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    Dhyana: The long, pure look
     
    [ 作者: Padma Hejmadi   来自:期刊原文   已阅:1417   时间:2006-12-22   录入:douyuebo
    49tjf49edf:Article:ArticleID


    ·期刊原文


    Dhyana: The long, pure look

    by Padma Hejmadi

    Parabola

    Vol. 15 No. 2 Summer.1990   Pp.70-75

    Copyright by Society for the Study of Myth and Tradition Inc.



    ACROSS SOME of the Indian languages derived from parent Sanskrit, the word
    dhyana or dhyan can mean "attention" as well as "meditation." By extension,
    both meanings are recognized as different aspects of the same essential
    experience.

    In its most distilled sense, attention is "the long, pure look." And we are
    speaking of integral length: part of the process, not necessarily a measure
    of time. Dhyana here spans a spectrum from moments of spontaneously total
    attention to the sustained practice of attention entailed in the act of
    meditation. But if discipline is tacit in the latter, it is irrelevant to
    the former. In this connotation of "attention," you are taking steps across
    a plane of your consciousness without tying them into any kind of sequence,
    without diminishing or superseding the quality of each, which remains clear
    and whole and round as a drop of water. What is common to them all is only
    that at some point you are seeing so intensely that you become what you
    see, you merge into that drop of water until the "you" disappears. The hows
    and whys and wherefores disappear too. Yet when you emerge, you are somehow
    replenished.

    This can happen of its own accord in any of the quiet areas of
    life--perhaps while looking at a work of art, watching a child, admiring a
    leaf. There is no particular act of will involved here. You may have made a
    prior choice: to visit a museum or walk through a park or maybe even lift a
    distracted eye from something that's driving you crazy. But in the actual
    moment (of visually seeing, in this case), you don't select your subject,
    it selects you. You are caught by something, and there you are. It's rather
    like approximating the equanimity of a child's gaze--a six-month-old, say,
    fed and dry and in his mother's arms, looking impartially out at the world
    all around, until lured by someone or something specific: a toy, a trick of
    light.

    However, there are other kinds of attention, equally without any ulterior
    motive in themselves, which can nevertheless elicit unbidden insights and
    directions. From these we emerge not only replenished but changed.

    To cite one example: if you are attentive enough to a great artist's
    canvases, after a point you inevitably, though partially, begin to borrow
    the artist's vision. Coming out of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, I saw
    Rembrandts everywhere I looked. At another level of perception, the painter
    Louise Baum speaks of how profoundly the genius of Velasquez informed and
    affected her. For her there was a total sense of being with his work;
    seeing, as he did, not just the grotesqueness of the dwarfs but their human
    dignity, not just the improbable aureole of the Infanta's hair but her
    sorrow; seeing, as he did, "without extras or opinions" -- a complete
    communication, Baum says, the intimation of a consciousness available
    without judgment or category. "I knew what it must be like for him to walk
    into a room and see clothes piled on a chair."

    Artists themselves have attested to the moment when their attention was
    sharpened, held and transformed, to become an abiding personal vision.
    Giacometti, noticing two or three girls walking toward him in Padua, saw
    them suddenly as immense, overblown entities out of all proportion to
    normal size, and experienced his terrifying "fissure in reality." His
    seeing was never the same again: "The connections between things had
    changed." What we subsequently witness from the outside are his compressed,
    elongated sculptural forms set in their metaphysical distances.

    THOSE OF US who have not been vouchsafed greatness may equally find that
    our spontaneous moments of attention at times evoke a curious inner
    direction, as if some hidden will were indeed at work. Often these are
    private transitions, as I experienced once, traveling by sea from Santorini
    to Crete. Feeling totally un-cluttered, I stood on deck at nightfall to
    watch the wake from the side of the boat: the way it swirled and spread,
    thinning out into a fringe of foam . . . just one line of awareness against
    the encompassing dark.

    Months later, scuttling around running some errands in Delhi, I realized
    for the first time in what felt like centuries that i wasn't bone-tired.
    Something was getting put back together. Perhaps a return to slow, deep,
    familiar rhythms: a kind of physical certitude . . . the look of the land
    and the ones I loved--light falling over cheekbones and hills in the same
    language, defining their durability for me.

    None of this denied lacunae or difficulties. But it reminded me that being
    rested and rooted and strangely at peace now was like an extrapolation of
    that moment on the boat to Crete: a moment where you could afford to wait,
    open-eyed, open-pored and in yourself totally--clear of any preoccupations
    that might blur a direct seeing; from where, having brought your whole
    unimpeded self to the moment, you could then carry your perception of it
    beyond the moment and beyond the self.

    I had started to spell it out--this region of absolute focus--that night on
    the Aegean; but we had docked and I couldn't follow it through. Now, months
    later, I could see that a real quest for metaphor, among so many other
    things, was part of the experience: nothing to do with verbal
    embellishments, not even merely expressing the abstract in terms of the
    concrete, but more: a noting, a tracking down of process into
    significance--as with the line of foam on the sea to Crete that night, and
    its directing me (for one) to our edges of awareness in the dark.

    SO FAR we have been dealing with those aspects of attention where the
    element of will is either absent or imperceptible. But when a teacher tells
    students in Hindi to pay attention, or to reflect and remember, the term
    dhyan comes into use again.

    Action has walked into the word--of course in varying degrees at varying
    levels of concept and execution. We reach areas where we consciously want
    to pay attention and are willing to do something about it.

    Sarah Appleton's The Plenitude We Cry For (Doubleday, 1972) is a long poem
    that records one season's growth of a horse-chestnut tree in 1964 at
    Northampton, Massachusetts. In a voice that uniquely blends empathy and
    objectivity, she makes you, as the poet Jane Cooper says, "learn what it
    means to be human, woman, to bear, to be laid waste, to be transformed
    within earthly time."

    Here, as elsewhere in examples too numerous to describe, we encounter the
    area of creative attention. Often it includes a particularized professional
    attention--whether in art, research, healing, or any of the other diverse
    fields of human endeavor. The ideal assumption (a far cry from everyday
    pettiness / indifference / corruption / greed / power plays) is of a
    purpose that again covers a span from the momentary to the meditative, from
    personal effort to common welfare and enrichment.

    My brother, as a therapist, remarks on having to be attentive
    simultaneously to multiple layers (the messages beneath words, the
    histories behind events, the languages of gesture and stance); as well as
    the subtle selectivity that must follow, combining the intuitive and the
    conscious-"allowing your attention to pay attention to what is most
    important." Dorothy Kethler, who is also a therapist, adds that this is
    precisely the way in which her work takes her into "the true present," that
    deep denominator of attention at its best.

    I SOMETIMES deliberately dismiss written texts in order to listen to people
    speak for themselves. Coming from a country where a staggering percentage
    of the population is illiterate, and living for lengthy periods of time in
    a country where children are pushed younger and younger into becoming
    literate, I cannot help observing another facet of attention somewhere
    between these two extremes. As my mother initially pointed out to me, there
    is an inter-play of imagination and intelligence in living, in certain
    kinds of learning, whether you can read a book or not. Phulo, an illiterate
    widow from a neighboring farm, came to help nurse our great-aunt in the
    last stages of her illness. On the first night of Phulo's arrival we went
    into the sickroom to see how she was managing. Only one small night-light
    burned; the row of medicine bottles cast monstrous shadows on the wall. As
    we entered, we saw her gently moving Great-Aunt's arm and then her leg. I
    whispered: "What are you doing?" She whispered back: "When people have been
    ill so long that they haven't the strength to move a limb, we must move it
    for them, or else they get sores where they lie. That is how we look after
    our cattle." We stood there half-smiling at that, despite our anxiety and
    our book-learning, while it was Phulo again who noticed what the invalid
    couldn't ask for--"See? Her lips are dry now, she needs water . . ."--and
    held a spoonful against my great-aunt's mouth. Some dribbled, some she
    drank. My mother and I still remember that--not to discount literacy or
    sentimentalize its lack, but honoring Phulo's ability to anticipate the
    wordless: that applying of observation to life.

    Here is the area which introduces the mind to the heart. It could be an
    altruistic cause, a social service, or even what the Victorians might have
    called "good works" (though without being sanctimonious or self-righteous
    about it), where the awareness tapped is not only gentle but feisty, not
    only compassionate but passionate. In Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman,
    Linda Loman says of her husband: "I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman
    never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the
    finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible
    thing is happening to him. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave
    like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a
    person."

    HAVING CONSIDERED spontaneous attention and chosen attention, we now come
    to a third and, inevitably, dark underside to our subject. Perhaps it would
    be more accurate to call it an over-side, for it bulldozes all other
    considerations aside. The rabid attention involved in bigotry, the blind
    brutality of war and violence, whatever their impelling causes or
    circumstances--they are their own evidence, in their damage and destruction
    of the self and of others. John of Gaunt in Shakespeare's Richard II says:
    "The tongues of dying men/ Enforce attention . . ."

    And the tongues of dying women and children too, God knows. Enforced
    attention can exist in so many battles of survival, of mental or physical
    suffering, where perhaps only those who have undergone the ordeal can truly
    describe it. I remember that in attempting to recover from some extremely
    traumatic situations in my life, my only recourse finally was to stay with
    them, to try and be fully attentive. Only when I could begin to see the
    thing in itself--as clearly as possible and without sediment or
    overlay--could I begin to be free of it. Not entirely; only in bits and
    patches; but still, it was a beginning. And occasionally I was fortunate
    enough to feel that I had recovered more than I ever lost.

    In a more daily way, enforced attention can crop up in all the dreary
    things we have to do and would rather not be doing: some merely irksome,
    others far more crippling. So many have known the desperation of poverty;
    of the sheer grind and hardship of existence until there's nothing left
    over but exhaustion; of duties and obligations and interruptions from
    within and without, until it is all we can do to snatch at living in the
    interstices.

    An altogether different matter, this, from being compelled to pay attention
    -- thoughtful, discriminating attention -- to what has an inherent value
    for some of us. Nurturing children, for example, or trying to live an
     examined life, or meeting a sudden personal / professional challenge and
    learning from it.

    Challenges bring up an interesting side of forced attention. To be pinned
    like a fly to the face of a sheer rock, to scale dangerous heights, and to
    reach exhilaration at the end of it, could result in an illuminated moment
    of almost losing oneself to find one's self. But it seems to require risk
    in order to happen.

    The initial definition of dhyana is infinitely more gentle and less
    strenuous in its mode of receptivity -- being neither willed nor perilous.
    But whatever it takes to attain an illuminated moment, the etymology of
    "attention," stemming from the Latin attender, covers it all: after the
    prefix attender means "stretch." One way or another, for good or ill, your
    spirit is stretched.

    I write this on an island in the Pacific Northwest. A Japanese
    feather-maple grows outside my window, delicate as a drawn breath. Looking
    at it wholly is like quintessential dhyana: prayer without asking.

    PHOTOS (BLACK & WHITE):


     

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