Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Just Like That - TEOTWAWKI

Some rather random musings as I sit in the semi-darkness.


One moment, everything is going along exactly as it has for years, and then, suddenly ... Nothing!


In this case, the power went out. Here where we live, it happens so often that I have the PGE Outage number on my cell phone and can quickly call to report the outage, and also call back to see if they have an expected time for the return of power. Today, they estimate about two hours. It's the middle of the day, we have the woodstove going. Basically, no big deal. But one person here as already headed for the city to their more comfortable place. I'm typing this on my computer; of course, I won't be able to post it until power is back on and I can again connect to the internet.

But each time we have a power outage, I am reminded that there are many things that can be finished - Just Like That! Life for one. Civilization for another. In our situation, we are relatively okay in a power outage. We have a propane stove for cooking; we heat with wood; we have our own well (although we need electricity to pump it); we even have a composting toilet and an outhouse, should we need it. But nearly all these things, which would make us far more ready than 90% of the US population, would all still be very temporary if such an outage was permanent. Wood would be relatively endless, but depending on where we were in our tanks, propane would run out in a few months. Without a generator or some other means of creating sufficient electricity, we would quickly be forced to carry water up from the stream, or set up some kind of rain collection system from the roof.

But believe it or not, this is really NOT about the end of civilization. This is more about just the end - Death, or any other manifestation of..
TEOTWAWKI!!

If you're not familiar with TEOTWAWKI, don't worry. It's not a real word. My friend Linda chanced upon it in writing me an email. It stands for The End Of The World As We Know It - TEOTWAWKI. I love it. It sounds like one of those indiginous words that they name movies after. So, every time we have a power outage, I am reminded of TEOTWAWKI. It could come at any time. Any moment. And go on forever. I know, for instance, that there are many, many more ways than most people want to imagine for the end of the world as we know it to suddenly drop on us. One would be a cataclysmic power outage that would simply be un-fixable. Just Like That - TEOTWAWKI. No more computers, TV, gas getting pumped. It would be an immediate and permanent end of everything we know. Once it became known what had happened, grocery stores would be emptied in hours. Within days, there would be massive looting and murders. Within weeks, thousands, if not millions would be dead.

Again, this really isn't about that. This is about the other big Just Like That - DEATH.

The point I really wanted to make is that no one is really ready for death, because on one level, no body believes in death. Although I've told the Most Wonderful Thing story a gazillion times, it can bear another quick retelling. It is a story from the Mahabharata, where the King Yudhisthira is in the woods and is accosted by the God of Death challenging him to answer 100 questions. One of those is "What is the most wonderful thing in the world?" Yudhisthira responds that, "Every day people see that relatives or friends or others die, but they think that they themselves will never die. This is the most wonderful thing in the world."

I am currently reading Aghora by Robert Svoboda which is the narration of Vimalananda, Svoboda's guru, who was an Aghori - one who follows the "left hand path" to God. Much of that revolves around sitting on human corpses and praying to God or Goddess. It is the complete recognition and surrender to the reality of death. Most people want to avoid death at all costs, just like they want to avoid suffering, 'negative' emotions, and anything that is even minorly unpleasant, at all costs. But his is simply utter foolishness. It is literally choosing to be blind and stupid. It is like the child covering their own eyes and going, "You can't see me!" But we can, and simply hiding from the miseries of janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi -- birth, death, old age and disease -- will not make them go away. In fact, truly seeing these very four things is what led Siddharta, the then future buddha, toward His Enlightenment.

Here in the West, we live in a culture that does EVERYTHING possible to hide the truth. Everyone wants to be pretty and young. Fifty is the new twenty. Don't have old age. Don't have poverty. Consume, consume, consume. It's almost as if we know that our car has no brakes, so we might as well go full throttle and end in a blaze of glory. Elders are no longer sought for their Wisdom, but shuffled off into 'facilities'. We hide birth, illness and death in hospitals away from relatives and loved ones. When the God of Death comes for us, we are helpless and alone. Electronic beeping and buzzing surround us, and very possibly not one individual who cares will be with us. Of course, we all make that passage alone ultimately. Especially if it happens Just Like That - TEOTWAWKI. I have known a number of people who have died instantly. One simply fell down dead and was said to have been gone before he hit the floor. Imagine that. Perfect health one moment....dead the next. And that can literally happen to any of us.

So, it's been 2 hours, and we have reached the time when the power company originally said our power would be restored. However, since that time, checking (with my cell phone) they have recalculated, from the original 2 pm, to 3 pm, and now to 6 pm. The other very interesting thing is normally it tells you "There have been 63 reports and 600 people affected." Now it tells me, "There have been 4 reports and 1 home affected." In other words, us. Now, I know that's not the case, or at least assume it's not, since I can't reach anyone at the local store which uses a cordless phone (requiring electricity). But why would the system do this? Well, one BIG change since our last outage is that they installed digital wireless readers on every home, so they no longer have to send meter readers. Hmmmm?! Curious. Does that mean that it simply registers that way, or do they actually have to go to every home now and reset something in order to get power, which is why it may take 4 extra hours? Of course I'm totally speculating here, but did their improvements not only put all the meter readers out of work, but also increase their work load. Technology has a way of doing that which people often aren't aware of. For instance, it was commonly thought by most people that survival in antiquated times required much harder work than today. It turns out, recent anthropological studies have revealed that most indiginous cultures spent maybe 2 to 4 hours a day on survival, and the rest was spent together. In other words, a much shorter "work week" of hunting and gathering, and still having all the necessities of life with much more tribal and family community time together. No father off to work one way, mother off to work another, children in this school, that day care, grandma and grandpa in the facility. Just togetherness. Wow, what progress we have made. However the good news is that one way another, whether by natural disaster, economic collapse, or, of course by death - it could happen .... Just Like That - TEOTWAWKI.

Well, Well. Power back on and an hour and a half early. I guess we've escaped TEOTWAWKI once more.

Happy Happy!!!!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Positive Buoyancy

"Effortless & choiceless awareness is our real nature. If we can attain that state and abide in it, that is all right. But one cannot reach it without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation. All the age old vasanas (inherent tendencies) turn the mind outward to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inwards and that, for most people, requires effort."
Ramana Maharshi - Teachings of Bhagavan pg 78

When I was a kid, my father and brother got into SCUBA diving, and so I did as well. This is where I learned about buoyancy, and that I had a very limited 'positive buoyancy'. Buoyancy, as you might guess, is how well you float. Most people have something like a 20% positive buoyancy, which means if you just do a dead-man's float, letting go and simply relaxing on the surface of the water, on your back, you'll pretty much do okay. Your face will remain above the surface and you'll be able to breathe. With me, however, if I do that. I'll basically sink just enough below the surface where I'll be taking in large amounts of water. I have like 5% positive buoyancy. If I try to remain on the surface with my head above water, I start to DROWN.

I don't know if this relates to the quest for Truth, but on some level, it seems like it does. Most people have a much stronger 'positive buoyancy'. In other words, they WANT to stay on the surface of life; they want to remain superficial and float on the surface of the ocean. However, this tendency doesn't do one much good if you are seeking the depths of Consciousness. As Sri Ramana states above, IF you can get down in abidance and stay there, GREAT. That is what most people want to do - just sort of let go and float. But they don't recognize, or don't want to recognize, that they're still on the surface. They are still fully identified with the vasanas, attachments, identifications, concepts, beliefs, and so forth. It is absolutely necessary to get below that.

Imagine taking a piece of Styrofoam below the surface of the water. The deeper you take it, the faster it tends to shoot back to the surface when you let it go. Some things will just bob up and down on the surface, and others will sink like a rock, for instance... a rock. Take a piece of wood and HOLD it under water long enough, and eventually it will become waterlogged and it, too, will sink like a stone. But, as you know, that takes quite a bit of effort for quite a bit of time.

When scuba diving, one wears lead weights to get to the bottom, to counteract the positive buoyancy that we have. I had to wear fewer. If you try to swim to the bottom of the ocean without them, the moment you stop swimming... zoom... up you go to the surface.

Spiritual practice is the constant swimming downwards. In most cases, the moment you stop swimming you begin to surface again. Unfortunately, our tendency is to stop swimming downward, to take too long of a break, to go into idle mode, or to just say, "This is good enough." So, not only does it take effort, it takes consistent and unending effort. That may seem harsh, but this is even what the scriptures will tell us - "constantly, without stopping, without turning away, without other-ness, consistently, every moment", and so on and so forth. They don't say, "give a little push, and off you go" with a little smiley icon beside it. They say cultivation of real spiritual knowledge and wisdom is the most difficult thing you will ever do, which is why so few people truly succeed. Going the other direction, for instance, (UP), out of the billions of people on the planet, how many have reached the summit of Mount Everest? Comparatively few.

The principle thing to keep in mind is that it seems positive buoyancy is built in. To try to reach Truth is in many ways contrary to our nature. Even the Bhagavad Gita says, "Daivi hi esa gunamayi, mama maya duratyaya - This Divine Illusion of mine, consisting of the material modes is VERY difficult to escape". However, he then continues, "Mameva ye prapadyante mayametam taranti te - Those who surrender to Me can cross beyond it." So, it takes our effort, but also recognizing that our effort alone is insufficient. Krishna says to surrender to Him. Ramana says it takes constant effort and (in other places) Grace. He also says surrender is grace. The bottom line, however, is that, from whatever level we appear to have choice, we must choose to relentlessly seek Truth, God, the Absolute, and at the same time, surrender ourselves to That Absolute.

Happy Diving!

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Magician's Trick

Everybody loves a magician. Well, they used to. Maybe now, they're not quite as exciting as once upon a time because everybody knows how they work. Basically it's always an operation of misdirection - while you're looking at the right hand, he's doing the real mischief with the other, but flaunting that right hand. And suddenly, VOILA - the trick is performed. It's done.

The whole phenomenal world is a bit like the magician's trick. We're looking at one thing while the 'real stuff' is going on somewhere else.

On the level of the phenomenal world, this is going on every moment. Here in the U.S., the left and right continue to appear to fight with one another. The Obama group is charging the right wingers as "Right wing domestic terrorists", while the Department of Homeland Security is enlisting the 3.4 million Girl Scouts as part of their 'Preparedness" gang. Meanwhile, NASA is shooting bombs off at the moon! All the while, the bankers and corporations are making out, not like bandits, more like major international criminals, and we pat them on the head, give them more money, and they laugh their heads off all the way to the, well, bank - in their case, home!

So, how are we to deal with this, or in other words, get 'free' from all of this? First, you have to understand that on one level - "These things are going on." In other words, the bottom line is it's just 'stuff'. And in the phenomenal realm, there appears to be 'good' stuff and 'bad' stuff. Truly, there is stuff in the modes of Goodness, Passion and Ignorance (sattva, rajas, and tamas in Sanskrit), and they each have their own nature. The mode of Goodness leads to happiness and illumination; the mode of Passion to greed, excessive action, etc. and the mode of Ignorance to inertia, sleep and laziness. But even the mode of Goodness is binding. It binds one to happiness. I know, that seems like something that would be fine bondage, but bondage is still bondage. A prison of gold is still a prison!

What one has to recognize is that all of these ideas - the modes, the good, the bad, and all of that are OF THE MIND. It is the mind that tells us "He is right, she is wrong" or "I am right, and those ones are 'domestic terrorists'" and so on and so forth. Essentially if there is any conviction or belief or even a thought around it, it is of the realm of mind, and therefore part of the 'Magician's Trick!' Because, at the base of the Magician's Trick is the mind, and the source or very root of this trick is the illusion of the 'false I' - the ego (ahankara or I-maker in Sanskrit) upon which all the other illusions or tricks are based. We are SO identified with the 'right hand' of Mind, certain that it is real and powerful and ALWAYS right, that we are not even seeing or aware of the 'left hand' of transcendence which precedes it.

So, how do we overcome this? (Here it comes....one of his dumb movie analogies.) There have been a number of these, but the first one that comes to mind is Independence Day. The whole world may be bickering with each other (okay, killing each other), but suddenly when we are attacked by aliens from outer space, then we are forced to come together. Otherwise, we are doomed, and it is only in that coming together that we can gain the strength to fight such a powerful foe.

On the phenomenal level, it will only be by giving up left versus right and religious dogmas and all other beliefs, and coming together to realize that the banking and corporate powers that be have a strangle hold on the peoples of the planet and are killing the humanity in ALL of us (and in many cases, outright killing humanity!) We will never be able to be happy here until we can come together and see that the illusion of monetary and economic independence is the trick of the banksters and corporate powers who are ultimately the ONLY ones who ultimately gain, while those below fight for scraps (and yes, even a few billion dollars of illusory money are ultimately scraps).

And on the transcendent level, all of this is happening on the stage of temporary phenomena, much like the movie or TV show appearing on the screen. Ultimately, it too is entirely an illusion and we must turn our attention to what precedes it, to that which is Aware of it, or in other words... Awareness Itself, Infinite Presence, Divinity, God, Beingness - whatever it is 'you' want to call it.

In the end, it always requires discrimination and the intention to NOT be fooled by the obvious. Remember the bumper stickers "Question Authority"? I think they're still around although I certainly don't see them as often. How about one that says, "Question Appearances" or "See Past Each Illusion" or better yet, "Question EVERYTHING"? If you are truly interested in, or driven to Truth, never allow yourself to become complacent. On each level, there is always further to go, another truth just under the surface of 'this' one. Never let yourself be totally tricked by the illusions of the Magician.

And remember, the Magician isn't Evil - He's just an Entertainer!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Personal, Impersonal and the Absolute

What is the nature of Enlightenment, Awakening, Consciousness, and so forth? Many people seek some 'other' state, a 'higher' state or anything other than what is here. But as far as knowing what that is, many don't have much of a clue. We will try to describe in a fairly simple and straight-forward way, the nature of our Existence.

In the diagram below, you see three categories - A. B. and C. in what is our version of the classical Ocean-Wave analagy:

C. is represented as the All, the Absolute, the Ocean of Infinite Godhead, etc.
B. is the Water of the Individuating and individuated wave
A. is the form, the surface of that individuated wave.

Everything, without exception, is part of, a manifestation of, an arising of the infinite ocean, C.

Arising from the waters of the ocean, though never different from it, nor ever totally separated from it, is the wave, B.

The 'form' and/or surface of that wave is the 'personalized' aspect or A.

A. + B. is the Personal and the Impersonal aspects of the Individuated Wave - i.e. a "person"

The nature of C. is always Conscious Presence, Awareness. It is aware of itself, even as an A-B individuated entity. However, it appears to focus on and become identified as that individuated A+B, and even more so, totally identify as its surface/shape of A.

So, how does this look in "real" life? Most people are totally identified with their body and mind - A. Their thoughts, concepts and beliefs, their hopes and fears, - all of these are parts of the A. or Personal individual. John or Sally identifies as being John or Sally, with this body, that age, these beliefs, these ideas of what is right or wong, spiritual or unspiritual, good and bad, and so on endlessly. All of these ideas and the body are "Observed" by the Impersonal Self - B. When you simply close your eyes and ask, 'Who am I?' letting go of all of these concepts and identifications, you come to simply "I AM" or I am the Witness (Seer, watcher, Awareness etc.)

For the most part, this B. "I AM" is NOT a thing, but is simply the Presence. "I AM" is not 'I am this or that' other than simply "I AM-ness". When Ramana Maharshi or Nisargadatta Maharaj speak of resting in the "I AM", this is what they are referring to. Where most people get stuck, however, is this is as far as they go.

First, many people have difficulty enough just trying to recognize this B-ness - in other words, to dislocate themselves enough from their addiction and identification to their personal form self (A.) to recognize they are the Seer. However, having done this, they may think, "Oh, I've made it. This is the end." No, it is simply the beginning.

A+B make up what I call the individuated person. Like the far bubble on the right, it can almost entirely disconnected from the All (C.) Through meditation, self inquiry and so forth, they recognize that they are this impersonal nature, and even though it feels somewhat unlimited, they are still identified somewhat as B. experiencing A. experiencing B. (Yeah, I know - a little confusing.) Resting as B-ness is not so much something that is experienced as simply something that you ARE. Mind and reflective thought are all products of the individuated Form self or A. So, when you are thinking about B, that is not B. That is A thinking about B. You may be experiencing B, but A. is thinking about it. The more you rest in B, the more it becomes natural. You are simply changing the balance of the scale, so to speak, to focus on Awareness itself, rather than the objects of Awareness (i.e. body, mind, thoughts, ideas, etc.)

When you inquire into the nature of the Self, it is very much like peeling an onion as you let go of all concepts and beliefs. Ultimately, when you peel an onion all the way, you are left with nothing, as it is all skins. So you have left over a Not-Onion, or rather a semi-conceptualized idea of impersonality where the onion USED TO BE. You are now identified as this Not-Onion or Nothingness. However, this still has some sense of separation between the Not-Onion or A+B Individuated Personal/Impersonal entity, and the Everything Absolute of C.

As both Nisargadatta and/or Ramana would tell you, by "abiding" in and as that I-AM ness, gradually the expansion into C. takes place. In other words, you are identified as the personal self (A.) - you recognize you are also the impersonal self (B.) and through resting as that constantly and consistently, with as little interruption as possible, you gradually dis-identify all together to come into the Absolute All (C.).

Okay. New analogy. You live in the U.S. and decide to go to India. That is a very big jump and you have to go through a lot of hoops just to do that. So eventually, after a lot of planning, saving money, booking flights, getting a passport and visa, you finally get on the plane and ultimately end up in the Chennai airport. Wow, you've made it. (A lot of effort to get from A. to B.) Now, you can immediately get back on the airplane and return home. "Been there - Done that!" which is what a lot of people do. "Oh yes, I know I am the seer." "Oh yes, I've been to India."

Others, a little more dedicated, will recognize, "I don't want to go back to the U.S." and will stay there in the Chennai airport, gradually becoming more adapted to it, and being able to express much more of what India is about. BUT ITS STILL JUST THE AIRPORT. It is still simply the 'water' of the individuated wave (B.) and has many limitations, even though it is VERY different from A. (the U.S.)

Finally, if you live long enough in the airport, you recognize, "Oh My GOD! There's a door that goes somewhere else." (It's not really 'somewhere else' as it is still part of the world and part of India, but it is letting go of more concepts of limitation.) There is now the entirety of India (C) to explore.

While moving from the Personal self (A.) to the Impersonal self (B.) is itself a huge endeavor which very few bother to do, even fewer stay there in B. and even fewer still recognize that it is still a tiny aspect of the Infinite Absoluteness or Godhead (C.). B. is something like ground-zero, or the zero-point. It is the initial big step away from total illusion of identifying with A. to recognizing your impersonal or transcendent self as B. And a large percentage of spiritual teachers, particularly in the West, will tell you that's it. In other words, they don't want to (or are unable to) recognize and acknowledge that which is beyond even their limited impersonal self.

While I recognize that this is not a totally thorough explanation and still leaves a number of questions to be answered, I hope that it can help some go deeper into Awakening. For instance, if you already have some sense of I-AM ness, inquire, "What is the Source of this I-AM?" You may find it is more than "Turtles all the way down."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'd Dance in Ecstacy

I'd dance in ecstacy,
But my legs hurt too much.
Perhaps then I'd work off some of this belly,
Which has grown so large!
But then where would I store my Love?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dream Interpretation

Everyone dreams. It is a regular occurrence. Several times each evening you go through a series of sleep cycles and you dream. Many people get into the interpretation of the dream - what does this mean? What does that symbolize? And there is certainly nothing wrong with that and many insights may be had from the process.

But what if there is another even greater purpose of the dream? What if the main purpose of the night time dream is to show you that you can have what appears to be an entirely concrete reality - you can live in that reality, experience all kinds of things in that reality, and that everything in that reality is, in fact, not reality at all. It's a dream. Even, you, the dreamer disappear from that dream when you wake up! What if the purpose of the dream, more than figuring out ways to make our daytime better, are, rather, to show us that the daytime drama is nothing but another dream, and that we can awaken from that dream as well?

During the evening dream, you are entirely convinced that it is real. These things are factually happening. You don't question it, no matter how bizarre the incidents in the dream are. Then, you wake up snug in your bed and go, "Oh, THAT was just a dream. Now I'm back in the real world!" And then we spend every moment ignoring the lesson of the dream that, this too, is just another dream.

Most people, at least those that would be reading this, have heard the story of the old monk who wakes up and says, "I was just dreaming I was a butterfly. But now, I'm not sure if I am a monk thinking he had a dream of being a butterfly, or if I am a butterfly dreaming that I am now a monk." We immediately assume that the night dream is unreal and the daytime one is real. Even if we theoretically 'understand' that they might both be dreams, we act on a different level - that the night dream is unreal but the day dream is real.

Numerous scriptures and saints have pointed out that the only difference between the night dream and the day dream is time (i.e. 8 hours versus 16 hours). Right now, as you are reading this, you could suddenly WAKE UP in your bed and go, "Oh, I was just dreaming I was reading a blog by somebody named Aja (the 'Unborn'). Ha Ha. There's nobody named Aja, but that was interesting. Now let me get on with my REAL life." And then you wake up from that one too.

The Yoga Vasistha is a wonderful book wherein you have characters living in dreams within dream within dreams - awakening from one into the other and totally unsure which if any are real. Many Buddhists practice asking themselves, "Is this a dream?" during the day, in order to help facilitate lucid dreaming at night, so that they might have more time to practice their meditations (yes, while they are "asleep and dreaming"). Buddhists often call this whole shebang the dream of Buddha. The Bhagavatam calls this the dream of Vishnu. And yet, every night the Guru of Dreaming shows us that what appears to be real is, in fact, a dream, and every morning we awaken, ignore the instruction, and go on acting as if the daydream is some type of all important concrete reality!

Hmmm... I guess we're just slow learners, eh?!

"Wake Up, Neo.....

The Matrix has got you!"

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Friday, June 05, 2009

The Magazine

My wife holds out a buddist magazine.
"Here is a Buddhist magazine. Would you like to read it?"

With some hesitation, if not outright trepidation, I take it.
"Thanks."

I'm hesitatant, not because I'm not Buddhist, but because I know where this goes. I am not patient. I am not compassionate. I am leery. I glance through the table of contents. Just as I suspect - a lot of articles that seem more aligned to making people feel good, than to get them to dump all the crap in their minds.

We are all the same. We would rather talk about surrender than to actually surrender. We would rather read about someone who has 'made' it, than to 'make' it ourselves. We'd rather study the intricacies of the teachings than to put them into practice. We would rather argue about (or even agree about) the variations of the Great Teachings than to whole-heartedly give ourselves to them. Or we might want to keep struggling to find the perfect teaching, just a little better, a little closer, than to recognize the Infinite, Absolute and totally Ordinary Divinity of NOW.

Virtually every thought is a distraction, unless it points dead-on at the Truth. Every idea is a diversion unless it is showing you your Own Face. Every teaching is a pile of crap unless it makes you go..."Ah, Ah, Ah" as you dive into the immediacy of the Divine.

There is ONE infinite Ocean. What you experience as you is but the water of one wave. You fret and strut as the one wave - paying attention to the shape and form and floaters in yours and the others waves, ever neglecting the immediacy of the waterness, which ultimately leads to the immediacy of ALL waterness.

There is ONLY GOD, the ONE, the Absolute. Yes, all argumentation, all thinking, all concepts are also That, but in looking at them, we run the risk of identifying with them and lose our identification with the REAL-ness of the Divine.

The mind is like a prism which breaks up the light of the ONE, and turns it into the colors of the many. The colors are just the one, but we pick and choose between them. The prism, the mind, will NEVER, put the colors back into the ONE. It, sadly, only breaks them apart. Let go of the mind. Smash the prism. Rest in the ONE.

Sarvam khalvidam Brahma - All This is indeed the Absolute

Vasudevah Sarvam - All is God

Om Purnam adah purnam idam - That is the Wholeness, This is the Wholeness

Only God IS. There is nothing else. Every moment IS GOD.

Rest in that and forget the rest.... especially this magazine...

So, in the end, having glanced through a number of self-aggrandizing and self-effacing articles (amidst one or two okay ones) I turn to the back cover....

It reads:

"Is Your Investment Strategy Sustainable?"

Oh good Lord!!!!!

God is the only investment strategy I have.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Utter Simplicity

I am guilty. Guilty of the Sin of complication. We all are, cuz that's what our minds tend to make us do...Complicate things.

Here is the simple answer to everything:

1. Love what you have,
2. Love who you're with,
3. Love God.

Not necessarily in that order.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Belief IN vs. Belief ABOUT

Recently, I came across the following quote, "Belief IN God is Faith; Belief ABOUT God is Religion (or Theology).".In attempting to find the original source, all I came up with was Freemason documents. But the point is excellent. While ultimately all beliefs are primarily habits of the mind, within the phenomenal scope of things, certain beliefs are beneficial. One is a belief in a higher Good, God, Truth, the Absolute... something!!! It spurs us on to investigate, to explore Truth, and to be open to going deeper. On the other hand, belief ABOUT God or the Absolute, predefines what it should look like. It causes us to hold on to old patterns, and to only see through our own filters of what God or the Absoloute IS or SHOULD BE, and how to recognize or realize that with our own direct experience. Today some huge percentage of Americans claim to be "Spiritual, but not religious," and yet still hold onto ideas about what Awakening or Enlightenment or Reality is or should be. As they begin to investigate, they often find that their original ideas were waaaayyyyy off. That's part of growth. But more often than not, there is a place where people get stuck, because where they are is somewhat comfortable (or comfortable enough) and to go any further would require letting go of more of the beliefs 'about', while holding onto the 'faith in'. Faith is not a bad thing. You could perhaps replace it with the word 'trust'. Every time you leave your home, you have faith (conscious or not) that you will find your way back. Each night as you go to sleep, you have faith that you will wake up in the morning. You have faith that your body will digest your food, your heart will continue beating, the sun will continue to shine, and so forth. If you had to worry about all of these things, you'd probably go mad. Similarly, there are many small things that we do worry about, that DO tend to drive us mad. Don't worry ABOUT; have faith IN. You know there is something more about it all, or that you are 'bigger' or 'greater' than your mind allows you to realize, or that there is a Being or Presence or Absoluteness of which the little you is a part. You really don't need to define it much, in fact it's best not to. As you begin to define it, you are creating a belief ABOUT. You really can't know, just as a teacup dipped into the ocean can't experience the nature of the totality of the ocean - only a small flavor of it. But without that faith IN, we are stuck, by our mental habits, to a place of bondage, rather than one of total freedom.

Monday, April 20, 2009

How To Live Happily - More or Less

I was never a huge 'Seinfeld' fan, altthough I recognize a certain existentialism that at times was appealing, and once in a while, a true teaching. For instance, those who ARE fans will certainly remember the episode in which George decides to do the opposite of whatever his initial tendencies are. Sitting with Jerry in the cafe, he sees a pretty girl and wants to approach her, but then remembers that basically everything he tries fails. (If you're a real die-hard fan, forgive me if I don't have it exactly right and just follow along.) Jerry suggests that whatever he thinks he should do or tell her, that George should do exactly the opposite. So instead of feeding her some line of bullcrap, how about just telling her the truth. George decides that might just work, and so going to the young woman says, "Hi, I'm George. I'm totally unmotivated, am unemployed and live with my parents." And, of course, the woman immediately turns to him, smiles, and with obvious interest, replies, "Really?!"

Essentially, any unhappiness is caused by not getting what we think we want. What we think we want is a product of our ego or our sense of individualized and separated "I". The mind and intellect (manas and buddhi in Sanskrit) decipher what are the objects of awareness, (not a problem), but then the label them as desirable or undesireable. The sense of "I" wants what it deems as desireable and rejects what it sees as undesireable. Thus causing the unhappiness.Nisargadatta said something to the effect of... "You are unhappy because you want what you don't have and don't want what you do have. Just turn that around - Want what you have, and don't want what you don't have." The simplicity of it is overwhelming, however, the practice is often another thing. We are trained, especially by our present day culture, that we should be able to have whatever we want. Our entire culture is geared around the fact that we should have exactly what we want, when we want it. We deserve it. We are entitled to it. Forget what anyone else wants, or what impact our wanting has on anyone or anything else. Gimme, Gimme, Gimme.

One of my semi-surrogate grand-daughters was over the other day with her 14 month old baby girl, and she mentioned that her new favorite word is, "MINE". She'll pick something up, anything, and boastfully proclaim, "MINE!" Is this not what everyone is trying to do?When I was around 11, my parents signed me up for piano lessons with the local piano teacher, Mrs. Merciel, an older widow who lived at the end of the block, and I think had been teaching piano since it was the harpsichord. I remember almost nothing of what she taught me (and still can't play piano worth beans), but one thing has stuck with me over the nearly half century. Nearly everyone has heard this, but it was the first time I had heard it, I have noo remembrance of the context of why she said it, but it was...

"The more you know, the less you know."

While an obvious Truism, it is also a teaching.

So, another way of looking at Nisargadatta's statement is switch 'more' for 'less'......

The less you know, the more you know.

Want more Money? Try wanting less money
Think you are more special? Recognize you are less special.
Think you should do more? Try doing less? (Or try Be-ing more)
Want more people to like you? Try wanting less people to like you. (or Want to like others more)Think you deserve more. Consider that you deserve less. (or be grateful for the more you have).
Think you need more knowledge? Trying needing less knowledge.

I think you get the picture. Simply see when some sort of unhappiness or resistance or desire arises which says you want more (or less) of something, and try turning it around. What would it be like to have or want the opposite in some way. Recognize who or what it is that is desiring that, and inquire into the very reality of that "I" which is desiring. Recognize that when there is no desiring, but rather a satisfaction with what is, then there is peace, and from peace comes happiness.

So, how to live happily, more or less? Try the opposite. It just might work.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Rebirth

Yesterday, my wife says to me, "Tomorrow is Easter" and my response is something like, "And...?", as if that is supposed to mean something to me. (Generally, I like to get a new bonnet, but don't let anyone know.) The truth is, I wasn't born Christian, I never practiced Christianity, and of course, neither do most of the people that enjoy Easter. Easter really has very little to do with Christianity - it's about Rebirth, and Rebirth is something that all of us are continuously experiencing.

Our Easter, much as we know it, is said to be stolen from the elusive group called the Pagans, as if they were some kind of specific group that weren't there, then were, and now aren't again. Most think that that the word Pagan relates to those anti-Christian types, but many believe that originally the word, coming from the Latin Paganus, actually just meant a forest or country dweller, a hick, a 'country bumpkin' so to speak, rather than a civilized type. But in any case, the idea of Easter, Christian or otherwise, is really about death and rebirth.

Death and rebirth is all around us. We are death and rebirth. We live on a planet that is continuously dying and being reborn - our days, our seasons, the plants. Everything is in this ongoing cycle of dying and being reborn. Many believe that we, too, die and are reborn through reincarnation. But, this is not about that right now. Right now, I want to simply talk about this life.

In the Christian perspective, Easter is about Christ dying on the cross and rising, reborn, on Easter, when he is spotted by some of the disciples, and later shows up for them in a locked room. It is about the Arisen Christ. Each of us, has the opportunity, in EVERY moment, to be Reborn, to expand our Arising Christ-ness. However, for that to happen, we also MUST DIE.

Being reborn is dependent on dying. You can't have the one without the other, and therein lies the rub. No one wants to die. Everyone wants to hold on to the old AND have the new. It is what is traditionally called, "having the cake and eating it too", which again, I will point out if people said it the other way around (i.e. eating the cake and still having it too). Christ's death and rebirth was said to be on a physical level - the body died on the cross and was miraculously reborn in the sepulchre. And our bodies (cells, etc.) die and are reborn constantly. More importantly than this, however, is the death and rebirth of our mind, intellect, our beliefs, our faith.

Right now, for instance, I feel and believe, as do many others, that our entire planet is going through a death and rebirth process, which is why it feels so strange. Dying isn't necessarily pleasant or unpleasant, but is generally seen as such if we feel a need to hang on to the old. If people try to continue their old ways and lifestyles, it's gonna hurt. That's resistance to what is. However, if we all simply let go of the old and allow for the new, it's relatively painless.

Nearly every tradition has some sort of initiatiatory process - a Christian baptism, the Vedic diksha, the Jewish Bar Mitzvah, the Native American vision quest. Some are more symbolic, and others are much more experiential. Truly, we are going through a death and rebirth process every time we actually have a very deep insight or real-ization into the way things are. Myself, I can count many rebirths through this life, two of the most prominent being when I was ordained as a monk and Priest in the Vedic tradition, and far more so, when I REAL-ized the Self or awoke to pure consciousness in 1990. But that is/was not the end. There are ever more and more awakenings and rebirths, and although we like to focus on what was 'gained' we have to recognize that nearly always, something was 'lost' or rather given up or, perhaps, even better, outgrown.

If you want to cross the lake on a boat, you have to leave the one shore to get to the other. You can't expect to hold onto the old ways of thinking and being and expect to make much progress. This is much like Einstein's quote, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." We have to give up the old thoughts and ideas. Intiations, in many traditions often include a name change (I became Aja - the Unborn One). Very often, I see people taking a new name, and then going back to the old one. Perhaps better would be to take a new NEW name - moving forward instead of backwards. But I digress.

Our opportunity is contiuous dying and rebirthing - an unfoldment into a deeper and more expansive Presence. But concomitant with that is the dying. We mustn't forget that. So recognize what you are holding onto now and willingly and lovingly give it up to expand into a greater place. Be willing to 'die daily' and be 'reborn' as a new you. And then you can be...

In your Easter Bonnet
With all the frills upon it
You'll be the grandest lady
In the Easter Parade

So...Happy Easter....
Happy Dying
Happy Rebirthing!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

God Or Mammon - Love or Profits

"The spiritual world and material world do not go well together." Srila Prabhupada

"The realer the world, the greater the misery. The realer the Self, the greater the joy." - Lester Levenson

"If the the time spent thinking about objects NOT the Self were spent inquiring into the Self, Self realization would be achieved very quickly." Ramana Maharshi

"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." - Jesus

[First, in my ignorance, I never knew what 'mammon' was. Finally, I looked it up. Mammon basically means wealth.]

Okay, I think you get the picture here. There is a very common approach going on now that says I want to enjoy the world and have total spiritual realization. That is not an impossibility, the difficulty is, most people are not ready for that. In other words, once you have recognized the complete illusory nature of the material world, and no longer have ANY attachments for it, can recognize that it is ALL God happening, then, and only then, can it really be enjoyed. But at that point, it will no longer be a material phenomena, it will also be GOD.

The other day, while in the garden with my son, he was looking out at the empty field and I asked what he was doing. "Envisioning abundant gardens," he said.
"Wonderful" I responded, "and the people?"
"No people, just plants."

Now, I love that he was envisioning abundance, but I also know that part of this (not all by any means) is to make a lot of money. Unfortunately, this is too often the case with people's interest in 'spirituality' - they want it to have a better 'material' life. "When I'm enlightened, then..." There are innumerable ego issues in here - control, fame, wealth, enjoyment, etc. etc. etc. You can have all the food in the world or all the money in the world or all the sex in the world or all the anything in the world, but if you don't have true knowledge of the Self, true re-cognition of Spirit, of God, of the Absolute, there will never be happiness.

Like our current economic crisis. The government is throwing trillions upon trillions of dollars away to try to save something which was a bust in the first place - a false economic lifestyle. I recognize that most people (nearly all) still believe that it is and should be salvaged. This is NOT the case. The entire economic system itself is a ponzi scheme, a pyramid scheme. If you do not understand this, study it a little bit. Money=Debt. All this money is created by the banks, and every dollar they create is attached to interest. So how does this work.

The bank loans me $100
(It is understood that I now owe them $110 with interest)

In order to pay that loan back, I must go to other people who similarly got their money from a bank (to whom they owe a principle AND interest)

(Banks win, you lose)

Oops, now nobody has any money, so I borrow MORE money (from the bank) to pay back the original loan (with additional interest of course)

Now the banks have outstanding lots of money and lots of money supposed to come in. But nobody has any money, so they keep borrowing "money" from the banks who happily keep printing it up.

(Banks keep winning... you keep losing)

Now this is obviously a pretty simplistic explanation, but it gives you the idea. I recently read that if you had invested $1 at the year Zero A.D. that one dollar would now be worth (at normal interest rates) of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (One septillion dollars), which is of course more money than the world has ever seen. It is an impossibility. It is like trying to blow up a rubber balloon infinitely. At some point it has to give. It has to break. We are now at the breaking point. So even on the 'material' level, what we need is not money, not a change in economy, but a total reversal of the way we see and do things. The material world is NOT where it's at. We need to live in away that facilitates spiritual awakening and not material enlargement. Our purpose here is NOT (contrary to many people's opinion) to make more money, or to be happy and comfortable, but to awaken to who we are. You are either serving your ego, your selfish individualistic sense of self, or you are serving the One Self, God, the All. Even serving society or serving your family is a big improvement over simply serving the little self. So ask yourself, how much of my time is spent thinking about how to get more money (or ???) for ME? How much of your time is spent working toward helping others or toward Self or God REAL-ization? The answer to this question will give you a true assessment of how really successful you are!

Monday, February 09, 2009

There was a Baby in that Bathwater?

Over the last couple of decades, it seems, there has been a very strong tendency for people to reference themselves as "Spiritual, but not religious." While there is nothing wrong with that per se, it does point to a deeper aspect of spirituality that is being tossed aside - God.

These days, it has become nearly politically incorrect to reference God. In fact, many literally cringe at the mere mention of the Creators reference. And why is that? Because "I am the creator!" many proclaim. "It is all MY creation, MY projection, MY reality." While this is not specifically untrue, it is not the entirety of the truth, and I must confess, over the years, I have done my part to create this damage as well.

In part, it is because, for centuries, there was so much focus on the Personal side of the Absolute - focusing on God the Father, which was intrinsic to the patriarchic 'old boy' school of Judeo-Christian ethics, and so forth. The rewarding and punishing Father. So, like almost everything, the pendulum swung in the entirely different direction. Give up anything that smacks of a Creator God, there is no Personal, only the impersonal. Enlightenment and Self Realization has become the big thing. Rows of shelves on Buddhism, Zen, Advaita, and a little make-shift spot for Hinduism (with their 'gods and goddesses'). How to be 'spiritual' without God, religion, doctrine, formality - these are the things we strive for.

You ARE spiritual. It is what you are. You don't have to strive to be that, and much of what has been thrown out are the means to understand that and make it real. Just saying, "I'm spiritual" doesn't do anything any more than saying, "I'm human." Of course you are. But having said it, many people think 'That's It! I'm done!" This is the landing in India scenario again. You may spend thousands of dollars to land in Delhi airport, and then go, "Been to India. That was great," get back on the airplane and fly home. That's not India. You have to go out and see the sites, meet the people, eat the food, get sick on the food, see the temples, visit the sacred sites, have your baggage stolen, and much, much more!

In the same way, Enlightenment or 'Awakening' is really just the beginning. It's not even a religion as much as a basic understanding. It's not a method of living or a practice, as it is a philosophy, an understanding. (Buddhism, of course, is a religion, in the traditional sense.) Enlightenment is about the REAL-ization that What you are is Consciousness. It is the Re-Cognition of That Reality. But it is the beginning, not the end. It is the landing in India. It is re-cognizing that you are the wave of the ocean, a drop of the sea. Our idea is, "Oh, I am water, I am the all inclusive, infinite ocean, when all we have done is understood we are more than the body, and in most cases, people continue to consider themselves primarily the body.

The ocean manifests itself as waves - little burbles of vibration on its surface. The waves are NOT the ocean. Sunlight is manifested from the sun, not the other way around. Let's try it a little bit differently: hair, nails, pus, sputum, piss, shit, are all part of a person. When they are connected TO that person, they are valued (some more than others). Once they are left in a pile somewhere, they are still energetically a part of that person, but lose a great deal of their value.
It is their connection to the person that gives them value. Similarly, our value is as part of the Absolute. The value of the manifest reality is as part of the Absolute. It's like the idea of a zero's. You can have a whole lot of zeros (and NO "E." I'm not talking about you here!), but without a "1" in front of them, they still add up to nothing.

Most of today's so-called spirituality is an attempt to 'spiritualize' the material, in large part to rationalize the cripping independence, individuality, selfishness, and narcissism that has become the mainstay of today's "Spiritual, but not religious" norm. (Something like 80% of Americans classify themselves in this category [don't quote me on that]. Many even are the 20 million Americans who 'practice' yoga, not realizing that yoga means the same thing as religion:
Yoga = to yoke, to re-connect Re-ligion = to re-lig (like ligament), to re-connect.

While it is true that the Absolute IS IMpersonal, it is also true that the Absolute is Personal. The Absolute is Infinite, ALL inclusive, One without a second, beyond all ideas of personal vs. impersonal. As is so often the case, following our mind's demands and whims, we have scurried away from one extreme to the other. We have fled the personal to the strictly impersonal; we have run from God to God-less, and yes, when you have God-less, it equates to something that most people would not characterize themselves as - Atheists. While wanting to escape the dogmatism and close-mindedness that so often is a part of traditional beliefs, we have tossed the baby of God, out with the bathwater of 'religion'. And we are hurting because of it. Everything personal has fallen to the wayside - including family, community, a sense of belonging, someone or something to look up to. In spite of our hubris and thinking we are ALL that is, we inherently know it not to be true. The Absolute is ALL there is, and we, as individuals are a part of that ALL, but unless there is a complete eradication of any and all individuality (something I have NEVER seen in anyone), there will continue to be a distinction of the limited with the unlimited. If the wave has no ocean to look toward, it is a mighty tiny thing, poor and lacking in any real power. There is certainly little place for Love, or at least the immensity of it that is carried by the entirety of the Ocean.

Sri Ramakrishna, the 19th century saint, said it this way, "Why does a vijnani (fully enlightened person) keep an attitude of love toward God? The answer is that the 'I-consciousness' persists. It disappears in the state of samadhi, no doubt, but it comes back. In the case of ordinary people the 'I' never disappears. You may cut down the ashwattha tree, but the next day sprouts shoot up." In other words, even those like Ramana and Ramakrishna had a deeply devotional aspect. Buddha never said there wasn't a God, it just wasn't the point he was making. He was simply saying that suffering is due to desire, and by cutting out desire there's no more suffering. God, no God, not part of that basic equation. But as Ramakrishna points out, when not directly in samadhi (simplistic terms - totally focused on and in the Absolute) the tendency of the "I-am" is to focus on something else, generally something not spiritual and, well, stupid! I mean after all, you can decorate old hair and nails and piss and shit and all that and make it real pretty-like, but it's still SHIT. You can make the prison house or the loony bin gorgeous, but it's still a cage.

I know, I know, it's totally spiritually incorrect to talk like this. I'm supposed to see the bright and beautiful and .... But my spiritual master said, "Unless we have a pessimistic view of this material life, considering the distresses of birth, death, old age and disease, there is no impetus for making advancement in spiritual life." In other words, we land in India, go "Cool" and go back to Western "Civilization".

[ What do you think of western civilization, Mr. Gandhi? "I think it would be a good idea!"]

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Where are We and What's Going On?

I want to tell you a little story, or go down a little "What-if" journey....

We'll start by saying - What if you were born in a particular place and it is the same place that your parents and their parents and THEIR parents and...well you get the picture... where everybody was born. And what if this place was, oh, say a prison or a looney bin. But you wouldn't know it as you were born there, as were your parents and everyone else. In fact, there would be virtually no one you knew that could tell you what it truly was. Oh sure, occassionally some whack-job would say it was a prison or nut-house, but, we, of course, following the politically/spiritually/culturally correct dictums knew way better. This was OUR world and it was a great place and we would make it better and sweller in every way, and we would be happy (all evidence to the contrary put aside).

And so, we go about our lives, convinced by a few of the elders in this place, that we could, in fact, create a beautiful and happy reality here.

All right, let's look at it in another way. Imagine a regular prison or mental institute. Within that facility, the people are going to do everything they can to make it a wonderful place to be. They may even be able to fill it with love and beauty, treating others with compassion, and in every way it could be a virtual paradise based on their own way of being there and how they are treated and treat others. But ITS STILL A PRISON. As wonderful as you make it, it remains, at best a gilded cage.

The difficulty is that people are not really willing to face the fact that they are in place designated for them by their level of consciousness, and the reality here is that the phenomenal world is based on those who want to be separate from the Absolute. It is the premise of this place, and that the idea is to find "Mukti" or freedom - freedom from the very constructs which bind them into it. Now, within a prison, you might TRY to play nice, and pretend to be outside the prison, but only very specific changes in being and regulatory guidelines will actually get you out of the prison (or looney bin). You CAN'T fake it.

Everyone here....EVERYONE... all the teachers and spiritual personalities and political leaders and new age guides... they are all directed by these guidelines to some extent or another. Some are aware of it. Most are not. They teach because it makes them money, or makes them more powerful within the framework that is there, and in part from compassion. At any given time, there may be 1 or 2 truly free individuals, lots of well meaning ones, and a huge amount of phonies. I'm not trying to be negative here. Only Truthful.

Where are we? What it would it look like to TRULY be free in every conceivable way. What is your feeling about death, for instance? Most people are afraid of death, because they truly are attached to this apparent reality. But it's like someone who is afraid to wake up because they are attached to their dream. This world is simply another dream. There are infinite dreams, one within another within another in an Infinity of Potentiality. But we are so attached to this dream that we are unsure and afraid of any other. We can't imagine someone actually wanting to get OUT of this dream. (Don't worry, I'm not doing anything weird... I'm just saying, to me, it's just a room and I'm looking forward to seeing what's outside of it.)

But without some kind of inquiry into what You are, who You are, and what the Universe truly is, you remain locked, not only in the room itself, but the concepts about the room. And inquiry doesn't mean learning mentally about the various new age or spiritual ideas about what's going on, but literally exploring it yourself. Most people want to hold onto cool spiritual ideas AND continue to live in their normal way. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE. This is why when you see those who are truly saintly, truly mystical, rarely do their lifestyles look anything like yours. Most of them you probably have never even heard about. Yes, they still live in caves or forests as far from this so called civilization as possible.

Now, I will grant that there are a lot of positive, apparently evolutionary changes taking place in the world, and more people seem to be waking up (mentally) to the illusions, but that's still a far cry from being the living, breathing embodiment of Truth. Just to be clear, I do not claim to be either. However, I have spent more than 30 years exploring it intensely, and have been blessed with much grace. But it is a willingness to possibly look at things that you may not want to look at; to let go of things you may not want to let go of; to investigate things in a different way. Many of these things may go against those cultural and spiritual and political correctnesses. Fuck Em! What's important to you? Truth or looking good? Truth or comfort? Truth or fitting in? Truth or LIFE?