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Varanasi and Sarnath: blessings, stillness, and the Chinese Buddhist Temple, Sarnath, India

excerpted from OM, baby! a pilgrimage to the eternal self, by Jack Haas




            The night before leaving Rishikesh my soror and I were enjoying the wonderful devotional music and ambience of the evening puja at the main temple, and I was so overwhelmed with all I had been given from my stay at this truly holy spot on earth, that I sent out a spontaneous and yet immensely heartfelt blessing to the entire world, immediately after which I heard an ethereal voice say-"That will catch up to you in Varanasi", which is where we were headed next.

            At that moment I suddenly understood that life is like a river, and whatsoever we put into it, later on we draw the same thing out, be it love or hate.

            I have certainly poured my share of stagnant or bitter water into the stream of life, which, I suppose, is unavoidable for someone corrupted by sin like I have been, but I have also attempted to will blessings and love out onto this agonizing realm, and I continue to try and domesticate the darkness within me so that this world can become filled with the love of which we are all worthy.

            Either way, my soror and I left the peace of Rishikesh and made our way by train to the absolute unpeace of Varanasi, for there is no holy town on earth as unholy as Varanasi. Oh, it may receive its share of mystics, sadhus, and muktas, who gather about the shores of the Ganges in celebration of that sacred stream. But the town itself is the absolute shadow of all the light which is said to emanate from this holiest of Indian cities.

            My soror and I were there for only a few days and that was a few too many. However, before we left, I still needed to reap, as it were, what I had sown back in Rishikesh, upstream in Varanasi.

            The blessing I received in return for sending out the love vibe to the entire cosmos came in two installations.

            The first installation came not in the horrid city of Vananasi itself- but in the nearby Buddhist town of Sarnath.

            During our few days in Varanasi, my soror and I had considered taking a taxi to Sarnath, which lies some twenty kilometers north, but we had made no concrete plans. Then one night I had a dream in which I was drinking Chinese beer, and when I awoke I knew this had something to do with the Chinese ‘spirit’, as my dreams of booze always related to the spiritual realm and were therefore symbolic and not actual. However, I did not know what the dream portended until I awoke the next day and my soror and I decided we would take a journey to Sarnath that morning.

            After hailing a taxi and surviving the punishing roads winding through and out of Varanasi, we arrived in Sarnath and found ourselves amidst a number of serene Buddhist temples, each built by followers of the dharma residing in other countries. There was a Sri Lankan Temple, a Tibetan Temple, a Japanese Temple, and, lo and behold, a Chinese Temple.

            It was then that I realized the message of the dream- I was about to imbibe the Chinese Buddhist spirit.

            I have said that the supreme emptiness which can be found in the temple in Dharamsala is a profound, liberating, and essential void. And I am full of gratitude for the privilege of having such an effortless benediction given to me. But now I was to realize another gift of a similar and yet wholly different nature altogether, which was also given to me without any effort or intent on my part. And that gift was stillness. Not emptiness, but absolute stillness. A stillness beyond words, beyond time, and beyond any experience or event known to the vicissitudes and caprices of human kind, for the stillness which exists in that Chinese Temple is unbelievable. It is indescribable. The stillness is a complete absence and yet an awareness of that absolute nothingness. And it is not a mental experience. It is holistic. The stillness which exists within the walls of the Chinese Buddhist Temple of Sarnath is a stillness which is ineffable, inimitable, and undeniable. Both my soror and I were so thoroughly embalmed in the stillness in which we bathed for perhaps thirty minutes while sitting in the lotus position, rapt in an inhuman calm, that when we eventually left the temple we knew we had experienced an unimaginable benediction, though we had no idea how it had come about, or what divine personage or force, or lack of force, or energy void, or what supernatural being had prepared that structure and placed their ubiquitous tranquility within its walls. We had no clue. To this day I have no idea who constructed it, or which Buddhist master poured his or her blessings and serenity into its hallowed sanctum, but I know that never before had I, nor have I since, experienced such a state of stillness as exists in that temple. It is a cosmic calm which cannot be aptly described, it can only be experienced, for it can only be felt.

            Perhaps such unimaginable stillness has come from the Chinese nature described as wei wu wei- action without action- in which the individual exists in the untroubled, motionless realm of non-being, while yet operating within being. It is possible, because in the act of not-doing whatever an individual is doing- in that metaphysical contradiction where non-action is the epicenter of the action- a sublime vacuum of spirit is created, all unharmonious energies are sucked out in the evacuating whirlwind, and all that remains is the quiescent void.

I say this because having, in the past, been to the other side of doing, I have encountered the stillness of non-doing; I have stopped, completely stopped, even though I was still ‘doing’. In this way I have ‘stopped’ through a subtle process of ambitionless, purposeless consciousness applied to all events in the realm of existence. In that unbound awareness the realm of being loosened its hold upon me, and I departed from the scene as I knew myself, and all that remained was the event that was happening effortlessly without me. And yet I was there. I was the non-doer within the doing, but I was not doing it.

I can understand, therefore, how such an ethereal black-hole can suck the crashing energies of the universe out of a certain area while an individual ‘holds the space’, as it is said. But I have no clue as to how that imperturbable void remains after the void-maker has vanished. I do not know. I doesn’t matter. The stillness is, and is not. Amen.


excerpted from:


visionary art, acrylic painting, Lilith, Sophia Goddess, author Jack Haas India



OM, baby! a pilgrimage to the eternal self

by Jack Haas

author Jack Haas, Canadian, American writer, artist, photographer

















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