The Great Dharan/i/I/nfinite Loop

Ioannis thinks he has kidney stones or Stage IV pancreatic cancer. The Abbot thinks he has “The Great Dharani”. Who is correct? Who has the True Dharma? Both are most likely mistaken.

Let’s see why, in this spontaneous moment in a recent day of the Zen Center Regensburg’s Quarantine Retreat.

Here is a totally unplanned video at the MOMENT of inspiration, at the nanosecond of “Eureka!” — the fulfillment of a teaching-dream I have had for years. I knew it was significant, if just personally so, because something had finally “clicked,” and I didn’t want to lose the record of the moment: I needed to capture the “feel” of the chant and video coming together as best I could, as it was exploding in the head. (I don’t even remember clicking on the phone, to be perfectly honest.) This video was shot for personal purposes only, to capture the “feel” of the chant-married-with-video at the moment I started feeling it. But then several students who I shared it with as a gag urged me to share it forward, as teaching. So, here goes…

Background: We have recorded several versions of “The Great Dharani”, over the years, and I have circulated simple audio files of them. But nothing seemed to really satisfy the sense that this excellent, ancient mind-tech dharani could really penetrate much deeper into common-consciousness if only it had some extra “assist” to help it get carried into an ever-narrowing span-of-attention out there in Digital Land. Because we are so stimulated, optically, from the moment we open our eyes and check our phones to the last moment before sleep — even on the toilets (you know who you are!) — it has felt that, for pedagogical purposes, there needed to be an “optic” dimension functioning as a kind of “babysitter” for that stimulated craving, in the visual sphere.

On a recent Thursday after Morning Practice, I had a sudden and explosive insight: to pair the sonic throb of “The Great Dharani x3” with Matt Semke’s visionary “Have No Sphere,” to realize the dream of completing a truly effective pedagogical tool for people to learn “The Great Dharani” as a chant and a mantra and a way of life. What a great teaching-video this could be, marrying sight and sound that anyone could follow along with, and that could run as a continuous loop. People attend retreats here and experience the bright power of the Dharani when chanted in a group, and sometimes get inspiration to add it to their practicing arsenal. But then they get back home, and often find that they can’t muster the inspiration in their daily practice to plow on with the repetition and rhythm which can be so helpful for burning this clear-mind oscillation into their daily routine. I get asked often for “tips” on how to embed The Dharani into their everyday life.

EUREKA! The visionary terra nova of Matt Semke seems preternaturally suited to the clean, clear, cosmic undulation of “The Great Dharani” and its several-thousand-year-old before-thinking trance.

I jumped up from my desk and ran out of my room in Mun Su Am. I was practically flown over to the Dharma Room to reveal this inspiration to someone, to anyone who would listen and see. Even to a Cretan who thinks his overnight bellyache might really be kidney stones or pancreatic cancer (Stage IV), though possessing no previous family history of same and only feeling this bellyache since sleep last night. (Full disclosure: Ioannis’s suffering was being experienced after he had consumed a hearty lunch I had personally cooked up for our ZCR Team the previous day, which repast had been stuffed to the gills with copious amounts of feta cheese which I had thought — apparently mistakenly — that a Greek would love. Maybe it was the rich tomato-pesto sauce, slathered judiciously on top, which had driven him into a crouch. The thick slabs of omega-rich Irish butter on fresh-baked, rustic German bread? Who knows?

“…Namora da na dara yaya…”

For whatever it’s worth, here is the “EUREKA!”-moment where this new pedagogical tool was born.

The teaching-video is being designed to spec right now. I am benefitting enormously from a cross-Atlantic collaboration with Matt Semke (, who has graciously permitted from the American Midwest the use of his video (and many other graphics) in my work; of Erik “Yogi” Moeller, up in Oslo, who designed the sound with me; of Jayoon Choi, of times3 in London, who helped with visual graphics, and Ioannis Papadopolous, from Heraklion/Thessaloniki/Regensburg, who helps with so much else indescribable. (Update: after a trip to the toilet, he is completely cured, a modern Lazarus for our times.)

The video will be released later this week, first to Patreon supporters. Stay tuned!


Saṃsāra is a Sanskrit word that means “wandering” or “world”, with the connotation of cyclic, circuitous change. It also refers to the concept of rebirth and “cyclicality of all life, matter, existence”, a fundamental assumption of most Indian religions. In short, it is the cycle of death and rebirth. Saṃsāra is sometimes referred to with terms or phrases such as transmigration, karmic cycle, reincarnation, and “cycle of aimless drifting, wandering or mundane existence” (Wikipedia)

Not practicing?

This is the feeling we get when we stop practicing, or grow lazy enough in it that our thoughts start to grow back old roots. It is why Zen Master Seung Sahn would end every teaching letter with, “I hope you only go straight, try try try for 10,000 nonstop, get enlightenment, and save all beings from suffering.” I like his imagery: Only go straight don’t-know — it already breaks the circular insanity of samsara.

As Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, “Suffering is essential to life, and therefore does not flow in upon us from outside, but everyone carries around within himself its perennial source.” (The World as Will and Representation)

And how does that “source” grow back its new roots? When we stop questioning, stop looking into the question of “What is this reality? When I was born, where do I come from? When I die, where do I go? What am I?” When we let go of don’t-know, we grab the circular grind of samsara again. Again. Again. Around and around and around and around. What is the definition of “insanity,” after all, but doing the same action over and over again while expecting different results.

Again, Schopenhauer: “Those who don’t wonder about the contingency of their existence are mentally deficient.” Harsh, but true!

(Graphic: More genius by Matt Semke. It is impossible to resist posting him quite often. Again and again and again! But he never, ever tires. And best of all, he has insight.)