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!"]