Commentary on Poem "The Valley-Light":|
Flower children tripped to the East
Flower children originated as a synonym for hippies, especially the idealistic young people who gathered
in San Francisco and Bay Area during the 1967 Summer of Love. It was the custom of "flower children"
to wear and distribute flowers or floral-themed decorations to symbolize altruistic ideals of universal brotherhood, peace and love.
The Summer of Love became a watershed event in the development of a worldwide 1960s counterculture.
Flower children were also associated with the flower power political movement, which originated
in ideas written by Allen Ginsberg in 1965.
counterculture music of the late 1960s moved towards an electric psychedelic version of rock
Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and The Grateful Dead. Eastern philosophy became popular
among the counterculture movement. The Beatles and Mia Farrow went to Bangor, India and studied
transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Use of marijuana, peyote, sacred mushrooms, and LSD became rampant among the flower children, hence
"tripped to the East" denotes their acid trips beside trips to India.
(Image Source: Hippies movement,
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is a song written primarily by John Lennon (credited to Lennon/McCartney),
and recorded by The Beatles for their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).
The lyrics of the song which is commonly believed to be about an acid tripfeature image-laden
verses which present an overtly psychedelic travelogue, describing a boat trip through a fantastic land of "rocking horse people", "newspaper taxis" and "marshmallow pies", alternating with chorus sections which simply repeat the song's title. The Beatles, however, have steadily maintained that the initials of the title forming the word "LSD" (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds) is mere coincidence, as the title is taken from a drawing by a young Julian Lennon.
(Image Source: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,
Hare Krishna, yoga, and zen
The Hare Krishna movement (also known as The International Society for Krishna Consciousness)
was founded in New York City (1966) by
A. C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupada. Its core beliefs are based on the Hindu scriptures such as
Bhagavad Gita (circa 500 BC).
The group chanted "Hare Krisha, Hare Rama" in the streets to spread the practice of
bhakti yoga (devotion to God) to recruit members for their international organization.
Yoga is the traditional physical and
mental disciplines that began in India. The Sanskrit word yoga means "to yoke"
or "to unite". Patanjali's Yoga Sutras
(circa 200 BC) begins with "Yoga is cessation of the flow of thoughts" and "Yoga is skill in action".
Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism.
Zen (Japanese), Ch'an (Chinese), and Dhyana (Sanskrit) may be translated as "meditation".
Bodhidharma was the first Zen Patriarch
(527 AD) in China. D.T. Suzuki's
translations of classical Buddhist texts popularized Zen
in the West. Zen teachers in America include
Philip Kapleau and
(Images: Hare Krishna,
George Harrison Interview; Bodhidharma, 1st Zen Patriarch,
guru hunting that never ends
Swami Chinmayananda gave 10-day lectures on the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads
at MIT (circa 1972-1978). Students would come to his temporary faculty apartment for consultation. On one such occasion,
they asked him about visiting ashrams in India for gurus. Swami laughed saying "Before Westerners came to India for
safari, hunting black rhinos and Bengal tigers. Now younger folks are coming to India for guru hunting.
Even in the cold Himalayas, honey bees are
attracted to flowers blooming. So stay where you are and purify your minds. Then the gurus
will come to you."
(Image Source: India Safari Cartoon,
There Is A Price for A Life)
The river is lord of ten thousand
mountain streams because it stays below them
This image is from Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching LXVI: "The reason the river is the lord of
ten thousand mountain streams is because it remains below them."
Valley Symbolism: The valley is low-lying at sea level, represents a neutral zone for creation.
Its characteristic fertility stands in contrast to the desert (symbolically a place of purification),
of the ocean (origin of life), and of the mountain (characterized by snow and the ascetic, contemplative
life, or by intellectual illumination). The valley is symbolic of life itself and is the mystic abode of
shepherd and priest (J.E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, 1962, p. 339).
William Carlos Williams grasped the valley spirit in his last poem Paterson, page 85 (1958):
"His mind would reawaken: the descent follows the ascent to wisdom".
Usually wisdom is associated with the realms of the gods, so one would think that ascent follows descent to wisdom.
Hence, a sense of humility should be cultivated if one wishes to experience the Tao, which is more likely to be found
in the Spirit of the Valley rather than on mountaintops. Thus, a humble descent of the ego is essential if wisdom
is to come our way. See the Zen story What Is Your Star?
(Image: Valley View,
Photo from High Peaks Trail, Pinnacles National Monument, San Jose, WisdomPortal.com)
Enlightenment Rousseau & Buddha
Outer and inner search for truth
through experiments of science
and meditating on awakened mind.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was one of the most influential thinkers
during the Enlightenment in 18th century Europe. Truth was no longer the province of popes and kings, but through
the experiments of science. The Pope may quote the Bible as the words of God
"He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved."
and "And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place"
Galileo (1564-1642) was an Italian physicist, mathematician,
astronomer, and philosopher. He observed planetary motion with telescopes and championed the Copernican heliocentric
theory that the earth revolved around the sun. Pope Urban VIII placed Galileo under house arrest so he could not
teach at the University of Pisa. Galileo muttered the rebellious phrase "And yet it moves."
Eastern Enlightenment is focused more on spiritual awakening as taught by
Buddha (563 BC-483 BC).
After his enlightenment, Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths that life is suffering, suffering comes from craving,
cease craving to end suffering, follow the Eightfold Path
(right thought, right speech, right action, right effort, right concentration, right livelihood,
right mindfulness, right understanding) to enlightenment. When a friend asked me to summarize
Western & Eastern Enlightenment in one sentence, I said "Outer & inner search for truth."
The Western approach is scientific experiments to establish truth in the physical world.
The Eastern way is meditation to awaken the mind to one's true nature or essence.
Having practiced meditation, I found it helpful in purifying my mind to do better
research in protein structures. That's why I paid my respect to Rousseau in my
web page on Enlightenment News.
(Images: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy;
Henri Atlan's book shows towering
mushrooms psilocybin psychedelics.
Henri Atlan, a French Algerian biophysicist and philosopher
gave a talk on "Sparks of Randomness"
based on his recent book at Stanford Humanities Center on November 18, 2010, 5:00-7:20 pm.
Searching for his photo in Google Images, it occurred to me that I'm familiar with his face.
Then I realized it was in Professor Dupuy's "Problem of Evil" lecture
(Class #6, May 11, 2009).
Before Atlan's lecture, I found his 1993 book
Enlightenment to Enlightenment (Q175.A8613.1993)
in the Stanford stacks. Thumbing through the index, I was surprised to find three references to
Ramana Maharshi (pp. 99, 238, 239).
Since Ramana was introduced to the West by
in A Search in Secret India (1934), and I've studied their books often,
I looked forward in meeting Henri Atlan. His book is translated from the French
A tort et à raison, which implies an untranslatable pun: "Right and Wrong" or
"Wrong and Reasonable". Atlan's goal is to show that there are several rationalities, methods
of science as well as mystical and mythological traditions. I was intrigued by the book cover
showing towering sacred mushrooms representing the myth of nature, and a lone bicycle symbolizing
science and technology. Atlan told me Roland Cat's painting La Promenade is bigger than
that shown on the cover. When I asked him whether he ingested
sacred mushrooms, he confided
that he had psilocybin.
(Image: Atlan's Enlightenment to Enlightenment, Wisdomportal.com)
Why is the bicycle doing here? Aha!
Kitty Hawk man's first flight to the sky.
I was perplexed by the bicycle amidst the gigantic mushrooms and thought it represented
the invention of the wheel.
Then it suddenly dawned upon me
the Wright Brothers owned a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio.
They opened a repair and sales shop in 1892 (Wright Cycle Exchange, later Wright Cycle Company)
and began manufacturing their own brand in 1896. It was their mechanical ingenuity that made
them successful at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903 when they accomplished man's first flight to the sky.
It's interesting that the town Kitty Hawk has
hawk in its name, a bird with acuity of vision (5 times of human beings)
soaring high in the sky.
(Images: Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop,
jorydayne's photostream; Kitty Hawk, Wisdomportal.com)
Peter Y. Chou
Mountain View, 2-9-2011