At the edge of the woods behind our house, there is a small gazebo. Often, we sit there, and consider seeker’s stuff. There are no rules governing considerations in the gazebo except this: There are no rules. The mind, guided by the heart, is encouraged to explore whatever spiritual ideas it can conceive. Sometimes, these are ideas we are working on. Sometimes they are ideas that are working on us.
On this page, we report those considerations. Over the years, we have outgrown this page, and spilled over to here.
Him I hold to be the supreme yogi
who looks on the pleasure and pain of all beings
as he looks on them in himself.
While TZF’s Open Forum was active, some comments, observations, and other items
that might ordinarily have been posted here, were
instead posted there. Now, although Open Forum is
inactive, everything on it remains available for
reading. To go there now, please click
Last evening before retiring, I read a couple of pages from I Am That. I do so often for several reasons, among which are, I Am That is one of the Teaching Devices we have come across which (1) is packed with Living Power – reading it is quite literarlly like being in the presence of the Teacher, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, and (2) perhaps because of (1), every time I read from the book, the material comes across as if for the first time, and (3) reading this stuff quite literally “moves” me from the “I am Stefan, and you aren’t” position to … beyond that – even if only for an instant.
Anyway, on page 382 of the 1973 edition which we have, I read this:
You cannot fight pain and pleasure on the level of consciousness. To go beyond them you must go beyond consciousnessness, which is possible only when you look at consciousness as something that happens to you and not in you, as something external, alien, and superimposed. Then, suddenly you are free of consciousness, really alone, with nothing to intrude. And that is your true state. Consciousness is an itching rash that makes you scratch. Of course, you cannot step out of consciousness. But if you learn to look at your consciousness as a sort of fever, personal and private, in which you are enclosed like a chick in its shell, out of this very attitude will come the crisis which will break the shell.
Earlier on this page, I wrote in part, “At the body’s birth, and often beginning even before then, the parents weave a basket of thoughts about their new creation. They give it a name, make plans for it, talk to it, express its beauty, remark on whom it looks like, and so on. Slowly but surely, the basket fills. … The basket of thoughts is the personality. When I say, “I am Stefan”, what I mean is, I identify with the basket of thoughts (memories, expectations, and so on) originally weaved by Stefan’s parents, and that now, taken all together, compose what I call ‘me’.”
All along, the problem for me with the “basket” image, much as I otherwise liked it, is that it suggested (1) that there is a “somewhere” where the basket resides and (2) that also in that somewhere are others – people, places, things, like, in this image, Stefan's parents, when I believe that the truth is that the basket is all there is. That is, the contents of the basket consist not only of all the accumulated thoughts, memories, expectations, etc. which compose what I call Stefan, but also every thing else that I perceive (past, present, or future) as my life. In other words, in the separative universe defined by the perception “I am Stefan, and you aren’t”, the basket is all there is.
If I am understanding Nisargadatta correctly (that's a big if), the basket is consciousness.
But he describes it not as a basket, but as an eggshell. That is, the outer limits of the basket are the shell of an egg, and everything inside the shell is what I call “me” and “my life”. Outside the shell is … what? … the Void, which is the absence of any separate thing … the Divine. The only way “there” is by cracking the shell, at which point POOF! the entirety disappears, and all that is left is the VOID … the Divine (which is all there ever was anyway?).
That's a great image. Sleeping on it last night, the image evolved from an eggshell into a bubble, a bubble enclosing what I perceive as me and my life floating about the VOID, a bubble which, when popped, disappears along with all its contents, and all that is left is the VOID … the Divine.
August 4, 2012
VOID? That’s a distrurbing word to the separative egoic body/mind. But, of course, it would be, because that is precisely what it means, the absence of the separative ego, or any semblance, suggestion, hint, allegation, or otherwise allusion to “other”, any other. This is the CHAOS which virtually all the spiritual traditions affirm. Thus, Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.”
Without form. In other words, without boundaries, undefined. This is chaos in the Greek sense of KHAOS described by one website as “the void from which all things developed into a distinctive entity.”
Distinctive entity. This is the Universe before the so-called Fall and the creation of “the knowldege of and“ … as suggested in In The Beginning:
Now, looking at the scene [the Garden of Eden] in this new light, some of what had seemed confusing to us about The Fall account begins to make sense. Even the tree with its forbidden fruit assumes a different shape and an appropriate function. Consider, for example, the name of the tree, “The Knowledge of Good and Evil”. That single word “and” in the name gives away its secret to those whose ears will hear. In the beginning, when there was only One Thing, there was no word “and”. Of what use would it have been? The word “and” is a conjunction, and conjunctions serve to join or connect things. Where there is only one thing, there is nothing to connect. In the beginning, there was only God, no God and … anything.
…… Notice too in this context that in Genesis God delegates to Adam the function of naming “every living creature”. To God in His Wholeness, there is no need for names. In Truth, there is only One “living creature”, God, and it is nameless, at least to Itself. After all, what use to name It? Who would address It? There is no other. It is only from the perspective of those with “the knowledge of and”, those who see the One as many, that things need to be named, to be distinguished each from another, to be addressed. To God it is all One, Himself. It’s All the Same to Me, God might say; but as Adam, it is quite another story. To Adam (remember, that’s God-as-Adam), it is boys and girls, and cats and dogs, and chickens and foxes, and all sorts of other good things!
The ego nods knowingly, and convinces itself that all that stuff is fine, but not applicable to it. The ego convinces itself (convinces “me”) that “Self-Realization” applies to it. That is, Self-Realization is something Stefan can achieve, and in doing so can say, “I am Self-Realized, and you aren’t”!
But as Nisargadatta says, “There is no such thing as a person.” Thus, there is no such thing as a Stefan. What I call Stefan (and Stefan’s life) is no more than (but all of) an ever-growing collection of thoughts, memories, and expectations … enclosed in a bubble drifting about in KHAOS.
Pop the bubble, and POOF! it’s all gone, never to have been.
August 5, 2012
I am the lover and the beloved.
Husayn bin Masur Hallaj
The last few weeks, I have been reviewing and updating the HTML coding that enables browsers to display The Zoo Fence. (Those who are not familiar with HTML (hyper-text markup language), but who are interested, can see it by right-clicking anywhere on any page of The Zoo Fence, and choosing “View Page Source” or a similar choice, depending upon the browser you are using). This review-and-amending is a time-consuming process, particularly because TZF consists of a lot of pages containing a lot of coding. But it is necessary because a lot of the coding I have done over the fifteen years since TZF moved from hard copy existence to life on the web, has been revised or replaced … or, to use the technical term, “deprecated”.
Anyway, the other day, reviewing one of the pages, I came across this thought: “The mind can prove as true anything it wants to believe, as false anything it doesn’t like. Thus, of what use to a seeker is the mind’s proof?” Then, that evening, in an episode of Inspector Lewis on Maine Public Television, there was a reference to an observation by Ralph Waldo Emerson about science and imagination. I do not remember exactly how it went, but later I found this Emerson quotation on the internet, “Science does not know its debt to imagination.” I don’t think that is precisely as it was on the Inspector Lewis program, but perhaps it is, and in any case it’s close enough.
Putting those two pieces together generated this thought: Imagination creates an idea, a concept, and then projects evidence of its truth.
Thus, imagination creates something, say, the concept of evolution, and then generates and projects into “the world” (which is itself, of course, a projection of the imagination/mind) evidence which proves the truth of evolution (fossils, etc.).
All of this ties in with a thought I have been struggling with for years, to wit, Am I (is each of us) creating – imagining – “my life”, and then (simultaneously) projecting all the requisite apparent events and memories to “prove” its reality? All the Teachers seem to insist that is so, and increasingly my life (!) confirms it.
July 21, 2012
He that complies
against his will
Is of his own opinion still
Imagine a Self-Realized Master – a Guru, a Teacher – telling disciples or devotees about the imminent death of his (or her) physical body, and reassuring them that he or she will always be in their presence (like, “I am always with you”). One of the devotees responds, “But, Guru, I won’t be able to see you then.”.
Over the centuries in all the traditions, how many exchanges like that have there been between a Teacher and disciples? Thousands, surely.
But here’s the thing. I can’t remember ever reading or hearing about a Teacher having responded to such a question in the one way which makes the most sense, which is, “You can’t see me now.” Or “You won’t be able to see me then just as you cannot see me now.”
Think about it. When we look at a Teacher – in person, in a photograph, on a canvas or mural – what we see is a phyiscal body. But, by definition, the Teacher has transcended the physical body totally, entirely, unequivocally. The Teacher is not the body. The Teacher is Infinite Consciousness (whatever precisely that is). And THAT we cannot see. So, clearly, none of us has ever actually SEEN a Teacher.
That musing led me to this: The function of the five senses (sight, hearing, etc.) is to materialize Consciousness, to make Consciousness “sensible”.
The Teachers all tell us, even science now tells us (albeit in slightly different language), that all of us, all of everything, is Consciousness. The five senses make it possible for us to see it, to feel it, to taste it, to hear it, to touch it.
Here, I am reminded of the film, The Invisible Man. The only way others can see him is when he has clothes on.
March 12, 2012
“And when you have saluted Demetrius, turn aside to the seashore where the island of Calypson lies; for there you shall see me appear to you.”
“Alive,” asked Mamis, “or how?”
Apollonius with a smile replied: “As I myself believe, alive, but as you will believe, risen from the dead.”
Over the years, I suppose I have said this on TZF here, there, and everywhere, in as many different ways, but a couple of weeks ago it struck me with the clarity and power of a lightning bolt. and I have not been able to shake it.
The separative egoic concept “me” (I am me and you aren’t me) is the reason for or the manifestation of or is another expression of or, in some way I can’t quite put into words yet, the sine qua non of, everything that is perceived as wrong or negative or evil in the world or in our “reality”. Consider that the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, etc.) all depend for their existence on the existence of “me”. Ditto the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). Death, disease, poverty, anger, frustration, loneliness, confusion, each depends for its existence on the existence of “me”. Politics depends on the existence of “me”. Even religion depends on the existence of “me”.
Eliminate “me”, and all of that is … poof! … gone.
Clearly, the problem with “me” is that it generates (it is) the perception of an other – other persons (not me), other things (not this), other places (not here), other times (not now), and in a Universe in which there is no God but God and God is all there is (for a consideration of that idea, please see The Simple Way), there is no such thing as “other”. What would it be? Where would it be? When would it be?
The egoic perception of “me” creates something-somewhere-some time which does not exist precisely because it is something which cannot exist, something which is simply not possible in a Universe of only One Thing, God.
To be sure, the perception of “me” seems to us not only possible but even self-evident – just look in the mirror, and so each of us lives our lives accordingly.
But the fact remains, the perception of “me” and all its expressions are not real. However real seeming, it is an illusion. We are perceiving it, but it is not there.
In the book “ Take Off Your Shoes”, in order to understand this apparent contradiction, I suggest what I call “the prism effect”:
Consider the simple prism, an ordinary piece of multifaceted glass. As any school child knows, if we hold a prism up to a source of white light, and view the light through the glass, what was a single color will suddenly be seen quite differently: as a spectrum of separate, distinct colors. What was one (the single color white) now appears as many (purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red). Explaining this phenomenon in the classroom, we say that the prism has refracted or broken down the white light into its component parts. But, having said that, we must take care not to conclude that the parts exist independently of the whole. That is, the colors are not themselves separate, self-sustaining things which exist apart from the white light. They are not really parts at all. They are aspects of the whole and inseparable from it. The individual, apparently separate colors are just another way of seeing the one white light. Indeed, they are white light, seen differently. The spectrum purple-through-red is not a thing of itself, but simply white light viewed through a prism, and to demonstrate that point we have only to remove the prism, and the “other” colors disappear. They never really could exist at all without the white light, and they certainly were not separate entities, although in the glass they seemed to be. Again, the apparent separate and distinct reality of the spectrum is created by the prism (one color seen as many). Notice, too, that during our use of the prism, the white light is not itself actually changed, does not cease to exist as it was before or after our use of the prism, and in a very real sense, it is all that was ever really there.
To be sure, calling it the “prism effect” does not resolve the issue, but perhaps it does help to clarify it.
In the end (actually, I suppose, in the beginning), it is all about Self-Realization. Just so, when Krishna gave Arjuna a divine eye (see here) what Arjuna saw, in effect, was no others! No “me” or any of its attendants.
Reading in “ The Meaning of Mary Magdalene” by Cynthia Bourgeault, “8230; discovering what it means to love one’s neighbor as oneself – not as much as one’s self, as egoic consciousness always appends, but as the intimate expression of one’s own being.” As one’s self.
January 9, 2012
After I posted these thoughts, a long-time friend of TZF wrote us, in part:
… thinking about the prism, Shelley’s poem Adonais came to mind:
The One remains, the many change and pass;
That last line then reminded me of the last line in the Prayer of St Francis:
It is in dying that we are born into eternal life.
I confess I am a little uncomfortable with Shelley’s word “stains” in “Life … stains the white radiance of Eternity”. If God is all there is, then God is Life, too, making it therefore “stainless”. Life seems stained to us because we are perceiving it (experiencing our selves) through “a dome of many-coloured glass”. But, again if God is all there is, then God is also that process (our perceiving), and therefore it too is okay (Divine).
January 15, 2012
Here’s a thought from Ramana Maharshi:
Realization is nothing new to be acquired. It is already there, but obstructed by a screen of thoughts. All our attempts are directed for lifting this screen, and then Realization is revealed.
For more of that, please click here.
January 16, 2012
It is not bigotry to be
certain we are right;
but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.
G. K. Chesterton
I was thinking the other day about the Christian concept of rapture. As I understand it (and I may very well have it wrong), at a certain moment designated by God all those who have been admitted into the ranks will be seized and transported to Heaven. The rest will be left behind. A year or so ago, Anna and I watched part of a movie on television about this subject, and in it, those enlisted were literally lifted skyward out of their lives – whatever they were doing, whether driving a car, eating a meal, walking along a sidewalk, POOF! they were gone. Those left behind were aware of the absence of those gone; that is, moving cars with suddenly absent drivers crashed into trees, half-eaten meals are discovered left on the table, and so on.
I have read that the biblical basis for the concept of rapture is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 – “And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”. I am not sure Paul meant those words as they have since been interpreted, but as I see it, the currently popular concept of rapture is not convincing. It is far too personal, too much “me not you”, too personality-focused, too separative. As such, it becomes essentially an extension of the “I am me, and you aren’t me” egoic reality.
Self-Realization, on the other hand, is about ego transcendence, annihilation of the egoic self. That fits the lesson at John 8:21 far more closely and neatly than the rapture concept. When the Gospel Teacher tells us “Where I am going, you cannot come”, he does not mean that we cannot come because we are excluded, as if heaven is a select club, but because there, in “heaven”, there is room only for one, the One, and as long as we believe we are “we”, we cannot go there. The separative egoic personality “I am me, and you aren’t me” cannot go where the Gospels Teacher is.
Considering these matters the other day reminded me of a concept which occurred to me some years ago. Back then, I wondered why it was that there seem to be so few Self-Realized Teachers. To be sure, the spiritual path is difficult, but all the same, after millennia of human existence, millions even billions of persons on the planet, why is it, I wondered, that there are so few men and women like Buddha, Jesus, Nisargadatta, Ramakrishna, Rumi, and the like. Surely, there must have been more; but if so, who were they? Why don’t we know their names, their story?.
All the Teachings I am aware of seem to agree that when an average seeker reaches (if that’s the proper verb) Self-Realization, he or she realizes that he or she does not exist as a separate, separative, egoic personality. The “me” in the expression “I am me” is seen to be, and to have always been, an illusion. Knowing that, I wondered is it possible that what happens to the “average” seeker upon Self-Realization is that he or she literally ceases to exist and – and this is the crux – ceases to have ever existed. The annihilation of the “me” self is instant, permanent, and pervasive in all directions, spatial and temporal. That is, at Self-Realization they are gone POOF! every trace, every memory, everything related to his or her life, is wiped clean off the slate. It is quite literally as if he or she never ever existed at all..
Now, that idea raises two questions. First, if Self-Realization results in the complete annihilation and total disappearance of the Realizer, how do we explain the evident presence in our lives of Self-Realized Teachers, those like Buddha, Jesus, Nisargadatta, Ramakrishna, Rumi, and others? The answer is, they are Bodhisattvas, Teachers who have reached Buddhahood or Self-Realization, but chosen not to take the final step into nirvana until all the rest of us do so. They choose to remain behind in our presence to act as guides and teachers. Thus, we are aware of them because they will it so. And there are only a relative few of them (compared to the billions of humans who have lived and are living) because only a few are willing to make that Supreme Sacrifice.
The second question is, if Realizers (other than Bodhisattvas) are wiped clean off the face of the earth upon Self-Realization, not only they themselves but all memories and traces of their having been “here”, then what happens to those of us who may have known them or seen them or otherwise become aware of them while they were ordinary persons and “simply” seekers? How are our lives altered by their being “erased” from ever having existed, and therefore from our memory.
My answer to that is what I call “infinite spontaneous simultaneous realities”. What I mean by that term is precisely what it sounds like: An infinite number of spontaneous realities co-existing with one another simultaneously. Thus, everyone of us exists simultaneously in an infinite number of self-generated, spontaneous realities. In each of those realities, we are aware only of that one (except possibly in dreams?). That is, in my life in Reality A, I am consciously aware only of Reality A, in my life in Reality B I am consciously aware only of Reality B, and so on. I exist as “me” simultaneously in an infinite number of realities, but in each one of those infinite realities I am aware only of that one.
So, suppose that in one of my realities there is a person with whom I have been friends for decades, and who in adulthood achieves Self-Realization. In that instant, he or she ceases to exist as a separate and distinct person, both in the present and in the past. All traces of his or her separative egoic existence are erased. And with his disappearance, the reality in which he existed disappears, too, in its entirety. What happens to me?
And not only is the reality which I shared with that erstwhile person erased or annihilated, so are all the other realities in which that person appeared. What about all the other personalities who existed in those realities? What happens to them?
Simply this: The disappearance of the reality I shared with the erstwhile person now Self-Realized has no effect on “me”. As far as I am concerned, the disappearance of that reality, of “my” reality, is painless. I am not even aware of its happening. The personality I call “me” continues to exist untroubled, uninterrupted in an infinite number of other realities. The personality I call “me” is not even aware of the “loss” or disappearance of the reality shared with the erstwhile person now Realized. That reality is erased without a remaining trace; there is no awareness of its having happened, no memory of its ever having been, no impact whatsoever by its disappearance. It is, quite literally, as if it never was. And as for what I call “me”, that continues to exist in an infinite number of other realities, until 8230; Self-Realization appears there, too.
And, in the interim, I am never aware of the fact that my erstwhile friend in a shared never-having-existed reality achieved Self-Realization.
August 29, 2009
Consider a dream. No matter how complex the story, how numerous and various the characters, how apparently significant and relevant the events, when the dreamer awakens the dream ends. It ends for the dreamer, and it ends for all the personalities in the dreams. Nothing remains, not a trace. POOF! every bit of it is gone … except the Awakened Dreamer.
August 30, 2009
There is a discussion generated by this item at TZF’s Open Forum.
human soul is of more worth than the whole universe of bodies and
There is nothing above the human soul – except God.
The more I think about it, the more apparent it becomes to me that physical death changes nothing. We “wake up” on the “other side”, and continue living much as we are now. Death is not the way out of the separate and separative environment defined by the egoic perspective “I am me, and you aren’t me’.
The world each of us perceives ourselves to be living in is a projection. We project outwardly what we are inwardly, and we perceive that projection as “the world” and as “my life”. The inner and the outer are one and the same thing.
It is the mind that is doing the projecting. If (admittedly, a big if) the mind continues to exist at the death of the body, and I am increasingly convinced that it does, then presumably the projection continues as well. Which means what? After death, we “wake up” to find ourselves still living because we are still projecting on the outer what we are on the inner.
Presumably the death of the body will generate some inner differences and alterations, and those will be reflected in our projection. Thus, the “after life” will seem different; but it will only be different because we are different to the extent that the “loss” of the body has generated a difference within us. In other words, our inner differences will be reflected in the “new” outer projection. But it will still be much the same as it is now.
The spiritual process is about Self-Realization. That has nothing to do with physical death.
Physical death (death of the body) is irrelevant. It changes nothing. We live our lives in worlds that reflect ourselves, and that fact continues to be true as long as we perceive outselves to be selves (“I am me, not you”).
Mind, this is about life not Life. Life with a captial L is eternal. No beginning, no end, no interruption.
Think of Life as a spectrum. At one extreme is profound ignorance. Here, there is no understanding whatsoever of the nature of reality, of what life is about, and there is no interest in discovering any such understanding. Everyone and everything is perceived to be separate and separative: “I am me, and you aren’t me”, “what is mine is mine and not yours”; and that is perceived to be just fine, to the extent it is perceived at all 8230; that is, to the extent that we are even the least bit introspective, even aware of being alive. This is, let’s say, the primeval position. At the other extreme is Self-Realization, Total Awareness, Christ Consciousness: no trace of separate and separative self exists. All is One. This is undifferentiated, spontaneous Union. Here the spectrum itself dissolves and disappears.
The spectrum passes through a variety of, let’s call them, conditions or positions. Among these are the living bodily state each of us refers to as “my life” or “being alive” and the death state; that is, what we consider to be the opposite of being alive.
These conditions or positions have no impact on Life itself, which always is what it is. The only impact these conditions or positions have is on our understanding or awareness of them and of ourselves and therefore ultimately of Life itself. All of these conditions or positions offer us opportunities to discover who and what we are. We are free to accept these opportunities or to ignore them. Which way to choose makes no difference to Life. Life always is what it always is.
Life passes through these conditions or positions or passes along this spectrum, like water through a sieve or through a series of sieves. The sieves may be of different color, different texture, different shape, and these differences may seem to affect or alter the water, but in fact the water is unchanged. The impact or effect is always only apparent, only an appearance. The water is never really altered or even affected in any meaningful way.
May 29, 2009
when the Lord himself was asked by someone when his kingdom would
he said, “When the two are one, and the outside like the inside,
and the male and the female is neither male nor female”.
On May 1, the Jewish community around the world is observing Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Generally disinclined to dwell on the past, I mention this event here in part, I suppose, because of the enormity of the holocaust, but more particularly because of the enormity of the failure at the time of the (civilized) world community beyond Germany, to take notice, to express an opinion, to react in any constructive way.
I do not know what it is about the human species that enables us to stand silently by as fellow members of the species are being misused, abused, and worse. I suppose UG would tell us it has to do with the survival instinct, and of course he is undoubtedly correct. But whatever it is, it stinks.
The United Nations has apparently decided to observe the holocaust on a different day. Their website page on the subject is here. And a few years ago, I posted on The Zoo Fence a good article about the “night of broken glass” which still seems relevant.
Again, as a seeker, I am convinced we need to free ourselves from the past and the future if we are ever to be able truly to live in, and to transcend, the present. But perhaps we cannot do any of that until we recognize and acknowledge our ability, and too often our willingness, to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the tears and cries of others. As I suggest elsewhere on TZF, the bad things that happen to others are our bad thing, too, and if we fail to learn that from their experience, then we should beware, for God will almost certainly grant us an opportunity to learn it on our own.
I have posted this piece at TZF’s Open Forum as well as here.
April 30, 2008
force can protect in emergency,
only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation
can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.
Dwight David Eisenhower
I have recently finished re-reading the ACIM Text. This is the fifth time I have read the book since we first purchased the set thirty years ago, and it is still good.
But something in the last few pages of the book jumped out at me, something I want to consider a little bit in this space.
Here’s the passage from the book:
Yet, is the body prisoner, not the mind. The body thinks no thoughts. It has no power to learn, to pardon, nor enslave. It gives no orders that the mind need serve, nor sets conditions that it must obey. 8230; It sickens at the bidding of the mind 8230; And so the body, where no learning can occur, could never change unless the mind preferred that the body change in its appearance, to suit the purpose given by the mind.
Now, of course, I do not take the idea of bodily imprisonment literally, nor do I suppose it is intended to be taken literally; but all the same, it interests me, and here’s why. The image for me has always been that it is the mind, not the body, which is “imprisoned” (although I don’t think I would have used the word imprisoned).
Thus, as I had always considered it, it is the mind that is imprisoned (captured, caught, enclosed in, limited by, whatever) in the body. But here, it is the body which is imprisoned. By the mind. The mind has taken, and is holding, the body prisoner. As a habitation, I suppose.
That is an intriguing thought.
It certainly is consistent with the relationship we seem to have with the body.
The body does for us very nearly everything we ask of it.
But how do we treat the body? How many of the “physical” things we do are actions or activities that are pleasing to the mind without any real consideration of whether or not they are appropriate, much less pleasing, to the body. Drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, eating garbage like fast food and sugar candy, not getting enough exercise or sleep, participating in dangerous sports, fighting wars, and so on.
UG suggests that the body, the organism, has its own intelligence. And that makes sense to me. But if we accept that, why do we not respect it?
We think of the body as my body, and we treat it accordingly, as if it were a possession. What authority do we have for doing that?
This passage from ACIM’s Text has prompted me to undertake a new practice: Consciously thanking this body for its use as a residence; recognizing its own legitimate existence; and releasing any sense of my having imprisoned or in any other way exercised authority over it.
Doing so has generated a curious, unexpected reaction. I feel release. I feel lighter, more comfortable, less fettered.
What’s the old saying about the warden being as imprisoned as the prisoner?
Anyway, it is making for some interesting thoughts.
January 3, 2008
imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his
whose purposes are modeled after our own –
a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty.
Reading in Nisargadatta this morning – “Like water is shaped by the container, so is everything determined by conditions. As water remains water regardless of the vessels, as light remains itself regardless of the colors it brings out, so does the real remain real, regardless of conditions in which it is reflected.”
Like water is shaped by the container 8230;
… by the container. What container?
Here’s what transpired in my mind as I wrestled with Nisargadatta’s words first thing this morning.
There is no such thing as “Stefan”. That’s clear. Stefan is not a thing, meaning – despite appearances – it is not an entity with shape or form or measurements or substance.
An assortment of thoughts, memories, and expectations evolved, maybe one after another, maybe simultaneously, which, leaning against one another, merging into one another, reinforcing one another, enclose an area of space which has taken the shape of a “Stefan”.
This empty vessel, or we might say, this vessel which contains within its apparent dimensions only empty space, is not a vessel in the sense of a jar or a bottle or even a bag. It is empty space only apparently enclosed by an assortment of thoughts, memories, and expectations. It is those thoughts, memories and expectations, not any solid vessel-making material, which form this apparent vessel.
This non-vessel vessel first began to appear at the appearance of “the idea of Stefan’s mother and father”. From there, evolved supporting ideas – Stefan’s pediatrician, Stefan’s baby carriage, Stefan’s kindergarten, and so on through the so-called past, to the so-called present and into the so-called future, a continuous stream of supporting ideas – again, thoughts, memories, and expectations – which link together into a shape, a shape called “Stefan”.
But the shape is empty. That is, it has taken the form of a vessel, of a “Stefan”, and so it looks like “a thing”, but there is nothing “in it”. Thus, we might say that a sugar bowl contains sugar, a beer bottle contains beer; but the shape “Stefan” contains only the space that was already, priorly there when the initial ideas about it evolved and formed among themselves into a shape that seemed to be a vessel.
We are not talking about a thing here; we are talking about an idea of a thing.
As the Hindu, I think it is, metaphor has it, the vessel is a sieve put into the ocean. The sides of the sieve seem to contain something unique (“the contents of this sieve”), but in fact the sieve does not really “contain” anything, and certainly not anything different or unique from what is “outside” the sieve. The appearance of a container and of a thing contained is an illusion.
So, as I say elsewhere on TZF: “Silence your thoughts, discard your memories, release your expectations”. Do that, and what happens? The vessel collapses. The sieve dissolves. The jar breaks, revealing the emptiness inside that was always not there.
The apparent vessel creates the appearance of something, of someone, inside it. Remove the vessel, and naught remains.
In the words of Ibn ’Arabi: “… thou never wast nor wilt be, whether by thyself or through Him or in Him or along with Him”.
January 1, 2007
The Making of The Vessel
With joy in their hearts, a man and a woman are looking through the glass at a newly born baby in a hospital crib in a roomful of newly born babies in hospital cribs. The man is the father and the woman is the mother of the newly born baby at which they are staring. The man and the woman are holding hands.
“What is it?” the man asks, with great affection.
“What do you mean, what is it?” the woman replies, with equal affection. “It’s a boy, silly. Didn’t you see that precious little bud between his legs when he first came out!”
“It’s a son? I have a son!” the man said, with evident pride. “We need a name for him.”
“I think we should name him Arthur,” the woman suggests. “My favorite uncle’s name was Arthur.”
“Arthur!” the man exclaims, with apparent distaste, “My son’s name is most certainly not Arthur. Arthur is the name of a cuckold.”
“What are you talking about?” the woman asks.
The man replies, “You know, what’s his name, Lancelot and Genevieve.”
“You mean Guinevere,” the woman says, “It’s Lancelot and Guinevere. What on earth has that to do with our son?”
“Guinevere, Genevieve,” the man answers, “What’s the difference? What matters is, Arthur was a cuckold, and my son is not a cuckold.”
“You Italians, you’re are all the same,” the woman observes, “too much pride”.
“Maybe so. But as long as I am Italian, my son is Italian,” the man insists, “and his name is not Arthur. His name is Stefan. Stefan means crown, and this boy is my crowning glory. Besides, the feast day of Santo Stefano is December 26, the day after Christmas. That makes my son a neighbor of the Christ child.”
“Maybe his name is Stefan,” the woman agrees, “but your son is not Italian. He was born in New York, and that makes him American. And never you mind about your saints. My son has no interest in your saints. We agreed to that. My son will not be raised in the Roman Catholic church. My son is an Episcopalian.”
“We agreed that our child should be exposed to the worship of God your way,” the man responds, “but I am telling you now, my son is going to worship God in my church His way”.
The mother spins around to return to her hospital room. As she does so, she asks, with a growl, “Did you say his way, or did you say His way?!”
The man and the woman set off down the corridor. They are no longer holding hands, although they will again soon enough.
With one voice, the babies in all the other cribs join together, and exclaim, “Welcome to the world, Stefan”. It is not immediately clear whether they are saying it joyfully or sorrowfully.
(Just for fun, see also the lines “A Woman Gave” at TZF’s Miscellanea page.)
January 2, 2007
January 17, 2007
everything said of God is unworthy,
for the very reason that it is capable of being said.
Pope Gregory the Great
This morning, a good friend of The Zoo Fence emailed us the following item that he came across at the Church of The Churchless, a blog which is, in its words, written for those who are “spiritual but not religious”. I like the piece so much that I have chosen to reproduce it here as received, without further comment (except, ever the editor, I could not stop myself from repairing a few typos, misspelling, and the like!).
So, here it is.
All spiritual experiences are just that 8211; experiences, just like anything else you do … take out the trash, go surfing, take a hike, run the tractor, or take the bar exam.
From the point of view of what could be called “clarity” all of these experiences, whether exaltedly spiritual or mundane, are equal, and none is more important, more holy, than the other as far as “ultimate reality” is concerned. They are all just appearances in the field of awareness, and none of them can take you any closer to “clarity”, no matter how transcendent or rapturous they may be, than you were before these experiences started.
This clarity is present no matter what is going on. You can be cutting off the head of a fish, dying of cancer, or soaring through astral heavens. It doesn’t matter. Reality is present. You can’t search for it, find it, or make it happen even if you wear an orange loincloth and meditate for ten thousand yugas. The eye can’t see itself, no matter what it does, yet seeing is, now. That’s it.
Once this is perceived, for want of a better word, there is a sense of repose, lack of tension, acceptance, peace. Stuff like that. But it is not the expected ecstatic blissful trance that leaves you walking around in a thunderstruck stupor raising the dead and turning water to wine. Irritation, anger and other such so-called vices may still appear but they are not clung to. They just pass through awareness like everything else.
This is nothing special because it is and always has been present right now. To try to find it or figure it out is to wrestle with thin air. It’s not something over there to be reached for or achieved. To think that way just takes you farther off the mark. But to say that there is a mark is misleading as well. Just clarity, right here, right now.
What to do about it? Nothing. It already is. Relax. Go meditate if you find that happening, build a skyscraper, or have a quart of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and watch “Dancing with the Stars” on television.
December 4, 2006
I obtained not
the least thing from complete, unexcelled awakening,
and that is why it is complete, unexcelled awakening.
A longtime friend of The Zoo Fence has sent me an extended excerpt from Muhyiddin Ibn ’Arabi’s Whoso Knoweth Himself. I had never come across this book before, and I am extremely grateful to my friend.
“Whoso Knoweth Himself” is a short booklet (27 pages) that draws from and expands upon a saying of Muhammad, “Whoso knoweth himself knoweth his Lord”. The book currently sells at Amazon for $77! Fortunately, a nearby public library was able to borrow a copy for me from a public library in Texas. (Once again, I am reminded of my deep gratitude to Thomas Jefferson for introducing the public library system in America!)
My friend observed that this booklet offers the most powerful consideration of the unity or singleness of the Universe that he had ever come across, and I agree. Here, Ibn ’Arabi punctures the illusion of duality (“I am me, and you are you, and God is He”) like a balloon with a razor-sharp pin. What’s more, these pages are among those written by other Teachers I have come across which seem to contain within them all the Power of the Teacher himself. As I have said elsewhere on TZF, Nisargadatta’s book I Am That is another particularly wondrous example of this graceful phenomenon. Thus, reading from any of these pages is literally like being in the presence of the Teacher, and – again, literally – they lift the reader for a moment, sometimes for more than a moment, right out of and beyond his or her skin. For me, it is works like these that answer the question, Must a seeker have a living Guru. When the seeker comes to these works with enthusiastic devotion and heartfelt commitment, the work itself is as alive as flesh and blood. (Remembering all the while that, whatever may be the perceived circumstances, God alone is the Guru.)
Here are a few particularly nice lines from “Whoso Knoweth Himself”:
And for this the Prophet (upon whom be peace) said: “Whoso knoweth himself knoweth his Lord”. And he said (upon him be peace): “I know my Lord by my Lord”. The Prophet (upon whom be peace) points out by that, that thou art not thou: thou art He, without thou; not He entering into thee, nor thou entering into Him, nor He proceeding forth from thee, nor thou proceeding forth from Him. And it is not meant by that, that thou art aught that exists or thine attributes aught that exists, but it is meant by it that thou never wast nor wilt be, whether by thyself or through Him or in Him or along with Him. Thou art neither ceasing to be nor still existing. Thou art He, without one of these limitations. Then if thou know thine existence thus, then thou knowest God; and if not, then not.
“Thou art He, without thou” – I don’t see how it can get much more succinct than that!
December 3, 2006
The full excerpt from “Whoso Knoweth Himself” is now at TZF’s Ampers&nd.
For Brother Theophyle’s take on Ibn ’Arabi, please click here.
December 19, 2006
So when we speak with humility and awe of Allah Most High, we are not referring to some deity, abiding in some heaven, circumscribed by some theology. We are invoking the only I Am, the only Consciousness, who composes whatever exists, and who is infinitely more comprehensive even than existence itself. We therefore cannot hold any theological or philosophical concepts about Allah, much less can we engage in any poetic descriptions of God or limit Him in any way, such as confining Him to one particular revelation.
The War Prayer by Mark Twain
Insanity – a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.
R. D. Laing
Yesterday evening, talking with Anna, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I’ve said it before, I’ve written it before, here at The Gazebo and elsewhere on TZF. But this time it was really crystal clear.
There’s nothing religious or metaphysical about it. It’s really quite simple.
It’s just a matter of transcending the false, illusory personality “Stefan” that somehow imposed itself upon this piece of consciousness. Someone said, “You are Stefan”, and for some reason it stuck.
Now, all that needs to be done is to un-stick it. There’s nothing spooky or weird about it. Just do it. Just release it.
Of course, easily said. But here U.G. is right, there’s nothing metaphysical, even nothing religious, about it. It just happened, and it needs to be undone. And Nisargadatta is right, too; the way to undo it is to let go of whatever reward or pleasure that being “Stefan” generates.
Again, easily said; still far from done. But at least it is more clearly in focus.
And that’s a lot.
February 22, 2005
Let go? Who lets go?
The Self is perceiving itself as “Stefan”. Simultaneously, the Self is perceiving itself as “others”. We might say, the Self has multiple personality disorder; or is that, infinite personality disorder?
Anyway, the point is, it’s the Self that is perceiving itself as “Stefan”, not Stefan. So, Stefan can’t “let go”; what would “he” let go of? How would he do so? UG’s right: “Stefan” can’t do anything, and the very idea that he can is part of (the operative part of?) the illusion.
Stefan can’t do anything that the Self doesn’t initiate. That is, “Stefan doing” is actually “the Self doing (as Stefan)”, isn’t it?
So, what can Stefan do? Nisargadatta says, remember the I Am, remember the Self, remember the Supreme, remember my True Identity. The Sufis say, as I understand them, that above all else the practice is dhikr, which I understand to be remembering the name of Allah (the Supreme), constantly.
What does constant focus on the I Am accomplish? Maybe Stefan’s endlessly doing that makes him a sufficiently annoying “personality” that the Self releases it. Maybe the Self concludes that being Stefan’s no fun any more, and that’s Self-Realization; or, to paraphrase Paul Simon’s words, “The Self don’t find being Stefan amusing anymore”.
March 4, 2005
Knowledge is based on an original unity and involves a separation and a reunion of subject and object. In this respect knowledge is like love, as the late Greek thinkers knew. The Greek gnosis, “knowledge”, had three meanings: sexual love, the knowledge of essences, and mystical union with the divine.
There’s something about U.G.’s (see the piece at Ampers&nd and various items here) anger that bothers me. His sense of the Universe is clear, his explanation is brilliant, but, God forgive me, he seems to whine too much. Is it that a chunk of his separative perception (his ego?) is caught in his throat? Is it that he is reflecting the attitudes (anger and frustration) of those around him? Is it me! I don’t know, but it bugs me.
Reading last evening in Nisargadatta, there was none of that. Just light.
December 13, 2004
for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think … and think … while you are alive.
If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
do you think ghosts will do it after?
The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten –
that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next life
you will have the face of satisfied desire.
So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
Believe in the Great Sound!
Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for,
it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that does all the work.
Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.
Continuing to read and ponder UG’s teachings (see several items below and the selection at TZF’s Ampers&nd), although of course he would reject calling it that, continues to clear the air in my head (I think).
As UG predicts, I remain reluctant to give up the sadhana, but maybe now that is as much because its various aspects have become an enjoyable habit as because of a lingering hope that maybe UG is confused (!), and practice does in fact make Perfect?
Somewhere, although I have been unable to find it again, I recall UG saying that his awakening (which word I suppose he would not use, and which he labels a calamity) is the product of normal, natural evolution, a process which is hindered by our culture, and that all a seeker can do (if anything at all) is release and reject our affection for, attachment to, and constriction by the culture we live in and have (as a species) lived in for millions of years. Cultural pressure to conform limits, blocks, the evolutionary process.
Today, sitting in the gazebo (actually, this time, as it happens, on a beautiful sandy beach on Oahu’s windward shore), pondering the nature and purpose of life (even though UG insists that our asking, even considering, questions like that is a pointless waste of time, or worse, just a self-justifying exercise), it occurs to me that maybe we inhabit (we create?) the physical body (and its physical environment?) in order to have a vehicle in which to evolve. Of course, that pleases me because it sounds a little like the premise of In The Beginning (talk about self-justifying!).
If so, and if UG is right that essentially there is nothing we can do to facilitate or accelerate the process (he repeatedly insists that it is not caused by anyone or anything), then the least we can do is care for the body and the environment we inhabit (or again, have created) so that the process can take place in its own normal, natural way without our meddling, fussing, interfering, dirtying hands on it!
Anyway, in the words of one of my favorite Sonny & Cher songs … and the beat goes on.
October 15, 2004
Editor’s Note: For additional items in The Gazebo about U.G., please click here and then continue to scroll down this page.
The gates of
hell are open night and day;
Smooth is the descent, and easy the way;
But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
There the task and mighty labor lies.
Reading this afternoon in Knowledge and The Sacred by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, I came across this observation (at page 330, in the Notes), “The sapiential teachings of all traditions in which prayer of the heart or quintessential prayer is practiced insist that it is ultimately God Himself who invokes His Name within the heart of man and through his tongue”.
That line reminded me of something I read recently in God of A Hundred Names, quoting someone named Rabbi Pinhas of Korez (about whom I know nothing else): “The people think that they pray before God. But it is not so. For the prayer itself is the essence of the Godhead”.
What an afternoon!
July 21, 2004
One night, a
certain man cried “Allah!”
till his lips grew sweet with praising Him.
The Devil said, “O man of many words,
where is the response ‘Here am I’ to all this ‘Allah’?
Not a single response is coming from the Throne;
how long will you say ‘Allah’ with grim face?”
The man was broken-hearted, and lay down to sleep;
in a dream he saw Khadir amidst the verdure
Who said, “Hark, you have held back from praising God;
Why do you repent of calling unto Him?”
The man answered, “No ‘Here am I’ is coming to me in response;
I fear that I am turned away from the Door”.
Said Khadir, “Nay. God saith:
That ‘Allah’ of thine is My ‘Here am I’,
and that supplication of thine is My messenger to thee.
Thy fear and love are the noose to catch My Favor;
Beneath every ‘O Lord’ of thine is many a ‘Here am I’ from Me.”
In the process of transcribing the hard copy version of our book “In The Beginning” for eventual placement on The Zoo Fence (of which two excerpts currently appear at Stories & Stuff), I had a nice image of God the Infinite One (that than which there is no thing else), looking into a handheld mirror, and the reflected image is us, the separate and separative universe, what each of us calls “me and my life”. We are God perceiving Himself.
Which – like virtually everything else these days – reminded me of UG. The title of his book The Courage To Stand Alone has taken residence inside my head. The other day I heard myself wondering if its converse is, “the cowardice of staying in company”.
There is comfort in the perceived known, in the reality shaped by the perception “I am me, and you aren’t”. I remember reading about a fellow who spent the bulk of his adult life in prison (in New York State, I think it was), and then, as a very old man, he was pardoned, and released. After only a brief stay out of prison, he returned, and insisted they take him back, for he said having spent so long behind bars, he didn’t know how to live free. Resistance to change, inertia, is a powerful force.
Courage, in its usual sense, is about overcoming fear. Am I afraid to be alone? Certainly the separative self (I am me, and you aren’t) is. Without others, the separative self couldn’t exist. And that’s the point.
And yet, the question suggests choice. UG seems clear that his “event”, his current position, was not a matter of choice, not a factor of will, not even the product of any practice. And it figures. If there is only one One and no thing else (There is no God but God, and God is all there is) then there are no preferences, no opposites, no choices, and no will (at least, not in the sense “I will to do this and not that”).
May 5, 2004
Traveling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Okay, in a nutshell, here’s the thing.
Thirty years ago, plus or minus, when I first set out on this slippery slope, there crossed my path a teacher. Almost immediately, I made him mine. At the time, he and I exchanged only a brief greeting, and since then, I have been in his physical presence less than two dozen times, during which we have exchanged no more than a hundred words. He never gave me a “spiritual” name, no mantra, no secret handshake, no beads, no password, no prescribed diet, no special instructions of any kind. On the surface, it appeared an ordinary enough, even a shallow, relationship. But on the inner, it was intense. At least, so it seemed to me. I dreamed of him frequently; I sensed his presence often. In my heart, I called on him all the time. He was my Guru. I accepted him as such, and I walked my path accordingly. Along the way, there have been phenomena, experiences, auditions, visions, revelations, realizations. Even miracles.
All the while, I read and studied and practiced and embraced the teachings of many Teachers and traditions; and I loved, and I still love, them all, with enthusiasm. I felt no conflict between my devotion to my Guru and my devotion to the others. I knew, on the inner, that they were all one and the same. In Ramakrishna’s words, God alone is the Guru. I knew that to be true, and I accepted its wonderful implications.
Now, some thirty years later, I learn that my Guru has for decades been participating in morally questionable sexual practices, and probably engaging in other, less than honorable, possibly illegal pastimes. In a word, the man is clay, head to toe, and always was.
Of course, I am angry. And disappointed. At first, at him and in him, then at and in me. But then, I realize it had to be thus. I remember the recent experience of a neighbor in our small, rural community. An elderly woman, she lived alone in the old country farmhouse in which she had been born, a house far too big for her now and well beyond her physical and financial ability to maintain. One day, while she was in town shopping, the house caught fire. She returned just in time to watch the last flames burn out. By then, virtually all the town’s folk were at the scene, consoling her. “Nonsense,” she insisted, “God knew the house was too much for me to care for, and He also knew that I wouldn’t ever leave it. So, He burned it down for me”.
Just so, God knew I would not leave my Guru, so She burned him down for me.
One of my favorite Sufi stories tells about the teacher who brings home an injured bird, lovingly cares for it until it is fully restored, and then releases it. But the bird won’t leave. It flies around from room to room, but not away. So, the teacher opens wide a window, and when the bird happens to fly by it, he shouts, and bangs together pots and pans, and claps loudly, altogether making a fearsome racket. The bird, startled and surprised, inadvertently goes out the window. The teacher slams it shut.
Just so, lest I harbor any lingering doubt, my window too is slammed shut. By U.G.
Right on cue, U.G. Krishnamurti comes crashing into my brain, vaulting into my heart, and turns confusion into disorder. Nail by nail, timber by timber, he dismantles all that’s left of my spiritual structure. No consolation here; U.G. rakes the ashes, just to be sure there’s nothing left unburned.
At about the same time, I come across a website (the URL was http://www.sanatandharma.org/, but it seems to be irregularly active) where is written “Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says religion is like the peel of a banana, and spirituality is the banana”, and I am reminded of a story my (body’s) father used to tell us about his boyhood. Passing a fruit stand, he saw a banana for the first time. He asked his older sister what it was, and she told him it was a banana, and very delicious at that. Of course, he wanted one; so she bought him one. When he asked how to eat it, she said, teasing as siblings will, “Just bite off pieces, like an apple”. And so he did. He ate the banana, peel and all.
I had done the same. Like him, I ate the peel. To be sure, the willingness to do so, the commitment, the surrender to it, the discipline it required, all served me. But that was yesterday. Today, I have to spit it out, because there is no nourishment in the peel.
And when the peel is gone, what will be left? I’m not sure, precisely. Some moments it seems like less, others like far more.
U.G. talks about having the courage to stand alone. For me, now, that means standing without any underpinning. Of course, all along I knew that was coming, for I had read the books. I had even written about it, taught it. I even thought I was doing it. And in a way maybe I was. But not really. Over three decades, I had built a scaffolding, level over level, and I was living at the top of it. It was well built, of good and sturdy stuff, the result of honest and dedicated labor. And it gave me great height, with an extraordinary view. It might have been enough, except that it wasn’t really real. At least, not real enough, because standing on that structure, however high, I wasn’t really standing on the ground.
That’s where I am now.
What’s next? I don’t know.
August 5, 2003 (See also May 5, 2004 above)
• On the subject of
gurus and clay feet, readers may want to consider this entry from December 2001.
You can can’t come into your own unless the whole thing is completely and totally flushed out, if I may use that word, out of your system. That is something which you cannot do, or make happen with any effort or volition of your own. So, when the time comes, you may not have asked for it. You will never ask for the end of you as you know yourself, as you experience yourself.
U. G. Krishnamurti
Being a spiritual seeker presents an untenable dilemma. I have undertaken this journey for a variety of reasons, I suppose, but not least among them is a desire for Self-Realization. I want something, or Some Thing, and I am seeking it (It). For all the attendant and peripheral advantages, and they are numerous and wondrous, the fact is, I am on the path for some reward, some Reward. I suppose that makes me a bounty hunter!
Clearly, “wanting” is the problem. It assumes absence, for I can want only what I don’t have. And my wanting for “me” is the greater problem, because it is based on a separative perspective that is false (“I am me, and I don’t have That”), and ultimately self-defeating (as long as I perceive myself as “not having” I won’t have!).
So, as long as I perceive myself separatively and think “I am me”, Self-Realization will elude me. But if I don’t think I am me (and therefore not self-realized), will I seek?
And if seeking is a good thing, isn’t that an important question?
The difference between the world (samsara) where I seem to live, and Self-Realization where I want to be, is simply the “me” thought (“I am me, and you aren’t”). Absent that, they are identical. Seemingly a minor difference, but it is immense, even infinite.
The question is, why do I care? Who cares? Why do I “want” Self-Realization? Why can’t I just let go of the search? Why isn’t it enough to be “me”?
July 16, 2003
“You see, belief in oneself as an individual identification simply really actually sincerely truthfully is not enough. I AM NOT ENOUGH!
“Fall into that. You will see, you have never been enough, you are not enough now, and you never will be enough. It is so horribly awfully terribly true.
“Falling all the way down into the depths of despair and hopelessness … into the black hole … into the void, the abyss … so empty there is not even an image nor concept of emptiness … alone … this is the doorway, this is an entryway to the inside, and once you are inside, you will see that you are also outside.
“There is no inside, there is no outside. It but appears. It but disappears. Anything that appears and disappears cannot possibly be REAL.
“So remember … when the question comes a naggin’ … why do I care, why do I want, why can’t I just let go … The question comes because the ego will absolutely positively not give up until it is permanently, absolutely, and totally defeated. It is possible then and only then finally to give up, and be finished with the mess.
“Once you are dead (if you are lucky enough to die before your body does), then you will see YOU were never born, so YOU cannot die. This, of course, refers to YOU, not you. The you-body, the you-personality, of course will continue on for a while and will die, as it was, after all, born, imprinted and programmed, running on beliefs and disbeliefs. Or as Jackson Browne says … running on empty.
“Ego death is terrifying. Body death is terrifying. Consciousness Itself can bear the terror, can experience the despair, can see (IS) the emptiness that defies recognition and knowing. It is absolutely untouchable by anything, although thoroughly infused with everything.
“All is gone, no form, no formlessness, no ideas, thoughts, emotions, no things corporeal nor temporal, no substance nor spirit. As well as all that is here, as there is no such thing as there. It is perfectly incomprehensible.
“I find it wonderfully fascinating that the only way to wake up is to die. And the only way to get what I want is to directly experience the impossibility of having it.”
July 21, 2003
It’s not that
I’m afraid to die.
I just don’t want to be there when it happens.
Life is not about experiences. That is, there is not a we who experiences other people, events, and so on. Perceiving life that way is an expression of the dual position “I am me, and you aren’t”. Here, again, I on the one hand experience you on the other hand.
Clearly, that is not a true description of life. Life is an I that perceives or sees itself. As we have said several times elsewhere on The Zoo Fence, what I call “my life” 8211; by which I ordinarily mean the series of events and persons and so on that I have known (experienced!) since “my” birth 8211; is actually “me” (my self) seen outerly. If so, then what I call “I” and “my life” are one and the same thing.
All the beauty in my life is beauty that resides within me seen outerly. All the ugliness in my life is ugliness that resides within me seen outerly. All the terror in my life is terror within me seen outerly. And so on.
Can we see our lives that way? Are we willing to do so?
December 8, 2002
All the spiritual teachers of humanity have told us the same thing, that the purpose of life on earth is to achieve union with our fundamental, enlightened nature.
At birth, the human physical body is simply an organism. It comes equipped with all the urges, instincts, and imperatives of all other organisms – hunger, thirst, survival, and so on.
At the body’s birth, and often beginning even before then, the parents weave a basket of thoughts about their new creation. They give it a name, make plans for it, talk to it, express its beauty, remark on whom it looks like, and so on. Slowly but surely, the basket fills.
The life that is manifesting through (in? as?) the baby organism is no more aware of the basket than it is of any other specific thing. It is simply aware. It is not aware of itself as a separative self or of any thing else as separate persons or things. Again, simply aware. Still undifferentiated awareness.
The life manifesting through the new body may appear to the body’s parents to be aware of itself as a separate body, but if so, that is a symptom of the parents’ projecting onto the new body their own sense of separative self. That is, they perceive in their creation what they perceive in themselves: a separate and separative self.
Over time, in the natural course of things, the parents impress on the growing organism the basket of thoughts which they have weaved. Other figures join in this process – siblings, aunts, uncles, neighbors, priests, doctors, and so on.
To undifferentiated awareness, the basket is perceived as (accepted as? expressed as? manifested as?) “me” and “mine”, and attaches to the body. Thus, the body is perceived as “me” and “mine”, and other bodies are perceived as “not me” and “not mine”. Undifferentiated awareness as differentiated awareness introduces duality, separation.
The basket of thoughts is the personality. When I say, “I am Stefan”, what I mean is, I identify with the basket of thoughts (memories, expectations, and so on) originally weaved by Stefan’s parents, and that now, taken all together, compose what I call “me”. Here, the key question for a seeker is, Who is the “I” that says, “I am Stefan”?
The undifferentiated or universal self becomes (sees itself as) the differentiated or personal self. “I AM” becomes “I AM this” or “I AM this person”. The body is experienced as “me, not you” and “mine, not yours”. Here, I suppose we might say, the personality is the how and the physical body is the what.
All the while, the physical body continues being what it is, simply a physical organism. It has no idea what “Stefan” is, and doesn’t care. Neither does it know, or care, that “Stefan” has identified with or as the body. The body’s sole interest (if that’s the word) is to exercise its biological imperatives. In a word, to survive. Not for any reason, but simply because that’s what biological organisms do.
Also, the basket of thoughts, what I am calling here the personality, has no conscious awareness. It is not “alive”. It is not aware of being. It simply is what it is, a conglomeration of thoughts.
The connection between the personality (the basket of thoughts, memories, expectations, etc.) and the physical organism (the body) is provided entirely by the differentiation of undifferentiated awareness.
I don’t know exactly what that last sentence means, or how it occurs, but I am certain it is true, and that the way out of the limitations and suffering and so on which identification with the personality and the body imposes on whatever it is I actually am, is to disengage from identification with the personality. Release my attachment to the basket of thoughts, and I will be free.
But I won’t be a “me”. The concept of “me” and “my” (as in, me not you, mine not yours) is one of the thoughts in the basket (“My baby!” “Look at me!”). Instead, I will revert to undifferentiated awareness, where (if that’s the word) I was (?) before the basket of thoughts called “Stefan”. I will be aware, I will probably even be aware of being. But I will not be aware of being any particular person or thing or whatever. In fact, I will not be aware of there being any particular person or thing or whatever. Simply aware.
The basket of thoughts, the personality, will still continue. I suppose, like everything else physical, it has a lifespan. But it will not be “me”. And the body will continue, completely oblivious to all of this metaphysical stuff, until it dies of whatever kills it.
None of that does or will affect “I”. It (?) always is and always will be. Undifferentiated awareness that somehow differentiates.
November 3 and 26 and following, 2002
No two persons ever read the same book.
I AM THAT I AM.
How’s this …
Ultimate Reality (“God”) consists solely, entirely, and simply of Being and Awareness. God is untarnished, unvarnished, unembellished Being and Awareness. No more, no less.
And the full extent of the Awareness is “I AM”. Ultimate Reality is Aware of Being. Nothing beyond that.
Then, somehow, Being and Awareness settle into (imagine, manifest as, descend to?) the Mind (the mind?). Here, “I AM” becomes “I AM THIS”. I am this body. I am this person. And so on.
If so, what’s the spiritual path about? Is it about undoing that descent (resurrection)?
Or is it about actuating the potential of Awareness, and thereby expanding, even enlivening Awareness itself? Is it about answering the question, “I AM WHAT?”
If so, then the process is about God’s reach for Self-Awareness. And we are God coming to know Self.
September 1, 2002
Can Romeo ever really know who he is? Can he ever know Shakespeare?
Can Laurence Olivier play Romeo so effectively he forgets he is Olivier?
If so, might he then, at some point, prompted by some inner alarm, seek to remember he is Olivier?
During a recent visit to a site devoted to The Great Invocation, I came across the suggestion that the English word “man” (as in, mankind) comes from the Sanskrit word “manu” meaning “thinking being”. That etymology is new to me, but it makes sense.
As I see it, thought is a product of evolution. That is, thinking is mankind’s answer to a jaguar’s speed or an eagle’s flight. The two-legged one, finding himself at a considerable disadvantage, evolved the brain “muscle” to think as a survival mechanism in the same way jaguars evolved their leg muscles and eagles their wing muscles.
Thus, I disagree with what I think is the conventional wisdom on this subject. For me, thought does not differentiate mankind from “animals”; rather, it confirms that mankind too is an animal.
In a word, thought is carbon-based.
And so is our sense of who we are. At its birth, this body’s parents said “You are Stefan”, and I have thought so ever since. Everything that has happened since then, I have taken as confirmation that “I am Stefan”. But if those two adults had said instead “You are Einar”, then today I would be saying “I am Einar”.
Or suppose that at birth this body had been switched with another body. Today, I would have a completely different set of memories (thoughts), and accordingly a completely different sense of who I am.
Clearly, person-ality is a product of thought, and if so, it too is carbon-based (bodily).
From a “spiritual” point of view, this idea is unpleasant because we are inclined to link the idea of “heaven” with personality. That is, we like to think that salvation is personal (“I, Stefan, will go to heaven”).
But all the mystic traditions insist that Self-Realization (Christ Consciousness, Self-Awareness, Buddhahood, etc.) transcends both thought and personality. “Stefan” will never be Self-Realized (go to “heaven”); indeed, it is identification with and as “Stefan” that keeps “me” out. As one of the stories puts it, we are as far from heaven as the list of words we precede with the personal pronoun “my” is long. Or, from the Gospels, Jesus (Christ Consciousness) says to the disciples (personalities), “Where I am (going), you cannot come” (John 8.21).
And so, quite naturally, we struggle against the spiritual process because it threatens our bodily identification, and the weapon we use is thought (rationalization, argument, consideration), because that is where mankind’s strength lies.
Jaguars run, eagles fly, we think.
foregoing over the past few days, I conclude that karma too is carbon-based. That is, karma is a bodily
function, meaning that it relates to our actions and
reactions as bodily beings. As long as we identify
ourselves as the body we seem to be inhabiting, as long
as we accept the body’s personality as our own, as long
as we perceive ourselves as carbon-based beings, that
long are we subject to the law of karma. Karma applies
to the body’s world, and the way to escape karma is to
transcend bodily identification.
I wonder how Eckhart knows that wood and stone do not know that God is as near to them as to him? We assume that rocks cannot do what we can do, but isn’t that because we measure rocks by our selves, by the capabilities of our bodies. But is the ability to “know God” bodily? That is, is that knowledge the result of bodily capabilities? If so, then we can say that clearly rocks do not have the same bodily capabilities that we have, and therefore they cannot “know” what we know. But what if the ability to “know God” 8211; which surely is different from knowing what time it is or how to climb a ladder 8211; is not a bodily function, but rather something beyond the body? In that case, our bodily capabilities have nothing to do with it, meaning there may be no reason why a rock cannot “know God” as we do.
As an attribute or aspect of the Supreme, “Awareness” must be Infinite (if the Supreme is Infinite, then so must be Its every Aspect), and therefore wholly present in all that is. Thus, if God’s Self-Awareness is present in us, however muted and distorted by our egoic buffers, making it possible in some limited sense to “know” that we exist and that “God is near to us”, then the Self-Awareness must be present in rocks also.
Perhaps the sense of Awareness is not in fact present in “Stefan” but in “Stefan’s life”. That is, in the whole, not in the part.
Of course, it seems to “me” that “I” sense God’s presence and that rocks and clouds do not, but that’s because I perceive everything from the position of “me”. It does not occur to me, except theoretically, that I am more than “me” and that “my awareness” is more than “mine”. After all, I even consider “my life” to be mine.
So, when I (as “Stefan”) say “I” or “me”, what may really be speaking is the entirety I call “my life”, even if “I” (Stefan) perceive only “myself, this body” speaking.
What Stefan calls “my life” seems to him to consist of assorted parts (this morning, the internet, rocks, clouds, and so on, and the body “Stefan”), but maybe it isn’t like that at all. Rather, maybe it is one indivisible, seamless whole, that just seems to “me” to be composed of parts because “I” seem to “myself” to be a “part”. Maybe rocks “think” of themselves as being apart (a part), too.
In the end, there is only one Moment which is Now. It is Wholly Itself, Wholly One.
And that’s what I am, this Moment, Now. Not “Stefan living this moment”, but the Seamless Entirety of the Moment Itself. And that’s what rocks are, too. Not “rocks” “sitting” “on the ground” under “my feet”, but this Moment, Now, in its entirety. The Whole Thing is One Thing. And that One Thing is the Supreme.
In a word, there is no such thing as “a person”. There is no such thing as “a rock”. There is no such thing as “perception”. All of those are various different expressions of the same separative illusion. There is only this Moment, Now.
This idea is very slippery. I see it
for an instant, and then, immediately, it becomes a
thought, and “I” begin to “think” about “it”, and it is
It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English 8211; up to fifty words used in correct context 8211; no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.
The other day (February 4, 2002), I watched part of a television broadcast of a meeting of the World Economic Forum in New York City. The subject was “Islam and Economic Development”. The principal speakers were from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar. Their remarks and some of the questions from the audience were interesting, sometimes even inspiring.
But as I listened, a curious thought occurred to me: Is Islam necessarily Arab?
At first glance, the answer is, of course, yes. After all, Muhammad is an Arab, and he is the source of Islam. But is he? Muhammad is the Messenger of Islam. But surely the Source is Allah, or God. Does God have nationality?
And yet, we think of Islam as an Arab religion. Undoubtedly that is why, at least partly why, the Islam “experts” on the panel mentioned above were all Arabs; that is, if you want to know about Islam, you must ask an Arab. Even on The Zoo Fence definitions page, where there is mention of an Islamic expression, I include the Arabic words. But where there is mention of a Christian expression, for example, I do not include the Aramaic words. Why is that?
Christianity originated in the same geographic area as Islam. So did Judaism. But would we limit a search for an “expert” on Christianity to that region? Do we think that all “experts” on Judaism must be from Israel?
Why do we confuse culture or nationality with religion when it comes to Islam? Islam is embraced by three quarters of a billion people, maybe more. It is a world religion. More, it is a powerful spiritual tradition. Along my own inner journey, I have been overwhelmed by its impact, both out of the Qur’an and the teachings of its saints, just as I have by the Teachings of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and so on.
But, we say, so many Muslims live in Arab countries. Surely that makes Islam Arabic. And yet, how many Christians live in Europe, and have done over the centuries. Does that make Christianity a European religion?
If any of the foregoing makes any sense at all, it may help to explain why the West’s relationship with Islam on the one hand and with Arab countries on the other is so fragile. We are confused by our own confusion. Perhaps they are too.
At the very least, with all the interest in the Arab world and Islam itself following the recent acts of terrorism, as seekers it behooves us to remember always that there is God, and God is all there is. And every description of Him, every approach toward Her, every reach in Its direction is infinite and eternal. And that all our labels, although perhaps designed to clarify, actually confuse.
February 7, 2002
When it is said to
“Follow what God hath revealed”,
They say: “Nay! we shall follow
The ways of our fathers.”
What! even though their fathers
Were void of wisdom and guidance?
At TZF’s Open Forum there is in train a reconsideration of the age-old argument, if that’s the word, between seeking to transcend the world and learning to live fully in the world. (Editor’s Note: The forum thread referred to here occurred in an earlier incarnation of Open Forum, and is no longer accessible.)
Here’s the way it seems to me.
Inevitably, this discussion has depended over the centuries on the assumption that the two are in conflict. Actually, they probably are not.
In high school science classes, we are taught that the world and its stuff, even the entire astronomical universe, are separate and distinct from us, that they are outside of us. If there were a place we could travel to that was somehow outside the astronomical universe, I suppose a scientific argument could be made that we could survive there very well without the astronomical universe. From this perspective, the astronomical universe, the world “out there”, is simply an environment in which we happen to live, and we could just as easily live somewhere “else”.
But as seekers, a very different image emerges. It has become apparent to me that there is no such thing as a world “out there”. In fact, there is no such place as “out there”. What seems to us to be “out there” is actually an image or a manifestation or an expression or a reflection (no word works really well here) of our selves. The outer and the inner are identical, the same thing seen differently. What each of us calls “me” and “my life” (including “my world”) are one and the same thing.
If any of the above is so, then the spiritual process or sadhana is not so much about transcending the outer as it is about understanding what the outer is in Truth. Transcendence is not about escape from the world. It is about removing the veil or the filter that creates the illusion that we are separate and distinct from the world, from one another, and from our lives. It is not the world that a seeker transcends, but ignorance, ignorance about his or her true nature and about the true nature of everything else. Transcendence reveals the identity or sameness or oneness of all that is.
Consider that the word “transcended” commonly suggests an image of some where else other than “here”. That is, a “Transcended Master” is generally perceived as having been “raised” from this “plane” to some other place, a place “above” where we live. Likewise, God and Heaven and such things as the “Angelic Host” are all perceived as being “up there” while we are “down here”. It is not uncommon to come across claims that a “Realized Master” is able to bring peace or love or wisdom “down” to us from some “Higher Plane”.
Surely the image of an earthly “here” and a divine “there” is the product of the separative perspective of the egoic body/mind mentality (“I am me, and you aren’t”). It is that sense of a separate, unique, and distinct identity that is the ultimate illusion, and as such is the source of all human suffering. After all, from there, evolve all of our preferences (“I would prefer to be there than here, young than old, rich than poor, tall than short, alive than dead, and so on”) which inevitably make us feel badly about who and what and where we think we are. As long as we are immersed in preferences, we are not truly alive, because our focus is elsewhere than where we are. If I am thinking about being someone else or somewhere else, than I am not being here now, and if I am not being here now, then I am not wholly participating in whatever is happening now.
Perhaps for a seeker, the point is to focus attention on living “here” and “now”. The more unconditionally and enthusiastically we do so, the more will our perception of our selves, of one another, of the world, of God, and of every thing else change, until finally we truly realize (not just believe, but know in full practice) that all of those and everyone and everything else is and always have been one and the very same One.
January 4, 2002
What we most need is
the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace,
expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds.
Mary Baker Eddy
Some weeks ago, a visitor to The Zoo Fence alerted us to a Yahoo! forum where charges of sexual misconduct (and other inappropriate behavior) are being made concerning one of the Teachers mentioned on The Zoo Fence. I have no way of knowing for sure whether or not any of the allegations levied there are valid. Some of the testimonies seem well documented, and may be true. I am not so sure about some of the others. The writers are very angry (understandably so, if in fact they were sexually violated by their chosen guru), and it is sometimes hard to tell if their testimonies are more articulated anger than expression of fact. Nonetheless, if any of the allegations are true, it would be disturbing to me as a seeker, although I regret to say it would not surprise me. After all, consider that over the past years charges of sexual misconduct have been made about Jim Bakker, Sri Chinmoy, Jim Jones, Amrit Desai, Sai Baba, Da Free John, Swami Satchidananda, Jimmy Swaggart, Swami Muktananda (and at least one of his successors), Rajneesh (also known as Osho), and Trungpa, to name just a random few.
This most recent allegation of clay feet beneath a supposedly divine body reinforces the obvious conclusion: Seekers must be extraordinarily careful in selecting or accepting a Teacher or Guru. The internet is thick with websites, and bookstores laden with volumes, promoting spiritual guides who promise liberation, enlightenment and realization. Undoubtedly, many, even most, are legitimate. But, just as certainly, many are less than they claim to be. The question is, how does one tell the difference? There may be no sure way of knowing.
Here’s the rub. I believe that sooner or later a determined seeker must surrender to some One or some Thing. That is, the egoic self (“I am me, and you aren’t”) cannot transcend itself, in the same way that an eraser cannot erase itself. The egoic self is of this world, and the Supreme Goal of the spiritual process (Self-Realization) transcends this world. So, the egoic mind cannot take us There. Undoubtedly, early on along the spiritual path, most if not all seekers hope for Self-Realization for themselves, the selves they believe themselves to be. Whatever our protestations to the contrary, at that level the spiritual process is almost always about power, acquiring power over our selves or our lives or whatever. Indeed, without that incentive at the outset, we probably would not undertake the spiritual journey at all. After all, if in our egoic position we did not think we had something to gain from seeking, why would we? But eventually we need to recognize that Self-Realization by definition is a transcendent state, and therefore inaccessible to the separate and separative self. So, sooner or later, a seeker must acknowledge the Presence of a greater Self, a transcendent Self, a Self which is the One, a Self whose Identity is ultimately the seeker’s own; but, at the same time, a Self who seems to be an other so long as the seeker believes himself or herself to be an other. Thus, surrender to a Guru or Teacher enables us to release allegiance to our own egoic mind and all of its fabrications.
Can that Guru or Teacher be physically dead or otherwise disincarnate? Like “God“ or “the Holy Spirit” or “Jesus“ or “Ramakrishna“? Obviously so. History overflows with examples of seekers who have reached Self-Realization by turning wholly to such guides. And clearly a discarnate Guru or Teacher is not likely to behave inappropriately with us. But my concern is that it is too easy for the egoic mind to profess “I have surrendered to God”, even to believe it has done so, when in fact no such surrender has taken place. On the other hand, a living Guru or Teacher presumably can tell the difference between surrender true and surrender feigned.
But what if the living guru or teacher is more interested in getting into a seeker’s pants (please forgive the image) or pockets than on lifting him or her spiritually? To be sure, surrender even to such a guru is surely valid, assuming the seeker’s surrender is itself genuine. That is, for surrender to propel a seeker, what matters is the seeker’s intention and state of mind, not the object of his or her surrender. But who wants a lascivious guru! Who could trust such a one?
At TZF’s essay on the subject of gurus (Guru Who? at Consider This!), we conclude with Ramakrishna that “God alone is the Guru”. In the end, that may be the only workable answer here, too. If a seeker can concentrate on the full meaning of Ramakrishna’s promise (and before pursuing that thought any further, please read our essay, or better yet “The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna“), then he or she is forever fully protected whatever path is chosen and whatever may unfold along it.
Still, for whatever my opinion may be worth, if a guru or teacher tells you that having a sexual relationship with him or her will serve your spiritual aspirations, your best bet is to refuse, and walk on. The only tradition I know of in which sexual experience plays a proper role in the path is tantra yoga, which by all accounts is ill-advised for most seekers. Besides, as far as I know, none of the gurus and teachers mentioned in the first paragraph above qualify as genuine Teachers of tantra.
Finally, consider this. The spiritual process is about transcending the ego, the limited sense of self that convinces each of us we are separate from everyone else and everything else, including our lives, including even God. The moment we set out on the spiritual path, the ego is doomed, and it knows it. The process may take years, even lifetimes, to accomplish, but once reached for, the Sacred Goal will be attained. And that spells death to the ego. So, the ego will fight tooth and nail. Not because it’s evil, but simply because, like everything else worldly, it is driven by the survival instinct. And among the ego’s tactics will be finding fault with whatever path or teacher a seeker may have chosen. Every seeker should be aware of this danger. I have no way of knowing whether or not the testimonies on the forum are being generated by this kind of motivation, but it is possible. There is no force on earth more devious than a threatened ego.
December 8 & 10, 2001
Editor’s Note: For a discussion about sex and seeking, please see here.
It is not the
worship of a person that is crucial,
but the steadiness and depth of your devotion to the task.
Life itself is the Supreme Guru; be attentive to its lessons, and obedient to its commands.
When you personalize their source, you have an outer Guru;
when you take them from life directly, the Guru is within.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Along with everyone else around the globe, I have spent this week (following September 11) struggling with last Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington.
The first thing I could think of was to place the single, simple candle at TZF’s front door. I have not decided how long we will leave it there. (10/29/01: The candle was removed yesterday. To see what was there, please click here.)
More importantly, I say, as Anna has already said, simply this: We gladly extend our love to the entirety of this awful event and to all those who have been affected.
I am stunned by the enormity and the audacity and the ferocity and the cruelty of the attacks. To be sure, over the years there have been other events – both natural disasters and manmade catastrophes – that have been as bad or even worse in magnitude. But that cannot diminish the horror of these events.
I am moved by the physical courage of those on the airplane that crashed in Pennsylvania, who apparently resisted the hijackers, in the process losing their own lives, but saving the lives of others.
I am deeply impressed by the devotion and self-sacrifice of the firemen, police officers, medical personnel, and countless others, who immediately came and continue to come to the aid of those threatened.
And now, a week having past, and as political leaders in Washington and in other capitals around the world consider what action they will take in response, I ask myself, sitting in the gazebo, what I individually, and what we as a nation and as a culture, have done to have generated such terrible anger and hatred among the terrorists. In this consideration, I am reminded of the Dalai Lama’s observation concerning the occupation of Tibet by China: that the Tibetan leadership and people over history must have done something to bring upon themselves that fate.
Karma. As you sow, so shall you reap. If so, what seeds have I and we, and America and the West generally, sown that have evolved into this horrific crop?
It is not the role of The Zoo Fence to address political and historical issues, so I will not attempt to answer that question in that way here. But as seekers we must all search deeply within ourselves for an answer. At the very least, we can surely agree that our national and cultural history is replete with incidents and policies and practices of which we cannot be proud, and which might very well generate anger, envy, and hatred among others. While as individuals we might plead our own innocence of our country’s history, as seekers we must recognize that in a plutonic universe somehow it projects from within us.
In this consideration, do not confuse karma with blame. Karma is not about finding and assigning fault. Karma is about understanding the nature of the universe, the nature of how lives unfold, why things happen as they do, when and where. Truly, everyone and everything in our lives, including ourselves, are instruments and evidence of karma; and that is a good thing, not a bad thing. So, please do not think of karma as a punitive power. It is simply a reflection or an expression of the nature of what is, and as such it is a positive force.
Similarly, this discussion is not to suggest the terrorists are in any way blameless. On the contrary, their actions were inexcusably horrendous, and by undertaking them they have set into motion a force with which they will have to reckon, here and now or later somewhere else. Neither is it to suggest that our actions motivated the terrorists. Clearly, these terrorists and their like are extremely angry, evidently at very nearly everyone, perhaps even themselves. As I see it, their actions are motivated by that anger.
But the equation – if that’s the word – in which we find ourselves occupying some of the same time and space (literally and figuratively or metaphorically) with these terrorists is the product of karma. And it is that equation which each of us – as seekers – want to consider. We need to address the questions that it prompts. Questions like, Why is the equation composed as it is? Why is it unfolding now? Is there something I can do to alter the elements of the equation, or at least one of them (what I consider to be “myself”), that will alter the sum of it? And so on.
Thus, the first thing each of us as seekers must do is help those who have lost loved ones in any way that we can. Then, we must allow ourselves to grieve. But when we are able to do so, we need to remember that life is a classroom, and this event, however awful, is a lesson for us. If we can learn it, we are less likely to have to live through it again, to the tremendous benefit of everyone!
Whatever your reaction to and understanding of these events, please remember that they are not a product of Islam. These terrorists are moved by an anger that is within themselves, an anger which they have clothed in Islam. But that does not make their anger or their actions Islamic, any more than the Salem witch trials or the Spanish Inquisition were Christian. From time to time, angry men and angry women use religion to explain and excuse and camouflage their true motives. Do not be confused. Instead, remember, and if you have children, teach them – Islam is as beautiful and powerful and peaceful a spiritual tradition as are Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and so on; but, regrettably, it is just as susceptible to distortion and misuse.
All of that said, these days and every day please remember the fundamental premise of the simple way: there is no God but God, and God is all there is. There is God and only God. No one and no thing else.
Despite the insistence of the egoic body/mind that “I am me, and you aren’t”, there are no others. Never have been, never will be. There is only One, the One. Therefore, no one was born, no one has died. That we might not fully understand or appreciate precisely what that means does not alter the Fact.
So, do not be confused or distracted or frightened by the appearances, however real they may seem. What is True is always True. Take refuge There.
Remember Who You Are.
September 19, 20, 22, & 24, 2001
In the name of God,
Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Praise be to God,
The Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds;
Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
Master of the Day of Judgment.
Thee do we worship,
And Thine aid we seek.
Show us the straight way,
The way of those on whom
Thou has bestowed Thy Grace,
Those whose portion
Is not wrath,
And who go not astray.
Qur’an, Sura I
Today, our local community radio station (WERU) played a song called “If Jesus Came To Your House” written by (I think) Jimmy D. Brown. I do not know who Brown is, and neither had I ever heard the song before. It is in the American Country & Western style, and accordingly perhaps a little corny, but if you will let it sink into you, the message is powerfully relevant to seekers of any tradition. (If it works better for you, when reading the words, simply substitute your own Teacher for “Jesus“; so the title might be, for example, “If Buddha (or Ramakrishna) came to your house to spend some time with you” or even simply, “If the Teacher came to your house to spend some time with you”.)
Here are the words of the song …
“If Jesus came to your house to spend some time with you,
“And you didn’t know He was coming, what do you think you would do? You’d probably start by giving him the finest room in your place, and tell Him over and over, that you’re glad to see His face. You’d serve Him the best foods and try to make Him feel right at ease, using all the polite words like, “Thank You,” and “If you please”.
“But I wonder what would happen if you saw Him coming up the road, would you run to greet Him and welcome Him to your abode? Or, would you scatter about the house to hide the videos? Would you place the Holy Bible where the magazine goes? Would you change the radio station to music more appealing? If Jesus came to your home, what would your TV be revealing?
“Would your behavior at all change, when He was around the house? Would you act more loving to your children and your spouse? At dinner time when you looked across the table at His face, would you find it very difficult before eating to say grace? And what about your friends, would you invite them over too? Or would you be afraid of what they would say about you?
“Would you keep right on saying the things you always say? Would the things you always do be done the same that day? And what about your life, would it continue just the same? Could you keep right on living like you were before He came? Do you think you would be able to take Jesus where you had planned to go? Or would there be a change of plans, because you don’t want Him to know?
“Would the books you read still be read, and the songs you sing still be sung? Would you be happy to have him around, or dreading that the doorbell rung? And if the Lord could read your mind while He was your honored guest, would you be ashamed of your thoughts, your motives, attitude and the rest?
“Where would He see you spend your time? Would it offend or flatter? Would He see you working for the Kingdom, or living for things that don’t matter?
“And when the visit drew to an end and He left, would you grieve? Or, would you with a sigh of relief be glad to see Him leave? Sometimes it’s good to think about how we’d live with Jesus around, because that’s the way we should live, for in our hearts He is found. So today as you go about your life, consider what you would do, if Jesus came to your house to spend some time with you.”
June 14, 2001
To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds and watch their renewal of life 8211; this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do.
Charles Dudley Warner
Yesterday evening, while preparing dinner, I had occasion to set a kitchen timer to twenty minutes. As I did so, it occurred to me that inevitably, sooner or later, it will be that I might set a kitchen timer to twenty minutes, and never hear it ring, for I will have died in the intervening period, before the twenty minutes was up.
Obviously, everyone of us has a final twenty minutes in our lives – the twenty minutes preceding our physical death, whenever that might be. The problem is, we have no way of knowing which twenty minutes are our last twenty minutes, except after the fact, in retrospect.
But suppose we did know. Suppose we were to learn right this instant that before the next twenty minutes were up, our physical bodies would be dead. How differently might we live these remaining minutes? How different might our values be, our fears, our concerns, our wishes, our actions? How differently might we address our loved ones, our friends, others? What might we do immediately that for far too long we have put off until “later”? All the things we have failed to say or do, might we do them and say them now? Apologies, I forgive you’s, I love you’s, I need you’s. What about the energy we expend nourishing slights and grudges, would we continue doing so?
What if we adopted this idea as a practice, and actually lived all the rest of our lives as if we had only twenty minutes left?
June 4, 2001
Henry David Thoreau
In the undergrowth beside our driveway, there stands a twelve inch (thirty centimeters) concrete image of the Buddha. We have a few such representations on the property 8211; of the Buddha, of St. Francis (left of the gazebo in the graphic above), and the like.
This buddha has been in place several years. Over the course of an ordinary day, I suppose I walk past it five or six times, maybe more – to and from the automobile, retrieving or posting mail in the box at the road’s edge, tending the vegetable garden, or just walking about. One would think that by now I would have grown accustomed to this presence. But the fact is, very nearly every time I notice it, I am surprised.
Perhaps there is something about this particular image 8211; its design or its coloring, that makes it startling. Or its setting among the leaves and grass. Or perhaps it is that when I walk past it I am normally focused on something else – carrying groceries or mail, or considering some activity in the art studio across the driveway, and I do not expect this kind of an encounter. Or maybe this buddha has simply got my number.
Whatever the explanation, this small chunk of concrete serves me daily as a powerful reminder to Remember. And I am extremely grateful to it.
May 29, 2001
Nearer, my God, to
Nearer to Thee!
Sarah Flower Adams
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