Notes on a Buddhist path

Night and Day

August 7, 2019 By | 9 Comments

And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
                  ~ excerpt from “The Wasteland” by T.S. Eliot

There was a moment last year as twilight bloomed across the sky, when I glanced out the windows of our vihara and noticed a marvelous play of light and dark in the nearby aspen grove. The ebony shadows of the forest pressed themselves against the brilliant etched whiteness of the aspens. Night existing next to day. Separate, yet so close.

Insight can be like that. One moment we are in the throes of delusion, the perpetual darkness of this state of being; the next there can be a sighting of immense clarity, of lightness and peace. They arise and cease in two distinct mind moments, separate, yet far from equal to each other. The notion of a non-dual existence where Nibbana, the state of enlightenment beyond suffering, and Samsara, the endless cycle of suffering, can both be simultaneously present in one’s consciousness becomes incomprehensible when we are able to see through the veil of contrived convenience. We cannot merely observe anger, for example, and believe that by seeing it we are no longer angry. If the end of suffering were that easy the Buddha would not have given us the teaching in Right Effort.

Right Effort, the sixth step of the The Noble Eightfold Path, precedes Right Mindfulness, the seventh step, for a very good reason. It is only through the practice of right effort that we can prepare ourselves and hone our approach to right mindfulness. Right effort includes four motivations: preventing the arising of unwholesome states of mind, removing any of those unsavory states that have arisen, encouraging the arising of wholesome states, and cultivating the continuance of those pleasant states of mind.

Ajahn Sona, our Abbot, often shares the analogy of a poorly lit room to illustrate this important component of the Noble Eightfold Path. For all intents and purposes the room appears to be quite pleasant. It is only when we replace the dim light bulb with a brighter one that we can see the cobwebs and debris that have been languishing in our midst. By seeing the dust there is also the possibility of spotting the danger, the fear, in maintaining these unkempt conditions that predicated this and every round of existence in Samsara. Right effort is the light to see how we can prevent this sort of clutter from happening again, the broom for removing the dirt that has accumulated, creating a clean and welcoming space, and maintaining that state of cleanliness for our long term happiness and ultimately our liberation.

Night and day, delusion and liberation. Do we want to live in fear of that handful of dust, that promise of death that will shadow us again and again from this life to the next? Or do we choose instead a life of safety and ease, dwelling beyond the reach of darkness and delusion?

The gloaming is here. Won’t you turn on the light?


  1. Ajahn Sona says

    Welcome back to blogging! I approve this message. Aj Sona

    • Respectful Greetings Ajahn Sona,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. To be praised by the wise, this is a blessing supreme.

      With gratitude and metta,

  2. Gil Namur says

    I just have to say …


  3. The cosmos once again breathes a long, slow sigh, soothed by the return of your insight, wisdom, and compassion to balance the chaos that is the internet, and this world. Welcome back indeed.

    (Oh my, it IS indeed you in that tiny photo!)

    • Oh, my dear friend David, I’m fairly certain that the cosmos doesn’t really care about my words or the internet. However, I’m glad you are still out there in the world. That gives me great solace in the chaos that is Samsara.

      With boundless metta,

  4. Fantastic to hear you sharing your keen insights with your gifted writing!!

  5. Fawn J Baron says

    Blessed be Dear One, Thank you for lighting up the page.

  6. I was just thinking of you today, and then came across this email link when cleaning out the cobwebs of my inbox 🙂
    thank you for sharing your voice and heart with all <3

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