Archives for July 2008

Zen Buddhism

By Paulo Coelho

WARRIOR OF THE LIGHT ONLINE has often transcribed classic texts of the Zen school. But what does it mean, exactly? As Ming Zhen Shakya explains, Zen is to Buddhism what the Kabbalah is to Judaism, contemplation is to Christianity, Sufi dancing is to Islam: in other words, it is the mystical practice of philosophical or spiritual teaching.

The Zen school began in China as a mixture of the Buddhism from Nepal with the local Taoist traditions (which we shall discuss later). Between the years 700 and 1200, monks traveled to Japan and there developed two types of meditation based on physical posture: the Rinzai style says that all human beings can achieve illumination if they live their existence with respect and sobriety, while the Soto style preaches the importance of lengthy training in order to reach this objective.

According to most religions, an illuminated man is someone who manages to free himself from his own egotism, understands that he his merely a small – but important – part in God’s Great plan, and does everything possible to concentrate on the good working of this part. As he moves in this direction, superfluous things lose their importance, and with this his suffering recedes.

According to the Zen masters, we all have an intuitive knowledge of the reason for our existence. But most philosophical or religious teachings are nothing but ways of provoking, deep down inside us, the contact with the wisdom which is already there – buried deep in layers of prejudice, guilt, mental confusion and false ideas about our own importance.

Zen Buddhism – especially that which was elaborated from the Soto style – developed a series of techniques to enable man to reach this inner peace and comprehension. To us, with our Western vision of our inner search, these techniques are deeply related to the words of Jesus, in the Gospel according to Matthew: “when thou prayest, enter thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to the Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

Someone practicing Zen finds a calm place, and sits in a position in which he can keep his balance for a long time, but without support for his spine; therefore the best-known posture is with the legs crossed, the hands linked in front over his pelvis. At some monasteries I visited in Japan they use a type of leather cushion in order to raise the body slightly, and allow for better blood circulation in the legs.

Now one must try to remain motionless for as long as possible, while obeying a few simples rules. The head must lean forward, the eyes focused on nothing, but not closed, because that can cause sleepiness. One observes one’s breathing, trying not influence its rhythm – it should be as natural as possible, for as the zazen (the name for this posture) is held, one’s inhalation and exhalation tend to become more paused and slower.

Although many who claim to know the techniques of meditation think that one must “empty one’s mind”, we all – and all the great Zen masters – know that this is impossible. The main idea is not to try and control our thoughts and emotions, nor seek spiritual contact with God; all this will come in its own time, as we become more and more calm.

Since the practice of Zen is extremely simple, without any religious or philosophical connotations, it helps us – paradoxically – to connect to God and to answer our doubts in an unconscious way. The next time you are at home with nothing to do, and think everything around you is annoying and repetitive, try to sit down in a quiet place, remain still, and let the world go on around you.

You will see that, in order to do the important things in life, at times one must allow oneself to do nothing.

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Image of the Day : Da Circle by Escher

Da Circle by Escher

Quote of the Day

By Paulo Coelho

It is necessary to run risks, follow certain paths and abandon others.
No one can make a choice without feeling fear.

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Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

Which Christmas souvenirs do you have from your childhood ?

Like any other child I always thought of Santa Claus and the gifts. But my family thought me about people that had less than me and to share my gifts (which back then I didn’t really like…)

Image of the Day : Adam and Eve by William Blake

Adam and Eve by William Blake

The town and the two streets

By Paulo Coelho

The following story is told by Sheikh Qalandar Shah in his book Asrar-i-Khilwatia (Secrets of the Recluses):

In eastern Armenia there was a little village with two parallel streets, called North Way and South Way, respectively. A traveler from afar walked down South Way, and soon resolved to visit the other street; however, as soon as he entered it, the merchants noticed that his eyes were filled with tears.

“Someone must have died on South Way,” said the butcher to the textile salesman. “That poor stranger, who just came from there, look how he cries!”

A child heard the comment, and as he knew what a sad thing someone dying is, he began to cry hysterically. Before long, all the children in that street were crying.

Startled, the traveler decided to leave immediately. He threw away the onions he was peeling in order to eat them – that being the reason his eyes were filled with tears – and went off.

However, the mothers, worried by their children’s weeping, soon went to find out what had happened, and discovered that the butcher, the textile salesman and – by this time – several other merchants, were all deeply concerned about the tragedy which had occurred on South Way.

More rumors began to spread; and since the town hadn’t many inhabitants, everyone on both streets knew that a terrible thing had happened. The adults began to fear the worst; but, since they were worried about the gravity of the tragedy, they decided not to ask anything, so as not to make matters worse.

A blind man who lived on South Way and didn’t understand what was going on, decided to speak up:

“Why such sadness in this town, which as always been such a happy place?”

“Something terrible happened on North Way,” answered one of the inhabitants. “The children are crying, the men frown, mothers send their sons home, and the only traveler to pass through town for many years, left with his eyes filled with tears. Perhaps the plague has hit the other street.”

Before long, rumors of an unknown deadly disease spread through the town. And since all the weeping had begun when the traveler visited South Way, the inhabitants of North Way were sure that that was where it had begun. Before nightfall, people from both streets abandoned their houses and left for the mountains of the East.

Centuries later, that ancient village where a traveler passed peeling onions continues abandoned to this day. Not far away, two settlements emerged, called East Way and West Way. Their inhabitants, the descendents of the former inhabitants of the village, still do not speak to each other, for time and legends placed a great barrier of fear between them.

Sheikh Qalandar Shah says: “all in life is a question of attitude towards things, and not the actual things themselves. It is always possible to discover the origin of a problem, or choose to enlarge it in such a way that I no longer know where it began, its true size, how it can affect my existence, and how it is capable of distancing people I used to love.”

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Quote of the Day

By Paulo Coelho

"In love lies the seed of our growth. The more we love, the closer we are to the spiritual experience"

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Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

In what direction is literature going in Latin America? Which of the new generation of writers do you have faith in?

We cannot limit it to South America, but there is a whole generation of writers that are being influenced by the language in Internet, and by the use of word processors. This is a very good thing, because the more direct you are to yourself, the more you can reach your soul and the soul of your readers.

Image of the Day : Babel by Gustave Doré

Babel by Gustave Doré

Living according to the truth

By Paulo Coelho

Mahatma Gandhi fought all his life, and succeeded in freeing India from English rule. When he was told that he was one of the greatest names in all Universal History, he replied:

“I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is practice them on a far vaster scale that seemed possible to me. In doing so, I made some mistakes and learned from my mistakes.

“Those who believed in the simple truths I proclaimed, can only spread them if they live in accordance with them. I am absolutely convinced that any man or woman can achieve what I did, if he makes the same effort and nurtures the same hope and faith.

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Quote of the Day

By Paulo Coelho

“That’s how love got lost,” he said. “When we started laying down rules for when love should or shouldn’t appear.”

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Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

Your novels aren’t tragedies, they principle end somehow happily, with self-understanding, recognition of main characters. Do you want to deliver some kind of positive thoughts?

I wouldn’t say “positive thoughts” but rather hope: against all the sarcasm, all the detachment our current society dwells on.

Quote of the Day

By Paulo Coelho

Man needs to choose, not just accept his destiny.
(The Fifth Mountain)

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Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

This is your first novel, where children appear, however a little bit indirectly. Why did you wait so long? Why children weren’t so important for your novels?

I can’t consciously explain why children never appeared in my writings before my newest book. What I can say is this: when I wrote the Witch of Portobello, I noticed, almost as a surprise, that Viorel was the first child to have such an important role. This child was necessary to the plot because Athena, being an orphan, needed to experience motherhood and thus start to heal her emotional scars. Viorel was the first step in the story of this brave woman.

The favorite lists

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Dear Readers,

I’ve been checking in internet that people are fond of making lists, so I would like for you to tell us your favorite lists and also to elaborate on the elements of this.


Weekly Free Association : The Sea

This week’s free association comes down to from the Moon to the Sea.
The Sea is intrinsically diverse and contradictory – given that its waters may be peaceful or aggressive depending on the context.

As you know the sea in certain traditions is linked to the bearer of all life. In Greek Mythology for instance, Oceanus – or Okeanos – the Titan God, ruled over the great earth-encircling river Okeanos, the font of all the earth’s fresh-water: including rivers, wells, springs and rain-clouds. Okeanos was also the god who regulated the rising and setting of the heavenly bodies which were believed to emerge and descend into his watery realm at the ends of the earth. Okeanos’ wife was Tethys, the nurse, who was probably thought to distribute his water to the earth via subterranean caverns.

But the Sea can also be depicted as a dangerous environment. Carl Jung for instance stated that in dreams, the sea represents the unknown region of your psychic sphere, where many dangers stay hidden.
Now, you take the floor : what do you associate with the Sea?

Paulo Coelho and Privacy Zero – Rolling Stone