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. They are in reverse chronological order; that is, most recent at the top.
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
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A few mornings ago I awoke considering the similarity (the identity?) between Ibn ’Arabi’s assertion “Thou are not thou, thou art He, without thou,” and “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30), both of which sound a lot like Nisargadatta (“There is no such thing as a person”), Ramana, and so many others. That process led to a consideraton of the Hindu and Buddhist concept of karma and its fundamental presumption that I am a person separate and unique from other persons (and of course from God). The logic is unavoidable: To accumulate my own distinct sum of actions generating consequences specific to me, that is, to generate my own karma, I must be a separate person.
But how can I have my own karma if there is no such thing as a person, if I am not a person?
I tossed that apparent contradiction about in my head for some long while. I even got to the point where I prayed for forgiveness for my karma, the karma I had generated.
And then I heard, clear as crystal, “It’s not your karma. It’s My Karma.”
As I heard it, the capitalization of the letters em and kay was just as apparent as the words themselves: I could see them: My Karma.
There it was, unmistakably: It’s not your karma, Stefan. It’s My Karma.
To be sure, it makes sense. If there is no such thing as a “Stefan,” if “Stefan” is an illusion, then clearly there is no such thing as “Stefan’s karma.”!
Stefan is an illusion, so of course Stefan’s karma is an illusion. And that is true of you, too, whoever you are.
Let those words run loose in your mind for a few minutes, and observe as the ramifications reach out in every direction.
To me, it sounded like a ripping of the Veil (again, Ibn 'Arabi: “nothing veils other than He”), a tear of the Curtain (Matthew 27:51).
A few words, an overwhelming image.
This obviously requires the shift in perspective that the spiritual path is fundamentally all about (“There is no God but God, and God is All There Is”), but “It’s not your karma, Stefan. It’s My Karma” brings it into an unforgiving focus. By “unforgiving” here, I mean there is no room left for “yea, but this” and “yea, but that.” For me, this one demands a clean sweep. The mind cannot do it because as I have said and written, I am convinced the mind is the heartbeat of the illusion, and so cannot erase itself. But it can read the handwriting on the wall.
The next day, Nancy and I talked about this for a couple of hours, over breakfast and in the car enroute to an appointment. It has been rattling around in my brain ever since. And likely will continue to do so.
This is one of those Moments that change everything.
July 19, 2017
Update: Inevitably, all of the above applies to the question of reincarnation.
Who among us has not wondered, “Is there reincarnation? Who was I in a previous life? Who will I be in my next life?”
What is true about karma must be true about reincation: “It is not you who incarnates. It is I Who Incarnates.”
Likewise, “It is not you who reincarnates. It is I Who Re-Incarnates.”
Once again, we can know all of this by reading or hearing about it; we can even absorb it by meditating on it or otherwise spiritually ingesting it. But none of that will render it Known to us.
We cannot Know It until we Are It. That is, until the perception “I am me, and you are not” is irretrievably dissolved, the Veil removed, the Curtain torn. And That can be Accomplished only by God, the One, the I Than Which There Is No Other.
In a word, the Veil can be removed only by the One Who Put It There.
July 30, 2017
A round stone with special marks is the emblem of Vishnu, the Omnipresent, worshipped in the shrine. Each morning a priest comes in, bathes the image, clothes it, and puts his own Divine Spirit into it to “make it alive.” Then he worships it with flowers and other offerings, waves incense before it, and finally puts it to bed, apologizing to God for worshipping Him in that way because of his inability to conceive Him without the help of an image or some other material object.
The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth;
A couple of days ago, Nancy and I watched (again!) a DVD “I Am That I Am” by Stephen Wolinsky talking (brilliantly) about the Teachings of Sri Nisargadatta. Later that evening, there came to mind the lines quoted above from Lao Tsu, and particularly the word “desires” in them.
Instead of a basket of thoughts (see here and here), or maybe as well as a basket of thoughts, is it a basket of desires? And if so, is it possible (in an infinite universe, of course it's possible!) that what I am is simply (!) undifferentiated awareness that somehow from time to time (whatever that may mean in this context) latches onto a floating by desire, and instantly becomes that desire by indentifying itself with it. That is, the desire, every desire in the basket, contains or includes a unique “I” which I then adopt as “mine” and “me.”
Gurdjieff, I think it was, talked about our having “multiple I’s” which he used to explain why our behavior is so inconsistent: we are, in effect, more than one personality, although not in a clinical sense. In other words, as I understand the argument, each of us behaves not necessarily according to a well-defined, consistent set of standards, but instead our reactions, our performances, are defined or informed by the conditions or circumstances in which we find ourselves, not by any concrete standard “within” us. In a word, the I that I think I am is pliable, constantly (or at least frequently) changing, and therefore so, in effect, am I.
Further to this basket of desires idea: Perhaps each and every desire contains or includes not only its own I whose traits and characteristics are consistent with the desire, but includes also specifications that design, configure, inform the world associated with the desire, the world in which the desire lives, manifests, is executed. Thus, the world, the reality, we perceive at any given momet (including the people, things, activities within it) is consistent with, is shaped by, the desire we have adopted as our personality, and are pursuing (inhabiting, incarnating). We see the entirety that each of us call “my life” through the I (eye) of the desire we are enlivening. The world (reality) appears according to the specifications of the desire.
In the lines above, Lao Tsu tells us that having desires, or as I might be suggesting here, being desires (adopting or accepting the desire’s I as our own), enables us to observe “manifestations,” but to know the “secrets” we need to be free of desires (of any sense of being a self, a me). That’s in line with the Teaching of Nisargadatta, Ramana, et al.
These Lao Tsu lines are from the Wang Pi (sometimes Wang Bi) text which I came across recently. The more common text (translation) apparently is the Ma Wang Tui text. I do not know what the significant historical or critical differences are between the two; but I know this, one line leapt out at me when I first read the Wang Pi: “These two are the same”! In other words, whether we are observing (being) with desires or without desires, we are perceiving (being) the same “thing”. Of course, that idea appears throughout TZF, but nowhere as clearly as in that line by Lao Tsu in the Wang Pi text.
These two are the same. The Ma Wang Tui text (which I believe is more common) translates those words “These two have the same origin”; a Gia Fu Feng & Jane English translation has it, “These two spring from the same source.”
To be sure, those latter two are close in meaning to the former, but they are not quite as powerful, as attention-getting, as startling as the simple expression, “These two are the same.” No matter how intently, no matter how devotedly, no matter how sincerely we struggle spiritually, we are going to end up in the same place we started: Right Here. Because the One and the other are the Same, the Same One. (Compare Ibn ’Arabi “Thou art not thou, thou art He without thou.”)
April 3, 2016
In the context of the Lao Tsu quotation above, think of the mind as the line between “rid yourself of desires” and “allow yourself to have desires”; or, in Ibn ’Arabi’s language, it is the mind that is “the veil” (that which conceals or obscures “His existence in His oneness”). Thus, it is the mind that latches on to a desire, incorporates or assumes its “I,” and which then we take on as ourself, and behave accordingly. Or is it that desires themselves are the veil (I am going to start capitalizing that word as Veil because it just seems right to do so)? In other words, is there any difference, any space, between “my mind” and “my desire” (at any given moment)? I am beginning to think not. As my mind changes, my desire changes; as my desire changes, my mind changes. When I am rid of desire(s), I am rid of (my) mind. Is it possible to have a mind and not have a desire? At the very least, there would remain the desire to be. Rid ourself of every desire, and we rid ourself of “ourself.”
And all of this “activity” takes place on what we might call this side of the line, this side of the Veil, because it is on this side that the mind resides, on this side that multiple I's can surface, each associated with, each manifesting, it’s specific desire. On the other side (or is it Other Side?) of the Veil, there is only His “I” … and so there are no desires, no mind. From the perspective of His side of the Veil, there is no Veil: If the Veil is desire (AKA mind), and desire has dissolved (coincidentally erasing or dissolving “the line”), then all that remains is “His oneness” — which is all there ever was anyway … except “veiled”by desire.
And the beat goes on.
April 19, 2017
The way that can be spoken of
Is not the constant way;
The name that can be named
Is not the constant name.
The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named was the mother of the myriad creatures.
Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its secrets;
But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations.
These two are the same
But diverge in name as they issue forth.
Being the same they are called mysteries,
Mystery upon mystery —
The gateway of the manifold secrets.
Well, last evening, reading Ramana Maharshi in The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, I came across a line that I do not recall having seen before … never mind that Nancy and I have each read this book several times, underlined and margin-noted numerous passages. This line takes place in a discussion between Ramana and a seeker about the effects on the mind of the foods we eat, and so predictably the subjects of vegetarianism and non-violence (ahimsa) arise. Here is a piece of it:
Questioner: Are there restrictions for the realized man with regard to food?
So too the slabs you sit on! Who can read that line, and not have leap immediately to mind this passage from the Gospels:
And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Ramana and Nisargadatta and others like them tell us repeatedly that from the perspective of their Self-Realized Position, their body is the Universe, not the physical human organism we believe them (and of course ourselves) to be. In other words, for them the universe is itself alive, one single, undifferentiated living organism, and It is They, They are It. (Actually, they would not use the plural pronoun “They”, because from their perspective there is only One, only I.)
Here are the words of Nisargadatta, speaking of the Nature of a gnani (sometimes jnani), like himself: The entire universe is his body, all life is his life.
Our instinct, our first inclination, is to take words like these of Nisargadatta and those of Jesus and Ramana as metaphor or even poetry. On reading such lines, we insist to ourselves that Jesus and Ramana do not really mean that stones and slabs are alive, not literally. I mean, look at them, we say: They are obviously lifeless.
But by whose definition of life?
Are we to believe ourselves, we who do not even know or understand the true nature of our own life, of our own nature?
Here’s Lesson 3 from A Course in Miracles: I do not understand anything I see.
March 18, March 24, May 23 2016
From a Sanksrit word meaning “without injury, or non-harming”, ahimsa describes the principle and practice of non-injury to any living beings, whether by action, word, or thought. For many, it is the basis of vegetarianism. Consider this: Human beings arbitrarily separate the physical world into three distinct kingdoms — animal, plant, and mineral, by drawing lines across the face of reality based upon parameters which we define. Then, we decide which inhabitants of those kingdoms are alive and which are not, and which among those which we consider to be alive, are more alive than others. So, for example, human beings conclude that lava is not alive, and cows are more alive than carrots. Naturally, we label ourselves as the most alive (most advanced) of all. As we see it at The Zoo Fence, there is only One Kingdom, the One, and it is entirely, absolutely, indivisibly, and thoroughly alive, for it is Life Itself, and all the lines, separations, definitions, labels, and distinctions which human beings place upon the One are false, illusory, and misleading. For us, ahimsa means living a life which seeks to understand, to apply, and to Real-ize That Truth. So, we consider what we eat to be less important than why we eat, or than what we think about what we eat. We believe that to look upon a thing as separate and distinct from, not to mention less than, ourselves, does both it and ourselves harm and injury, whether the thing be a ledge of rock, a leaf of lettuce, or a leg of lamb.
The other day, reading The Underground Church by Robin Meyers, and particularly the quotation there of lines by Walt Whitman (repeated at TZF’s Here’s A Thought) that include, “Only those who love each other shall become indivisible,” I was reminded of TZF’s essay on marriage as a spiritual path, and that in turn reminded me of the passage in the Gospels in which Jesus is asked about the lawfulness of divorce, to which he replied, Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
For obvious reasons, those words have been, and continue to be, the indisputable basis for the prohibition of divorce in many Christian sects.
But is that what Jesus intended? This surprising question popped into my head while reading Meyers’ book, which I am thoroughly enjoying. (Now, I must stress here that my reaction came from somewere far out in left field, and that it was not, I am certain, Meyers’ message or his intention. As far into the book as I am now, the subject of neither marriage nor divorce has arisen.)
In some of my writing (for example here), I have suggested that as seekers we do well to assume that, when speaking, Jesus chose his words carefully, knowing (hoping) that his disciples and others, including us, were listening intently and with earnestness. Just so, on the subject of divorce, I noticed today — for the first time, I confess — that Jesus does not specifically prohibit divorce; rather, he prohibits man from putting asunder what God has joined. However absurd the suggestion may be (and before reacting, please recall that in The Gazebo at TZF, pondering spiritual absurdities is not only allowed but encouraged), I heard myself wondering whether it is possible that Jesus actually meant for us, as regards divorce, to read more than we have into his distinction between what God can do and what man may do.
In a word, is it possible that Jesus is telling us that man (we) may not effect a divorce not because divorce is forbidden, but because man did not effect the marriage. God did. Focus for a moment on the words what God has joined together, let not man put asunder. Notice that Jesus does not say, what God has joined together cannot be put asunder; he says, what God has joined together, man cannot put asunder.
Here, then, is the question that Meyers’ words, albeit unintentonally, shoved into my brain: Can God put asunder what God has joined? Is that what Jesus meant by making a distinction between what God has done and what man may do?
Has any Christian sect ever considered this? If not, why not? Did it never occur to someone, for example, in the court of Henry the eighth, when the Pope in Rome refused His Majesty’s request for permission to divorce, thereby forcing him to establish his own Christian sect? Would it not have been easier simply to parse Jesus’ words differently, perhaps even properly?
So, could one justify and devise a religious divorce ceremony, a ceremony similar in sanctity and pomp and circumstance to the marriage ceremony, to which, as in the marriage ceremony, God is specifically invited, but in which God is asked by a married couple together with a priest not to perform a joining but instead to put asunder what He earlier joined in an earlier ceremony?
It’s crazy, I admit, even preposterous, but is it untenable?
Happily, it has nothing to do with me or anything in my passage along the path. But as the thought got itself into my brain, I needed to rinse it out, and where better than here among friends on The Zoo Fence?
In the words of William Allman, “the brain is a monstrous, beautiful mess.”
March 6, May 25, 2016
(If you came here from our essay “The Bliss of Travelling Together”, and would like to return, please click here.)
Consider a seesaw. A seesaw is a plank that is balanced in the middle and whose ends are seats. If we cut a seesaw in half, our minds tell us we are left with two halves of a seesaw. But, in fact, there is no such thing as half a seesaw. A seesaw cut in half simply yields two shorter seesaws. Thus, it is impossible to separate or isolate the parts of a seesaw, for a seesaw has no parts. And yet it is the ends of a seesaw, and how they relate to each other, that makes a seesaw a seesaw; otherwise, it is just a board. Relationships are like that. Although we speak of them as if they were composed of parts (people), they are not. And neither are they a matter of choice. Just as every board is effectively a seesaw, so is every aspect of the universe in relationship. The fact is, relationship is the nature of existence. Relationship is not a choice we make; it is a reality we face. Either we embrace it, and soar, or we resist it, and wither. Our sole and entire existence is in the context of our relationships — with each other, with our lives, with the universe, with reality, with God.
One morning decades ago, I awoke with severe, nearly disabling lower back pain. It was so bad, I had to crawl out of bed, and once out of bed, I could not walk. Fortunately, someone (I no longer remember who it was, but whoever it was, both Nancy and I remain grateful to them) called my attention to an article in New York magazine's issue of March 16, 1987 titled “Ah, My Non-Aching Back” about a fellow who, like me, suffered from disabling back pain, until, after a year of assorted treatments, he finally found full relief at the hands of John Sarno, M.D. of New York University's Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation. Here are a few sentences from that article:
Dr Sarno believes that tension — conscious or unconscious — causes constriction of blood vessels leading to the muscles and nerves in the back, and often to those in the shoulders and neck as well. The deprivation of blood, and of the oxygen it carries, can cause painful muscle spasms and nerve pain. The pain itself creates fear, which prompts more tension and anxiety, and this leads to further constriction of the blood vessels. The result is a vicious cycle of pain. Dr. Sarno calls the condition Tension Myositis Syndrome or TMS. It is the diagnosis he makes for the overwhelming majority of his back patients he sees. Surgery is rarely indicated. … Perhaps most radical of all is Dr. Sarno’s style of treatment. It is, in effect, a talking cure — knowledge therapy.
And it works. Dr. Sarno is right, knowing the true source of the pain erases it. Just reading the article, and religiously following its guidance, worked for me.
Dr. Sarno has written several books about his approach to pain and its treatment, among them Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection which anyone suffering from chronic back, neck, leg or other pain, should read.
But today my inters est stems from a different Sarno book, The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of MindBody Disorders, which I am reading now. Here, Dr. Sarno draws from the teachings of Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and numerous others, including of course his own findings and those of his colleagues. What I understand to be the, or one of the, foundations of Sarno's approach is this: the human mind is composed of two territories (my word, not Sarno's), the conscious and the unconscious; the conscious is what each of us normally thinks of as "my mind", while the unconscious is effectively to us, is inaccessible to the conscious, and beyond the control of the conscious; and (this is the crux), in the unconscious resides resentment, jealousy, narcissism, anxiety, and the like, generated during our childhood (and beyond). In a word, the unconscious is a boiling soup of nasty stuff. Dr. Sarno (and Sigmund Freud before him) argues convincingly that the accumulated emotions or feelings (Sarno and Freud disagree over which of those terms applies) in the unconscious generate an abiding rage so strong and so potentially damaging, even disastrous, that “the sense organ of the entire apparatus” (named the ego by Freud) purposefully creates the experience of back pain, neck pain, and other conditions (see Note below), in order, in Freud's view, to punish the conscious mind for the rage boiling below the surface of us all, and in Sarno's view to protect us from it. (Here, I must confess, as may already be apparent to anyone knowledgable in this field, that much of this book is over my head, even though I am thoroughly enjoying it.)
From the book: It is essential to recognize the violent, brooding nature of the unconscious, and it is equally important to understand how it got that way. … (Freud’s) observations help to explain the feelings of inferiority present in the unconscious mind, and by that we mean everybody’s unconscious. My experience of working for many years with a very large cohort of patients with psychosomatic disorders supports the view that these feelings of inferiority are universal, and not restricted just to “neurotics” (as Freud believed). … (a patient's) pain was a reaction to an unconscious emotion — rage — and its purpose was to assist repression, and make certain that the rage did not reach consciousness. Multiple factors contribute to the reservoir of unconscious rage across the spectrum of patients …
Throughout this book, Sarno talks about the enormous rage that resides in the unconscious mind of every one of us. This rage is, he says repeatedly, a universal phenomenon. And, like Freud, Sarno attributes this rage to childhood experiences.
That is what catches my attention. I wonder if the repressed rage, which I do not question, is less about our experiences in childhood, and more about, even a manifestation of, our experience in the Garden of Eden, at the very beginning.
Virtually all of the Teachers tell us that our sense of separation from the One (God), our sense of ourselves as a separate and separative egoic/bodymind living in a universe of other separate and separative beings and things (“I am me, and you are not me”), is, first and most importantly, a falsehood, and second, the source of all our problems. And in the mythology shared in one form or another by virtually all spiritual traditions, it was the Garden of Eden experience that is the source of that sense, for it was there that we were thrown out of the eternal bliss of Paradise into the endless toil and pain of the human condition or life as we know it and live it.
Surely that’s a reason for rage.
Consider this paragraph from my book In The Beginning: The Genesis storyteller depicts with particular skill the phenomenon we are trying to understand, in the scene in which Adam and Eve meet God in the Garden for the first time after having eaten of the fruit. Suddenly, as never before, they perceive themselves separate and apart from one another, no longer one unity, secure and intact, wholly sufficient, but now two, severed, divorced, and torn asunder, dangling in the wind in Eden. The Bible tells us they felt naked and ashamed. How else should a thing deprived all at once of its wholeness feel, if not naked? Like a turtle deprived of its shell. And ashamed? Yes, if we recall that the word means “disconcerted or discomfited by a sense of impropriety or of things being improper” (like incorrect, abnormal, irregular, unsuitable, or inappropriate). It is a wonder they were not in hysterics. Then, still reeling from this blow, they perceive God, their Whole, that which, as one together as they belong, they are. But now the One seems not to be of or in them, as it ought to be, but “over there”, apart, something else. An other. Now they are thoroughly disoriented. The Bible says they hid themselves from Him. Of course they did. They panicked. Still, was it not instead that it was He Who had hidden Himself, His Wholeness, from them? … They no longer recognize themselves in Him or as Him. They do not see Him for what He is, themselves. God, or the Truth of God, or the Truth of their True Nature, is hidden from them. And they are frightened. Despite our dogged insistence to the contrary from pulpits and confessionals, this scene has nothing to do with genitals and fig leaves. Rather, what this poignant passage reveals to us, for those who would know it, is nothing less than what it feels like, in human terms, to be the elements of a split atom: naked, alone, and terrified.
And angry. Even enraged.
At themselves, at life, at God.
I do not mean to suggest here that childhood experiences may not be a legitimate source of resentment, frustration, discomfort, even anger, for all of us, but rage? That seems too strong a word. And yet, Dr. Sarno uses the word repeatedly, and he is specific too in the use of the word universal, meaning all of us. To be sure, sexual, physical, emotional, psychic abuse warrants rage, but surely not all of us are subjected to such offenses in childhood. And yet, every person whose fundamental, life-defining perspective is “I am me, and you aren’t me” — a condition which describes all of us — is living an existential falsehood, and is accordingly inexorably stressed and unavoidably enraged, albeit unconsciously.
Anyway, here are a few paragraphs from “The Divided Mind,” paragraphs whose observations, as I hear them, sound equally spiritual as medical:
Generally, people find it difficult to conceptualize the idea of unconscious rage. Some find it abhorrent, while others simply can’t believe it can be there inside them without their knowledge. They think anger and rage are such strong emotions that one must be aware of them. The idea that emotions — raw, heated, towering emotions — can exist outside of consciousness is hard to accept. Even when people intellectually acknowledge that these might exist, they find it hard to imagine them because they don’t feel them.
We live in the world of the conscious, and most of us think it is our only world. We acknowledge only what we are aware of, what we feel consciously. People exhibiting psychosomatic symptoms have to make an effort to imagine painful or threatening internal feelings and, equally important, reflect on the magnitude of their feelings and their potential for doing great harm. One must learn to think of these unconscious feelings in volcanic terms, and understand that their intensity has the potential to wreak havoc in our lives or would simply be too painful to bear.
That is how the decision maker in our brains — the ego — must conceive of the situation, for it stimulates the production of physical or affective symptoms automatically (italics Sarno's), without seeking the approval of the thinking mind. The process totally bypasses the intellect. It is clearly a subcortical reaction, for logic suggests that if reason were permitted to participate in the decision it would likely say, “This is ridiculous. I’d rather deal with the scary feelings than suffer the pain.”
But the psychosomatic process does not allow us a choice. The threat to the ego must seem mortal (italics mine), and the intellect is not permitted to participate in the decision. It is bypassed. The ego acts decisively and swiftly, and induces symptoms. It will not be denied …
Precisely so. When Self-Realization occurs, the Eden phenomenon is undone, the separate and separative egoic body/mind dies, and is perceived never actually to have been real at all, and the ego knows that.
Note: Among the other potentially psychosomatic conditions mentioned by Dr. Sarno are: gastroesophageal reflux, peptic ulcer, esophagospasm, hiatus hernia, irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colitis, tension headache, migraine headache, frequent urination, prostatitis, sexual dysfunction, tinitus, tennis elbow. (Return to Text)
January 20, 2016
The inevitable compromise is the belief that the body must be healed, and not the mind.
A Course in Miracles
(I have been writing this entry over several days. I am not sure it says exactly what I wanted it to say. What I intended to express here is the perception, after reading again for the umpteenth time the wondrous selection by Ibn ’Arabi at TZF’s Ampersand, that in some sense which I have difficulty putting into words, we seem to have come full circle. Borrowing from the Beatles, it’s all coming together now.)
The other evening before bed, reading TZF’s excerpt from Ibn ’Arabi’s Whoso Knoweth Himself, these words hit me like a bolt of lightning: “His Veil is only a part of His oneness; nothing veils other than He. His veil is only the concealment of His existence in His oneness”.
Concealment of His existence in His oneness! Therein lies the fundamental, ever-present, constantly evolving, endlessly frustrating, infinitely promising struggle of every spiritual seeker.
In one of my favorite passages of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna (who is you and I) asks Krishna (God) to show Himself to him. Krishna responds “these eyes of yours cannot see Me” (11:8, in the Nikhilananda translation). So, Kirshna gives to Arjuna a Divine eye, thus enabling him to see Him. And what does he see? Just what he saw before, except with a difference, and the difference is what the spiritual process — what enlightenment, realization, Christ Consciousness, Buddha Nature, and so on, are all about: What Arjuna with his human eyes had seen as many, he now sees as One: “There, in the person of the God of gods, Arjuna beheld the whole universe, with its manifold divisions, all gathered together in one.”
This is the “cloud of unknowing” (from the extraordinary book of the same title). Here is what’s on TZF’s definitions page about that: The “cloud of unknowing” … is that which forever hides perception of the One, God, from our every separative, egoic faculty. That is, however clever we may become, as long as we think, in effect, “I am me, and God is an other,” there must exist an invisible, impassable boundary between us. For, it is indelibly true that in the One, there are no others, and so, the only way truly to Know It, is to Be It. There is Surrender, which is Union.
The cloud of unknowing is the veil of concealment. Or is it the other way around?
Consider this venerable story: After a few years of spiritual study, a seeker, convinced she has deciphered life’s secrets, strides up to heaven’s gate and bangs on the door. “Whoܙs there?” thunders a voice from within. “It is I,” she replies, with certainty. “There’s no room for you here,” responds the voice, with finality. Surprised and disheartened, the seeker returns to her books and her fasts and her practices. Some time later, she tries again, but with the same result. Eventually, after repeated failures, she gives up. She turns away from all she knows, and she cries — at first, in anger, then confusion, until finally in surrender and in joy. Now, she knocks on the door again. “Who’s there?” asks the voice. “It is You,” the seeker replies. The door opens.
At John 8:21 (and elsewhere), Christ, the Self-Realized Jesus, says to his disciples, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” Where Christ is going, where Christ IS, there is room for only One, the One. Christ knows himself to be the One (“The Father and I are One”), but the disciples still perceive themselves separatively, to be “me not you” — “I am Andrew, not you,” “I am Bartholomew, not you,” “I am James, not you,” “I am Mary Magdalene, not you”. So they can’t go There; because they’re stuck here … being “me”.
The premise of my book In The Beginnning is that the Genesis story of the Fall is a metaphorical explanation of why the One (God) appears to us (humanity) as not One but many. In that story we are told that Adam and Eve ate from a tree whose fruit had been forbidden to them, a fruit that imparted to them the knowledge of good and evil, and that the punishment for having disobeyed God — for having committed Original Sin — is expulsion from Paradise, what we now call “my life”. Here is some of what I write about that:
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. …
But eating of the fruit of this tree imparted “the knowledge of and”, a knowledge heretofore excluded from, or forbidden to, Paradise. Hence, we call it the “forbidden” fruit, a fruit whose effect is the world we know, the world of things, the world of “and”, a world denied or, again, forbidden, to the One. …
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, it is boys and girls, and cats and dogs, and chickens and foxes …
My argument in that book is that the Fall was Intentional, part of the Grand Plan of Creation. I suggest there that the purpose of the Fall was the creation of self-consciousness, leading ultimately to Self-Consciousness or Self-Realization (to Resurrection after The Fall). The created Adam knows nothing, is happy, but asleep, unaware; the Resurrected Adam knows EveryThing, is Blissful, Awake, Divinely Aware. Adam-and-Eve’s “purpose” (our purpose?) is the Creation of Self-Consciousness.
In my other book, Take Off Your Shoes, I write about how it is that we see the One as many. That is, the other book is about the why; this book is about the how:
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.
… Compare Paul at 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glass, darkly ….”
Once again without seeking to understand why it might occur, suppose that one aspect of Creation were to hold up before its “eyes” a similar prism, and then view itself and the rest through that piece of glass. Instantly, the One would be seen as many. The Whole, artificially broken into its apparent component parts, would suddenly look to the viewer as separate, varied, and distinct elements. Where there had been just white, there would now seem to be purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. The One would not have become many, but it would appear as many (just as white light does not become the spectrum, it is seen as a spectrum). And, continuing with this illustrative device, suppose our viewer forgot for a moment that he was looking through a prism (perhaps in his fascination with the colors); he might eventually forget the exercise altogether, and come to believe that the colors are real in and of themselves, that they are all that there is, and that the image created by the prism is not just a refraction of something else but the universe itself. The universe would then be seen not as the single source of light that it is, the one stuff which is creation, as in “Let there be light”, but as the spectrum which it seems to be. What is one is now — appears now to be — many, and as the prism itself is forgotten, so is the source and nature of the spectrum, and we come to accept as self-sufficiently real and complete what is neither.
At TZF’s The Sacred Riddle, a Voice in the night asks, “If I Am Infinite, who are you?”
Ibn ’Arabi declares, “Thou art not thou; thou art He, without thou.”
In the image of the prism metaphor, God holds the glass to His Eye, looks at Himself, and sees not One, but many.
God, the One than Whom There is No Other, perceives Himself as you and me and cats and dogs and trees and mountains and houses and barns. With Ibn ’Arabi, He knows that barns are not barns, that they are He, without barns; but He perceives them as barns, precisely and only because He is perceiving Himself through the prism, which too is Himself. In the prism, He is barns. The prism, like the veil, like the cloud of unknowing, like the dark glass, is Himself; He disguises or conceals Himself from Himself by Himself. The prism — and its manifold image of Himself — exists because He exists.
And when He removes the prism from His Eye, lifts the veil, dispels the cloud, drops the dark glass, dissolves the separative ego, the removal itself is Himself. He removes Himself from Himself by Himself. And what remains? Himself — there being no thing else.
All along, as we ponder and consider these questions, which as seekers we must do, we do well to remember, God speaks to Himself in metaphors.
November 8 - 15, 2015
Reading today an article about author Mary Gaitskill in the November 8, 2015 issue of The New York Times Sunday Magazine, there is this: “ … in the middle of the life of [her character], a trapdoor suddenly opens. She is allowed a vision of the real essence of existence, something ‘sensate and unbearably deep,’ … — the world as animals experience it, beyond language.”
The world as animals experience it, beyond language.
Is there a world before the prism, a world absent the veil? Is there language before the prism or the veil? Why would there be? The purpose of language is to communicate; language is a tool enabling us to speak or write to one another. If there is no perception of “one another”, why have language? Ditto thought. Are thought and language essentially (from a seeker's perspective) synonymous?
Questioner: People come to you for advice. How do you know what to answer?
Nisargadatta doesn’t hear a question, and then think of an answer, as we do. He hears the answer at the same time he hears the question.
There is no separation between question and answer … and therefore between questioner and answerer? In the REAL world, the questioner, the answerer, the question, the answer, are all one and the Same Thing. On God’s side of the veil, everything is One and the Same.
The prism — or the veil — creates (is) the perception of separation, of separation between APPARENT things, whatever they may be (people, animals, buildings, clouds, ideas, sounds, memories, thoughts, moments, et cetera: the One as many). It is impossible for our minds fully to grasp this in any meaningful way because the concept of separation is inherent, intrinsic to our mind. Literally beyond the mind.
Which suggests this question: Is the mind the prism? Is the mind the veil? Is the mind His concealment to Himself of His existence in His oneness?
Which raises this question: Are you and I and your life and my life (and all the rest), simply a metaphor for God?
November 20, 2015
Here’s another exchange between Nisargadatta and a seeker:
Questioner: When will it happen?
December 3, 2015
She speaks to Herself in metaphors.
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 (cf. “I am with you always” Matthew 28:20). 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, touch, 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
Whenever I hear, read, or consider the concept “I am with you always,” I am reminded of “The Presence” in which, as I see it, a pained or frightened and almost certainly lonely penitent prays for succor when all the while the Teacher, Christ, is at his back!
“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, “… 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 … 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 … 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. … It sickens at the bidding of the mind … 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 …
… 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 – 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.
The summer of 1974, before I had consciously set out on this slippery slope, there crossed my path a teacher. (Editor’s Note: For a “true fiction” report of this event, please click here.) 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, many years later, I learn that my Guru has for decades almost certainly been participating in morally questionable sexual practices, and probably engaging in other, less than honorable pastimes. In a word, the man like the rest of us 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.
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
See also this item on this page
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
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
A sincere spiritual seeker
need not worry about finding the correct path to Truth.
The path will find you.
Last month, as I have reported elsewhere, we performed the unpleasant task of taking a one-way trip to the vet with a beloved four-legged friend. Since then, we have observed our reaction (Sorrow, with a capital s!), and are agreed there is no escaping the perfectly obvious conclusion that all our pain is caused by memory. Quite simply, when images of her come to mind, if we entertain them, we are sorrowed; but if we refuse to focus on them, and immediately let them go, we’re fine.
Of course, these images pop up repeatedly, particularly when we are considering or doing something which used to involve her in one way or another, and since she was with us everywhere always, that includes very nearly everything. But still, it works. As soon as the image arises, reject it. Give it no energy whatsoever. At first, some sorrow will be triggered. But pretty soon, the mind seems to recognize what’s going on, and even sorrow does not arise.
This is not denial, surely. Denial is the refusal to acknowledge the truth or reality of an event or relationship or whatever. This is not about that. This is about recognizing that our emotional reactions to this very real event are (perhaps entirely) a product of memory, and so, if we can “turn off” the memory machine, not by denying its existence but by refusing to feed it, we can turn off the pain.
Notice that its not the absence of our four-legged friend that generates sorrow, but the memory of her. That is, she is now absent all the time; but we are sorrowed only when we think about her, or remember her. Curiously, talking about this, we observe that in some weird way it is less “fun” to release these memories than it is to entertain them. In other words, the pain which these memories trigger is somehow almost pleasant. We “get” something from it. A couple of friends even remarked that the discomfort makes them “feel alive”.
But who is enjoying the pain? Who “feels alive” under these circumstances? Surely, it is the ego, the separative personality. After all, “loss”, and the sorrow it generates, can be experienced only by a separate entity (what I call “me”) living in a separative environment (what I call “my life”). And anything that reinforces our sense of separateness serves the ego.
Consider that the personality (who I think I am) is really nothing more than a random collection of memories. After all, suppose as an infant in the maternity ward, I had been inadvertently switched from one crib to another, and therefore been raised by different parents under different circumstances, would I not now have a completely different set of memories, and therefore a completely different sense of who I am? If so, then clearly who I think I am is the product of memory.
In that case, releasing our memories will release our sense of personality, of separative self (”I am me, not you”). Surely, like everything else in nature, memories require energy to remain alive. The difference between those things we remember and those we forget, is that we do not keep the latter alive. So, if we systematically withdraw energy from these memories, they will weaken. Eventually, they will become so weak as to be transparent. Then, we will be able to see “past” them (past “me”) to whatever lies beyond … to our true self.
A common reaction to TZFs line “discard your memories” is, “If I do that I will not be able to function”. But I don’t think so. The Teachers all say, “I know what I need to know when I need to know it”. In other words, to use an extreme example, it is not necessary to remember not to step in front of a moving train. In those circumstances, we will know.
Now, if what I call “me” is simply a random collection of memories, then what about what I call “my life”? Can I honestly say that I consider anything, approach anything, experience anything, do anything (in a word, “live” my life) without my memories … without “me”? If not, then perhaps, as we say repeatedly on TZF, “me” and “my life” are indeed one and the same thing, and perhaps that thing is no more than a collection of random memories.
In other words, as my life unfolds all the images and experiences I perceive are generated by memories, memories which, in their turn, were generated by other memories … and so on, as far back as … when? At what point can I say that “I” existed without any memory, without any sense of “me”? And what if I could get back there, and then, from there, live thenceforth “that way”, thoroughly and enthusiastically relating to whatever unfolds, but not creating any images of any of it, and therefore not generating any memories. I would be absolutely alive right now, relating absolutely cleanly to every moment as it unfolds, but not carrying any part of any moment into the next moment. Is that not “being here now”, the crux of every spiritual path!
We recently rented the movie “The Matrix”, which focuses on aspects of this question in an interesting way. It’s about the relationship between humans and computers, but if you make some adjustments, the similarities to what were talking about here, are there. (There is quite a bit of violence in this movie, so be prepared.)
February 20, 2001
Earlier we said: For some of us “the discomfort makes them feel alive. But … who feels alive under these circumstances? Surely, it is the ego, the separative personality”.
Undoubtedly, a (defining) characteristic of the separative ego (”I am me, and you aren’t”) is that it is thoroughly armored against true intimacy, constantly “avoiding relationship” (to borrow one of Da Free John’s powerful expressions). Therefore, if relationship (by which is meant true relationship – freely given, freely received, no definitions, no restrictions, no contraction, no barriers, in the moment now) is ultimately our True Nature, then it is only in just such a true relationship (with ourselves, with each other, with our lives, with our spiritual path, with God) that we “feel alive”, for it is only in true relationship that we are alive.
In that case, perhaps it is possible that, in a situation of genuine crisis, even the ego is overwhelmed, and its armor fails. Then, suddenly, inexplicably, rendered naked without our “protective” (separative) armor, we discover ourselves (to our surprise) to be in true relationship with the current event. And, of course, it feels good (we feel alive) precisely because, for those few unintentionally un-armored moments, we actually are alive.
Thus, perhaps contrary to what we concluded above, in moments of crisis (1) it is not the ego that feels alive, but our very selves finally allowed “out” to be what we are, however briefly, and (2) it is not the discomfort that makes us feel alive, but rather it is that we are forced, again briefly, into true relationship with our lives, precisely because the power of the crisis overcomes our armor.
March 6, 2001
Everywhere God will come to meet you.
What Distresses Us
In an interview on the CBS television program “Sixty Minutes II” broadcast on December 19, actor Peter OToole, in humor, suggested for his epitaph a line he read on a dry cleaning receipt: “It distresses us to return work that is not perfect”.
This remark got me thinking how many of us live in fear of death partly because we suppose we are less than perfect, and that at death God will judge us on that basis. That is, we perceive ourselves as having been sent on a mission (our lives), which we presume we have not accomplished perfectly. So, we conclude that we have somehow failed, and will be adjudged accordingly by God. In a word, we are afraid that, at the pearly gates, God will accuse us of trying to “return work (ourselves) that is not perfect”, and lock us out.
The problem with that reasoning is it rests on the false assumption that God is an “other”. That is, God can judge us (for good or ill) only if He (?) is other than we, only in a set of circumstances in which He’s the Judge, and we’re the judged. But if God is Infinite, then God is all there is, including we (for more on this thought, please see TZFs The Simple Way). And if God is indeed somehow we, then the prospect, even the concept, of our being judged by God (or, think about it, by anyone or anything else) evaporates.
Speaking of which … if God is somehow we and God is somehow all there is, then we are somehow all there is (remember high school math: two things equal to the same thing are equal to each other).
December 21, 2000
When we remember we are all
the mysteries disappear,
and life stands explained.
A couple of TZF visitors have asked about a recent Theophyle cartoon, specifically the one concerning Theo’s apparent confusion at the rabbit's questioning how he (Theo) knows his friend is dead. One good friend wrote, “I like the cartoon, even though I don’t get it!”
The first draft of the cartoon had the rabbit asking, “How did you know he was alive?” but was changed to the current version because the use of the past tense (was alive) is an aspect of the problem. When it comes to life, there is no past and no future, only Now. To be sure, every body is born, and every body will die. But life is not born, and cannot die. The Life which a body seems to be exhibiting never began and will never end, and is certainly not “the body’s life”. The body has no life. A body may reflect life, exhibit life, move in life – but that is different from being alive. After all, even Hamlet acts alive, but is he? Only life is alive, for being alive is Life’s infinite and eternal condition. And that’s what we are, Life itself. That it does not seem that way to us is precisely the crux of the spiritual process.
Getting back to the cartoon, the rabbit knows we will answer both questions – How did you know he was alive? and, How do you now know he is dead? – in terms of the body. Thus, we would say, I knew he was alive because I could hear his voice, feel his touch; and I know that he is dead because those are gone. But, however meaningful those may be – and very meaningful they can be – (Here, please understand that it is not the intent of the cartoon to make light of a friend’s death. Quite the contrary!) – clearly, sound and touch are bodily functions. And besides, a computer can talk, a robot can touch. In a word, being alive means far more than functioning bodily. That’s what the rabbit would have us Know.
November 24, 2000
Realize and achieve the Highest with the help
of the illumining, guiding, and fulfilling Masters.
The path is as sharp as the edge of a razor,
difficult to cross, hard to tread.
If God is
If God is all
September 18, 2000
There is God,
November 1, 2000
The core and the surface
Are essentially the same,
Words making them seem different
Only to express appearance.
The inevitable outcome of love is union.
The inevitable outcome of union is identity. Two become one.
Just love. Not the experience, but the reality.
Let that be your path and your practice.
Nothing to learn. Nothing to memorize. Simpler than simple.
Love God. Love yourself. Love your life. Love your neighbors. Love the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. The clean, the filthy, the healthy, the sickly. Love the long, love the short. Love the far, love the near. Love those you like, love those you hate.
Not because of what they are or are not. Not because of what you are or are not. But simply because love is all there is.
Don’t ask, love. Don’t think about it, love. Don’t talk about it. Don’t plan for it. Don’t even consider it. Just be it.
Let the love that resides within you, that is expressing itself as you, shape and determine your every thought, your every attitude, your every action.
Live not for love, but as love.
On the outer, this may be confusing, even terrifying. On the inner, it comes naturally. Therefore, let the inner out.
And, please, for the love of God, don’t grumble, don’t murmur, “It’s too much to ask. I can’t do it”!
You can, and you will. You already are.
Get out of the way, and see it.
August 9, 2000
This is a mystical view of things. True. But whenever we penetrate to the bottoms of things, we always find something mysterious. Life and all that goes together with it is unfathomable. That which appears to belong to the commonplace takes on an unsuspectedly deep and consequential character when we analyze it thoroughly. Knowledge of life is recognition of the mysterious. To act justly means to obey the laws that arise from this recognition of the mysterious.
Those who live engrossed in life’s game are governed by karmic law. They are played upon; they are not players in the game. In a ball game, what rights has the ball? It must go where it is sent. In life’s game, Karma is the supreme and only “player”.
Tough lesson. Karma is the player. We are the played. Not unlike balls on a playground, bounced to and fro by forces out of their control, you and I are living out the consequences of choices we made years, lifetimes, ago. In effect, then, we are not reacting, we are reactions! How to break out?
Instead of accepting fatalistically the decrees of karma, follow the inner way to freedom. Meditate daily. Commune deeply with God. Learn from Him, through the silent voice of intuition, the way out of soul-degrading serfdom to habits.
And, he continues …
Karmas unalterable decrees govern human destiny only as long as man continues to live through his senses, in reaction to outer events. … Once the ego has been transcended in soul-consciousness, however, the realm of karmic law is transcended also. The soul remains forever unaffected, for karmic consequences accrue only to the ego. They are dissipated when no centripetal vortex is left to bring them to a focus in the consciousness of “I” and “mine”.
June 10, 2000
I would like to paint as the bird sings.
The Garden of Love
I went to the Garden of Love,
And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And I saw it was filled with graves,
May 17, 2000
Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.
The answer is: Always!
Not sometimes, often, usually,
If the answer is always Always!
The question is,
And the answer is,
March 30, 2000
Inner bliss is its own most
The certainty it conveys transcends the most brilliant reasoning.
Doubt, when exposed to powerful bliss-rays, evaporates.
On February 10, I posted a new feature on The Zoo Fence called Integral Health. Included with it was a health-related message board hosted by Bravenet.com. This was the first message board to be directly associated with TZF, and I had enjoyed the process – both the setting up of it, and the board itself. And once it was in place, there seemed to be immediate, positive response from TZF visitors, which was nice. All in all, a good thing.
Then, a couple of days later, the message board disappeared. POOF! it was gone. Bravenet explained they had suffered a “primary database failure”; in a word, they lost everything. However, because they regularly backup their files (as all of us should do – cyberspace is a fragile place), they promised they would be able to restore everything quickly. And they did. Except not quite everything. It seems their most recent backup was made on February 8. TZF joined Bravenet on February 9. So, by twenty-four hours, we missed being included in the backup. Our message board was irretrievably lost.
Now the question became: Do we simply start over (re-register at Bravenet, and recreate the message board), or Do we accept the event as Gods Will, and walk on? That is, was Bravenets crash nothing more than a random accident that we can simply ignore, and walk around, or was it the Teacher telling us, “I dont want you to do this just now”?
Because I really had been enjoying the process, my first thought was simply to do it over again. “I want it, and Im going to have it.” But instead, I stopped, and reconsidered.
As a seeker, I have given my life to the Divine, whom in this context I call Mother. Further, as a seeker, I have promised that I will accept my life, however it unfolds, as God’s Will, and therefore, good for me. In exchange, Mother has promised to assume full responsibility for me. Of course, this “deal” is silly because, being Infinite, God (1) already has or is whatever I might offer, and (2) cannot withhold whatever I might perceive as being offered. But it is important for me, as a seeker, to undertake this commitment, for it represents a beginning of surrender, without which awakening is not possible.
Thus, as far as I am concerned, the crash at Bravenet erased the Integral Health message board because it was God’s Will that it should do so. And that’s all I need to know.
Thy Will be done. Not because it’s demanded. Not because it’s required. Not in fear or anger or trembling submission. But simply because God’s Will works, and nothing else does. The Universe has its own wisdom. Struggling against it dooms us to pain, loneliness, despair, and discomfort. It’s not “I am God, and you’re not, so shut up and do as you’re told!” Rather, it is “I am God; please allow Me to serve you”.
So, perhaps some other time; but for now, the TZF-IH message board is history.
Thy Will be done, for there is no other.
(For additional consideration of this thought, please click here.)
February 15, 2000
Dis aliter visum.
The gods decided otherwise.
Simply this …
Of all the powers granted a seeker,
This greatest power of them all is not about
visions and auditions,
The Teacher said it,
Notice, there is nothing there about when it’s convenient,
Simply, do it
walk the walk
love one another
January 28, 2000
”When somebody persuades
me that I am wrong
I change my mind.
What do you do?”
John Maynard Keynes
This does not seem to me to be a commandment, as in “There are two things I want you to do. First, be still, and second, know that I am God”.
Rather, it sounds to me like a tautology, as in “Being still” equals or is the same thing as “Knowing I am God”. Thus, “If you will be still, you will know that I am God”. Or, “If you wish to know that I am God, you must be still”. Or, again, “Unless you be still, you cannot know that I am God”.
Being still is knowing. Notice, then, that knowing is not about learning or in any other way acquiring or, even, seeking. Being still is what is necessary. What’s more, it’s all that is required. Just so, every tradition teaches stillness.
Being still is being here now. Not thinking about being here now, mind you, but simply being here now. The difference between thinking about being here now and being here now is what constitutes the spiritual path, or sadhana.
The separative ego (”I am me, and you aren’t”), which is never here now, and which therefore knows nothing and precludes our knowing anything, thrives on thought, which is movement. In effect, the ego is thought (not “I am” but “I think I am” or “I think about being”).
Thought is never still, for it is always remembering or anticipating. Thought is never aware, for it is always judging, measuring, comparing.
Bit by bit, we quiet thought, until finally we are still. Then we know.
Know what? “That I Am God.”
Don’t think about it.
December 25, 1999
I have read that sharks, or some sharks, must remain in constant motion in order to stay alive. (It has to do with keeping water, from which they draw oxygen, passing through their gills.) In other words, if you stop a shark’s motion, it will die. The ego is like that. Stop the motion, which is thought, it will die.
December 28, 2014
A friend of TZF quotes from
“Things are not as they seem, nor are they otherwise”.
In The Presence
Living near does not mean breathing the same air. It
means trusting and obeying, not letting the good intentions of the Teacher
go to waste. Have your Guru always in your heart and remember his [or her]
instructions – this is real abidance with the True. Physical proximity
is least important. Make your entire life an expression of your faith and
love for your Teacher – this is real dwelling with the Guru.
A seeker asks, “Is there a book I should read?”
Books there are many. But the spiritual process is not about reading books. For it is not like algebra or engineering. There, you go to a teacher, read a book, memorize a few formulas, and you’ve got it.
The spiritual process is not about knowing. The spiritual process is about being. Here, the key is not learning what the Teacher knows, but being what the Teacher is. And the way to do that is to be with the Teacher so thoroughly that you resonate with him or her, until finally you become the Same.
For a seeker, at any given instant the answer to the question “Who am I?” is “Whom am I resonating with”. That is, we take on the identity of whatever we consider. The more so, the more so.
So, to Remember your Identity as the One, find a Teacher who Remembers, and immerse yourself in him or her. That’s the principle of the daily exercises in A Course in Miracles. Every day, every single day, with absolute obedience, immerse yourself in each day’s exercise, until finally you resonate absolutely with the Teacher.
That’s the purpose of living in an ashram or other spiritual community overseen by a Teacher. There, whatever else you may be doing, you are doing in the Teacher’s Presence. But a book is as good as an ashram, and any book by any Teacher will do. The important thing is how you approach the book. Do not address it as you would a high school textbook, to be memorized, quoted, mastered. Rather, consider it as being in the Presence of the Teacher. Read from it as often during the day as your schedule permits, not to learn it, but to be there. And when you are not reading from it, think about it. Whatever else you need to do, keep the Teacher in your thoughts, in your vision, in your experience.
Consider yourself in this true story. One day a student came to a Teacher and said, “I wish to learn, will you teach me?” The Teacher replied, “I do not feel that you know how to learn.” The seeker responded, “Can you teach me how to learn?” The Teacher asked, “Can you learn how to let me teach?” [Quoted in In The Beginning from The Sufis by Idries Shah.]
November 3, 1999
Those who are fully taught
will be like their Teachers. (Luke 6:40 SV)
Why do you call me Master, Master, and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46 SV)
Before Abraham Was
Abraham is regarded as a father by three of the worlds great spiritual traditions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Considering that, the question arises: Before Abraham was born, Who Am I?
September 19, 1999
Choices have consequences.
Gotta Have It? Be it!
Why is it we are endlessly moved to aggrandize ourselves, our families, our wealth, our properties, our possessions? Not just as individuals, but as nations too, endlessly we seek to expand our borders, increase our influence, amass new wealth. Of course, the immediate response is the g word: GREED! And, to be sure, there is a lot of “Gimme!” in it. But in a metaphysical universe, there has to be a metaphysical explanation for that, too.
Consider this: The ego is trying to mimic infinity! (Or, as above, so below.)
Infinity is (consists of) all there is. When we Know our Identity as That, what could we possibly want? Being whatever there is, we have whatever we need whenever we need it. Just so, those who reach true Realization, the Teachers – Jesus, Buddha, Ramana, Rumi, and so on – cease to want anything, even though many of them appear to us to have nothing. “What would I want?” they ask. “What would I do with it?” And whenever they need something, it is always there, when and where and as they need it. As they see it, they have everything, and they want nothing. As the One, being and having are synonymous. “Who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.”
Now, the ego naturally tries to mimic that happy place, and of course fails hopelessly (even, if we were not so personally involved, humorously!). “If infinity means everything everywhere always,” the ego reasons, “then I guess I have to accumulate everything, everywhere, always.” Perceiving itself and everything else separatively, the egoic mind presumes that the only way to have everything is … well, to have everything. And the only way to do that is to amass stuff. In a word, look for stuff, and when you find some, grab it! “What are you going to do with all that stuff?” the Teachers ask us, to which we respond, “I’ll figure that out later; for now, I’ve just got to have it.”
Like squirrels, we are driven to accumulate. We rationalize this activity in terms of prosperity and security and welfare, but the real reason we do it is that we live in (are) an infinite Universe. That is, desire is insatiable not because it is evil (although, goodness knows, even at its least it is a nuisance), but because infinity is limitless. Somewhere within, we know that, and we are trying to be it. Until, one fine day, we Remember, and Realize that the only true way to be it is to stop trying to be it.
September 3, 1999
Dont seek it,
A Portrait of A Landscape
Think of the manifested universe (what each of us calls “my life”) as a landscape, not a portrait. That is, it is not a representation of each of us (”me”) amidst other people, things, and events (”I am me, everything else isn’t”), like a portrait. Rather, the entirety of “my life” is one subject matter, like a landscape, which is each of us (”This I am”).
A portrait painting consists of a person in the foreground and everything else, even anything else, in the background. That is, a portrait is a painting of the person, and the background is just filler. A landscape painting, on the other hand, has no background. It is all foreground. A portrait occupies part of a canvas, and is surrounded by other stuff, stuff which is incidental and even unimportant to the portrait. A landscape fills the whole of the canvas, and there is no “other stuff”; it’s all the landscape, all equally important and entirely essential.
None of the elements in a landscape are separate or separable. The landscape is one and whole. All of the elements of a landscape exist only in the context of the landscape. They exist solely in relationship to one another.
We think our lives are portraits: “Here I am, living in my life.” In Truth, they are landscapes: “I am my life, and my life (in its entirety) is me.”
As manifested beings, we exist only in the context of our lives, which is the landscape in and as which we are appearing right now. Life in the landscape is all about relationship.
If a piece of the background is removed from a portrait, it does not really matter. The portrait remains intact. But you cannot remove a piece from a landscape, for doing so destroys the landscape itself.
Every bit of our discomfort arises from our mistaking our lives for portraits when they are landscapes. This is an inevitable symptom of the separative egoic mind. The illusion “I am me, and you aren’t” leads naturally to “This is my life, not yours”.
Now, this landscape is of course a representation of the One (there being no thing else it can be). That is, what each of us calls “my life” is the One being (perceived as) (perceiving Itself as) that.
Being Infinite, the One is changeless. But the landscape is constantly changing. It is in constant motion, with a momentum of its own, a momentum derived from the Infinity of the One, which it is. For illustration purposes, compare it to the ocean, which is constantly in motion, constantly changing, but always the same.
In the beginning, we consider our lives to be portraits. Then, as seekers, we come to see them as landscapes. Finally, we realize we are the landscape, and that the landscape is a portrait of ourself, the Self.
August 27, 1999
The Landscape is Alive!
Think of transcending as trance ending.
Read the Teachings.
Think of God.
Be Still, and Know
In order to stay alive, the ego (”I am me, and you aren’t”) needs to be in constant motion. In this sense, the ego is like the shark, which suffocates if kept still. And so we spend our lives in endless search of distractions – sexual, sensual, vocational, recreational, conceptual – whatever it takes to keep moving, inner and outer, and therefore separatively alive.
The Infinite, God, is not in motion. Being infinite, God includes, or is, all motion, but God is not in motion. Where would God go, being There (That) already!
Just so, all the teachings agree, “Be still, and know I Am God.” (Psalms 46.10) Just so, all the teachings teach meditation practices of one kind or another, leading to stillness. Because being still permits knowing (Remembering) who (Who) we are.
In motion, I perceive “I am me, and you aren’t”. In stillness, the ego (again, like the shark) dies, revealing What Is. Being still, I see “I Am God” (for God is all there is). (Of course, the “I” in that sentence is most assuredly not the egoic I, who must interpret it to mean “I am God, and you aren’t”, which is not only silly and false, but insane.)
Is stillness, then, another word for Self-Realization?
June 9, 1999
Recognizing myself in all
that is alive,
and all that is alive in myself,
I shower my life with my love.
For The Greater Glory of … Me!
Consider this: God is Narcissus. That’s Narcissus with a capital N. Narcissus is the fellow from Greek mythology who saw his reflection in the pond, and fell in love with it. Narcissus is in love with his own image, with himself.
In other words, God loves God.
What a great image!
We are agreed that God is Infinite. [Please see “The Simple Way” at Consider This!] Further, we can agree that God is Love. (Being infinite, God is all there is, including love.) From there it follows that God’s Love is Infinite (clearly, every aspect of an infinite being must be infinite as well). If God’s love is infinite, then God loves all there is. If God is all there is, and if God loves all there is, then God loves God.
In other words, we might say it is the Natural State or Dynamic or Condition of the Universe that God loves God. This is a Self-Loving or Self-Loved Universe.
Right off, we must remind ourselves that, from God’s point of view, there are no others (because, again, God is all there is). So, when we say, as we have just done, that God loves God, we are not saying that God loves Himself more than or instead of or even as well as He loves anyone or anything else. From God’s point of view, there isn’t anyone or anything else. Being Infinite, God “knows” that whatever there is, is God.
Now, we are a reflection or manifestation of God (again, God being all there is, there is nothing else we can be). So we too must be narcissus (we’ll lower case the n when referring to us). And let’s face it, we are narcissus. We are all in love with ourselves, however much we may protest to the contrary.
What’s the difference between Narcissus and narcissus? The same difference between an object and its reflection in the mirror.
Where Narcissus (again, with a capital N, meaning God) sees Infinitely (”there are no others”), narcissus (you and I) sees separatively (”I am me and you aren’t”). Narcissus’s Self-Love is Infinite, and therefore all inclusive, because from His perspective, His Self is All There Is, and all there is, is His Self. Our love of ourselves (narcissus’s self-love) is finite and separative, because from our perspective, our self is “me, not you”.
But, consider this: It’s the same Self-Love! The only difference is, where are we standing? Are we the Subject in front of the mirror, or are we the reflection in the mirror?
Again, we are the image of God. Therefore, we have all of God’s Traits, Aspects, and Tendencies. Except, being an image (reflection, like in a mirror), we are in effect flat, tasteless. And therefore so are all of our traits, aspects, and tendencies.
So, self-love, even selfishness, is not a bad thing. In fact, it is the inevitable, inherent, prior condition of creation, precisely because we are a reflection of an Infinite Being that Loves Its Self. Our task, a seeker’s task, then, is simply to redefine the self we love, to capitalize the Self in our selfishness!
Or, Remember Who we Are!
June 3, 1999
Continuing … Does this explain why a true seeker seems to be happy (cheerful), even when the circumstances of their path or of their life generally are sometimes difficult, frustrating, even scary.
Our separative love of our separatively perceived self, while “normal” as a reflection of the One’s Love of the (Its) Self (as above so below), does not make us happy because it is fundamentally in conflict with the Reality of the Universe. That is, my perception that “I am me and you aren’t” (”My gain is not your gain” “Your pain is not my pain” or, as some put it, “One man’s blessing is another’s misfortune”) is an error (Error). In fact, it is THE error (the inevitable perspective of a flat reflection in a mirror). Remember, in Truth, where there is only One, there is no “and”. And where there is no “and”, there is no “me and you”, no “mine and yours”.
Love in the conflicted separative environment each of us calls “my life” is stressful (conflict produces stress), and therefore it does not consistently, spontaneously, and continuously generate happiness, regardless of other prevailing circumstances. (Consider that when you and I say “my life”, we mean “mine not yours”, but when God says “My Life”, He means All There Is!)
Now, a seeker, by definition, is seeking to see his or her self and his or her life singularly, as One, as the One. Therefore, a seeker’s self-love is directed, however tentatively, hesitantly, or clumsily at first, towards his or her True Self. A seeker’s self-love is a reach for Self-Love. As such, it conforms (or is seeking to conform) to the Natural Dynamic of the Universe. A seeker is narcissus seeking to be Narcissus. That weakens, eventually to remove, the cause of conflict which in turn relieves the stress which in turn permits happiness to blossom. The greater the seeker’s determination (aspiration), the more powerful will be his or her reach for Self-Love (rather than self-love), and so the more consistent, spontaneous, and continuous is his or her sense of happiness, regardless of other prevailing circumstances.
A friend of TZF sometimes jokingly observes, “I love me! Who do you love?” Directed properly, that expression can be a profound meditation. Whoever we think the “me” is in the affirmation, or however we respond to the “Who do you love?” question will determine our lives. As long as we perceive ourselves, and therefore our love (wherever directed), separatively, our perspective and our response will be separative, with stressful (unhappy) consequences. But the instant we seek to see singularly, we enter the natural flow and direction of the Dynamic of Life (we be What we Are), and we begin to feel better, happier. In a word, it is less stressful to row downstream, with the flow, than upstream, against it.
June 3, 1999
The imperative then is to find someone or something to love. Initially, it probably does not matter who or what is the object of our love, so long as our devotion is absolutely and unconditionally open, free, willing, and cheerful. So long, that is, as we surrender ourselves totally to love and loving. God, being infinite and perceiving Himself as all there is, will recognize the object of our love as His very Self, and, as Narcissus, be pleased. That in turn will manifest as happiness in our lives.
June 5, 1999
A true Guru (or Teacher), in whatever form, seems a suitable (safe) object of a seeker’s love, precisely because, being Self-Realized, he or she (or it) is not flattered or otherwise confused by a seeker’s devotion. The Guru knows the seeker to be himself or herself, and therefore recognizes and accepts the seeker’s attention as the perfectly natural and appropriate expression of the fundamental dynamic of the Universe: Self-Love. And, as Narcissus, the Guru is pleased. This pleasure manifests in the seeker’s life (which, from the Guru’s point of view, of course, is none other than his or her own life) as happiness (and other good things), and so, in some traditions, the Guru is considered “the wish fulfilling tree”!
June 10, 1999
In this context, is the difference between self-indulgence, so common in us all, and Self-Indulgence, which the One Itself must exhibit (or how could we reflect it), that the former is always at the expense of perceived others (”me, not you”), and so fails miserably, and the latter succeeds precisely because in Truth there are no others!
June 30, 1999
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