does not derive from being male
Nor friendliness from those who console
Your old grandmother says
“Maybe you shouldn’t go to school, you look a little pale”
Run when you hear that
A fathers stern slaps are better
Your bodily soul wants comforting
The severe father wants clarity
He scolds but eventually leads you into the open
Pray for a tough instructor to hear and act and stay within you
We have been busy accumulating solace
Make us afraid of how we were.


Vision and Transformation is Bhante Sangharakshita’s take on the 8- fold noble path, a formulation of the Buddha’s teaching.

He likens the different aspects of the path- perfect vision, perfect action, perfect speech, perfect livelihood, perfect intention, perfect mindfulness, perfect concentration, perfect effort, to limbs, “angas” of the path, rather than progressive stages.

Vision is that first aspect, Perfect vision, where we have a glimpse of something else, another way to live our life- where the ice cream and films and shopping might still be present but are not clinged to for security and solace. Momentarily, on retreat or in moment of realisation, we are floating in the blue sky of reality- experiences flowing through us. Another image- we are a river, allowing the experiences- even our fixed sense of self, to pass through, not trying to hold back the water with our hands. This experience is wonderful- we are free, and sense a limitless potential that is more about wonder at life than achievement. But it is fleeting. The experiences have to be nurtured.

Transformation is the nurturing of this experience of vision in all aspects of our lives: action, intention, speech, effort, work, concentration, meditation. Ideas have very little power in my life if I don’t carry them through into action. I live in a ferment of ideas. Often ideas that I have been trying to action for years- an exhibition for example. Thats natural, I reflect, I can’t do everything. But I have always found it easier to live in my head, and my path has generally been a vision- heavy one, light on the other aspects. I think that this might be true for Western culture modern civilization as a whole- busier and busier, we preoccupy ourselves with ideas and forget to fulfill them. “Preoccupy” is the movement of the global consumerist market (which people have reacted to with the “occupy” movement, chaotically but heroically attempting to give some self- governance back to the people).

However, self- governance and freedom of mind only comes through transforming oneself in accordance with reality. I live as if everything were forever. I want to own experiences, fight to aggrandise other people’s views, claw at solace in small things. But it shifts- life moves, opinions are fleeting, my own and other’s goalposts move, my partner changes her expectation of me, for example. And others views and notions of happiness are  all so insubstantial anyway. I even have a changing relationship with the solid- seeming possessions of my life.  I might get a new place to live, a new mode of transport, new shoes, and there is a brief moment of joy; before long I am painting onto them the same old preoccupations. Then I want the next new thing.

So how do we start this work?- first of all, bringing that vision into our lives through meditation and reflection. Reflection isn’t just thinking but turning something over and over and waiting for a response from the core of my being. It is about the nuances between qualities, like noticing the difference between interest, enjoyment and commitment. It is about a slower, subtle and embodied form of thought- it crosses the boundary between thought and embodiment. On retreat it slows down so much that you can feel the thoughts almost emerging in your flesh- they aren’t really thoughts but knowings.  Not in a fixed way but a stillness from which emerges a thought, which is a temporary insight- return to the stillness and another insight might arise. The practice is returning to stillness, it isn’t the capturing of insights. Its like being that return to stillness, like a dolphin dipping in and out of the sea as it swims.

Its thinking that knows it is only thought- it knows its own insubstantiality… Only a thought- (depressed people ruminate.)

HANG ON, SLOW DOWN, one aspect of the truth at a time-

How does my disatisfaction impact on my practice of vision and transformation?

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