The Littleness of Creation

DISCOURSE FOUR

On the simplicity of Contemplation;
It can neither be acquired through
The intellect nor by imagination

In order that you do not err in this endeavor, or misconstrue it as something it is not, I shall relay something of its true nature to the best of my ability.

Contemplation does not require a great amount of time; in fact, it is the shortest work that one can imagine. It’s as brief as a split-second, something that is considered by philosophers as the smallest particle of time itself. Because of its littleness it is barely perceivable. Concerning this understanding it is written that, “Of all the time given to you, you will be asked how you spent quality time with the Unborn Lord.” Beware, you will be held accountable for how you undertake given those quality moments of your lifespan. To be human is the greatest gift possible, for you will not be given such an opportunity again in millions of lifetimes. It is a matter of the working power of your soul—namely your will.

It is for this reason that whoever is reshaped by the ordinances of one’s rightly observed will that one can taste nirvana itself in this very life. Do you comprehend now why you have been called to this work? You were made for contemplation, and all of creation rejoices in your noble efforts to realize it completely. When contemplation is not adhered to, then one becomes alien to the beauty of their own Self-nature. Adhering to it, one enters into communion with the Tathagatas themselves.

Hence, be attentive to time and use it wisely. Yet, you hesitate saying, “How can I possibly accomplish this? I’m older now but no wiser. I have seldom paid attention to what has occurred in the past; in fact, how can I possibly make amends now, when instead, my past actions have already reinforced the curse of karma upon my spirit. I am eternally doomed to repeat what was unwisely spent. Please help me for the sake of the Blessed One.”

It is most wise that you say “for the sake of the Blessed One,” for it is IN HIS SPIRIT that you shall find liberation. IT has indeed been the power over time and timeless deeds. By remaining faithful you will enter into fellowship with all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in all ten directions. Their friends shall be your companions; by companions I mean Arya Tara, Who is the very Primordial Mother of the Buddhas themselves; through her grace you will find strength and the ability to walk hand in hand with all the Bodhisattvas like the Compassionate Avalokiteśvara and the Noble Mañjuśrī who will fill you with holy prajñā (wisdom).

Therefore, pay close attention and devoutly discern and undividedly attend to the work of Contemplation and the marvelous ways it will interact with your own spirit and mind. If it is to be genuine IT will suddenly come upon you like a Divine Spark descending from the heavens. It will be wonderful to behold just how many of these divine stirrings will occur in just one measure of time to the one who is faithfully beholden to this work. Let no-thing persuade you otherwise. If by chance some created care should suddenly assail you in your task, fear not because in your resolute determination you will be empowered to disregard it and return to your holy work.

Now we must attend to the difference between Contemplation and the counterfeits that mar your advancement—daydreaming, fantasies, or other false imaginations. Many of these occurrences occur due to an insipid spirit, but moreover they can be induced by Mara the evil one; the outcome is always the same, untamed arrogance at the expense of diligent study and Right Contemplation that is born of a temperate spirit. Indeed, if not tempered in such manner, then the adept places oneself in serious spiritual jeopardy. So for the love of the Blessed One, take prudent care in your spiritual exercises, thus never allowing a false imagination to run amok and hence ruin your hard won cultivation.

By all means, never become confused. When I refer to “darkness” or a “cloud”, I’m not implying to some form of phenomena that will cloud your mind, but rather an “absence of knowing.” Whatever you may have formally known is now alien and dark to you, because you can no longer envision them through spiritual eyes. Hence, IT is known as a “Cloud of Unknowing”, one that is betwixt you and the Unborn Lord.

split-second: The ME word is athomus. It represents the smallest measure of time in the medieval world—literally, 15/94ths of a second! According to the philologist Charles Du Cange (1610–88), there are 22,560 such “atoms” in an hour (Hodgson, 186). Contemplation takes only a moment: “Infinity is present in that which is indivisibly finite” (Cowan, 22).

Julian, Fr. John. The Complete Cloud of Unknowing: with The Letter of Privy of Counsel . Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.

littleness: In reference to a saying by Julian (or Juliana) of Norwich (1343 – after 1416), “The littleness of creation

time: all of these references concerning time are well known to Buddhists, because if spent unwisely then this present go-around on the diurnal wheel of samsara can be repeated again and again, and not always spent as a human being. Indeed, it’s a precious gift to be human and one must make the most of it in this present incarnation in order to become liberated.

Also, what is meant by the accounting for time on the last day does not concern the amount of time lost, but rather the “quality of time spent”. From Eric Graff’s thesis, The transmission and reception of the Cloud of Unknowing and the works of the Cloud-Courpus:

The account of our ‘dispensing of time’ on the last day will not be an aggregation of the good moments weighed against the bad; instead, the Cloud-author suggests, the value will turn on the existential quality of our time. In such reckoning, the sequence of atomic moments will have no meaning and will be replaced by a priority in relation to the individual and immeasurable moments of ‘one-ing’. The Cloud-author’s meditation in chapter four thus depends on a radical shift of meaning in the simple term ‘time’. It also implies a change in our way of thinking about the spiritual life.

Recollect also that in the Unborn time itself doesn’t exist. Thus, in reality ITs Contemplation is the factor that’s paramount here: IT does the Contemplation in you, wherein 0-amount of time=the ‘one-ing’ string of infinity.

I’m older now: in the original text it is 24 years of age, something that I discussed in an earlier blog about how I was the same age when I was first introduced to The Cloud. Here, I wanted to make it all-inclusive for the benefit of our readership.

Arya Tara: In Unborn Mind Zen she is the equivalent of the Virgin Mary.

Imagination run amok: this same caveat is issued in the Lankavatara Sutra, wherein imagination gives birth to a confused state of mind.

Spiritual eyes: now seeing with the eyes of the Buddhas, or the eye of transcendent wisdom. As such, it is only concerned with the higher realities of the Tathagatas and can no longer worry or be involved with the affairs of the lower bhumis; in time they even stop being aware of them. This is in no way being callous concerning the lower affairs, IT is just the Reality of the Dharmadhatu—samsara just dissolves away.

This entry was posted in The Cloud of Unknowing in Light of the Unborn and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Littleness of Creation

  1. Emaho says:

    Setting the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

    Inexorably and enticingly I am drawn to a strange and Unborn Light. Primordial and infinite the Unborn at times is obscured, yet always present and always aware, though completely intangible to the skandhas of this sentient being.

    A fleeting glimpse of a flash of lightening, The infinite Mind reveals itself.

    Quietly keeping watch throughout the night. Knowing that Light shines in the Unborn space of radiant darkness. Something stirs and grows within; reaching out to greet the Infinite Light of the Unborn Mind.

    How wonderful.

    • Vajragoni says:

      Quite a developing mystic–wonderful!

    • n. yeti says:

      Jelaluddin Rumi, the 13th century mystic poet, was truly one of the most passionate and profound poets in history. Now, today his presence still remains strong, due in part to how his words seem to drip of the divine, and startle a profound rememberance that links all back to the Soul-Essence. Born in what is present day Afghanistan in 1207, he produced his master work the Masnawi which consists of over 60,000 poems before he died in 1273. The best way to fully say in words his impact, is that he has the ability to describe the Indescribable, Ineffable– God.

      I have included two different translators of his work. Coleman Barks on the first two pages, Shahram Shiva on the third. On the fourth page is a selection of Rumi love poems by both translators.
      There is a community of the spirit.
      Join it, and feel the delight
      of walking in the noisy street
      and being the noise.
      Drink all your passion,
      and be a disgrace.
      Close both eyes
      to see with the other eye.

      From Essential Rumi
      by Coleman Barks
      This We Have Now

      This we have now
      is not imagination.

      This is not
      grief or joy.

      Not a judging state,
      or an elation,
      or sadness.

      Those come and go.
      This is the presence that doesn’t.

      From Essential Rumi
      by Coleman Barks
      There is a way between voice and presence
      where information flows.
      In disciplined silence it opens.
      With wandering talk it closes.
      Moving Water

      When you do things from your soul, you feel a river
      moving in you, a joy.

      When actions come from another section, the feeling
      disappears. Don’t let

      others lead you. They may be blind or, worse, vultures.
      Reach for the rope

      of God. And what is that? Putting aside self-will.
      Because of willfulness

      people sit in jail, the trapped bird’s wings are tied,
      fish sizzle in the skillet.

      The anger of police is willfulness. You’ve seen a magistrate
      inflict visible punishment. Now

      see the invisible. If you could leave your selfishness, you
      would see how you’ve

      been torturing your soul. We are born and live inside black water in a well.

      How could we know what an open field of sunlight is? Don’t
      insist on going where

      you think you want to go. Ask the way to the spring. Your
      living pieces will form

      a harmony. There is a moving palace that floats in the air
      with balconies and clear

      water flowing through, infinity everywhere, yet contained
      under a single tent.

      From The Glance
      by Coleman Barks

      Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
      there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

      When the soul lies down in that grass,
      the world is too full to talk about.
      Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
      doesn’t make any sense.

      From Essential Rumi
      by Coleman Barks

      Light Breeze

      As regards feeling pain, like a hand cut in battle,
      consider the body a robe

      you wear. When you meet someone you love, do you kiss their clothes? Search out

      who’s inside. Union with God is sweeter than body comforts.
      We have hands and feet

      different from these. Sometimes in dream we see them.
      That is not

      illusion. It’s seeing truly. You do have a spirit body;
      don’t dread leaving the

      physical one. Sometimes someone feels this truth so strongly
      that he or she can live in

      mountain solitude totally refreshed. The worried, heroic
      doings of men and women seem weary

      and futile to dervishes enjoying the light breeze of spirit.

      From Essential Rumi
      by Coleman Barks

      Late, by myself, in the boat of myself,
      no light and no land anywhere,
      cloudcover thick. I try to stay
      just above the surface,
      yet I’m already under
      and living with the ocean.

  2. n. yeti says:

    Sorry Vajragoni I tried to post just the last poem in response to Emaho, not all of that. Perhaps you should delete it. I didn’t mean to clutter this space.

  3. Emaho says:

    The exquisite beauty of the classic Sufi Mystics is so profound. Thank you for the lovely examples of such poetry by the master Rumi. I shall have to rediscover some of these gems anew.

    “No me, no we, no claim of being. As eyes in silence, tears, face: love cannot be said.”

    • n. yeti says:

      Rumi’s poems are indeed wonderful.

      I really only meant to include that last poem because your thoughts brought to mind the ability of Manjusri to simultaneously tread both the ground of spirit and the causeless dream-realm of phenomena. Such awesome creativity is yet another of the infinite reflections of the Buddha’s inexhaustible compassion for those suffering, as Rumi did, in the realm of desire.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enter Captcha Here : *

Reload Image