Children of Silence and Slow Time

Children of Silence and Slow Time

by Ian McCrorie

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781928706366
Publisher: Pariyatti Publishing
Publication date: 07/03/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 159
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Ian McCrorie has been practicing meditation for more than 20 years. He has traveled the world to study with renowned teachers, lived as a recluse in meditation, and for more than 10 years has been conducting courses in Vipassana meditation. He is the author of The Moon Appears When the Water Is Still. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Read an Excerpt

Children of Silence and Slow Time

More Reflections of the Dhamma

By Ian McCrorie

Pariyatti Publishing

Copyright © 2012 Ian McCrorie
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-928706-36-6


The purpose of life
is to live a life
that lies beyond needing a purpose.

One does not need a reason to love,
to smile or to laugh.
Be unreasonable.
Life unfolds with a joy beyond compare
when you don't try to figure it out.
Riding a bicycle is ridiculously impossible
except when you do it.

It is unimportant how many angels dance
on the head of a pin.
Of import is only that they dance.

The world is so full of any number of things
we should all be happy as kings.
Alas, it is not so,
for even kings and princes despair.

The good news of the Buddha,
that unhappiest of princes,
is that there is no escape from this conundrum.

Things do not get better
nor is the grass greener on the far side of the hill. The promised land
remains forever a distant dream for there ain't no gold in them thar

The wealthy suffer as do the poor.
The healthy and the sick alike are miserable.
The employed are as unhappy as the jobless,
the married as dissatisfied as the single.
Wiggling out of this most noble of truths is futile.

If escape were possible, liberation would not be needed.
If the Divine Mother could kiss and make it better
there would have been no Buddha.
If Prozac, Botox and mocha lattes worked
why are you reading this book?
And if books worked,
what is the need for a second volume?

The lotus blooms only in stagnant swamps,
rooted in the mud and the mire,
its elegant blossoms floating above the putrid surface.
It too cannot escape so it chose to transcend.

In the swamp but not of the swamp.

In the jungles of Issan we meditated long into the night.
By the light of the next morning
we saw we had not been alone.
Near us, just off our walking path,
a python lay coiled.

There for days he had lain and
there for days we had meditated.
Unaware of the danger lurking so close to us
we sat untroubled and
focused on our meditation.

Now we worried.
Now we thought only of danger.
Now visions of strangulation played
across the movie screen of our mind.
Now we meditated with one eye open.

One day the python slithered deeper into the jungle.
Our relief was short lived
for we had no idea to where he had ventured
nor if and when he might return.
Now we meditated with both eyes open.

All had been fine before when
we shared the jungle in a quiet stalemate.
He did python. We did monk.
It was not the python who upset this balance
but our own fear.

When fear disturbs the balance of the mind
it arouses sleeping pythons
who venture we know not where
and whose return is frighteningly inevitable.

The aging nearly blind abbot knew it was time to choose his

He assembled his most senior monks and announced a silent
to the Cave of the Sacred Emerald Buddha.

Speculation as to the whereabouts of the cave was prevalent
as were stories of the beauty of the carved Sacred Emerald Buddha.
But only the abbot could lead the monks there
and then only on the eve of choosing his successor.

The trek was long and arduous but at last they came to a well-hidden
"Enter and let us meditate through the night
before the glow of the Sacred Emerald Buddha," instructed the abbot.

One by one the monks entered and sat down.
But no statue glowed before them. No emeralds were to be seen.
The cave was empty.
Though the monks wondered about the abbot's delusion
and his failing eyesight,
they obeyed his instruction and meditated through the night.

At daybreak the abbot told the monks that over time
many emeralds had fallen from the statue.
Each should take one fallen emerald back to their hut.
Their tradition allowed the new abbot
to return the fallen emeralds in a week's time.

One by one, the monks, some repressing a smile,
went to the front of the cave, to remove a fallen emerald.
They found only stones.
But out of respect for their aging master,
they dutifully retrieved these stones
and placed them in the hem of their robes.

A week passed
and the abbot asked for the fallen emeralds to be returned to him.
Each monk dropped his precious "stone" into the abbot's container
and then proceeded on his way.
The abbot stared at each stone, squinting in the sunlight as he did so.
He kept count.
He knew only one monk, Rahula, who cleaned the toilets, had yet to

Rahula finally approached.
The abbot heard him searching in the hem of his robe.
He saw Rahula remove a brilliant emerald. The abbot smiled.
"Rahula," said the abbot. "what do you see in this container?"

"Just what you asked for, Venerable Sir," replied Rahula.

"Take these emeralds back to the cave. Remember well the path you
You are to be the next abbot.
When the time comes to choose your successor,
select he who sees emeralds where others see mere stones."

I am not a good meditator.
I do not try very hard to focus.
I do not keep any goal in mind.
I am not determined to succeed.
I am ambivalent about my posture,
unconcerned about what my teacher thinks of me
and unmotivated to get anywhere.
I do not have visions,
have never conversed with angels
nor levitated close to them.
I do not care about getting better,
about being healed or made whole.
I speak not a word of Pali,
have never read the Tipitaka
and can't distinguish Hinayana from Mahayana.
I forgot my mantra years ago.
I own no crystals
and channel only MTV.
I live in the suburbs.
I drive a Volvo.

About all I can muster is awareness.

I guess I just don't get it.

A debilitating infection laid waste
my first trip to India.
I came for enlightenment but
left with oozing sores,
done in by the heat and dust.

Back home I juiced, flushed, vitamined and brown riced
in a frenzy of fearful hope,
leaving no natural remedy unturned.
I forsook coffee, tea, sugar, meat, fish, eggs, milk, chocolate,

My dietary asceticism only made matters worse.
I found myself living a short distance from my body.
But tickets had been bought and plans made
so I departed once again for India
exhausted, weak, and resigned to die there.

In India I had no choice but to eat all manner of fried foods.
I drank chai whenever the mood stuck.
I devoured Bengali sweets.
I poured ghee on my rice.
My quest for health and de-fatted wholeness ground to a halt
and I shelved my dietary commandments.

My anxiety dissipated. My brow unfurrowed. My fist unclenched.
And I healed.
The oozing sores dried, the exhaustion lifted,
the spring returned to my step
and the summer to my face.

Suffering is not enough.

Suffering is only ennobling
when we understand that it permeates everything,
when we see deeply into its cause,
when we are sure that an end to suffering is a distinct possibility,
and when we understand what constitutes
the path that leads to this end.

Without these four noble truths
suffering leads only to despair,
producing a melancholic resignation of futility and quiet desperation
masked by a fatalistic stoicisma
hardening of the hearteries.

Gritting our teeth in the face of this despair
grinds everything flat.

Don't turn away from the suffering.
Don't neglect or deny it.
Don't try to rid yourself of pain.
Don't hate it.

Open yourself fully to suffering.
Embrace it. Befriend it.
Immerse it in loving kindness.
Face the ten thousand joys
and the ten thousand sorrows
with bemused detachment.

Where is the Dhamma to be found?

Some seek it in isolated caves in the Himalaya or
on the plateaus of Tibet.
Others locate it in the jungles
of Thailand and Burma.
And a few are drawn to the Zen Temples
of Rynoji and Bolguksan.

It is not found here.

Some think the Dhamma is more prevalent
on extended retreats.
Some feel it manifests only
when engaged socially and politically.
Others think it resonates most purely
through mantras and chanting.
And a few scholars discover it
in verses of Pali and Sanskrit.

It is not found there.

Moving our home near it is like moving closer to the wind.
Capturing it in a technique or a tradition is like bottling a sunrise.
Studying it is like reading the Goldberg Variations.
The truth is here, and the truth is now.
This truth is already held in your own heart.
There is no where to go and no what to do.

You are already where you need to be
and already doing what you need to do.
"Where is the Dhamma to be found?" is not the question
but rather "Where is the Dhamma not to be found?"

Meditation is staying present
to the whole catastrophe.
It is paying attention
to your own nervous breakdown.
It is making snow angels
during the winter of your discontent.

And with this open-eyed awareness,
a smile.
Always a smile.

Without the smile, the bad guys win.

Firstly everything is dissatisfactory.

If you think poverty is fraught with suffering,
try wealth.
If you think being married is full of difficulties,
try being single.
If you think unemployment is challenging,
try being CEO.
If living in the city causes you grief,
try living in the forest.
If living in a house unveils too many surprises,
try living on the streets.
If your disease is challenging,
try another, more pleasurable one.
If you think being alone is miserable,
try moving in with your family.

The exit sign flashes red
but the theatre is empty.

During a solitary retreat in Thailand
sitting in the heat, drenched in sweat,
fending off malarial mosquitoes,
a monk opened his eyes at one point and
found a water buffalo staring at him.
He too was standing in the heat, drenched in sweat,
fending off malarial mosquitoes.

The water buffalo, the dumbest of the beasts of burden,
appeared unperturbed by the heat, the sweat and the mosquitoes.
He lacked the discernment to want life to be otherwise
or to desire to make it different.

This buffalo became his inspiration.
The monk aspired to be as content
in the Thai jungle as this beast.
The monk did not wish to know what the buffalo knew.
He wanted to not know what the buffalo did not know.

Aspire to be as wise as that dumb beast,
devoid of preference,
content with no choice,
free from wanting what is not,
and happy with what is.

This is don't know mind.
This is water buffalo mind.

A novice monk was very much taken
by the Buddha and his teachings.
Though he already had a teacher,
he asked the Buddha henceforth
to be his one and only guide.

The Buddha refused his request.
He told his would-be devotee to remain with his present teacher.

The Buddha cared not for a plethora of students.
What gain could there be if his teachings spread
far and wide if the reputations of other good men
were disparaged in the process?

Be wary if your teacher panders to blind devotees.
If your teacher points out only the shortcomings of other teachers,
take note.

Pause for a moment if your teacher demands to be your only teacher.

Are you free to sit at the feet of another?
And as the Buddha did, would your teacher encourage
you to remain there?

Follow only those you are free not to follow.

He lived in solitary retreat
high in the Himalaya above Dharamasala.
For years at a stretch he meditated
never leaving his cave.

A young monk made the arduous journey
through the mountains to his isolated enclave.
The novice paid his respects
and sat patiently waiting some response
to his unasked but obvious questions.

"I can only say, as far as I have advanced,
that the Buddha was right."
The old monk then closed his eyes and
returned to his practice.
The novice left with none of the answers he sought
but relieved of all his questions.

The Buddha gave 82,000 discourses.
In the last 2,500 years every subsequent lecture
can be summed up in those three words
"He was right."

A large forest fire destroyed everything in its path.
For days in the long dry summer it raged on.
In time residents were allowed to return.
A woman was seen sitting in the ashes of her former home.
She was weeping.
"Why did this have to happen?"

Summer typhoon struck the shoreline with a vengeance.
The force of the wind and rain
destroyed everything in its path.
A farmer was seen sitting in the remains of his house,
surrounded by fields of flattened corn.
He was weeping.
"Why did this have to happen?"

Young parents carried their infant daughter to the hospital.
A life threatening disease was diagnosed and in time the child
They were weeping.
"Why did this have to happen?"

Fire burns. Rains fall.
And to be born is to be one step closer to death.
The question is never why but why not.
If it wasn't supposed to happen,
it wouldn't have happened.
Kamma is merciless.

Man is not disturbed by the things that happen
but by his opinion of the things that happen.

I joined the retreat with some trepidation
due to some discomfort in my lower back.
Sitting still was difficult
so my practice entailed mostly silent walking.

After the retreat, a novice told me that
my peaceful and mindful walking
had been a great inspiration to him.
He thought I had radiated tranquility
in my every step.
A few minutes later another mendicant shared
that when he saw me walking so slowly
he could feel the pain and agitation
in my every step.

Both observations were correct.
And both observations were wrong
for the very same reason.
We do not see reality.
We see our own bias.
When we gaze into the pond, the scum we see
is more reflection than observation.

We dance round in a ring and suppose
but the secret sits in the middle and knows.

Not long after beginning to sit
they begin.
Memories of the past, hopes for the future,
the endless video loop of wrongs and retributions,
worries, doubts and fears,
begin their dance, obscuring any clear insight
and holding liberation at bay.
Your mind feels like Keith Richards' face.

Too much effort to eradicate this agitation
further upsets our tranquility and further clouds our focus.
The tighter we cinch our belt,
the bigger our head.
If we loosen the belt too much,
our practice falls down.

Moderation in all things,
we are rightly warned,
but don't over do it.

The truth is not like this or like that.
It defies description and belies metaphors.
It is more mist than rain,
more glow than flash
and more glade than forest.
We don't get it; it gets us.
We don't see it; it sees us.

I cannot look directly at the sun's total eclipse
nor can I see it if I turn away.
I can, however, experience it.
I can witness it. I can be present.

If we look for it
the truth lies far beyond the horizon.
If we don't look for it,
it is right in front of us.

Life is one continuous mistake.

It is not so much a melodrama
as a comedy of errors, in which
the Dhamma edits your personal tragedy
to evoke laughter with each pratfall.

Longchenpa said that since everything
is but an apparition,
having nothing to do with good or bad,
acceptance or rejection,
one may well burst out in laughter.

My son fell down ninety-nine times
before he walked.
Falling down, no problem.
Walking, no problem.

Gandhi wished to die
owning simply his glasses.
Thoreau sought solace at Walden Pond.
Though the world may be too much with us
possessions need not be relinquished, just possessiveness.
The world needs not to be rejected, just worldliness.

To crave to possess nothing,
to long for the life of the sky-clad ascetic
reflects a fear of attachment to what you have.
Possessions, after all, lead only to ownership;
craving them leads to misery.

Crave no thing
not even nothing.

Love is not extreme liking.

Love is not passionate but compassionate.
Love is not blind but sees everyone as family.
Love doesn't burn but cools the fires of lust.
Love is not personal but human.
Love does not patronize but empathizes.
Love emanates.
Love engulfs.
Love radiates
on rocky crag and furrowed field alike.
I can love people I don't know.
I can love people I don't like.
I can even love those I love.

The here in being here now is not a place;
the now not a moment in time.
Being here is being real and being awake;
now is nurturing an authentic presence.

'There' may seem more romantic
and 'when' and 'if' full of dreamy scenarios.
'Here' and 'now' may pale in comparison with
future speculations or past reconfigurations,
but they are all we need for liberation.
There is just here with tea added.


Excerpted from Children of Silence and Slow Time by Ian McCrorie. Copyright © 2012 Ian McCrorie. Excerpted by permission of Pariyatti Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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