Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thoreau's Dharma

In my wanderings of my new home and especially circumam bulating the pond, Thoreau's "Walden Pond" came to mind. The deep tranquility, connection and sense of healing I experienced on these ambles made me think of Thoreau's writings about his life at his pond. So in some continued unpacking I unearthed my ancient, University days copy of "Walden & Other Writings" and have been exploring the Dharma tidbits in it. If I recall, Tricycle magazine featured a piece comparing Thoreau to Ryokan some years back? Does anyone out there remember it? I will unearth it one day in my belongings. I know I am harbouring it somewhere.

So as I begin my lovely winter read of Walden (today is a misty day with the clouds hanging low to the green mossy ground, hovering just over the barn roof, I will share some of Thoreau's Dharma:

Here's a little passage where Thoreau asks us to think about how we use our "precious human lives". He broaches the subject of how we feel the unrest inside us, the ennui, if somehow we choose not to work at discovering and living our authentic life.
" Think, also of the ladies of the land weaving toilet cushions (weaving what??) against the last day, not to betray too green an interest in their fates! As if you could kill time without injuring eternity." (What a line!!)

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things."

On compassion Thoreau simply says: "Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?"

And on living in the present moment he says: "In any weather, at any hour of day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line."

And as you might expect he talks about that thing we sentient beings must work with, our inclination to covet comfort at all costs, to value it so highly as to displace other pursuits and searchings: "When a man is warmed by the several modes which I have described, what does he want next? Surely not more warmth of the same kind, as more and richer food, larger and more splendid houses, finer and more abundant clothing, more numerous, incessant, and hotter fires and the like. When he has obtained those things which are necessary to life, then there is another altenative than to obtain the superfluities: and that is, to adventure on life now, his vacation from humbler toil having commenced." ( The spiritual life, the discovery of the authentic self and what we might contribute to this world??)

Raw Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner by "Everyone Is Vegan"

And on eating a plant based diet, Thoreau had this to say: "One farmer says to me, "You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with; and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle." On that subject I'd like to give a little shout out to a new vegan blog called Everyone Is Vegan. Check it out, it promises to be entertaining and informative and is written by a self confessed "recovering cynic". I won't mention that the nutritionist author is my daughter but I will offer a possible language warning for those with tiny delicate ears.

So that's the Dharma of the first 21 pages of Walden for the 21st century. And who knew Thoreau was a Buddhist?? Of course my cheek is protruding (double meaning intended) from my tongue being wedged in there! And of course, the fact is that truth is universal and no one, religious or otherwise has a monopoly on it. The Dharma is everywhere. Where are you finding it these days?


  1. Oh Danggit! I was circumambulating down your luscious writing and this bright-shiny-thing-facebook-must-go-join-be-fan-write-comment-dance-sing-hooray-send-invites-to-friends-order-paintings- - - - -

    <> sorry... I'll go back into my cave now....

  2. Yes finally succumbed to facebook on the urging of my daughter and Lasha! I am all alone and confused out there in facebook world so appreciate your visit!

    I know it's cave season!

  3. I noticed the Facebook too... You "caved" to social networking! :)

    And where do I find Dharma these days? In "The Cave" of course :)

    Heart Giggles - Christine

  4. Carole, no worries... between Lasha and I we can get you into all the trouble you need! At the risk of imploding you ... you know you can get you blog to publish to the FB page, right? [evil grin]

  5. MeANderi - Ha! caving from the cave! And how about you?

    Genju - I'm settling in to the FB thing. And how do I get that blog thing going on there? I noticed that you have mastered many of these techno miracles!

  6. No I haven't caved yet... key word "yet." But I imagine that is coming too... :) I hear that FB has evolved... Have been over to check yours out and Genju's, but couldn't leave a comment - I guess because I don't have a FB account... Looks very good! Wishing you success with it! :) C

  7. Hello again :) I seem to be hogging space here, but I just wanted to come back in and leave this note on where I'm finding the Dharma these days. Interestingly I found it watching the Prince Charles interview and his new film: Harmony, last night on TV.... His film is really worth watching. Many Dharma tidbits throughout. Now off to watch how to "Nourish my Inner Being" :) C