Boris: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

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Boris: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by boris »

Introduction to The “Mahā-Suññatā Sutta”

Retire within yourselves; but first prepare yourselves to receive yourselves there. It would be madness to trust yourselves to yourselves if you do not know how to control yourselves. There are ways of failing in solitude as well as in company.

Often when the mind is tired and stale it needs the comfort and encouragement of a soothing kind. At other times such treatment can induce in it a false sense of security, and then it has to be jolted, woken up, even frightened if necessary, and injected with a sense of urgency. This discourse does precisely that. It does not offer comfort (which will be found elsewhere in the Canon). It urges forced marches to the goal, with awareness of present dangers as encouragement.

In more than one place in the Canon the Venerable Ānanda, the Buddha’s faithful attendant, whose gentle concern with others’ welfare led him now and then to neglect his own advancement to arahantship, suffers reproof for this wholly amiable trait. This discourse opens with a rebuke. And though elsewhere he was singled out for praise as the foremost of all the disciples in learning and remembering the discourses, he is here told that it is not enough merely to know about these things; they must be practised and put into effect. And the end carries a warning against underestimating the risks.
Voidness, the subject of the discourse, is not defined. It may be assumed, though, that the Venerable Ānanda, who remembered all the discourses he had heard, could recall others in which it is defined in the sense intended here. Similarly, the doctrine of no-self, which is the basis of such voidness, is taken for granted. (The explanation is in the commentaries, though not in the commentary to this Sutta which relies on commentaries to earlier Suttas in the Majjhima Nikāya for some of its material.) The discourse is concerned only with the purpose for which those already defined doctrines should be used, and not with the way in which we use them.

The discourse can be misunderstood if it is forgotten that the Buddha has described his teaching as having only one taste, that of deliverance, just as the sea has only one taste, that of salt (Udāna 5); and that he said of becoming: “Just as even a little dung stinks, so I do not recommend even a little becoming, not for so much as a finger snap” (AN 1 xviii. 13). And to understand its full force it must not be forgotten that one who ends selfish clinging (which maintains becoming), and reaches arahantship, figures as one who has achieved the good which surpasses all others for the benefit of the world. “To protect oneself, bhikkhus, the foundation of mindfulness should be cultivated. To protect another the foundation of mindfulness should be cultivated. One who protects himself protects another; one who protects another protects himself. And how, bhikkhus, does one who protects himself protect another? By cultivation, development, and repeated practice. And how, bhikkhus, does one who protects another protect himself? By patience, harmlessness, kindness and forbearance” (S V 169).

The “Mahā Suññatā Sutta” is mentioned in the commentaries as one of the patipadā suttas (see the Commentary to Majjhima No. 3), one of which would be adopted by a bhikkhu as a guide in the particular mode of practice (patipadā) that suited his temperament. Others of these patipadā suttas give prominence to such qualities as restraint and patience (MN 3), purity through the seven stages of purification (MN 24), and so forth. Here seclusion is stressed.
—Ñāṇamoli Thera

So I suggest, that this topic should be for these few who are interested in this way of practice. For true monks, or these who aspire to become such, and who are ready to learn also from other traditions. For example: that monks should not use money, was well understood by Fathers of Desert:
A brother renounced the world and gave his goods to the poor, but he kept back a little for his personal expenses. He went to see Abba Anthony. When he told him this, the old man said to him, 'If you want to be a monk, go into the village, buy some meat, cover your naked body with it and come here like that.' The brother did so, and the dogs and birds tore at his flesh. When he came back the old man asked him whether he had followed his advice. He showed him his wounded body, and Saint Anthony said, 'Those who renounce the world but want to keep something for themselves are torn in this way by the demons who make war on them.'
Of course Dhamma is perfect and need not improvement, but knowledge that elements of gradual terning are present in other traditions can be useful and helpful, and we can learn from experience of Desert Fathers – they spend most of their lives in solitude. And not only from them, there were lay people, quite detached from the world, reading their writings can be, according to P. Hadot*, some kind of „spiritual exercise”. For example Pessoa:
Freedom is the possibility of isolation. You are free if you can withdraw from people, not having to seek them out for the sake of money, company, love, glory or curiosity, none of which can thrive in the silence and solitude. If you can't live alone, you were born a slave. You may have all the splendours of the mind and the soul, in which case you're a noble slave, or an intelligent servant, but you're not free.
I think, this topic should be rather informative, and suggest interesting books and authors or quotes on detachment, seclusion, estrangement (nibbida). Let one who does not like this kind of practice just avoid it.

* Interesting writer, there is no harm for hermits to know his books, specially "What is Ancient Philosophy?" and "Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault":
Pierre Hadot is one of those philosophical academics who writes for the average person without watering down the message or losing the import and challenge of what is being communicated. In this work, Hadot explains how philosophy and life were assumed to be one and the same by the ancients. Philosophers like Socrates and Plato, or the Stoics or Cynics, did not teach and believe one thins and live another. Today, one does not expect a particular philosopher, especially a professor of philosophy, to live according to the philosophy he may teach. This may be impossible given that professors of philosophy today, generally speaking, teach about multiple types of philosophies so they may not be expected to live any particular one. In ancient times, that was not the case. Although philosophers may have been familiar with other schools (literally) of thought, they lived life according to their own particular schools. So a Stoic would live a life detached from material possession, and take an attitude towards death that saw it as a natural process and not something to be feared. An Epicurean would live a life trying to seek the simple pleasures offered by life, and so on. in addition, these ancient philosophers, for the most part, also practice what they preached in communities, with kindred spirits who were also disciples and practiced the same life style. This book is rich in clear explanations of all these early schools of philosophy and how their leaders and adherents live their lives to walk their talk. An excellent and accesdible - while remaining scholarly - work for students (and practitioners_ of philosophy. ... Descending
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Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by boris »

Anthony the Great, called 'The Father of Monks' was born in central Egypt about AD the son of peasant farmers who were Christian. In c. 269 he heard the Gospel read in church and applied to himself the words. 'Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor and come . . .’ He devoted himself to a life of asceticism under the guidance of a recluse near his village. In c. 285 he went alone into the desert to live in complete solitude. His reputation attracted
followers, who settled near him, and in c. 305 he came out of his hermitage in order to act as their spiritual father. Five years later he again retired into solitude. He visited Alexandria at least twice. Once during the persecution of Christians and again to support the Bishop Athanasius against heresy. He died at the age of one hundred and five. His life was written by Saint Athanasius and was very influential in spreading the ideals of monasticism throughout the Christian World.

6. Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, 'What ought I to
do?' and the old man said to him 'Do not trust in your own
righteousness do not worry about the past, but control your
tongue and your stomach.'

7. Abba Anthony said, 'I saw the snares that the enemy
spreads out over the world and I said groaning, "What can
get through from such snares?" Then I heard a voice saying
to me, "Humility."'

8. He also said, 'Some have afflicted their bodies by
asceticism, but they lack discernment, and so they are far
from God.'

10. He said also, 'just as fish die if they stay too long out
of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass
their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner
peace. So like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry
to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we will
lose our interior watchfulness.'

11. He said also, 'He who wishes to live in solitude in the
desert is delivered from three conflicts: hearing, speech, and
sight; there is only one conflict for him and that is with

13. A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying
himself with the brethren and he was shocked. Wanting to
show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs
of the brethren, the old man said to him, 'Put an arrow in
your bow and shoot it.' So he did. The old man then said,
'Shoot another,' and he did so. Then the old man said, 'Shoot
yet again and the hunter replied 'If I bend my bow so much I
will break it.' Then the old man said to him, 'It is the same
with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond
measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to
come down to meet their needs.' When he heard these words
“the hunter was pierced by compunction and, greatly edified
by the old man, he went away. As for the brethren, they
went home strengthened.

14. Abba Anthony heard of a very young monk who had
performed a miracle on the road. Seeing the old men
walking with difficulty along the road, he ordered the wild
asses to come and carry them until they reached Abba
Anthony. Those whom they had carried told Abba Anthony
about it. He said to them, 'This monk seems to me to be a
ship loaded with goods but I do not know if he will reach
harbour.' After a while, Anthony suddenly began to weep, to
tear his hair and lament. His disciples said to him, 'Why are
you weeping, Father?' and the old man replied, 'A great pillar
of the Church has just fallen (he meant the young monk) but
go to him and see what has happened.' So the disciples went
and found the monk sitting on a mat and weeping for the sin
he had committed. Seeing the disciples of the old man he
said, 'Tell the old man to pray that God will give me just ten
days and I hope I will have made satisfaction.' But in the
space of five days he died.

15. The brothers praised a monk before Abba Anthony.
When the monk came to see him, Anthony wanted to know
how he would bear insults; and seeing that he could not bear
them at all, he said to him, 'You are like a village
magnificently decorated on the outside, but destroyed from
within by robbers.'

17. One day some old men came to see Abba Anthony.
In the midst of them was Abba Joseph. Wanting to test
them, the old man suggested a text from the Scriptures, and,
beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant.
Each gave his opinion as he was able. But to each one the
old man said, 'You have not understood it.' Last of all he said
to Abba Joseph, 'How would you explain this saying?' and he
replied, 'I do not know.' Then Abba Anthony 'Indeed Abba
Joseph has found the way, for he has said: "I do said, not

18. Some brothers were coming from Scetis to see Abba
Anthony. When they were getting into a boat to go there,
they found an old man who also wanted to go there. The
brothers did not know him. They sat in the boat, occupied
by turns with the words of the Fathers, Scripture and their
manual work. As for the old man, he remained silent. When
they arrived on shore they found that the old man was going
to the cell of Abba Anthony too. When they reached the
place, Anthony said to them, 'You found this old man a good
companion for the journey?' Then he said to the old man,
'You have brought many good brethren with you, father.'
The old man said, 'No doubt they are good, but they do not
have a door to their house and anyone who wishes can enter
the stable and loose the ass.' He meant that the brethren said
whatever came into their mouths.

19. The brethren came to the Abba Anthony and said to
him, 'Speak a word; how are we to be saved?' The old man
said to them, 'You have heard the Scriptures. That should
teach you how.' But they said, 'We want to hear from you
too, Father.' Then the old man said to them, 'The Gospel
says, "if anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the
other also." (Matt. 5.39) They said, 'We cannot do that.' The
old man said, 'If you cannot offer the other cheek, at least
allow one cheek to be struck.' 'We cannot do that either, '
they said. So he said, 'If you are not able to do that, do not
return evil for evil, ' and they said, 'we cannot do that either.'
Then the old man said to his disciple, 'Prepare a little brew of
corn for these invalids. If you cannot do this, or that, what
can I do for you? What you need is prayers.'

21. It happened one day that one of the brethren in the
monastery of Abba Elias was tempted. Cast out of the
monastery, he went over the mountain to Abba Anthony.
The brother lived near him for a while and then Anthony sent
him back to the monastery from which he had been expelled.
When the brothers saw him they cast him out yet again, and
he went back to Abba Anthony saying, 'My Father, they will
not receive me.' Then the old man sent them a message
saying, 'A boat was shipwrecked at sea and lost its cargo;
with great difficulty it reached the shore; but you want to
throw into the sea that which has found a safe harbour on the
shore. 'When the brothers understood that it was Abba
Anthony who had sent them this monk, they received him at
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers
translator - Sister Benedicta Ward SLG
Publisher - Cistercian Publication

Good source of information about saint Anthony is his life story by Athanasius. It contains also teaching of saint Anthony. For example:
Therefore let the desire of possession take hold of no one, for what gain is it to acquire these things which we cannot take with us? Why not rather get those things which we can take away with us— to wit, prudence, justice, temperance, courage, understanding, love, kindness to the poor, faith in Christ, freedom from wrath, hospitality? If we possess these, we shall find them of themselves preparing for us a welcome there in the land of the meek-hearted.
'Wherefore, children, let us hold fast our discipline, and let us not be careless. For in it the Lord is our fellow-worker, as it is written, to all that choose the good, God works with them for good. But to avoid being heedless, it is good to consider the word of the Apostle, I die daily 1 Corinthians 15:31 . For if we too live as though dying daily, we shall not sin. And the meaning of that saying is, that as we rise day by day we should think that we shall not abide till evening; and again, when about to lie down to sleep, we should think that we shall not rise up. For our life is naturally uncertain, and Providence allots it to us daily. But thus ordering our daily life, we shall neither fall into sin, nor have a lust for anything, nor cherish wrath against any, nor shall we heap up treasure upon earth. But, as though under the daily expectation of death, we shall be without wealth, and shall forgive all things to all men, nor shall we retain at all the desire of women or of any other foul pleasure. But we shall turn from it as past and gone, ever striving and looking forward to the day of Judgment. For the greater dread and danger of torment ever destroys the ease of pleasure, and sets up the soul if it is like to fall.
The man who wants to avoid grotesque collapses should not look for anything to fulfill him in space and time.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila

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Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by pulga »

boris wrote: Of course Dhamma is perfect and need not improvement, but knowledge that elements of gradual terning are present in other traditions can be useful and helpful, and we can learn from experience of Desert Fathers – they spend most of their lives in solitude. And not only from them, there were lay people, quite detached from the world, reading their writings can be, according to P. Hadot*, some kind of „spiritual exercise”. For example Pessoa:
Freedom is the possibility of isolation. You are free if you can withdraw from people, not having to seek them out for the sake of money, company, love, glory or curiosity, none of which can thrive in the silence and solitude. If you can't live alone, you were born a slave. You may have all the splendours of the mind and the soul, in which case you're a noble slave, or an intelligent servant, but you're not free.
I think, this topic should be rather informative, and suggest interesting books and authors or quotes on detachment, seclusion, estrangement (nibbida). Let one who does not like this kind of practice just avoid it.

* Interesting writer, there is no harm for hermits to know his books, specially "What is Ancient Philosophy?" and "Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault".
Thanks, boris. The Book of Disquietude is a great book - as far as English goes, the Zenith translation is the better of the two available. And Hadot is another of my favorite thinkers: someone who reminds us of the world we have lost and what I believe to be the sentiment and the conviction required to make in-roads into the Buddha's Teaching. Do you think that nibbida and upekkhā might be key qualities that give rise to the Dhammacakkhu, the Eye of Dhamma? So long as we hold back and cling to the significance of the narratives we call our lives we blind ourselves to the truth that such significance has no relevance, i.e. it is merely the meaning of an idea before the mind.

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Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by martinfrank »

Fifty Spiritual Homilies of St. Macarius the Egyptian translated by A. J. Mason, D.D.
" A brother once met abbot Macarius the Egyptian, and
said to him, 'Abba, say something to me that I may be
saved.' The old man said, ' Go to the burying-ground and
revile the dead.' The brother went, and reviled them, and
threw stones at them, and came and reported to the old
man. He said to him, ' Did they not answer thee ? ' He
said, 'No.' The old man said, 'Go again to-morrow and
praise them.' So the brother went, and praised them, call-
ing them apostles, and saints, and righteous men, and came
to the old man, and said, ' I praised them.' And he said
to him, ' Did they make no answer ? ' The brother said,
No.' The old man said, 'Thou knowest how much thou
didst insult them, and they answered nothing, and how
much thou didst praise them, and they spake nothing to
thee. If thou wouldest be saved, become thou dead like
them. Reck nothing of the wrongs done by men, nor of
their praise, any more than the dead do ; and thou mayest
be saved.' " ... t_djvu.txt
The Noble Eightfold Path: Proposed to all, imposed on none.

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Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by boris »

pulga wrote: Do you think that nibbida and upekkhā might be key qualities that give rise to the Dhammacakkhu, the Eye of Dhamma? So long as we hold back and cling to the significance of the narratives we call our lives we blind ourselves to the truth that such significance has no relevance, i.e. it is merely the meaning of an idea before the mind.
I think, with upekkha and even more with nibbida, we have to face good, old catch 22: it is difficult to understand Dhamma without estrangement (nibbida), however it is difficult to develop estrangement without understanding of Dhamma.
,,I was alone in that cemetery overlooking the village when a pregnant woman came in. I left at once, in order not to look at this corpse-bearer at dose range, nor to ruminate upon the contrast between an aggressive womb and the time-worn tombs-between a false promise and the end of all promises.''

It is little bit funny that people who seem to have quite good vision of things as they are (Cioran, Ligotti), for some reasons do not practice Dhamma while others who claim to be Dhamma folowers spend their time in attempts to convince themselves and others that life in fact is not such suffering.

As I see it, it is great psychological mistake to say so, and insist that problem is somewhere else, namely in attachment. Surely problem lies in attachment, however we do attached to things which are pleasurable to us. In other words, the more we see existence as painful, the less we tend to attached to it. With it, estrangement increases, and with increase of estrangement our attachment to life is fading away.
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Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by boris »

On Solitude
Sensuous objects are the cause of calamity, excrescence, danger, disease, a dart and a fear to me. Observing this danger resulting from sensuous objects, let one live alone like a unicorn horn. (Sn.v 51)

Detachment, loneliness, separation, seclusion, scission, aloofness – viveka has two main divisions. Kayaviveka is the initial environmental and physical condition, the physical (bodily) separation from sensuous objects; it is the abiding at ease in condition suited to growth in the Dhamma – if no one is found in front or behind me, it is very pleasant for one dwelling alone in the wood. (Theragata, v 537)

Cittaviveka is that very growth in the Dhamma, the inner, mental detachment from sensuous things.

Herein, Elder, whatsoever is past, that is abandoned, whatever is yet-to-come, that is relinquish, and the desire-and-lust for the present modes of personality is well under control. It is thus, Elder, that lone-dwelling becomes fulfilled in all details. (S II, 282)

This solitude is not loneliness of lack (tanha), the craving of the crowd, it is abiding in strength and ease, independent and aloof. This solitude becomes the path and the goal to the one with clear vision who apprehends samsara, and his own being as samsaric, who thus develops estrangement (nibbida) – pushed to the extreme, this feeling (estrangement) becomes even at times not only the resort but also the goal of philosophy: to exile (Grenier).

One seeks solitude because one seeks truth, and the crowd is untruth: “But the thing is simple enough: this thing of loving one's neighbor is self-denial, that of loving the crowd, or pretending to love it, of making it the authority in matters of truth, is the way to temporal and earthly advantages of all sort – at the same time it is the untruth, for crowd is untruth. (Kierkegaard).

And this is very important for the way of the crowd is the way of samsara, and cultural, political, social constructions of society can never lead from samsara, for samsara is their origin, their meaning and goal. Cultures are particular to time and space, there are “Buddhist” cultures but these are not Dhamma, though inspired by, for culture is within time – the residue of the historic process – the Dhamma is akaliko, not involving time. One does not obtain sila (the ethical) let alone Dhamma, from the historical process, from majority opinions. The Dhamma is approachable by the wise (pandita) and each for himself (paccatam), separately, individually, that is in solitude).

Therefore the Dhamma is not “progressive” within the historical process, within the mass of human kind. Real progress (of the individual) is linear, but samsara is a revolving about a repetition, the wheel of birth and death, that merely reflects the inner revolving (vatta) – the centripetal vortex of name-and-form (namarupa) about consciousness (vinniana).

The Dhamma is not involved in the illusory “progress” of samsara – the politico-economic ideals of linear advancement within samsara, there is no progress in samsara, this straight line of “progress” is a result of myopia, a viewing to closely a particular section of curvature of the historical cycle. Real progress is against the centripetal attraction of samsara – against the stream – a tangent directed away from enveloping vortex into calm and this is kayaviveka.

Cittaviveka is that gradual journey from the samsara within that fules the outher – the revolving about of namarupa (feeling, perception, intention, contact, attention, and matter) with vinniana (consciousness) – the progress through nibbida (estrangement) to nibbana. These two vortices are two tangles within and tangles without (antojata, bahijata) SI, 13, the solution and unraveling of what is the Buddha's teaching and the two tools for this progress are kaya and cittaviveka.

This progress is only to the individual in his subjective solitude cut of from the crowd and the process of history – for between the historic process and the ideal of social progress the individual is dissipated and confused. Only by solitude, a cut of, an estrangement , can one truly approach the Dhamma in its immediacy as having meaning only to the individual, who has become subjective – and thus aware of anguish (dukkha) as personal, an existential and the problem of existence as an individualization of the process of tanha (lack/need). Only within this subjective solitude does one recognizing the problem and start toward ultimate solitude – Nibbana, cutting of all factors of existence.

Flee society as a heavy burden, seek solitude above all! (M3)
Bhikkhu Saddhajiva
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Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by SDC »

Great stuff, boris. Thanks.

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Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by boris »

pulga wrote: Do you think that nibbida ...
May I ask you, how do you understand the term nibbida What do you think about Ven Nanamoli short note on it?
ESTRANGEMENT: the Pali noun nibbida and its verb nibbindati are made up of the prefix nir in its negative sense of "out," and the root vid (to find, to feel, to know intimately). Nibbada is thus a finding out. What is thus found out is the intimate hidden contradictoriness in any kind of self-identification based in any way on these things (and there is no way of determining self-identification apart from them — ). Elsewhere the Buddha says:

Whatever there is there of form, feeling, perception, determinations, or consciousness, such ideas he sees as impermanent, as subject to pain, as a sickness, as a tumor, as a barb, as a calamity, as an affliction, as an alienation, as a disintegration, as a void, as not-self. He averts his heart from those ideas, and for the most peaceful, the supreme goal, he turns his heart to the deathless element, that is to say, the stilling of all determinations, the relinquishment of all substance, the exhaustion of craving, the fading of passion, cessation, extinction.
— MN 64

The "stuff" of life can also be seen thus. Normally the discovery of a contradiction is for the unliberated mind a disagreeable one. Several courses are then open. It can refuse to face it, pretending to itself to the point of full persuasion and belief that no contradiction is there; or one side of the contradiction may be unilaterally affirmed and the other repressed and forgotten; or a temporary compromise may be found (all of which expedients are haunted by insecurity); or else the contradiction may be faced in its truth and made the basis for a movement towards liberation. So too, on finding estrangement thus, two main courses are open: either the search, leaving "craving for self-identification" intact, can be continued for sops to allay the symptoms of the sickness; or else a movement can be started in the direction of a cure for the underlying sickness of craving, and liberation from the everlasting hunt for palliatives, whether for oneself or others. In this sense alone, "Self protection is the protection of others, and protection of others self-protection" (Satipatthana Samyutta).
Nanamoli Bhikkhu
SDC wrote:Great stuff, boris. Thanks.
Thanks. I'm glad you appreciate my efforts, though all my merits here are limited to copy-paste action :smile:
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Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by boris »

Evagrios the Solitary – one of my favorite fathers, perhaps due to his philosophical inclinations.
Outline Teaching on Asceticism and Stillness in the Solitary Life

In Jeremiah it is said: 'And you shall not take a wife in this place, for thus says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters born in this place: . . . they shall die grievous deaths' (Jer. 16:1-4). This shows that, in the words of the Apostle, 'He that is married cares for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife', and he is inwardly divided, and 'she that is married cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband' (1 Cor. 7:32-34). It is clear that the statement in Jeremiah, 'they shall die grievous deaths', refers not only to the sons and daughters born as a result of marriage, but also to those born in the heart, that is, to worldly thoughts and desires: these too will die from the weak and sickly spirit of this world, and will have no place in heavenly life. On the other hand, as the Apostle says, 'he that is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord' (1 Cor. 7:32); and he produces the fruits of eternal life, which always keep their freshness.

Such is the solitary. He should therefore abstain from women and not beget a son or daughter in the place of which Jeremiah speaks. He must be a soldier of Christ, detached from material things, free from cares and not involved in any trade or commerce; for, as the Apostle says, 'In order to please the leader who has chosen him, the soldier going to war does not entangle himself in the affairs of this world' (2 Tim. 2:4). Let the monk follow this course, especially since he has renounced the materiality of this world in order to win the blessings of stillness. For the practice of stillness is full of joy and beauty; its yoke is easy and its burden light.

Do you desire, then, to embrace this life of solitude, and to seek out the blessings of stillness? If so, abandon the cares of the world, and the principalities and powers that lie behind them; free yourself from attachment to material things, from domination by passions and desires, so that as a stranger to all this you may attain true stillness. For only by raising himself above these things can a man achieve the life of stillness.

Keep to a sparse and plain diet, not seeking a variety of tempting dishes. Should the thought come to you of getting extravagant foods in order to give hospitality, dismiss it, do not be deceived by it: for in it the enemy lies in ambush, waiting to tear you away from stillness. Remember how the Lord rebukes Martha (the soul that is overbusy with such things) when He says: 'You are anxious and troubled about many things: one thing alone is needful' (Luke 10:41-42) - to hear the divine word; after that, one should be content with anything that comes to hand. He indicates all this by adding: 'Mary has chosen what is best, and it cannot be taken away from her' (Luke 10:42). You also have the example of how the widow of Zarephath gave hospitality to the Prophet (cf. 1 Kings 17:9-16). If you have only bread, salt or water, you can still meet the dues of hospitality. Even if you do not have these, but make the stranger welcome and say something helpful, you will not be failing in hospitality; for 'is not a word better than a gift?' (Eccles. 18:17). This is the view you should take of hospitality. Be careful, then, and do not desire wealth for giving to the poor. For this is another trick of the evil one, who often arouses self esteem and fills your intellect with worry and restlessness. Think of the widow mentioned in the Gospel by our Lord: with two mites she surpassed the generous gifts of the wealthy. For He says: 'They cast into the treasury out of their abundance; but she . . . cast in all her livelihood' (Mark 12:44).

With regard to clothes, be content with what is sufficient for the needs of the body. 'Cast your burden upon the Lord' (Ps. 55:22) and He will provide for you, since 'He cares for you' (1Pet. 5:7). If you need food or clothes, do not be ashamed to accept what others offer you. To be ashamed to accept is a kind of pride. But if you have more than you require, give to those in need. It is in this way that God wishes His children to manage their affairs. That is why, writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle said about those who were in want:

'Your abundance should supply their want, so that their abundance likewise may supply your want; then there will be equality, as it is written: "He that gathered much had nothing over; and he that gathered little had no lack”’ (2 Cor. 8:14-15; Exod. 16:18). So if you have all you need for the moment, do not be anxious about the future, whether it is one day ahead or a week or months. For when tomorrow comes, it will supply what you need, if you seek above all else the kingdom of heaven and the righteousness of God; for the Lord says: 'Seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things as well will be given to you' (cf. Matt. 6:33). Do not have a servant, for if you do you will no longer have only yourself to provide for; and in that case the enemy may trip you up through the servant and disturb your mind with worries about laying in extravagant foods. Should you have the thought of getting a servant to allow your body a little ease, call to mind what is more important – I mean spiritual peace, for spiritual peace is certainly more important than bodily ease. Even if you have the idea that taking a servant would be for the servant's benefit, do not accept it. For this is not our work; it is the work of others, of the holy Fathers who live in communities and not as solitaries. Think only of what is best for yourself, and safeguard the way of stillness.

Do not develop a habit of associating with people who are materially minded and involved in worldly affairs. Live alone, or else with brethren who are detached from material things and of one mind with yourself. For if one associates with materially minded people involved in worldly affairs, one will certainly be affected by their way of life and will be subject to social pressures, to vain talk and every other kind of evil: anger, sorrow, passion for material things, fear of scandals. Do not get caught up in concern for your parents or affection for your relatives; on the contrary, avoid meeting them frequently, in case they rob you of the stillness you have in your cell and involve you in their own affairs. 'Let the dead bury their dead,' says the Lord; 'but come, follow me' (cf. Matt. 8:22). If you find yourself growing strongly attached to your cell, leave it, do not cling to it, be ruthless. Do everything possible to attain stillness and freedom from distraction, and struggle to live according to God's will, battling against invisible enemies. If you cannot attain stillness where you now live, consider living in exile, and try and make up your mind to go. Be like an astute business man: make stillness your criterion for testing the value of everything, and choose always what contributes to it.

Indeed, I urge you to welcome exile. It frees you from all the entanglements of your own locality, and allows you to enjoy the blessings of stillness undistracted. Do not stay in a town, but persevere in the wilderness. ‘Lo,' says the Psalm, 'then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness' (Ps. 55:7). If possible, do not visit a town at all. For you will find there nothing of benefit, nothing useful, nothing profitable for your way of life. To quote the Psalm again, 'I have seen violence and strife in the city' (Ps. 55:9). So seek out places that are free from distraction, and solitary. Do not be afraid of the noises you may hear. Even if you should see some demonic fantasy, do not be terrified or flee from the training ground so apt for your progress. Endure fearlessly, and you will see the great things of God, His help. His care, and all the other assurances of salvation. For as the Psalm says, 'I waited for Him who delivers me from distress of spirit and the tempest' (Ps. 55:8. LXX).

Do not let restless desire overcome your resolution; for 'restlessness of desire perverts the guileless intellect' (Wisd. 4:12). Many temptations result from this. For fear that you may go wrong, stay rooted in your cell. If you have friends, avoid constant meetings with them. For if you meet only on rare occasions, you will be of more help to them. And if you find that harm comes through meeting them, do not see them at all. The friends that you do have should be of benefit to you and contribute to your way of life. Avoid associating with crafty or aggressive people, and do not live with anyone of that kind but shun their evil purposes; for they do not dwell close to God or abide with Him. Let your friends be men of peace, spiritual brethren, holy fathers. It is of such that the Lord speaks when he says: 'My mother and brethren and fathers are those who do the will of My Father who is in heaven' (cf. Matt. 12:49-50). Do not pass your time with people engaged in worldly affairs or share their table, in case they involve you in their illusions and draw you away from the science of stillness. For this is what they want to do. Do not listen to their words or accept the thoughts of their hearts, for they are indeed harmful. Let the labor and longing of your heart be for the faithful of the earth, to become like them in mourning. For 'my eyes will be on the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me' (Ps. 101:6). If someone who lives in accordance with the love of God comes to you and invites you to eat, go if wish, but return quickly to your cell. If possible, never sleep outside your cell, so that the gift of stillness may be with you. Then you will be unhindered on your chosen path.

Do not hanker after fine foods and deceitful pleasures. For 'she that indulges in pleasure is dead while still alive', as the Apostle says (1 Tim. 5:6). Do not fill your belly with other people's food in case you develop a, longing for it, and this longing makes you want to eat at their table. For it is said: 'Do not be deceived by the filling of the belly' (Prov. 24:15. LXX). If you find yourself continually invited outside your cell, decline the invitations. For continual absence from your cell is harmful. It deprives you of the grace of stillness, darkens your mind, withers your longing for God. If a jar of wine is left in the same place for a long time, the wine in it becomes clear, settled and fragrant. But if it is moved about, the wine becomes turbid and dull, tainted throughout by the lees. So you, too, should stay in the same place and you will find how greatly this benefits you. Do not have relationships with too many people, lest your intellect becomes distracted and so disturbs the way of stillness.

Provide yourself with such work for your hands as can be done, if possible, both during the day and at night, so that you are not a burden to anyone, and indeed can give to others, as Paul the Apostle advises (cf. 1 Thess. 2:9; Eph. 4:28). In this manner you will overcome the demon of listlessness and drive away all the desires suggested by the enemy; for the demon of listlessness takes advantage of idleness. 'Every idle man is full of desires' (Prov. 13:4. LXX).

When buying or selling you can hardly avoid sin. So, in either case, be sure you lose a little in the transaction. Do not haggle about the price from love of gain, and so indulge in actions harmful to the soul - quarrelling, lying, shifting your ground and so on - thus bringing our way of life into disrepute. Understanding things in this manner, be on your guard when buying and selling. If possible it is best to place such business in the hands of someone you trust, so that, being thus relieved of the worry, you can pursue your calling with joy and hope.

In addition to all that I have said so far, you should consider now other lessons which the way of stillness teaches, and do what I tell you. Sit in your cell, and concentrate your intellect; remember the day of death, visualize the dying of your body, reflect on this calamity, experience the pain, reject the vanity of this world, its compromises and crazes, so that you may continue in the way of stillness and not weaken. Call to mind, also, what is even now going on in hell. Think of the suffering, the bitter silence, the terrible moaning, the great fear and agony, the dread of what is to come, the unceasing pain, the endless weeping. Remember, too, the day of your resurrection and how you will stand before God. Imagine that fearful and awesome judgment-seat. Picture all that awaits those who sin: their shame before God the Father and His Anointed, before angels, archangels, principalities and all mankind; think of all the forms of punishment: the eternal fire, the worm that does not die, the abyss of darkness, the gnashing of teeth, the terrors and the torments. Then picture all the blessings that await the righteous: intimate communion with God the Father and His Anointed, with angels, archangels, principalities and all the saints, the kingdom and its gifts, the gladness and the joy.

Picture both these states: lament and weep for the sentence passed on sinners; mourn while you are doing this, frightened that you, too, may be among them. But rejoice and be glad at the blessings that await the righteous, and aspire to enjoy them and to be delivered from the torments of hell. See to it that you never forget these things, whether inside your cell or outside it. This will help you to escape thoughts that are defiling and harmful. Fast before the Lord according to your strength, for to do this will purge you of your iniquities and sins; it exalts the soul, sanctifies the mind, drives away the demons, and prepares you for God's presence. Having already eaten once, try not to eat a second time the same day, in case you become extravagant and disturb your mind. In this way you will have the means for helping others and for mortifying the passions of your body. But if there is a meeting of the brethren, and you have to eat a second and a third time, do not be disgruntled and surly. On the contrary, do gladly what you have to do, and when you have eaten a second or a third time, thank God that you have fulfilled the law of love and that He himself is providing for you. Also, there are occasions when, because of a bodily sickness, you have to eat a second and a third time or more often. Do not be sad about this; when you are ill you should modify your ascetic labors for the time being, so that you may regain the strength to take them up once more.

As far as abstinence from food is concerned, the divine Logos did not prohibit the eating of anything, but said: 'See, even as I have given you the green herb I have given you all things; eat, asking no questions; it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man' (cf. Gen. 9:3; 1 Cor. 10:25; Matt. 15: 11). To abstain from food, then, should be a matter of our own choice and an ascetic labour.

Gladly bear vigils, sleeping on the ground and all other hardships, looking to the glory that will be revealed to you and to all the saints; 'for the sufferings of this present time', says the Apostle, 'are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us' (Rom. 8 :18).

If you are disheartened, pray, as the Apostle says (cf. Jas. 5: 13). Pray with fear, trembling, effort, with inner watchfulness and vigilance. To pray in this manner is especially necessary because the enemies are so malignant. For it is just when they see us at prayer that they come and stand beside us, ready to attack, suggesting to our intellect the very things we should not think about when praying; in this way they try to take our intellect captive and to make our prayer and supplication vain and useless. For prayer is truly vain and useless when not performed with fear and trembling, with inner watchfulness and vigilance. When someone approaches an earthly king, he entreats him with fear, trembling and attention; so much the more, then, should we stand and pray in this manner before God the Father, the Master of all, and before Christ the King of Kings. For it is He whom the whole spiritual host and the choir of angels serve with fear and glorify with trembling; and they sing in unceasing praise to Him, together with the Father who has no origin, and with the all-holy and coeternal Spirit, now and ever through all the ages. Amen.
from The Philokalia, Evagrios the Solitary


VOLUME 1: Page 31
The man who wants to avoid grotesque collapses should not look for anything to fulfill him in space and time.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila

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Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by boris »

NOW when the Blessed One had instructed, urged, roused and encouraged them with talk on the Dhamma, he rose from his seat. He set out to wander by stages to Parileyyaka. At length in the course of wandering he arrived there, and he went to live in the Rakkhita jungle at the root of an auspicious sala tree. While he was alone in retreat this thought arose in his mind: "Formerly I lived in discomfort, pestered by those KosambI bhikkhus who quarrel, brawl, wrangle, harangue and litigate in the midst of the Sangha. Now I am alone and companionless, living at ease and in comfort, away from all of them."

There was also a certain tusker elephant who had been living pestered by elephants and cow elephants and calf elephants and sucking elephants and he had been eating grass with bruised ends, and broken-up bits of branches, and he had been drinking dirty water, and his body had been jostled by cow elephants as he came up out of the bathing place. He had considered all this and he thought: "Why should I not live alone, withdrawn from the crowd?" And so he had left the herd and had gone to Parileyyaka, to the Rakkhita jungle, to the root of the auspicious sala tree where the Blessed One was. He looked after the Blessed One, providing food and drink for him, and with his trunk he cleared the leaves away. He thought: "Formerly I lived pestered by elephants Now, alone and withdrawn from the herd, I live at ease and in comfort away from all those elephants."

The Blessed One, relishing his own seclusion, became aware in his mind of the thought in the tusker elephant's mind. He uttered this exclamation:

Tusker agrees with tusker here;
The elephant with tusks as long
As shafts delights alone in woods:
Their hearts are thus in harmony.
Vin. Mv. 10:4; cf. Ud. 4:5

Translation: Ven. Nanamoli
The man who wants to avoid grotesque collapses should not look for anything to fulfill him in space and time.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila

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Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by pulga »

boris wrote: May I ask you, how do you understand the term nibbida What do you think about Ven Nanamoli short note on it?
While in the past my preferred rendering has been "disillusionment", I believe "estrangement" has its merits as well. Fear and anxiety underlie attachment just as much as pleasure does. What if I were to lose everything? What is it like to be gasping for air in one's final moments of life?
And how, bhikkhus, should the nutriment mental volition be seen? Suppose there is a charcoal pit deeper than a man’s height, filled with glowing coals without flame or smoke. A man would come along wanting to live, not wanting to die, desiring happiness and averse to suffering. Then two strong men would grab him by both arms and drag him towards the charcoal pit. The man’s volition would be to get far away, his longing would be to get far away, his wish would be to get far away from the charcoal pit. For what reason? Because he knows: ‘I will fall into this charcoal pit and on that account I will meet death or deadly suffering.’

“It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that I say the nutriment mental volition should be seen. When the nutriment mental volition is fully understood, the three kinds of craving are fully understood. When the three kinds of craving are fully understood, I say, there is nothing further that a noble disciple needs to do. SN 12.63
Estrangement is the draining of even the worst of life's future scenarios of their affective weight through a profound sense of disownership.

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Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by boris »

The form element, householder, is the home of consciousness; one whose consciousness is shackled by lust for the form element is called one who roams about in a home. The feeling element is the home of consciousness … The perception element is the home of consciousness … The volitional formations element is the home of consciousness; one whose consciousness is shackled by lust for the volitional formations element is called one who roams about in a home. It is in such a way that one roams about in a home.

“And how, householder, does one roam about homeless? The desire, lust, delight, and craving, the engagement and clinging, the mental standpoints, adherences, and underlying tendencies regarding the form element: these have been abandoned by the Tathagata, cut off at the root, made like a palm stump, obliterated so that they are no more subject to future arising. Therefore the Tathagata is called one who roams about homeless. The desire, lust, delight, and craving, the engagement and clinging, the mental standpoints, adherences, and underlying tendencies regarding the feeling element … the perception element … the volitional formations element … the consciousness element: these have been abandoned by the Tathagata, cut off at the root, made like a palm stump, obliterated so that they are no more subject to future arising. Therefore the Tathagata is called one who roams about homeless. It is in such a way that one roams about homeless.

"Home" is usually understood as a place of safety, pleasant place. However, as we see from this Sutta, in Dhamma "Home" which is offer for consciousness by nama-rupa is in fact rather prison, or Mara trap since safety and pleasure which offers always ends in eviction.

I think nibbida should be understood in the light of this Sutta, estrangement from things we take as our own, on which base our false feeling of safety.
The man who wants to avoid grotesque collapses should not look for anything to fulfill him in space and time.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Posts: 727
Joined: Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:00 pm

Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by boris »

Prince Rama express his dissatisfaction with lay life. One remark „unreality things” in some Hindu scripture can stand for „impermanence” in a sense that only something which do not change can be stated as a real. Anyway, text is intent to influent our feelings, we do not renounce world because we „think” it is painful, but because we feel it. Dhamma is for one who feels.

Thereupon they began to describe in the following manner the grievous plight of their master, ever since his return from pilgrimage „It is only after entreating him by falling at his feet, that he performs some of our daily ceremonies. He says of what avail are the pleasures-giving- offspring, wealth, house, etc., being, as they, are, only unreal? Our master has no inclination towards valuable white clothes or dainties of six tastes or cool water or anything else. Like ascetics devoid of all egoism, he is free from all Abhimana (identification of self with objects), and has no inclination towards state- affairs; neither does he rejoice at happiness, nor is he afflicted by pains. He grievously complains of his life being spent in vain in the many worldly actions that do not contribute to the Jivanmukti state wherein all sorrows are unknown. Thinking that his great wealth is a source of infinite danger, he has given up all longing for it, and gives it away indiscriminately to all. We are not able to divine the underlying thought in his heart. Oh! For one in this assembly who will be pleased to instil, into our young king all the noble qualities that will befit him to be a ruler of our kingdom. These are the characteristics which our prince evinces.‟

At these submissive words of Rama's followers, Vasistha told them the following „Go ye and fetch this greatly be loved Rama (unknown to others) like a deer that has strayed away from its herd.‟ Then addressing the assembly, he said: „The great delusion that has now arisen in him, is unlike any that springs out of (disappointment as to) any desired object or out of a great accident; but is only (the stepping stone to) the acquisition of Divine wisdom through (Vairagya) indifference to worldly objects, and (Viveka) true discrimination. Like us, he will attain the quiescent state of Brahman after removing from his mind, all his delusion (of doubts) through the many-sided reasoning of the stainless Atmic enquiry. Rama's mind will soon become full and then he will perform sweetly and nobly all actions on behalf of men.‟ While the Muni was saying this, Rama appeared before the regal assembly and prostrated himself at the feet of his father, and then at the feet of Vasistha, Viswamitra, Brahmins well versed in all departments of knowledge, and the teachers imparting learning. Then having received the prostrations of his inferiors, he recognised their salutations with words of respect, and gestures of the eye. On the king asking him to come over, and sit on his lap in the throne, he merely spread his folded cloth on the ground and sat on it without going up to him. At which the king addressed him thus „Oh My son of rare knowledge, why should you, whom all should look up to as the seat of eternal bliss, pine away thus with this body of rare bloom emaciated, and your mind despondent even for a moment, like the ignorant? Men like you with a mind bereft of all desires have attained easily the Nirvanic seat, as stated by our Guru Vasistha, who is a revered sage and a Brahmarshi. Then why are you grieved thus in vain? All those accidents that bring on pains will never approach you, should your present delusion depart.‟ After Dasaratha, the crowned king of kings had said this, Vasistha began when Viswamitra interrupted him thus: “Oh, you redoubted champion, that have conquered easily your enemies of sensual objects, which are invincible, except through supreme efforts, drown not yourself in the ocean of delusion full of Ajnana which is befitting only the ever- fluctuating ignorant persons of the world. If you will reveal to me the cause of the delusion, preying upon you like a subterranean cat undermining a good house, then you will be relieved of it, and be also able to attain your longed-for object. Moreover your mental grief will thereby vanish to appear no more. Please therefore speak out.‟ At these words of Viswamitra, Rama relieved of all grief and quite jubilant like a peacock at hearing the thunder sound in the clouds, when the air becomes cool, addressed Viswamitra thus: “Oh Supreme Muni, the incarnation of grace and of great Tapas, as you were pleased to allow my ignorant self to relate the cause of my grief, I will do so. Now please hearken to the impediments in my way.‟

„Born in the house of Dasaratha, my father, I became well versed in all departments of knowledge and conducted myself strictly according to the dictates of religion. Then I circumambulated this earth girt by ocean, bathing as I went in the many sacred waters. With my return from the pilgrimage, all my desires for this delusion of the universe have ceased. There is not even an iota of bliss in this world. Destruction (death) exists only for birth, and birth is for death again. Therefore all are illusory in this world. All worldly things are generative of pains only, fraught with all dangers, unrelated to one another, related to one another only through the Sankalpa of the mind, obdurate like an iron rod, and fruitful of great (material) wealth. Therefore of what avail are the enjoyments of objects and kingdoms? If we set about enquiring, whence came the „I‟ or the body we have, we find that all those which are foreign to Atman, are nothing but unreal. All things being unreal, when I began to further enquire as to which generates which, among these things, I ceased to have any love for them, like a traveller, who, when he is convinced of the undulatory mirage in a desert not being water, never after craves for it. In trying to find out the path which will relieve me from the pains of the unconquerable sensual objects, I am burning within like an old tree which is consumed within, through the heat generated by itself through its old age. This unbearable dire delusion of mine is like a stone sticking in my gullets. Being afraid lest my relatives should condemn me for this grief of mine, (I tried in all manner of ways and yet) I am not able to get out of it though I cried aloud.‟

Wealth - ‟Like one s family with children, etc., that will not make happy him who is beset with the highest of dangers, wealth which only makes hosts of thoughts to whirl in the brains of men will not confer bliss. Just as a king allies himself with any person who owns his supremacy, no matter whether that person be noble-minded or base, so wealth which is attained by any person who flies to it for refuge tends, however serviceable it may be, to the condemnation of the spiritually wise, and hence is base. Who is there in this world whose mind does not thaw like ice at the sight of wealth or whirl in the maelstrom of wealth which embitters the happiness arising from the quintessence of the sweet discourse of the spiritually wise through the venom of love, hatred, etc., created in such worldly men by the manifold evil effects of wealth. Like a ruby that gets blurred with a coating of dust, all persons whether they are beneficial to their relatives or not, whether they are intelligent or poor or warlike succumb to this desire and are degraded. It is rare to find blameless opulent men, word-keeping warriors or kings who look equally upon all their subjects. This wealth which the mind covets and is very ephemeral in its nature is utterly useless like a flower-bud in a creeper growing in a well and encircled by a serpent.‟

Life - ‟Then Prana (Life) which is like a drop of rain water dripping from the end of a leaf turned over- head, flits out of the body, like an idiot at unseasonable times. It is only by being bitten by the serpent of the ever-waxing (desires of the five senses that persons without true Jnana begin to droop in their minds and thus shorten their lives. I do not rejoice in this life of mine which darts like a flash of lightning in the cloud of delusion, regarding this my limited body as real. It is possible to cleave the all-pervading Akasa or restrain the stormy winds or still the waves that ever and anon arise on the surface of the water hut to disappear; but by no means is it possible to resist this desire of life which should not be considered as permanent. This life is ephemeral like autumnal clouds or a ghee-less lamp or ocean waves; though appearing as real, it has not the least of quiescence, is steeped in boundless ignorance and is devoid of the true end of human life; if we enquire into its fruits, we find pains only are generated like unto the pangs of delivery. That is the noblest life in which persons, after attaining the highest Atmic wisdom replete with bliss and free from all pains, spend their lives in ceaseless Atmic enquiry, without wasting their time like such base things as trees, beasts or birds. The lives of those who have freed themselves from rebirths are the true ones and the noblest; but others lives are like those of old asses. In the case of persons without discrimination, learning is a burden to them; in the case of persons without quiescence (of mind), their mind is a burden to them; but in the case of persons having passion and other stains, Atman Jnana is a burden to them. In the case of persons who have not enjoyed the bliss in their own Self, the beautiful body, life, Manas, Buddhi, Ahankara, actions, etc., are intolerable burdens to them like those of a carrier. Life after associating itself with this body departs out of it even while young, like the wise who shun the association with the wicked. There is nothing as baneful as this life which is perishable in its nature and fleeting in the bestowal of pleasures.‟

Ahankara - „I am much terrified by the enemy of the illusory and harmful Ahankara (I-am-ness or egoism) which is generated through delusion and permeates me all throughout. It is only through Ahankara that all the mental cares, dangers and the ever-increasing actions of life arise. There is no enemy greater than he. Having associated with this enemy of mine for a long time, I am now in an agitated state of mind I do not taste food with water. Why need I speak about (other) enjoyments? All our daily ceremonies, yajnas (sacrifices), the enjoyables and others associated, as they are, with Ahankara are merely unreal. Therefore the real secret lies only in the renunciation of this Ahankara. So long as this Ahankara be-clouds us, so long will the flowers of desires bloom and increase in us. Though I have given up all Karmas (actions) in order to free myself from Ahankara, yet my pains have not ceased, not having cognized my own Self. May you, Oh Rishi, be pleased to bless me in order that I may liberate myself from this cursed Ahankara which is the source of all dangers in this world, is evanescent, has its seat in the mind, and is idiotic in its nature and without due discrimination and intelligence.‟

Manas - „Then my Manas (mind) is tossed about in objects of love and hatred, etc., like a light feather in a stormy wind. It ever whirls far and wide in the wise like a strolling city dog; but no results accrue therefrom. Like a flower (bamboo) case which is not able to hold the water in it, this baneful mind does not hold the joy (or enjoy the happiness) within, but whirls at the sight of its much-coveted immense wealth. This ferocious dog of mind following its mate of desires ever preys upon poor ignorant me like a carcase. Just as a straw is tossed to and fro in the air by a whirlwind, this mind of mine subjects me to all kinds of delusions and pains and tempts me far into the great void. This terrible mind which appears to be of the nature of the causeless Maya but which is otherwise through right enquiry, leads me into the many worldly actions like a lad obsessed. It will flit in a moment from earth to Patala (lower world) and thence back again to earth. This deceptive mind in seeming to lift me up to higher states hurls me to still lower ones, like a decayed rope that is used in lifting wood out of a well. This monster of a venomous mind is more terrible than fire itself, more insurmountable than mountains and more obdurate than a huge diamond.‟ „It is possible to drink up the contents of the ocean, eradicate (the mountain) Mahameru to its root or swallow the flaming fire; but it is impossible to control this mind of ours. It is the one cause of the generation of all objects. This perishable universe exists only when the mind exists but disappears with the absence of the latter. Therefore the mind should be annihilated. All the host of pains and pleasures which are like mountain fastnesses arise through the mind only. Hence I conclude they will perish, should the mind perish through stainless discrimination.‟

Desires - „The pack of owls called passion and anger play in the Akasa of Atman during the night of restless desires enveloped with the intense gloom of dire delusion. All my much longed-for, virtuous actions are entirely gnawed away by my desires like a fiddle string by a rat. Being without a mind of Atman Jnana, I am enmeshed by them, like a bird caught in a trap and droop thereby. The fire of desires has scalded me quite. In my present state, I do not think that even a bath in ambrosia will cool me. Like the sable darkness on the New Moon day, they make the most undaunted of persons to quail with fear, daze the eye of good intelligence and create tremors even in the hearts of the wise of sweet patience. This old harlot of desires of the nature of the ominous owl, ever follows persons in the hope of inciting them to earn wealth but in vain. Like a dancing woman who, though enfeebled by age, dances in vain without true joy, all my desires (play in me in a similar manner and) afflict me. They will try to encompass things beyond their reach; but even if such things are within their grasp, they will pass over and again long for happiness (in other things). Like monkeys, they roam about without any fixed seat. Like bees that rejoice, flying from one flower to another in a garden, they traverse in a moment, Patala, Akasa and all the eight quarters of the world. It is these ever-waxing desires that bring on the pains of re-birth, the heaviest of all pains. The Devas (celestials) extol disinclination of the mind (towards desires) as the greatest panacea for the remedy of the disease of desires which afflict even those living in palatial mansions guarded by forts.

It is desires that make the deep inner man manifest itself externally, like radiant damsels wearing golden bracelets or diseases or the rays of the sun which make the lotus bud blossom forth (and appear externally). These desires of the mind which are like a diamond point or a sharp-poinetd sword or like the sparks of iron emitted out of fire will, in one moment, reduce to nothing those men great as Mahameru or the handsome wise men or the courageous or warriors or any others.‟

The body - „This body which is composed of the cool intestines, muscles, etc., and is subject to changes, being at one time fat and at another time lean, shines in this mundane existence simply to undergo pains. What more palpably fruitless, pain- giving and degraded thing could be conceived of than this body which oscillates with pains or pleasures through the increase or decrease of the experiences of objects? Of what avail is this body whether eternal or otherwise, liable to pains and pleasures which house is tenanted by Ahankara, the householder having the ten mischievous cows of Indriyas (or the organs), the servant of Manas (mind) producing San-kalpa, and his partner of desires with the portals of the mouth wherein are adorned the festoons of many teeth and the monkey of the tongue? If this body which is the medium of the enjoyment of wealth, kingdom, actions, etc., exist always, then no doubt it is one that should be longed after; but all these will vanish with the advent of Yama (Death) at his appointed time. What beauty is there to be enjoyed in this body which is composed of blood and flesh, has the tendency to rot, is the same for the rich as well as the poor and, being without discrimination, is subject to growth and decay. Only he who relies with certainty upon a lightning flash or an autumnal cloud or a vast Gandharva (illusory) city will cling to this body as true.‟

Infancy - „Whatever (person) you are born as in this ocean of Samsara (Mundane existence) rolling with many waves of diversified actions in a restless and fluctuating state, the period of infancy is ever the cause of intense pains. This period is ever attended by unavoidable dangers, weaknesses, inability to convey ideas, ignorance, desires and instability of thought. And in this body it is that the mind functions and outdoes, in its fluctuation, the ocean waves or a damsel s eyes or the flames of fire or a lightning flash. It (the infant) feeds itself on offal like a roving dog and rejoices or weeps at trifles. Sometimes it eats the dust and invites the moon in the sky to come near it. Will all this ignorance constitute bliss? This mischievous period of infancy which creates terror in the hearts of one's master, parents, relatives, elders and others is the source of perpetual fear and a nest replete with many stains. The bawd of non-discrimination will find a safe asylum in it. During this period none enjoys happiness.‟

Youth - „Having crossed this period beset with many dangers, one reaches the period of youth liable to another kind of pains and then reels and droops under the heavy blows dealt by the devil called Manmatha (the god of love) who lives (latent) in the hollows of his mind. His noble intelligence though broadened in its views through a study of all departments of knowledge, though illumined in mind through the service of the guru and though purified through good Karmas will yet be defiled then like a muddy stream. The gigantic car of routh gros more and more in this forest of body and then the deer of mind falls giddily into the pit of sensual objects in it. The pains increase so long as there are the pleasures of youth to be enjoyed. Similarly too, the desires increase mightily till the youth is over and work manifold mischief. He only is a man who has acquired the power to easily attain (while young) salvation, overcoming all the obstacles of youth. Such a person is it that is fit to be worshipped by all, is truly wise and is one that has known his true state. Is there to be found in this universe, the period of youth (in the lives of any) fraught with such inestimable qualities as grace, humility, etc. and fit to be the safe asylum (of persons)? We may as well look for a spacious forest in the sky above.‟

Lust - „What happiness is there to be derived from the string-tossed puppets of female bodies composed of joints, muscles, bones and flesh? Oh, there will arise very fine desires no doubt, for women having soft tendrils of hair, if we once dissect (or analyse), with our minds, their eyes and other parts of the body into their components of skin, flesh and blood as well as tears, etc. The breasts of females adorned with pearl-garlands and other ornaments, like unto the waters of the Ganges with its long waves flowing down from the great Meru heights are preyed upon (or enjoyed) by bipeds like packs of dogs, licking balls of cooked rice strewn in the crematoriums in the suburbs of a town. Which person is there in this world that will not be burnt like straw when exposed to the flames of females proceeding from Agni (fire), the sin and having darkness in the shape of sable locks and scalding men with their eyes? The cool body of females (which one enjoys) serves as the dry fuel with which to burn him in hell. Dames with dark eyes are so many traps set by Kama (god of desire) to ensnare the ignorant minds of men. They resemble also the bait of flesh strung in the angling noose of excruciating torments in order to lure the fish of men in the pool of re-births replete with the mud of the dire mind. Oh, I will never long for the pleasures of women who are like caskets locking up within them infinite miseries and having, within them the gems of the endless desires, hatred, etc. If we begin to analyse this body into flesh, blood, bones, muscles, etc., then all our desires towards females, said to shine with the moons resplendence, will become inimical to us in a short time. Only he who has a spouse (and tastes the conjugal pleasures) lusts after such an enjoyment; otherwise how can he feel the pleasures of conjugal life? If the lust of women which is the source of all enjoyments ceases, then all the worldly bondage which has its substratum in the mind will cease. With the cessation of the (conception of this) universe which exists only in name, there dawns the eternal Elysian bliss. This lust of women which, being without discrimination is enchanting at a distance, craves always, even if gratified, and flutters like the wings of a honeybee and is hard to be given up. Being afraid of the terrible consequences it works, such as diseases, death, dotage and the mental and other pains, I do not long after it now. How without its renunciation, can I expect to attain the rare Brahmic seat?‟

Dotage - „The never-ending stage of infancy is devoured (or succeeded) by the stage of youth; the latter is, in its turn, devoured by that of old age with its great changes. If dotage sets in, accompanied as it is by delusion, diseases, pains, etc., then one's ripe intelligence bids adieu to him, like the affection of a husband: - towards his first wife after marrying a second one. With dotage, there ensue manifold pains, such as decline in this body of nine gates, forgetfulness, inability to gratify the desires or perform the requisite actions, dire diseases, complete helplessness in getting at things required and the scorn heaped upon him by his sons and others. Friends, issues, relatives, servants and others will laugh at the poor man who is quivering with old age. Like owls resting in the hollows of a tree, his desires will abide in this uncouth form of his, full of pains and greyness and devoid of strength and good qualities In this old age beset with frailties and imbecility when all dangers having, as their hand maids, desires burn one's hearts, all imaginary fears arise in him as he is unable to cope with the desires which arise in voluntarily in him and to contemplate upon the beneficial nature of the existence in the higher world. Thirst of joy in material objects will increase with old age; but the person will be powerless to gratify that thirst. Being unable to enjoy them, all his thoughts will droop and wither. Death lays its hand on grey heads which are like ripe pumpkins of the genus that become grey at their proper time. It is before the king called Death that the armies of mental and physical diseases march in procession in this world, having the insignia of the Chamara called greyness. In the tabernacle of this body white-washed by greyness, there live the dames called dangers, imbecile mind and diseases that make one droop. What bliss can we expect to derive from association with this the old grey hag of dire dotage? It is very difficult to do away with the desires of old age by getting rid of the three kinds of desires (of son, wife and wealth) very easily.

Kala - All the pleasurable objects of enjoyment in this world arising through Ajnana in the series of re-births take leave with the arrival of Yama (Death or Time), like a thread nibbled by a rat. There is nothing in this world which is not devoured by Kala (time) like Vadavaagni (the deluge fire) quenching the ocean waters abounding in crocodiles, fishes, etc. Even in the case of the ineffable great Ones, he will not wait a minute beyond the allotted time. Having swallowed up everything, he would be all himself. Even glorious Divine Kings, the beneficent Brahma, Asura Vritra of the might of Mahameru and others come under his clutches like a serpent under an eagle's grip. He will easily destroy all things, whether they be tendrils or leaves, a straw or Mahameru, the ocean waters or the lofty Mahendra mountains and wield them according to his will. He now creates in the morning this forest of the universe with the Aswatha (fig) tree, wherein grow the fruits of the mundane eggs buzzing with myriads of the flies of egos and having seen them ripe in the noon through his eyes of the sun, plucks them now grown as the guardians of the quarters and eats them up (at night). He also strings in a rope of three gunas, even the gems of the highest men of the universe, and makes them his prey. In this dilapidated dwelling of the small universe, he collects, in the casket of Death, all the worldly men scattered everywhere in it like rubies. Having hunted all the egos of beasts, birds, etc., in the great forest of this essenceless universe, he, at last, during the Maha-kalpa, sports in the tank of the great ocean filled with lotus of the shining Vadava fire. This personage of Time has, in the repast made of the diverse created worlds, all the living ones as his dainties of the six tastes such as bitterness, etc., and the incomparable seven seas of milk, clarified butter, etc., as his beverage; and cycles round and round in the objects created at every Mahakalpa.‟


„All the objects heretofore described by me are not real. This dire mind arises only through Ahankara. All the visible objects are dead to me. I am not able to know the end (and aim) of these births. Therefore my mind falters and is afflicted through mental cares. The diseases of desires preponderate in all. It is rare to find those high souled men who are free from the intense mist of desires. This my youth which is well-fitted for the acquisition of the higher spiritual ends is now vainly spent in fruitless endeavours.

Association with the wise – ‘True love for great personages is at a great discount and hence the path of Moksha (salvation) is not known. So it is that it is rare to attain Atma-Tatwa. As the impure mind (of man) has not the good heartedness (or benevolence) to consider others happiness as its own, it is ever reeling. Again as this mind has not the complacency to rejoice at another's virtue, there is no internal contentment. Then as it does not consider others pains as its own, there arises not compassion in it. Again if it is not indifferent to the vicious actions of others, baseness (of mind) however distant, will overtake it. And then cowardice will take the place of courage; else persons degraded into hell will again return to Swarga. It is very easy to contract association with the ignorant, but it is very hard to do so with the truly illuminated.‟

„All thoughts of objects which appear but to perish produce bondage only. All the hosts of egos which are the result of their Vasanas separate themselves (from their bodies) and go to heaven or hell. All the quarters will cease to exist in the absence of the sun which differentiates them. All countries visited get new appellations and change with times. The grandest mountains are scattered to dust. When Sat (the Reality) alone prevails (at the time of deluge), the three worlds of Bhu, Antariksha and Deva (or Swarga) perish, the oceans become parched up, stars are pulverized and scattered in space and the hosts of Devas and the Asuras disappear. Then Siddhas will be annihilated; Dhruva (polar star) will die; the Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra) will be absorbed in the Supreme Reality; Time, the power of Isvara, who through his Sankalpa produces creation, &c-, along with its law of ordination comes to an end; the all-full Akasa perishes; and even the ancient visible macrocosm becomes merged in the non-dual Parameswara (the Supreme Lord) who is the liberator from the delusion of Maya, the one Reality above the reach of speech and mind and the one Jnana completely devoid of any stains.‟ „People in this world die, ever being engaged in such frivolous thoughts as the following „This time is an auspicious one, this is the spring season (for doing work), what is the best time favourable for pilgrimage?, relatives only grace an occasion, I cannot hereafter attain the like of the enjoyment I had at such and such a time and such like.‟ If after resolving within themselves to act out the lives of the Great Wise Ones, they do not utilize the day for this purpose, how can they expect to have sound sleep at nights? Having centered all their affections upon wife, children and wealth as if they were nectar and having identified themselves with them, they ever accumulate wealth for them. But if those much longed-for things disappear through some mishap, their sorrow knows no bounds. Having vanquished all enemies, some men come into the safe possession of immense wealth without any rivals; but lo! Yama glides in from some covert place and puts an end to all their fond cherished hopes. All the illusions called wife, sons, etc., are like so many wayfarers who meet together in the course of a journey. Even Brahmas die in a Kalpa which is but a moment of time (compared to eternity). It is absurd on the part of our mind with its very limited perception of time to attempt to know anything about the extreme smallness or greatness of time. All men are subject to diverse pains only. The really learned are very few in number. All the manifold Karmas of the different castes or orders of life generate pains and are illusory. How then am I to live (amidst such pains)? Let me walk in that path in which i shall be freed from all actions, involving me in auspicious days, great wealth, etc., and become of the nature of thought itself. All things generating pains in this world such as dangers, wealth, birth, death and others perish in the instant of time stated in our books of computation. A brave warrior dies at the hands of a coward and a hundred persons die through one man s hand. How men of cringing spirit exalt themselves to the status of lords! Thus is the wheel of time gyrating without any limit.‟

„Therefore in my mind severely scalded by the forest fire of these earthly stains, there will not arise the ever-increasing desire of wealth like the misconception of mirage in a desert. I do not long for a life of royal pleasures or for death which is inevitable to it. Therefore I shall rather be as I am now, without any pains to suffer from. But then, there is the despondency in my mind harrowing me which I have to free myself from. And if you through your well-trained mind cannot remove it now, when else will it be done? Even the most virulent of poisons, is no poison to me; but the sensual objects are truly so. The former defiles one body only, whereas the latter adulterates many bodies in successive re-births.‟

„Pleasures, pains, relatives, friends, life, death and others will in no way enthral the mind of the (emancipated) Wise. To them, this passing life is like water drops sprinkled by the wind and the sensual enjoyments are like a lightning flash. Also the period of youth which is conducive to men's salvation (if properly utilized) is only ephemeral. Having reflected well upon these things, quiescent sages like yourselves are ever engaged in deep.- Samadhi (meditation). The proclivities of my discriminative mind are also towards the identification of myself with; Kutastha (Brahman); but like a lady separated from hen deaf lord, my mind will neither attain the certainty of Brahman nor incline towards material desires. Therefore in this dilemma of mine, please point out to me that ever resplendent and eternal seat devoid of pains, frailties, Upadhis (or vehicles of matter), doubt or delusion. What is that eternal state unapproachable by pains wherein I shall remain unscathed by the fire of sensual objects, though moving in them, like a ball of mercury exposed to fire? Like the ocean which is nothing else but its waters, Samsara (mundane existence) rests on words only, proceeding from the power of speech. How did the righteous Great Ones manage to avoid the pains of this world? Please be gracious enough to import, to me that certainty of yours. Does not this supreme state exist? Is, there not this state (sthiti) of quiescence? If so, will not any one unlock to me the real mysteries? Otherwise I shall not, through my efforts alone, be able to attain the quiescent state. For being devoid of doubt and Ahankara, I shall not perform any duties. Neither food not sweet water nor fine clothes will I long for. I shall not perform the daily ceremonies of bathing, giving, etc. My mind will not incline towards wielding the regal sceptre or towards pleasures or pains. Without love or hatred, I shall only remain silent and be desireless, statue-like‟.

Thus did Rama, with a face like the stainless cool full moon, a sweet accent and a mind now full blown through. Atmic discrimination, deliver himself before the assembly of the joyful Munis and then remained silent like a peacock ceasing its cry at the sight of the sable threatening clouds.
The man who wants to avoid grotesque collapses should not look for anything to fulfill him in space and time.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Posts: 727
Joined: Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:00 pm

Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by boris »

Master Raṭṭhapāla, these are the four kinds of loss. Because they have undergone these four kinds of loss, some people here shave off their hair and beard, put on the yellow robe, and go forth from the home life into homelessness. Master Raṭṭhapāla has not undergone any of these. What has he known or seen or heard that he has gone forth from the home life into homelessness?”

“Great king, there are four summaries of the Dhamma that have been taught by the Blessed One who knows and sees, accomplished and fully enlightened. Knowing and seeing and hearing them, I went forth from the home life into homelessness. What are the four?

(1) “‘Life in any world is unstable, it is swept away’: this is the first summary of the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One who knows and sees, accomplished and fully enlightened. Knowing and seeing and hearing this, I went forth from the home life into homelessness.

(2) “‘Life in any world has no shelter and no protector’: this is the second summary of the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One who knows and sees…

(3) “‘Life in any world has nothing of its own; one has to leave all and pass on’: this is the third summary of the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One who knows and sees…

(4) “‘Life in any world is incomplete, insatiate, the slave of craving’: this is the fourth summary of the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One who knows and sees…

“Great king, these are the four summaries of the Dhamma that have been taught by the Blessed One who knows and sees, accomplished and fully enlightened. Knowing and seeing and hearing them, I went forth from the home life into homelessness.”
The man who wants to avoid grotesque collapses should not look for anything to fulfill him in space and time.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Posts: 727
Joined: Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:00 pm

Re: In the caves of withdrawal from the world

Post by boris »

Arsenius was born in Rome about 36o. A well-educated man, of senatorial rank, he was appointed by the Emperor Tbeodosius 1 as tutor to the princes Arcadius and Honorius. He left the palace in 394 and sailed secretly to Alexandria. From there he went to Scetis and placed himself under the guidance of Abba John the Dwarf. He became an anchorite near Petra in Scetis. He seems to have had only three disciples, Alexander, Zoilus and Daniel. He was renowned for his austerity and silence and his combined with his learning made him seem somewhat forbidding to the Coptic monks. After the second devastation of Scetis in 434 he went to the mountain of Troe where he died in 449.

1. While still living in the palace, Abba Arsenius prayed to God in these words, 'Lord, lead me in the way of salvation.' And a voice came saying to him, 'Arsenius, flee from men and you will be saved.'

2. Having withdrawn to the solitary life he made the same prayer again and he heard a voice saying to him, 'Arsenius, flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the source of sinlessness.'

4. It was said of him that, just as none in the palace had worn more splendid garments than he when he lived there, so no one in the Church wore such poor clothing.

5. Someone said to blessed Arsenius, 'How is it that we, with all our education and our wide knowledge get nowhere, while these Egyptian peasants acquire so many virtues?' Abba Arsenius said to him, 'We indeed get nothing from our secular education, but these Egyptian peasants acquire the virtues by hard work.'

6. One day Abba Arsenius consulted an old Egyptian monk about his own thoughts. Someone noticed this and said to him, 'Abba Arsenius, how is it that you with such a good Latin and Greek education ask this peasant about your thoughts?' He replied, 'I have indeed been taught Latin and Greek, but I do not know even the alphabet of this peasant.'

7. Blessed Archbishop Theophilus, accompanied by a magistrate, came one day to find Abba Arsenius. He questioned the old man, to hear a word from him. After a short silence the old man answered him ‘Will you put into practice what I say to you?' They promised him this. 'If you hear Arsenius is anywhere, do not go there.'

8. Another time the archbishop, intending to come to see him, sent someone to see if the old man would receive him. Arsenius told him 'If you come, I shall receive you; but if I receive you, I receive everyone and therefore I shall no longer live here.' Hearing that, the archbishop said, 'If I drive him away by going to him, I shall not go any more.?

10. He also said, 'If we seek God, he will show himself to us, and if we keep him, he will remain close to us.'

11. Someone said to Abba Arsenius, 'My thoughts trouble me, saying, "You can neither fast nor work; at least go and visit the sick, for that is also charity."' But the old man, recognising the suggestions of the demons, said to him, 'Go, eat, drink, sleep, do no work, only do not leave your cell.' For he knew that steadfastness in the cell keeps a monk in the right way.

12. Abba Arsenius used to say that a monk travelling abroad should not get involved in anything; thus he will remain in peace.

13. Abba Mark said to Abba Arsenius, 'Why do you avoid us?' The old man said to him, 'God knows that I love you, but I cannot live with God and with men. The thousands and ten thousands of the heavenly hosts have but one will, while men have many. So I cannot leave God to be with men.'

14. Abba Daniel said of Abba Arsenius that he used to pass the whole night without sleeping, and in the early morning when nature compelled him to go to sleep, he would say to sleep, 'Come here, wicked servant.' Then, seated, he would snatch a little sleep and soon wake up again.

17. Abba Daniel used to say, 'He lived with us many a long year and every year we used to take him only one basket of bread and when we went to find him the next year we would eat some of that bread.'

21. It was said of him that his cell was thirty-two miles away and that he did not readily leave it: that in fact others did his errands. When Scetis was destroyed he left weeping and said, 'The world has lost Rome and the monks have lost Scetis.

22. Abba Mark asked Abba Arsenius 'Is it good to have nothing extra in the cell? I know a brother who had some vegetables and he has pulled them up.' Abba Arsenius replied, 'Undoubtedly that is good but it must be done according to a man's capacity. For if he does not have the strength for such a practice he will soon plant others.'

24. Another time Abba Arsenius said to Abba Alexander, 'When you have cut your palm-leaves, come and eat with me, but if visitors come, eat with them.' Now Abba Alexander worked slowly and carefully. When the time came, he had not finished the palm leaves and wishing to follow the old
man's instructions, he waited until he had finished them. When Abba Arsenius saw that he was late, he ate, thinking that he had had guests. But Abba Alexander, when at last he had finished, came away. And the old man said to him, 'Have you had visitors? "No, 'he said. 'Then why did you not come? 'The other replied, 'You told me to come when I had cut the palm-leaves; and following your instructions, I did not come, because I had not finished.' The old man marvelled at his exactitude and said to him, 'Break. your fast at once so as to celebrate the synaxis untroubled, and drink some water, otherwise your body will soon suffer.'
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers
translator - Sister Benedicta Ward SLG
Publisher - Cistercian Publication
The man who wants to avoid grotesque collapses should not look for anything to fulfill him in space and time.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila