Obtaining Complete Spiritual Contentment

From Oriental Secrets of Graceful Living (1966), by Boye De Mente:

Up until Rikyu’s time, the Tea-Men taught a high standard of refinement and graceful living. But it was a style of life demanding luxury and leisure. It was not only beyond the reach of the poor but did not contain many of the other elements essential for a true religion. Rikyu added these elements. They were: a unified view of man and nature, and complete spiritual contentment obtained by harmoniously blending everyday life with reality. Those who followed the Way of Tea were promised a long life unmarred by ill health and worries, and when their time came they would be able to accept death calmly and contentedly. As an exercise in aesthetics, the tea ceremony is all inclusive. It teaches the way to perfect understanding of beauty, and once the Teaist reaches this goal, provides a means for him to exercise his new-found understanding on the highest level. Philosophically, the Way of Tea teaches man to recognize and accept his relation with nature, to have respect for all nature including his fellow human beings, to be pure of mind and to behave quietly.

Adapting Yourself to the Cosmos

From The Colossus of Maroussi (1941), by Henry Miller:

Along the Sacred Way, from Daphni to the sea, I was on the point of madness several times. I actually did start running up the hillside only to stop midway, terror-stricken, wondering what had taken possession of me. On one side are stones and shrubs which stand out with microscopic clarity; on the other are trees such as one sees in Japanese prints, trees flooded with light, intoxicated, corybantic trees which must have been planted by the gods in moments of drunken exaltation. One should not race along the Sacred Way in a motor car–it is sacrilege. One should walk, walk as the men of old walked, and allow one’s whole being to become flooded with light. This is not a Christian highway: it was made by the feet of devout pagans on their way to initiation at Eleusis. There is no suffering, no martyrdom, no flagellation of the flesh connected with this processional artery. Everything here speaks now, as it did centuries ago, of illumination, of blinding, joyous illumination. Light acquires a transcendental quality: it is not the light of the Mediterranean alone, it is something more, something unfathomable, something holy. Here the light penetrates directly to the soul, opens the doors and windows of the heart, makes one naked, exposed, isolated in a metaphysical bliss which makes everything clear without being known. No analysis can go on in this light: here the neurotic is either instantly healed or goes mad. The rocks themselves are quite mad: they have been lying for centuries exposed to this divine illumination: they lie very still and quiet, nestling amid dancing colored shrubs in a blood-stained soil, but they are mad, I say, and to touch them is to risk losing one’s grip on everything which once seemed firm, solid and unshakeable. One must glide through this gully with extreme caution, naked, alone, and devoid of all Christian humbug. One must throw off two thousand years of ignorance and superstition, of morbid, sickly subterranean living and lying. One must come to Eleusis stripped of the barnacles which have accumulated from centuries of lying in stagnant waters. At Eleusis one realizes, if never before, that there is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy. At Eleusis one becomes adapted to the cosmos. Outwardly Eleusis may seem broken, disintegrated with the crumbled past; actually Eleusis is still intact and it is we who are broken, dispersed, crumbling to dust. Eleusis lives, lives eternally in the midst of a dying world.

Quote of the Day

From A Jack Kerouac Romnibus, Letter to Myself, September 5, 1945.

I have my own private god . . . my private god is my art. I don’t believe in the vague general concepts of God and Art — too many fumbles and fools are blind to allow such generalities any meaning. God, the general concept, knows them . . . but they don’t know Him. My art, my god. This is King in my soul. Then there are the princes or demigods of my private religion. October is top prince of them all. October to me is more than a month, it’s an ecstasy. I can reach a fuller understanding with this immense prince than with people.

Quote of the Day

From Painting in the Far East (1908) by Laurence Binyon.

Flowers, Moon, Snow; these three beauties of earth and air have a peculiar glory and consecration in the art of the Far East. A Japanese friend of mine told me that when he was in Paris he woke one morning to find that snow had fallen in the night. As a matter of course, he took his way to the Bois de Boulogne to admire the beauty of the snow upon the trees. What was his astonishment when, with his friend, another Japanese, he arrived in the Bois, to find it totally solitary and deserted! The two companions paid their vows to beauty in the whiteness and the stillness, and at last beheld in the distance two other figures approaching. They were comforted. “We are not quite alone,” they said to themselves. There were at least two other “just men” in that city of the indifferent and the blind. The figures drew nearer. They also were Japanese! We in Europe are not blind to the beauty of the snow “And the radiant shapes of frost,” but certainly we are far from having that kind of religious feeling which prompts the Japanese to go out and contemplate its freshly fallen splendour. We do not regard it as visible manifestation of beauty, the apparition of a power from the unseen, at whose coming it behoves them to be present. I am not sure that we are not more conscious of the inconveniences of a snowfall than of its loveliness.

Quote of the Day

From The Vision of Asia (1933) by L. Cranmer-Byng:

The gift of the Chinese nation at its zenith to the future was the gift of vitality through art. Its interpreters were interpreters of life and not of theory about life. They were citizens of this world, and as administrators, magistrates and even soldiers they played the part of men in public affairs. But the life from which they drew their power of evoking life, of calling the dreaming forces of Nature from their enchanted sleep, remains hidden from the eyes of the world. It is not for Art to reveal its Whence; the secret of its magic belongs to religion. Yet those who care to go deeper into the sources of human inspiration may find something to guide them in the following passage taken from an ancient Taoist text: ‘The essence of the perfect Tao is solitude and silence; the highest point of the perfect Tao, its further pole, is secrecy and silence; there, where is neither sight nor sound, where the spirit is centered in absolute peace; where, sans effort from within or movement from without, calm complete and perfect purity are Kings; where the spiritual essence dies not and dims not; where thought irradiates to its fullest splendour and the hidden life puts forth its flowers; where I—the strength within, close-shrined from all externals, all apprehensive, compact of wisdom and intimate power—know how to guard the self of self and secure the harmony of all my being.’

Quote of the Day

From Perseus in the Wind by Freya Stark (1948):

Who does not feel pagan in the spring? That languor, when first the grass blade is folded so that it can hold a shadow; when lakes are soft, the colour of mist and light; when the streams run transparent with liquid notes, their wavelets cold as snowdrops. Cats lie in the sun with the five toes of each paw stretched out, and sleep, like a slow serpent, moves up and down their spine. The notes of birds at evening drop like water falling in water; and the buds, especially beech, have a sharp and bitter smell. The earth is damp, sucking dead leaves down into the furnace of her year, working at growth in warmth and darkness. I hope old age will not deprive me of this repeated visitation of delight in which, with the whole of our planet, we turn ourselves in space towards the sun. While this is happening, the puritan dies in us; there is a soul in inanimate things.

Quote of the Day

From The Importance of Living, by Lin Yutang (1937):

Thus chastened in spirit, quiet in mind and surrounded by proper company, one is fit to enjoy tea. For tea is invented for quiet company as wine is invented for a noisy party. There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life. It would be as disastrous to drink tea with babies crying around, or with loud-voiced women or politics-talking men, as to pick tea on a rainy or a cloudy day. Picked at early dawn on a clear day, when the morning air on mountain top was clear and thin, and the fragrance of dews was still upon the leaves, tea is still associated with the fragrance and refinement of the magic dew in its enjoyment. With the Taoist insistence upon return to nature, and with its conception that the universe is kept alive by the interplay of the male and female forces, the dew actually stands for the “juice of heaven and earth” when the two principles are united at night, and the idea is current that the dew is a magic food, fine and clear and ethereal, and any man or beast who drinks enough of it stands a good chance of being immortal. De Quincey says quite correctly that tea “will always be the favorite beverage of the intellectual,” but the Chinese seem to go further and associate it with the highminded recluse.

Poetic Living

Walter Pater on Giorgione in The Renaissance (1873):

Now it is part of the ideality of the highest sort of dramatic poetry, that it presents us with a kind of profoundly significant and animated instants, a mere gesture, a look, a smile, perhaps–some brief and wholly concrete moment–into which, however, all the motives, all the interests and effects of a long history, have condensed themselves, and which seem to absorb past and future in an intense consciousness of the present. Such ideal instants the school of Giorgione selects, with its admirable tact, from that feverish, tumultuously coloured world of the old citizens of Venice–exquisite pauses in time, in which, arrested thus, we seem to be spectators of all the fulness of existence, and which are like some consummate extract or quintessence of life.