The Way of the Pure Mind

The poets of old oftentimes used to invoke their Sacred Muse to inspire them in their task. For this series we invoke William Wordsworth’s own Muse before we venture further. It evokes the ambiance of this present season in which we’re writing:

‘Twas autumn, and a clear and placid day,
With warmth, as much as needed, from a sun
Two hours declined towards the west; a day
With silver clouds, and sunshine on the grass,
And in the sheltered and the sheltering grove
A perfect stillness.

The passage is from his vast and epic poem on the growth of his own mind, The Prelude. That perfect stillness envelops us and engages our own spirit as we walk with Wordsworth on his journey of self-awakening and realization. Returning now to his poem, Tintern Abbey, which was touched upon in our opening blog of this series, let us consider the following lines:

sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration.

What does he mean concerning his purer mind? John G. Rudy suggests:

The “purer mind” of “Tintern Abbey,” however, is much more difficult to locate and describe. Indistinguishable from its surroundings, it is aligned with a spirituality outside or beyond the idiom of a specific cultural tradition. So far as it can be said to exist at all, the mind to which the poet alludes in “Tintern Abbey” is in a state of disappearance. (Wordsworth and the Zen Mind : The Poetry of Self-emptying, pg. 3)

We can add that it reflects the absolute power of recognition. Different, yet an underlying current of sameness that runs throughout Wordsworth’s canon. What the line further explores is that juxtaposition between the immanent and the transcendent, or the pure balance wherein oneness dwells. Always have loved how Wordsworth flirted with the transcendent. This is his little-bodhi mind shining through–his glimpses and awareness of something far-deeper still. It’s as if the transcendent is playing with him–getting him to view the larger picture that lies at the depths of existence. For him this was usually a “partial awakening,” lasting only for brief moments, yet it did serve its function of quieting down the chattering mind until it became stilled—yea, that perfect stillness.

Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened…

Indeed, lightened with the noetic sound of the Unborn.

If this
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft—
In darkness and amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart—
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro’ the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!

When overwhelmed by the dark spirit of samsara, he could return again and again to this singular and unborn wanderer in the woods. Rudy ties this in with the Zen equation:

What emerges in Wordsworth’s poetry as an inclusive consciousness utterly continuous with the universe appears to Zennists as a state of “no-mind” or “onemind,” a perception that reflects the general Buddhist concept of ‘sūnyatā ‘, or “the Void,” as it is sometimes called. Buddhist thought is founded on the notion that because all things change, their reality, their suchness (Sanskrit, tathatā ), is not their existential particularity, but a ubiquitous and eternally undivided ground variously called “the Void,” “the Buddhamind,” “the Buddha-nature,” “the Unborn,” or, in Western terms, “the Absolute.” (ibid, pg. 14)

And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

How strangely-familiar this all sounds for those who have tasted the awakening of their own Buddha-nature. The very conception of that dormant bodhi-mind which we here in Unborn Mind Zen refer to as the bodhichild. That natural-child who sings of things far deeper still within the Wordsworthian Soul.  Another poem, the extensive Excursion, helps to fine-tune this awakening of that purer-mind.

So the foundations of his mind were laid,
In such communion, not from terror free,
While yet a child, and long before his time,
Had he perceived the presence and the power
Of greatness ; and deep feelings had impress’d
Great objects on his mind, with portraiture
And colour so distinct, that on his mind
They lay like substances, and almost seem’d
To haunt the bodily sense.

This is the earlier rendition, the later substituted “Perplexed the bodily sense.” I much prefer the former, for is it not like haunting that body-consciousness? For it can never get it out of its mind, of something far-greater still, That Absolute Substance Supreme. Can you dear readers of the Unborn Mind Blog relate? As a youth still pining for that something all-encompassing more, those deeper layers hidden like untried gold until in later years you find yourself drawn to the Unborn?

The following is a fine reading of Tintern Abbey as discovered on YouTube.

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