Lyme Liturgy Series: 2 Preamble

Preamble

All of us unknown strangers known as ‘me’
We find ourselves in a desert, empty horizon stretched out in all directions;
Here there is no time or place…

Commentary

As mentioned in the first post, the text is initially verbose in order to lasso an exhausted or dispirited mind into the practice of chanting which gently helps synchronize body, speech and mind preparing one for the simple meditations which follow. When extremely exhausted or dispirited it is often too hard to just sit down and meditate.

Preamble: the idea here is that it is just easing into a meditation session and the act of chanting various words which throw up various ideas and scenarios help one to do that. In the background also grew during the composition process, which involved about one month at the beginning until the full text took shape from beginning to end and then about two years of little edits here and there as I used the text daily for its intended purpose, the notion of trying to include all of life’s many experiences in these first two pages, perhaps the idea being to include everything into the resultant practice session.

All of us unknown strangers known as ‘me’

The idea here is that any individual is part of everyone in the human race and we all think of ourselves as ‘me’ and at the same time each ‘me’ is an ‘unknown stranger’ in a way if we stop to think about it. None of us know how we are born nor when we are going to die or what happens afterwards. We think we know who we are but the deeper we look we realize the less we know. This is a way of setting things up for the meditation by clearing the air, sweeping the space clean, getting rid of any unnecessary bric a brac.

We find ourselves in a desert, empty horizon stretched out in all directions;
Not only is ‘me’ a bit of an ‘unknown stranger’ but also we find ourselves in the middle of an unknown somewhere likened to a desert which has very few distinguishing features. Again, clearing things away.

Here there is no time or place…

So we have a fresh situation in front of us, so fresh that we don’t even have to bring time or place along into it. And now we begin.

Next Section of Text:

A present moment sandwiched between infinitely sub-divisible past and future moments
We cannot find one or measure one: there is no such thing.
Any object or place exists only in relation to other objects and places
All spinning and swirling in space: there is no ‘where’ there.
Without place, no thing, without thing, no place;
A definable object in a definable location
We cannot find one or measure one: there is no such thing.
As with object and place, self and other are not two:
There is no time, no duration, no place, no thing, no self, no other, no ‘me,’ no ‘you’
Only eternity permeating non-existing past and future moments
Only infinity accommodating any and all non-existing places.

Commentaries:

We begin with a kind of deconstruction of habitually held conceptual frameworks. That’s a mouthful and ‘headful.’ Again, there is no suggestion that we need to think through all this deeply, just let it run its course. But to explain just a little so that it can run more effortlessly perhaps (!):

A present moment sandwiched between infinitely sub-divisible past and future moments
We cannot find one or measure one: there is no such thing.

Imagine a series of moments, say the one now then one exactly a minute later. You can divide the time interval into half making a 30-second instead of the initial one minute interval. Any interval between the first and the second moment has a duration which can be similarly divided and so on ad infinitum. So what? This simply means that no moment really exists because there isn’t really any duration because any duration can be divided and therefore there really isn’t any time per se, at least not in the sense we conceive of it as being one moment following another. You can’t find any such moment making time itself not a thing which can actually be weighed and measured even though our watches create the illusion that we are doing so. The same is about to be proposed with space or location, although the text does so in a slightly more complicated way.

Any object or place exists only in relation to other objects and places
All spinning and swirling in space: there is no ‘where’ there.
Without place, no thing, without thing, no place;
A definable object in a definable location
We cannot find one or measure one: there is no such thing.

To tell one object from another you have to distinguish it from other objects in other locations. But in terms of those locations, or ‘places,’ we know everything we see on this planet is spinning through space so though it might seem that we and our table and chair are still, in fact we are speeding faster than the fastest bullet. This means that all location is relative to other objects speeding alongside us, just like different cars and trucks on the highway whizzing along at 70 mph if they all do the same speed keep the same distance and seem to be unmoving relative to each another. Going further, since everything is whizzing along through space, the same actual place never happens just as one moment never happens. The chair is in one place now and the next microsecond it has moved even if it doesn’t appear so to us and that realtive configuration of objects in space will never again reoccur and nor will the seeming location either. So the chair might seem to be in the same place but it isn’t, meaning that the place the chair seems to be in doesn’t actually exist, hence: a definable object in a definable location We cannot find one or measure one: there is no such thing.

As with object and place, self and other are not two:
There is no time, no duration, no place, no thing, no self, no other, no ‘me,’ no ‘you’
Only eternity permeating non-existing past and future moments
Only infinity accommodating any and all non-existing places.

So object and place are relative reference points that seem to have definable locations and dimensions but don’t really if you stop to think about it; which also means any notions we have of a permanent self or permanent others we relate to – in other words ‘me’ or you’ – don’t really exist as such. In time there is just an endless non-moment moment which we call ‘the present’ and in terms of location really all we have is fathomless space, neither of which are divisible or measurable nor therefore even existent at all.

All of the above being a somewhat intellectually more elaborate way of saying ‘we find ourselves in a desert… here there is no time or place.’

Next Section of Text:

With everything changing moment to moment, nothing is permanent, nothing lasts:
Youth and wealth diminish, beauty fades, ardor cools, life forms end;
Human life is brief, a shooting star blazing across an eternal night sky with
Continuously ever-changing feelings: love to estrangement, hot to cold, pleasure to pain

Our lives leaving a trace no more lasting than the imprint of a bird in the sky.
Truly Impermanence, Insubstantiality and Suffering are
The perpetual and only partners in this great Dance of Life
This so-called Reality no more than Dream
This so-called ‘Me’ no more than an imagined projection within this
Magnificently alive, self-organizing jungle of intertangled self-dreaming life forms.

Commentary:

This is more self-explanatory but worth noting that there is more poignancy and less deconstruction of concept. This is a natural progression in that once we stop thinking so much we are more open to feeling. Then the text points out that what is being reviewed here is good old Suffering, Impermanence and Egolessnes (or Insubstantiality) and further if it is true that nothing is permanent or solid then in a way what we call Reality is close to being what we call Dream, and also as was pointed out in the interdependency post each event is a result of a virtually limitless number of causes and contributes to a similarly measureless number of events (aka the ‘net of Indra’). So this section is just a rhythmically pleasant way of rolling past those sort of contemplations as well – again without making any fuss.

Next Section of Text:

As dream-beings wandering through any seeming progress or obstacles such as
Success, failure, praise, blame, loss, gain, pain, pleasure
Habitual patterns, negative attitudes and conflicting emotions
Vicissitudes of chronic illness like pain, fatigue, physical and cognitive impairment and so forth – being suddenly sucked down into a nightmare quicksand of insomnia-induced despair –
Hell denizens tortured in self-imposed prisons plagued by endless hot and cold pains
Ghosts hungering for the person they long to or used to be, haunting regret-stained corridors of isolation

Animals bound by corporeal limitations no matter how intelligent, skilled and powerful
Humans struggling, striving and suffering, speeding from one hopium-contrived state to the next

Titan-Asuras consumed by fiercely ambitious undying envy striving self up or tearing others down
Gods indulging in seemingly unending perfection of exquisitely continuous bliss and ease:
All such endless journeying through painful hells and pleasurable heavens
All such appearances being impermanent, insubstantial: how can we be bound to them?

Commentary:

Continuing further in our experiential dream realm, we now contemplate the six realms of being according to ancient Hindu cosmology some of which Buddhists later kept using. But before we go into the Realms, first we rapidly survey what are known as the Eight Worldly Dharmas which you can read about here. (Unfortunately the excellent Buddhist Encyclopedia I used in a previous post has gone dark. Here’s another one, but not nearly as good: Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia.) Basically they are passion for and fear about the loss of four things: success-failure, pain-pleasure, loss-gain and praise-blame. These are the eight worldly concerns or obstacles which we can get hung up on whilst in this our existential Dream. They only take up one line here, but many volumes over the past two millenia have been written about them.

Now we come to the six realms which is a way of describing the virtually limitless permutations of pain and pleasure as they manifest in how beings take on various forms in various environments; their desire for experience fuels them along with an emerging dynamic which makes them favor that which makes such existence thrive and feels good but disfavor that which harms them and feels bad. This could be regarded as an (admittedly sketchy) alternative to Darwinian evolution theory but mainly serves as an interestingly helpful map of the many psychological, environmental and cultural states we go through over time, be that moment to moment, day to day or lifetime to lifetime.

Hell is, obviously, extreme pain. There are said to be many different ones but two main types: hot or cold, i.e. tortured by others or frozen in isolation. Hungry ghosts are said to have huge bellies and tiny mouths: they are eternally frustrated because they cannot satisfy their desires or they long to experience that which they no longer or never can. Animals are trapped in no end of extraordinary bodies, their natures and minds essentially determined by their physical and genetic programming. Humans are tricky and go both ways being able to experience everything emotionally from the deepest hells to the highest heavens and all states in between such that there are – in the realm you and I experience every day – no end of human gods, human asuras, human animals, human hungry ghosts and humans in hell. Animals have a range like this but far more limited. They suffer but not so extremely and they don’t go from agony to ecstasy as fast we humans. Asuras or titans are striving to be gods; they trample on those they perceive to be beneath them and fight to tear down those they perceive to be above them; they are highly gifted and intelligent and often end up running the world though if left unchecked their cruelty ensures it all ends badly; history is littered with examples of asuras left to run amok; we are going through such a time now, I suspect. Gods live in a state of mental and physical bliss which doesn’t change much until it finally ends and then – oh no! – usually it’s straight down to the agony of hell as the loss of such exquisite pleasure which lasted for so long hurts so intensely and of course hell is the realm of intensity.

The six realms are a lot of fun and worth serious contemplation – indeed have often considered writing a whole book about them. Meanwhile, the six lines in the text merely take you on a lightning tour just to remind you of the context of the situation we enjoy as living human beings. The text then concludes by pointing out that given this is all such a dreamlike phantasmagoria – including our current ills and travails – ‘why should we be bound to them?’

Food for thought, but now we chant on to the end of this Preamble section:

Next section of Text:

This seemingly solid outer realm, like the living inner dreamscapes we call ‘music’
Neither does nor does not exist, nor any disease with its pains, symptoms and pathogens;
No matter what seemingly happens, through sickness and health, living and dying
Our basic nature, like the Sun behind clouds, remains unchanged.

Commentary:

This short concluding paragraph sets us up for the next Section of the Liturgy, entitled ‘Sacred Being, the Basis,’ which has to do with appreciating some of the special qualities of this dreamlike continuum in which we journey through the six realms as living beings. It’s only been a page so far and thus only a minute or two of chanting but the landscape has been moving along rapidly displaying quite a few different terrains. And it ends with a point: things aren’t as real and solid as we often take them to be so that goes for any chronic disease vicissitudes as well, no matter how challenging and painful they might be.

How To Notes:

Again: just chant in a regular sort of rhythm more or less monotonally, no big deal but definitely out loud and preferably on your own in a place that is private and without distractions. The long form liturgy takes a little while to chant out, but once you have gotten used to it and can move to the Brief form the whole thing doesn’t take long at all so it’s worth investing the time to become familiar with the general landscape and meaning of the text which leads into a simple meditation practice that can be surprisingly helpful, even when confronting an end of life terminal disease. In any case, don’t stop to figure out what it all means or worry if you don’t, just let it all flow by, like sitting at its bank watching the river flow.

The Liturgy texts can be found on the Lyme Liturgy page in the top right menu above.

Published by The Baron

Retired non-profit administrator.

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