Edited by Gloria Lee
Image: The Flammarion engraving, by an unknown artist, 1888
I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast
by Melissa Studdard
after Thich Nhat Hanh
It looked like a pancake,
but it was creation flattened out—
the fist of God on a head of wheat,
milk, the unborn child of an unsuspecting
chicken — all beaten to batter and drizzled into a pan.
I brewed my tea and closed my eyes
while I ate the sun, the air, the rain,
photosynthesis on a plate.
I ate the time it took that chicken
to bear and lay her egg
and the energy it takes a cow to lactate a cup of milk.
I thought of the farmers, the truck drivers,
the grocers, the people who made the bag that stored the wheat,
and my labor over the stove seemed short,
and the pancake tasted good,
and I was thankful.
This poem first appeared in Dash Literary Journal 3 (Spring 2010).
Used here with the author’s permission.
Melissa Studdard is on Facebook
Know the world from end to end is a mirror.
In each atom a hundred suns are concealed.
If you pierce the heart of a single drop of water
from it will flow a hundred clear oceans.
If you look intently at each speck of dust
in it you will see a thousand beings.
A gnat in its limbs is like an elephant.
In name a drop of water resembles the Nile.
In the heart of a barley-corn is stored a hundred harvests.
Within a millet-seed a world exists.
In an insect’s wing is an ocean of life.
A heaven is concealed in the pupil of an eye.
The core in the centre of the heart is small
yet the Lord of both worlds will enter there.
Mahmood ibn ‘Abd al-Karim Sabistari. (Sufi)
Thanks to Tom McFerran
What the Buddha Never Said
“There is no self.”
“Nope, never said that, either.”—The Buddha
“There is no self” is the granddaddy of fake Buddhist quotes. It has survived so long because of its superficial resemblance to the teaching on anatta, or not-self, which was one of the Buddha’s tools for putting an end to clinging. Even though he neither affirmed nor denied the existence of a self, he did talk of the process by which the mind creates many senses of self—what he called “I-making” and “my-making”—as it pursues its desires.
In other words, he focused on the karma of selfing. Because clinging lies at the heart of suffering, and because there’s clinging in each sense of self, he advised using the perception of not-self as a strategy to dismantle that clinging. Whenever you see yourself identifying with anything stressful and inconstant, you remind yourself that it’s not-self: not worth clinging to, not worth calling your self (SN 22.59). This helps you let go of it. When you do this thoroughly enough, it can lead to awakening. In this way, the not-self teaching is an answer—not to the question of whether there’s a self, but to the question that the Buddha said lies at the heart of discernment: “What, when I do it, will lead to my long-term welfare and happiness?” (MN 135). You find true happiness by letting go.
ED Note: The entire article deserves careful reading, however Tricycle frowns on using it all elsewhere.