Archive for February, 2010


February 11, 2010

Haiku is a Japanese form of minimalist poetry closely associated with Zen.

Haiku developed from renku. A poet wrote a line of seventeen syllables. A line of fourteen syllables was added by a second poet, followed by a line of seventeen syllables that would be linked to the first two lines. A fourth poet would add a fourth line, and so on.

Hokku consisted of the opening line. From Hokku developed haiku, a minimalist form of poetry broken down into three blocks of seven, five and seven syllables.

In the west haiku is written as three lines, but in Japan it is one line.

Haiku is used in Zen as a meditation technique.

An excellent example of modern haiku is the beautiful The marriage bed by Sian Peters.

Also see

The Old Pond


Four haiku by Basho

Leaves falling

A Zen Wave


The marriage bed

February 11, 2010

Warmth and musky scent,
Up! The erection –
The marriage bed.

— Sian Peters

Haiku is a Japanese minimalist form of poetry consisting of seventeen syllables arranged as seven, five, seven.

The two drops of oil

February 9, 2010

A merchant sent his son to learn the Secret of Happiness from the wisest of men. The young man wandered through the desert for forty days until he reached a beautiful castle at the top of a mountain. There lived the sage that the young man was looking for.

However, instead of finding a holy man, our hero entered a room and saw a great deal of activity; merchants coming and going, people chatting in the corners, a small orchestra playing sweet melodies, and there was a table laden with the most delectable dishes of that part of the world.

The wise man talked to everybody, and the young man had to wait for two hours until it was time for his audience.

With considerable patience, the Sage listened attentively to the reason for the boy’s visit, but told him that at that moment he did not have the time to explain to him the Secret of Happiness.

He suggested that the young man take a stroll around his palace and come back in two hours’ time.

“However, I want to ask you a favor,” he added, handling the boy a teaspoon, in which he poured two drops of oil. “While you walk, carry this spoon and don’t let the oil spill.”

The young man began to climb up and down the palace staircases, always keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. At the end of two hours he returned to the presence of the wise man.

“So,” asked the sage, “did you see the Persian tapestries hanging in my dining room? Did you see the garden that the Master of Gardeners took ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

Embarrassed, the young man confessed that he had seen nothing. His only concern was not to spill the drops of oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“So, go back and see the wonders of my world,” said the wise man. “You can’t trust a man if you don’t know his house.”

Now more at ease, the young man took the spoon and strolled again through the palace, this time paying attention to all the works of art that hung from the ceiling and walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around the palace, the delicacy of the flowers, the taste with which each work of art was placed in its niche. Returning to the sage, he reported in detail all that he had seen.

“But where are the two drops of oil that I entrusted to you?” asked the sage.

Looking down at the spoon, the young man realized that he had spilled the oil.

“Well, that is the only advice I have to give you,” said the sage of sages. “The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”

Extracted from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Also reproduced on his blog.

Why is it that people go around with their eyes closed, not seeing the wonders of the world around them? Maybe it is not their eyes, but their minds that are closed? They lack the wonder of a child.

Maybe that is why they are not happy? Or is it more fundamental, that unlike Santiago they failed to follow their dreams?

Or as my lovely friend Sian suggested: Enjoy the wonders of the world, take pleasure in the wonders of the world, but appreciate what you already have.

The Old Pond

February 9, 2010

The old pond;
A frog jumps in –
The sound of the water.

— Basho

One can visualise the scene of an old overgrown pond, one can hear the plop as the frog jumps in.

Taken from A Zen Wave by Robert Aitken.

Also see


Four haiku by Basho

Leaves falling

Organ recital at St Michael’s Abbey

February 8, 2010
winged figure, St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough

winged figure, St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough

An example of serendipity: My lovely friend Sian and I went for a walk Sunday afternoon to Farnborough Abbey and stumbled upon an organ recital.

We were wandering around the grounds of Farnborough Abbey, heard music coming from the church, a neo-Gothic monstrosity, well suited to the set of a horror movie. We quietly walked inside, thinking there was a service on, intending to sit at the back and not disturb anyone.

As we walked in we were surprised to find the church full, but what really surprised us was the music coming from the organ. It was weird, surreal even, there was this music suited to a Hammer horror film, and no priest presiding. What was happening we thought, is this the dramatic music for a grand entrance by the priest? It took a while for it to dawn upon us that we had stumbled upon an organ recital which had probably not long started.

We stayed until the end, then had a brief chat with the organist Neil Wright. He was appointed in 2001 as the Organist of the Cavaillé-Coll organ at the Abbey. He is also a founder of the Annual Festival of New Organ Music in London.

The music was not really my cup of tea, late Victorian and seemed to tally with the date of the church. Personally I would have preferred Bach or Handel.

What struck us both was an amazing winged figure high above the altar, illuminated by a spotlight. Who or what we did not know. Possibly the Archangel Michael? [see Angels]

There is to be a series of organ recitals at the Abbey on the first Sunday of the month 3pm, starting on Sunday 2 May 2010 and running through until October 2010.

I had been to a harpsichord recital a few years ago in the crypt. The only publicity a little notice pinned to the gatepost. For this recital there was nothing as we had passed by only the previous Sunday.

On that day sharp-eyed Sian had spotted three scallop shells at the entrance to the abbey grounds. We both had the same thought, the waymark used for Camino de Santiago, the medieval pilgrim’s route Paulo Coelho followed on a quest for his sword and which he describes in The Pilgrimage. Our curiosity was aroused further when we learnt that this was used by the founder of the Abbey and that she was Spanish.

Sitting during the concert a thought wandered through my mind that this would be an ideal venue for Paulo Coelho to give a talk.

St Michael’s is a Benedictine Order and we hope to return in the near future to look around and talk to the Abbot. The Abbey is located in Farnborough, only a short trip from London by train and within a few minutes walk of Farnborough Station.

Saint Michael’s Abbey sits atop of a hill overlooking Farnborough. It was founded in 1883 by the Empress Eugenie and completed in 1888. The Abbey is a working abbey with a community of Benedictine Monks. Within the abbey crypt are the tombs of Napoleon III and his wife Empress Eugenie. Their son, Prince Imperial, is also entombed within the abbey crypt. Occasional music recitals take place at the Abbey. Farnborough Abbey has recently republished a series of guides to Farnborough and the surrounding area.

Synchronicity: Sunday evening Paul Coelho reported that the Quest of the Sword was over!

Two CDs are available featuring the Abbey Cavaillé-Coll organ: Le Tombeau d’Eugénie (2003) and La Organiste (2008).

Also see

A warrior of light is never predictable


Quest of the Sword

A Christmas Tale

The Quest of the Sword is over!

February 8, 2010
Quest of the Sword

Quest of the Sword

“Enigma is over. Winner arrived one hour ago.” — Paulo Coelho

The Quest of the Sword is over! Last night Paulo Coelho reported that the Quest of the Sword was over.

Twenty years ago through arrogance, Paulo Coelho lost the sword that he thought was rightfully his. To regain his sword he had to walk El Camino de Santiago, an ancient medieval pilgrim’s route. Paulo Coelho recounts the story in The Pilgrimage.

Twenty years on Paulo Coelho wondered in a world of virtual reality do we still have a sense of adventure? He set an Enigma. I have to admit that I did not have a clue. Solving the Enigma was a necessary but not sufficient condition. Real places had to visited, real people spoken to, real tasks carried out. Awaiting the lucky person who was first to complete the journey, lying close to the Greenwich Meridian, was a real sword given to Paulo Coelho on his sixtieth birthday.

Sunday evening Paul Coelho reported that the Quest of the Sword was over!

Synchronicity: Sunday afternoon my lovely friend Sian and I attended an organ recital at a Benedictine Abbey. At the entrance to the Abbey grounds was the sign of the scallop shell, the sign of El Camino de Santiago!

Also see


Quest of the Sword

Santiago’s Dream

To see a world in a grain of sand

February 6, 2010

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

— William Blake

When I first came across these few lines a few years ago the effect was mind blowing. This is Zen. It also captures space-time and quantum mechanics.

There is an implicit reference to these lines in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, when as they are crossing the desert the alchemist tells Santiago ‘You don’t even have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation.’

Taken from ‘Auguries of Innocence’ by William Blake.

For my lovely friend Sian who was struck by the beauty and not knowing it was by Blake thought I was reading her Zen poetry.

Also see

The nature of reality

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell – William Blake

William Blake – God Is The Imagination – Gnostic

Open letter to Governor Sergio Cabral

February 4, 2010

“I was ashamed as a Brazilian when I saw such a symbolic shirt being handed to a war criminal. Blair’s appointment will lower Brazil’s reputation in the eyes of the world. He has no standing in his own country, he failed as a negotiator in the Middle East, he lost his job because of the Iraq War and he has the blood of English soldiers on his hands.” — Paulo Coelho

“My feelings are that I think you are rubbish at your job. You don’t care about the British public, armed forces or anyone. My big brother died at the age of 18, and what for? A war over oil and money. I think that you should withdraw all of our soldiers from Iraq. After all, it’s not our war, it’s America’s. We are all hurting badly, but I don’t just blame Gordon’s death on the Iraqis that made the roadside bomb. I blame YOU as well, because it is your fault that our soldiers are over there in the first place.” — Maxine Gentle, whose brother was killed in Iraq

To Governor Sergio Cabral:

You appointed former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as consultant to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The question on the lips of most people is why?

Whilst in office Tony Blair showed not the slightest interest in sport. Therefore what has he to offer, what is he being paid for, how much is he being paid? Jobs for the boys, you grease my palm and I grease yours?

It cannot be claimed he won the 2012 Games for London as that was down to the hard work of then London Mayor Ken Livingstone and former Olympic athlete Sebastian Coe.

Tony Blair is seen by most people as a war criminal. A man with blood on his hands. The blood of innocent Iraqis, the blood of young British soldiers who have died in an illegal, pointless war. He took his country to war on a pack of lies, against the wishes of his own people. A war that has destabilized the Middle East and made the world a less safe place.

Has the irony escaped you that the day you met with and appointed Blair was the day after he appeared before the Iraq Inquiry and tried to justify his action?

Take a hard look at the pictures of the people on the street as they greeted Blair as he appeared before the Iraq Inquiry.

This is the man you have engaged as a consultant.

It was an insult to the team and to Brazilian football fans the world over to hand Blair a Brazil team shirt.

You have tarnished the reputation of Brazil and the Rio Games.

When Paulo Coelho speaks out against the appointment of Blair, he speaks for people across the world, he recognises the shame you have brought upon your own country.

Letter sent via e-mail to Governor Sergio Cabral, governor of Rio de Janeiro, the city in Brazil that will host the 2016 Olympics.

Writer Paul Coelho, together with footballer Pele, was part of the winning team that went to Brazil to win the 2016 Olympic Games for Rio. [see Rio 2016]

Also see

Tony Blair as consultant to Rio 2016 Games!

‘Not in my country’

Comments on “Not in my country”

Tony Blair as consultant to Rio 2016 Games!

February 2, 2010
Rio 2016 press conference

Rio 2016 press conference

“Tony Blair consultant for Olympic Games 2016 (Rio)? A man responsible for an illegal war? NOT IN MY NAME. Not in my country.” — Paulo Coelho

“Tony Blair deserves Hague, not Rio. Governor Sergio Cabral, please don’t do that. I was in Copenhagen for athletes, not for murderers.” — Paulo Coelho

I have not heard anything so sickening as war criminal and liar Tony Blair being engaged as consultant for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. My first reaction, after wishing to throw up, was what can he offer? He is not exactly known for his interest in sport. Associating his name with the Rio 2016 Games is simply to tarnish still further the reputation of the Olympic Games.

As Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho who was part of Rio team in Copenhagen who obtained the Games for Brazil said, I went to Rio to obtain the Games for athletes, not war criminals.

Two million people took to the streets of London at the start of the Iraq War to say Not in Our Name. As did many more millions around the world. They were ignored. Spineless parliamentarians were bamboozled into backing the war. The cabinet was not properly consulted, no proper discussion took place, some cabinet members have said was kept in the dark.

There were no weapons of mass destruction, there was no threat to the Middle East. A war based on lies and a dodgy dossier. The Middle East has been destabilised, the world is a less safe place.

We are still counting the cost. Apart from those killed in Iraq, a country still torn apart by violence, the Iraq War has created a worldwide problem of Islamic extremism and terrorism, including the July 7/7 Bombings in London.

Would you shake hands with Blair, a man whose hands are dripping with blood?

What are Brazilian politicians thinking of to engage someone with the reputation of Tony Blair? A man who is loathed and detested in his own country. A man who has acted as a corporate whore ever since leaving office. A man who whilst in office showed not the slightest interest in sport.

Blair has earned an estimated £15 million since resigning as British Prime Minister in 2007.

The irony should not be lost that Blair has been hired as consultant the day after he appeared before the Iraq Inquiry.

Are Brazilian politicians trying to make the Rio Games a world laughing stock?

The Iraq War had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction or regime change. It was about the corporate rape and pillage of Iraq. The Olympics has long sold out its ideal, it is now a corporate whore. Maybe it is appropriate then that Blair should be engaged as a consultant, maybe even more appropriate that he been adopted as the mascot to represent corporate greed?

Also see

The rape and pillage of Iraq

Bringing Democracy to the Middle East

Eyewitness Iraq

Making a Killing: The Corporate Invasion of Iraq

Occupation and Resistance in Iraq

Rumsfeld attacked by US troops

911 – a route to war or an excuse for war?

Thank you, President Bush

Protest against Blair at Chilcot Inquiry – Photos

Blair the dictator bulldozed us into war

The Case Against Tony Blair

Iraq inquiry: Short says cabinet misled on war legality

Rio Olympic team hire Tony Blair for advice on staging 2016 games