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Steven Cushing

This Cactus

This cactus is a dharmic plant:
Little attachment, less aversion,
And no delusion, as far as I can tell.

It only needs, for sustenance, to abide in the light of wisdom,
And be given, as alms, the water of compassion,
More in summer than when the air is cold.

It’s prickly, like Atisha’s tea boy,
Evoking awareness through irritation,
In those who come too close.

Content to dwell without companions,
It simply sits, silent, upright,
On the direct path.


Steven Cushing first learned of the dharma through conversations with Gopal Sukhu in 1963.  He has cultivated cactuses since 1976.  Among his many publications are Fatal Words: Communication Clashes and Aircraft Crashes (1994), How You and Your Computer Think Alike–And Don’t: An Exploration into the Nature of Mind (2011), and an essay in the current (November) issue of The Vocabula Review.  He is on the faculty of Cambridge College in Cambridge, MA, and the Assisi Institute in Brattleboro, VT. You can contact him at stevencushing@alum.mit.edu