[ 2 ] Oh, Bernstein on Beethoven’s “Eroica”

And so, it metastases. Since that listening of the final movement of Mahler’s First Symphony, I fell into study this eveningof just Beethoven’s opening movement from the Eroica. By all accounts this is the symphony that forever changed classical music: Eroica made it about the ego, the aggrieved and the mourning hero, funereal yet triumphant, going deaf all along. Promethean Me. I do prefer the muscular and the mad in Bernstein’s Beethoven, especially in this one. Movement Two: From the Funereal March Accchhhhh.. the Third and Fourth! Such Austro-German dionyseanism. (Terrible expression.) I am not in any way knowledgeable about music or musical theory. I will not pretend to any authority. But in studying this symphony recently — really listening to it, after so many years never touching it, it comes back to me how greater this might ever be than Mahler. And that’s a really really hard thing to hear myself say. Just this one piece — the Eroica. This feeling is emerging, having never thought that Mahler’s understanding of our modern human mind could maybe never be surpassed. And hearing this Eroica again. This whole thing, this symphony — this madness, this rage, this playfulness, this bold triumph

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On the Use of Psychedelics and Meditation

I am often asked about the usefulness of psychedelics and meditation. It seems like this question comes with greater frequency these days. And there is no blanket answer: I am very open-minded, to a point, and I have encouraged some few people that having a psychedelic experience could help with some particularly deep-rooted block with regard to addiction, to a trauma, or even to an aspect of their meditation practice. Recently, at a gathering of friends, I was pulled aside by the college-age son of one of my followers (I’ll call him “Danny”). He said that he has been offered the opportunity by friends to experience psychedelic mushrooms, and what did I think about this? Now, if I do have some rules, one of them is to exert extreme care when advising the children of my students about anything that might not align with some of the most conservative norms of a meditating life. Nevertheless, I was placed at an unusual juncture where the pure-minded questioner had access only to the encouragement of some similarly-aged friends, with all of the blind peer pressure and testosterone-fuelled risk-taking bravado involved, and his own conservative parents. It seemed that the most compassionate thing

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Einstein and Jesus on True Family

In his timeless essay, “Self-Reliance” (1841), Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.” Foreshadowing where this insight would lead, in the development of one of the most significant essays ever written in the English language, Emerson writes several paragraphs later, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” This essay was a revolutionary turning point for me: reading it deeply for the first time in Paris while teaching English and German there in 1988-89, it marked the last bit of Western philosophy I would absorb intellectually before turning with gusto to the practice of Zen — and leaving all the books behind, and gradually the Mahler and the Beethoven as well. Every single line of “Self-Reliance” felt like something my soul had always screamed for, admonitions I had always needed to hear but could not, trapped in dogmatic superstitions for so many years. Emerson’s soul really broke open the cage for me, intellectually but spiritually. “Self-Reliance” (and For while I had already read one Zen book by the time I encountered Emerson’s words, it seemed I needed some affirmation from an intellectual great to confirm that I

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[ 1 ] Bernstein/Abbado::: Two Views of the Second Half of the Fourth Movement of Mahler’s First Symphony

I have written many times before about the strange fact of my love for classical music (leaning strongly to the Austro-Germanic tradition), and yet the concurrent (and mutually exclusive, it would seem) fact that I do not listen to it much except for relatively rare occasions. This is due to the fact that I spend so much time in silent meditation (or struggling to get there), and find that even the beautiful dust of a symphony recently absorbed is an expendable experience when fragments and phrases of it appear later as random remembered dust-motes of sound. In the profoundest sessions of meditative clarity and calm, it’s not like something to have during hours of sitting. There is not really strong occurrence, but it is junk food appearing automatically for the endless maw of the monkey-mind. Even the most sublime piece of musical experience, when it floats and wafts here and there during the vacuum-sealed bliss of meditation, feels empty and beyond useless. “Even one hundred pictures of a banana cannot satisfy a hungry person.” The infinite depth of meditation is so much more awesome to behold than even the greatest symphonies could ever envision, even from their exalted position and

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Ear-Samadhi

A truly intense track. Needs to have sufficient volume — even more. Click on “1200 Micrograms DMT” and listen loud. (Thanks to a good student in Athens.)

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Blogging and Its Discontents

Damn, what is this blog becoming? It started out as a little serendipitous public repository of things I have encountered in practice and training as a monk, which I might like to look at again and offer to others. Things by the Buddha and Mahler and Beethoven and Bassui, Sapolsky and Harris and Dawkins and Zen Master Seung Sahn. Pointers by Schopenhauer and great Cioran that I might like to reflect on again. Beethoven had a daily table-talk book where his very conversations were recorded as his deafness became total. This blog is just supposed to be my own daily table-talk book speaking only to my own practice, and maybe enabling some help for others’ practice if they find it useful. It is a digital collection of helpful quotes and talks that I found helpful for expressing the otherwise-wordless practicing way to others. By having them here in public, there is the sense that maybe someone somewhere seeking some practice could get some benefit from the pointing of one of these teachings. We cannot expect everyone to connect to the intensity of Zen. There are many doorways to the one truth. So, this blog doesn’t aim to anything high-road. These

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