Thursday, May 29, 2008

Father Knows Best OR What happened to God? OR Just What IS Enlightenment?

I have often spoken of the necessity of community to foster a sense of belonging. Too often, those seeking Awakening are mired by their own sense of not-belonging and generally speaking, the traditions of Enlightenment have come through cultures that have had a strong sense of community or tribe or belonging on one level or another.

But I've recently realized something else that amazed me. Many people are looking for spirituality WITHOUT God. Not that it isn't possible, but it is, to a large extent, the norm these days. Understandably, God has a bad rap. People see God or at least the word 'God' as representing a more Judeo-Christian old judgmental man in the sky kind of thing. This is a concept, and the concept must be let go of, but that doesn't negate the Reality which it represents. You may let go of your issues with your father; break away from him as a parent figure; etc. but that doesn't mean he stops existing. Or another example, in Vedanta, they often talk about confusing a rope for a snake, meaning to confuse the material for the spiritual. You can recognize that the snake is an illusion, but that doesn't make the rope disappear as well.

You can say, "I surrender to What IS" but What IS is God, the creator, the source, the absolute, Brahman, the Infinite Presence, etc. If you have issues with one or another of the 'words' used to describe that, you have issues. Preferring one or another word is fine, just like in Hinduism, they have 'Ishta Devatas" - one's chosen form of the beloved. But it is recognized there is NO distinction between them ultimately... God/Goddess/All That IS.

Nowadays, the tendency for Militant Me-ness and Radical Narcissism has created a generation to which the understanding of "I am God" is backwards. They want their Ego to be recognized as the infinite absolute. "I am God. Worship ME!" So, words like 'God', 'Surrender', and 'Humility' have become dirty words. It's all about how "I" can get everything for "ME" including Enlightenment. A Fool's Fancy!!!

"I am God" means truly that God is this 'I'. This me-ness is a spark of the fire, a thread of the carpet, a wave of the infinite ocean. And it is the letting go of, the surrendering of, the humility to drop this ego and enter fully into the Infinite Absolute that comprises the ever-expanding field of Awakening, not just "Oh Cool, I (the subtle ego) am God."

We are rambling a bit here, but thanks for bearing with me. One of the things I noticed about neo-advaita teachers and teachings in the very lack of the recognition of a Higher aspect of Reality. Few express this. Many don't even know this. Just like the fact that the Enlightenment Tradition comes primarily through cultures well grounded in belonging and community, they also come from cultures well grounded in a sense of the Divine. We don't have that here. Many people, on going to India, are struck by that sense of the Divine all around them. Every business, every town, every everything, it seems, is named after some aspect of God. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a temple, a sadhu, or something that is called Gopal this or Shiva that. Every taxi cab has a little shrine of some kind. People worship their cars, their cash registers, their computers as an aspect of the Absolute every day. They are deeply grounded that the source of EVERYTHING is God, the Father/Mother, and that their own Self is also an aspect of that.

When I was a kid, there was a show called "Father Knows Best" - one of those Leave it to Beaver, 50's type of shows. While I don't necessarily advocate that sentiment, still we have thrown the baby out with the bathwather. While letting go of some of the old concepts (the illusory snakes) we don't need to, and shouldn't throw out the rope as well. The tradition of Vedanta from which the teachings of Advaitic non-dualism spring is rife with devotional aspects. Adi-Shankaracharya, considered the father of 'modern' Kevala Advaita wrote dozens and dozens of devotional prayers to God in numerous forms. Nisargadatta worshipped his Guru numerous times EVERY day. Ramana, similarly spoke of God and the necessity of the Guru and wrote beautiful devotional songs to his Beloved mountain Arunachala.

Yes, there is Buddhism, which doesn't speak so much of God, but that's because it was a moot point. Buddha's point was that there is suffering and a way to end suffering. He NEVER said there wasn't a God. It just wasn't a necessary argument for the philosophy and understanding. And again, it's coming from a culture where that was taken as a given. Imagine being in a Christian church and saying , "Our suffering comes from our attachment to things of the world, to the mind" etc. etc. etc. Now did I say there was no God? No. It just wasn't a part of what I was addressing.

The recognition of Self as non-separate from the Infinite is like a zero-point. When one abides as "I" and sees practically that one is Consciousness, that is like the landing in India. Yes, you've touched the ground, but that's a far cry from exploring the landscape, learning the language, and ultimately losing your 'self' completely and fully into the culture. Landing is EASY. Recognizing that you, the real 'You' is Consciousness is easy peezy! You can do that in 5 seconds. Now live there, continuously, without leaving, 100% of every moment, moment by moment. Don't think just because you've glanced the 'brass ring' that you've caught hold of it, and certainly haven't become it. That is when there is no you and the Father/Mother/Absolute is manifesting fully as This I-ness.

We, in the West especially, and in the modern age in general, have Extremist Entitlement. "I don't need to do anything. I deserve it all. I have a pocket knife. I think I'll be a brain surgeon. Anyone can be President here, so I'll proclaim myself President. Everyone is inherently Spiritual Presence, so I'll proclaim myself fully Enlightened (without the need to go through any of the steps to REAL-ize that.)

While not wanting to detract from the Reality that the True Nature of everyone IS Infinite Consciousness, the nature of Maya or illusion is that, while you may mentally or even intellectually understand that, or have deep 'Aha's about it, that is not a concrete, tangible REALIZATION! This is the razor's edge. It is the What of the What and Who of you. It IS. There is no denying it. But as long as there is predominant identification with the phenomenal, the material, the body and mind, the desires and aversions, that is NOT Enlightenment. Do not be mistaken!!!

If this post has bothered you, ask yourself "WHY?" Who is bothered by it? What has been said that offends you, and what is that which is offended? The answer is EGO. Always has been, always will be.

The Bhagavad Gita says, Bahunam Janmanamante, Jnanavan Mam Prapadyate, Vasudeva Sarvam iti, Sa Mahatma Sudurlabha....

"After many many births, one who is already a possessor of Knowledge, (Jnanavan, like Jnani) surrenders to Me (God), and REAL-izes Everything IS GOD (Vasudeva Sarvam iti). Such a Great Soul (mahatma) is Very rare."

So, the reccognition of one Self as consciousness is the zero-point, so to speak. Now expand into that Infinite beyond the Infinite beyond the Infinite. Don't stop until all is lost.

Sounds like fun, huh!?!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Barnashram Family

I love Barnashram - our little mini-community of 3 human residents and an expanding number of 'others'. We now have 9 Chicklets (they're not quite chicks any more, but they aren't chickens either. But besides that, I love the sense of community that is developing. The biggest thing lacking in today's world is community! We actually take pride in not needing anyone, in being an individual, ready to fight the world alone; and yet, inside, many are devastated, depressed, and exceptionally lonely. It is a sickness that is pervading everything. Many don't even realize it, and yet keep questioning, "What is wrong?" but are unable or unwilling to open their hearts and realize that what they truly want and need is love and intimacy with others.

"Trigger the 60's Virus" - Sure, we were young and naive back then, but there was a beauty and exploration that has since either died or gone into deep hibernation. Back then, I had a family. In fact, a huge family. And it wasn't just friends. We actually created our own family. I've been a so-called minister since I was about 15 (through Universal Life Church - long before I actually became a 'real' ordained Hindu Priest), and our 'family' started with 8 of us. We all held hands and 'took' each other as our husbands and wives (or something like that - I don't remember the exact words). From there it simply expanded. After one particular concert at Volunteer Park (Seattle) we performed one ceremony that had over 50 people, all in one big circle, holding hands, and it looked something like this:

Me: Do you... (pointing at next person in the circle)
Person: Rainbow!
Me: Do you Rainbow, take... (Pointing at each person in the circle sequentially)
Group: John... Sheila... Mountain Child... Oren... Karen... (Hic!!)Fwed!... Sunshine... Judy... (etc.)
Me. ... To be your loving family?
Rainbow: I do!

And all around the circle until everyone had pledged to love the others forever, and I still do. Everyone I come in contact with I love. I know I may not show it, but that's not the kind of love I'm talking about. The love I'm talking about is unconditional, and sometimes looks like a thunderbolt rather than a rose. Every particle of everything is God. How can it not be loved and beloved?

To me, Barnashram is much like that. The name itself means all of society, all levels of society and all facets of humanity. Of course, it also means a barn which is an ashram. Ashram means 'shelter, community, hermitage' and more.

We invite you to be part of that Family - whether close to us or far away.

With infinite Love & Blessings,
Aja

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hugg-ahh-Meter

I just finished a wonderful book by John Robbins entitled 'Healthy at 100'
. I know, it hardly seems like Aja's kind of book, however, it was
incredibly diverse in speaking of what makes up health, and what those
cultures look like which have consistently had the most centenarians and
supercentanarians (those who live past 110).

I have often put forth the premise that if you could define and describe
paradise, every facet of it - birth through death, education, family
relations, community, education, spirituality, economics, EVERYTHING, and
then flip that 180 degrees, you would have current western civilization, or
lack of it. (Mahatma Gandhi was once asked "Mr. Gandhi, what do you think
of western civilization?" To which he replied, "I think it would be a good
idea.")

Anyway, I digress. The point of this story is that Robbins, in this book,
similarly shows how, in many ways, my contention is correct: this society
is exceptionally unhealthy. In onechapter he writes about nurturing,
touching and how important this is to our health. Not only important,
literally crucial. He quotes the late psychologist, Virginia Satir who
says, "We need 4 hugs a day to survive. We need 8 hugs a day for
maintenance, and we need 12 hugs a day to grow."

We of the Barnashram community are attempting to take these words to heart.
Doing a little research on hugs, we've found that there have been a number
of 'hug heroes'. Just in the last few decades there was Eleanor Hill who
founded Resonance House, and promoted hugs with 'I give hugs' buttons. More
recently, Juan Mann started a 'Free Hugs' campaign and showed up on Oprah a
couple ofyears back.(check youtube)

Anyway, I've decided we need to create a hug-o-meter (pronounced hug - ahh
- meter - emphasis on the Ahh!) At present, I'm thinking 12 beads on a
string, which you can move to one end each time you give (or get) a hug.
(We used such a device to keep track of our daily chanting when I lived in
temples.) Look for them soon... Or better yet, create your own today!

So, why is Aja (famous for his curmudgeonly behavior) doing this? Because
it is essential. It takes very little time to recognize the Absolute. The
difficulty is that there is so much garbage in the mind, particularly of a
low self worth nature, that the recognition of the Absolute cannot be
maintained or REALized. They continue to be little glimpses which quickly
subside because, ultimately, we can't stand ourselves, our lives, our
environment, our society, our ... Hugging reverses this trend. You start to
share love and you become love. (I met a saint a couple of years ago in
India walking down the street. Beautiful man. He turned to me and said,
'Love is God'. Not God is Love, but Love is God. It's the only thing he
said, and then walked on. And you can't go around arguing with saints, ya
know!)

The Who and What of us is One Thing. The What (or Absolute is recognized
when the Who-ness is clear enough for the What to shine through. What
obscures that, in part, is our identification with a who in which we assume
there is 'something wrong'. There is nothing wrong, but we don't believe
it. Living in Love, allows us to recogize that there IS nothing wrong.

Okay, enough for now. So HUG - ON DUDES!

Monday, May 05, 2008

We Must Cultivate Our Garden

Today, I received, as a slightly belated birthday gift, a donation from my friend, Susanne, in Switzerland, a donation for $540 (ten times my present age) with the note, "Il faut cultiver notre jardin"
Although I recognize a few words from the French, including Garden, I went to an online translator, which produced the result, "We must cultivate our garden." Now I have definitely received less than perfect translations from the translator, but accurate or not, it IS perfect... We must cultivate our garden – our interior gardens and our exterior gardens.
A garden is a wonderful metaphor for so much of what we experience, and are, as life! And from personal experience, I can say and see, that both attention and neglect have very powerful consequences. For the past few years, we have totally neglected our 7 acres and consequently it has become overrun with weeds, particularly blackberry vines. Even cutting them down is only a small step because the hidden roots will continue to sprout unless we are ever vigilant and keep on top of them.
In the beginning, it appears there are so many steps to be taken and the mind can be overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all – cut the weeds, watch for new weeds, cultivate and prepare the ground, choose new plants, and plant the seeds, water them, watch for sprouts, discriminate new plant sprouts from weed sprouts (very important), watch for critters which will attack or eat your plants, and so on.
But eventually, you begin to see progress. You still have a long way to go. In fact, it is basically an endless process. But still, it is very encouraging (en-heartening) and gives a sense of deep satisfaction as we begin to see we are finally on the right path.
As things progress, two things happen – First is that we notice it is becoming easier. The really difficult part is over and the encouraging progress makes the journey more enjoyable. Secondly, we have created new patterns. The pattern or habit of neglect that we have inadvertently created is replaced by a new pattern or habit of cultivating and vigilance. It has become our natural state to be in and of the garden.
However, one small warning: No matter how easy things appear to have become, we must never give up our vigilance. There is a famous garden saying, "One year to seed, seven years to weed." This is not a metaphor only, but a truism. If even one year you allow weeds to go to seed, those seeds can sprout in your garden even seven years later. In other words, a lot of hard work goes down the drain through a short amount of negligence. It's like you can't stand still. Even though our tendency is to sit back and relax, to rest on our laurels, congratulate ourselves for a job well done – to do so means you may well find yourself up to your nose in blackberries again. As the saying goes, "Pride cometh before a fall," and true humility is one of the great ornaments of the cultivator of any garden.
But eventually, that habit of vigilance is established, the garden is cultivated, and beautiful and abundant fruits are recognized from those labors. In fact, the labors are more or less gone, as they have become so much the background nature of who you are that they are no longer labors, and the minimal amount of weeding is simply a part of what is.
And even though, in the beginning, when you attempt to survey the entire garden, and all you see is weeds, remember that the journey of a thousand miles (or a thousand weeds) begins with the first step (cut), and that it must be started sometime (Now), and it must begin somewhere (Here), and it is either started, or the weeds just continue to grow and grow and grow and grow and ...........
And though it is tempting to think that we can "just be," you may find that you are up to your ass in weeds, and you would do well to remember that ...
We Must Cultivate Our Garden.

The Relative and the Absolute

Another way of looking at the Who and the What you are is recognizing the Relative and Absolute spheres of existence. First, understand, even if it is intellectually based, that they are One thing, but manifesting as the two separate aspects.

Next, let's define them a bit more. (I know that all of this appears to be a mental or intellectual exercise, and yet, it increases the understanding by which you can pass it all up.)


The Relative ....................The Absolute


Who..................................What

Shakti.............................Shiva


Material.............................Spiritual


Left Brain........................Right Brain


Objects.........................Subject


Plurality.......................Singularity


Contraction.......................Expansion


Limited.......................Unlimited


Phenomenal........................Noumenal


Active.............................Passive



And so on and so on. Again, these are only labels for the 'many' and the 'one' within the Infinite Is-ness. But it is helpful to make the distinction.

Like I mentioned in the 'What and the Who of You' there is a tendency to put an over emphasis on one or the other. The vastness of humanity, of course, not only puts their emphasis on the who, but their entire identification is with the who. However, among many spiritual seekers, the emphasis goes in a weird way to the other side – entirely to the 'what' withdrawing completely from the who, or at least attempting to, proclaiming that it is 'all an illusion' or 'maya' etc. While this is true, it is also, in most cases, not recognized, but simply an artificial proclamation of the mind, allowing one to ignore or escape the 'Relative Reality'.

It is very much like the mind/body connection. For years people thought of these as separate items. Over the last several decades, people have become much clearer that there is no dichotomy here – body and mind are but two aspects of the same thing, and each affect the other deeply. I can speak from personal experience here, as any one who knows me knows that for the last 30 or more years, I have greatly neglected and abused the physical aspect as I have explored the spiritual...and am paying the price.

The Relative and the Absolute are, similarly, two aspects of the One Is-ness. Neglecting one or the other (on a long term or permanent basis) means that there will be consequences. Neglecting the Absolute, of course, means that you will always identify with the limited, individualized, localized aspect of you, as subject, to world as object, which will ultimately result in attachment, resistance and suffering to a greater or lesser degree.

On the other hand, identifying with (or rather as) the Absolute, will ultimately burn away the attachments to the localized individual who-ness. Ultimately!!! But in most cases, people want to continue being people! In other words, they don't really want to entirely give up their identification as who-ness and enter into the Absolute aspect. They want to continue to be 'of and in the world'. This is fine, in fact, it is great. But one can't expect the same results as one who goes into the mountain cave or hermitage for 5 or 10 or 20 years of deep meditation and inquiry. You can expect a lessening of resistance and suffering and a deeper recognition, even only glimpses, of What you are. But then you must ALSO realize that the Relative sphere is just that – Relative.

Within the Relative, there IS good and bad. There is hot and cold. There is better and worse. There is more 'spiritual' and 'material'. There is darker and lighter. You get the picture. Often, because of the nature of some degree of intellection or mental understanding of the Absolute, everything within the Relative becomes artificially 'One'. For instance, (my favorite rant) killing animals to eat them by the billions is considered fine because 'it's all relative', even though the increasing number of people wanting to eat meat in China, India and elsewhere (in imitation of the glorious West) is now causing world food shortages and the deaths of thousands through starvation and war. How you treat people is unimportant, because it's all one. Since we are all one and equal, my opinion or understanding is just as good as yours. (So, we're all equally qualified to be brain surgeons, rock stars, spiritual teachers, or artists, whether we actually have the qualifications or not.)

The Relative is called the Relative for a reason – everything within it is relative to everything else. If you don't care if you go left or right at the next corner, or if that thing hanging from the wire is red or green while you're driving, fine. If you can truly BE on that level, great, but you sure as hell shouldn't be driving a car. But if you experience relativity on one level, you probably identify with many levels of relativity, some of which you are currently not recognizing – things you agree with or disagree with for instance, or people you like or don't like, or philosophies you support or abhor. These are all on the Relative platform, and will be affected by your own filters, experience, habits, hopes, fears, etc. So, exploring the relative, particularly your own beliefs and habits within the relative, is infinitely important as you attempt to traverse your way into the Absolute. Dive deeply into the Absolute, but also inquiry into the Relative. Be the What, but don't ignore the Who and the 'Relative Truths' that exist there as well.