Never think you have lost your way
Or when you stumble think the day
Holds no light for you. I myself
Am lost in you — but glad to stay.

–Labyrinth (Rafael Alejandro Jara)

Reason teaches us that nothing is difficult for the high gods: they are able to achieve any effect at will, in any place and upon any created thing, for without reason they are rightly called omnipotent. Perhaps you will sometimes be greatly astonished at the marvelous, stupendous, and indeed divine works that you will hear me relate. For art does all it can to imitate natural things, but divine things are certainly impossible for any created genius and intellect to copy or emulate without divine help and inspiration. For this very reason none should let himself be swayed by doubt, but should calmly take note in his mind that things unknown to us are possible to the higher ones, as I saw for myself.

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: The Strife of Love in a Dream

….

In our society, we are great believers in education. We believe that knowledge makes a cultured person civilized. Civilization, however, polishes the person superficially. Subject our noble and sophisticated gentleman to stresses of war or economic collapse, and see what happens. It is one thing to obey the law because you know the penalties and fear the consequences. It is something else entirely to obey the law because you have cleansed yourself from the greed that would make you steal and the hatred that would make you kill.

Throw a stone into a stream. The running water would smooth the surface, but the inner part remains unchanged. Take that same stone and place it in the intense fires of a forge, and the whole stone changes inside and outside. It all melts. Civilization changes man on the outside.

Meditation softens him within, through and through. Meditation is called the Great Teacher. It is the cleansing crucible fire that works slowly through understanding. The greater your understanding, the more flexible and tolerant you can be. The greater your understanding, the more compassionate you can be.

You become like a perfect parent or an ideal teacher.

You are ready to forgive and forget.

You feel love towards others because you understand them.

And you understand others because you have understood yourself.

— Gunaratana Mahathera

Sidney said, “We’ll begin our learning for the day with a text.

“When Moshe left the Temple, his first project was to expand his sermon on the Maimonidean diet into a book. He began by translating the diet from the Hebrew. The text is from that translation.

“The way you learn a text is much the way you tell a story. You need a part­ner. One speaks. The other listens. Back and forth. But a text you question and challenge. The questions are more important than the answers,

“This is a good one to begin with. There will be a lot more before the day is done.”

Sidney distributed the text.

“No,” he said when the partners fell into comfortable pairs. “As much as possible, learn with someone new.” The two young couples split and paired with each other, the man in shorts with one of the long skirts, the remaining long skirts with each of the executives.

Good pairings, Stephanie thought. Enough variety, enough challenge to keep a text alive.

Since a body must be healthy in order to follow the proper path, since it is impossible to divine any understanding of the Creator if you are ill, it is therefore necessary to remove yourself as far as pos­sible from those things which damage the body and to conduct yourself in such a way as to remain healthy, and this is the proper way. You should never eat unless you are hungry and never drink un­less you are thirsty and should never delay going to the bathroom; rather, when the need arises, you should go to the bathroom at once.

You should never eat to the point that your stomach is com­pletely full. Rather, you should stop one-fourth short of being full. You should never drink water during the course of a meal except for small amounts, and wine should be diluted. After the meal begins to digest in your intestines, then you can drink whatever is necessary, but you should not drink too much water even after the food has begun to digest. You should not begin eating unless you examine yourself carefully; perhaps it is necessary to go to the bathroom. You should not eat until after you have had some exercise, until after your body has begun to heat up a little bit, or until after you have done some work or exercise. Here is the rule: you should exercise every morning until you warm up, then you should rest a while and settle down and then eat. If you should wash in a hot bath after ex­ercise, that is good. Afterward, rest a while and then eat.

If you choose to eat chicken and beef together, eat the chicken first. So it is with eggs and chicken, eat the eggs first; and for lean meat and fat meat, eat the lean meat first. This is the rule: always eat first what is easy to digest and save what is difficult to digest for later.

Sidney allowed the students ten minutes to read and discuss. Then he said, “It took Moshe maybe two hours to translate the entire diet. The entire diet, not just what you have here. For the next two weeks he tried to write the commen­tary. He wrote and erased, typed and deleted. After two weeks the translation still stood naked. He couldn’t add anything to it. He gave up writing the book.

“In the Temple he had given a sermon and taught a class. If you remember, no one lost any weight. Why not? Because the students were learning a diet without the motivation for the diet. The whole diet is in the opening lines. The reason a person is to keep his or her body healthy is to follow the proper path and gain some understanding of the Creator. The purpose of the diet is to in­tensify one’s relationship with the Divine, not to lose weight. When Moshe taught the diet in the Temple, he said that he had lost forty pounds in twenty weeks. He had. But that had been a by-product of his learning, not the purpose of it. When he came to teach Maimonides, he taught the diet. The relationship with God was secondary. With Maimonides, God is never secondary.

“After two weeks, there was no commentary. Moshe was depressed. The Rabbi can leave the Temple, just like that.” Sidney snapped his fingers. “But the Temple doesn’t leave the Rabbi that quickly.

“There is no story associated with the diet, at least not from that time. Later I heard Moshe teach that text. He had learned how. But then, after two weeks. the story was a blank piece of paper.”

–Mitchell Chefitz (The Seventh Telling)

….

“To find life we must die to life as we know it.  To find meaning we must die to meaning as we know it.  The sun rises every morning and we are used to it, and because we know the sun will rise we have come to act as if it rose because we wanted it to.  Suppose the sun should
choose not to rise?  Some of our mornings would then be ‘absurd’–or, to put it mildly, they would not meet our expectations.”

Thomas Merton

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