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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.
To read archived Gazebo items click here.
And now, consider this:
Miss Brinklow, however, was not yet to be sidetracked.
“What do the Lamas do?” she continued.
“They devote themselves, madam, to contemplation and to the pursuit of wisdom.”
“But that isn’t doing anything.”
“Then, madam, they do nothing.”
— Lost Horizon by James Hilton
While TZF’s Open Forum was active, some comments, observations, and other items that might ordinarily have been posted here, were instead posted there. Now, although Open Forum is inactive, everything on it remains available for reading. To go there now, please click here.
Before you continue any further, please consider this: Here and there on The Zoo Fence, the name Jesus (Issa) appears, and rightly so, for He is a radiant Teacher. But the word Jesus is the English form of the Latin form of the Greek form of the Hebrew word Yeshua or Yehoshua. In fact, scholars tell us the man’s name was almost certainly an Aramaic word, most likely something like Issa. Given that, I cannot help but wonder, is it appropriate for me, for us, to consider him, to address him, to love him, even to pray to him, by the English version of the Latin name used by Pontius Pilate and his Roman soldiers as they drove iron nails into his hands and feet. Surely his mother, his siblings, his disciples, those who knew him in person and loved him, did not address him by that Roman name. Suppose a dear friend of yours were arrested and tortured by a foreign authority who called her or him by a new name, would you adopt it? The question answers itself, doesn’t it?
Now (summer 2022) I am finding the intellectual courage to apply the name Issa on this website. Writing the playlet “Jesus and Judas,” he was originally Jesus, but I have changed that to Issa, although the
Jesus version still displays here. Today (December 4, 2022) I have begun adding it here at the Gazebo. Over time there will be more. As appropriate, it will appear as “Issa (Jesus)” or “Jesus (Issa).”
If adopting, even reading, the name Issa makes you uncomfortable, I get that absolutely. I have been there; parts of me still are there. But I remind myself, it has been two thousand years: It is past time for us to give the man his name.
Speaking of names. Those of you who are used to seeing the name Stefan across this website may wonder why it is being replaced with Francis. About a year ago, I had a dream telling me, in effect, to replace Stefan with Francis. My first thought was about Francis and Clare of Assisi. He is the only Francis I have ever
known, and I have admired the two of them (and loved the town of Assisi) since, well, forever. But eventually I came to thinking that the dreamed instruction is about something different, something about my spiritual journey. We’ll see. In any case, until a couple of months ago, I ignored the dream. I mean, I thought about it, but did nothing. Finally, recently, I figured it was time to take the dream seriously, so I began changing appearances on The Zoo Fence of Stefan to Francis. What does it mean? Dunno. Why did I do this now and not before? Dunno. But at least now you know as much about it as I do.
In some traditions, the universe is God’s body. If so, earth is a piece of, an aspect of, God's body.
In 1997, President Jimmy Carter warned us about global warming and its inevitable effects on the planet.
We ignored him. Yea, we did one of these, and two of those, but effectively we did nothing. Just so, the man who followed him as president removed the solar panels Carter had installed on the roof of the White House. That was the example set to the world by the United States.
Gotta be honest, I said nothing. You?
But here’s the thing. What are the odds God did not notice my silence? Or that God is not aware of the damage to the planet that global warming (not to mention oil spills, over population, misuse of ground water, insane agricultural policies) inflicts on His body … if that’s what it is.
When my Time comes, how shall I respond to His inquiries about this?
Geez, global warming? Well, I dunno, I mean, after all, the thing is, I guess, on balance, I just, well, you know, followed everyone else.
At that, I suspect St Peter is likely to tell me to take a seat, and think carefully before I speak again.
The universe is, as it were, the body of Brahman (God)
September 9, 2022
In my mind
Thinking this morning about the state of the world — global warming, inflation, COVID, Putin, Erdogan, Xi, Trump, McCarthy — I came again to the realization that what I perceive in and as my life is a product of nothing other than me and my mind.
The world (my life and everyone and everything in it everywhere always) appears and unfolds — exists — according to who/what/where I believe I am.
And all of that is created and exists nowhere else but in my mind.
My conviction that I am the body and the mind known as Francis (to borrow words from Vasistha’s Yoga) determines my life and everyone and everything I experience in my life precisely as I experience them.
In other words, all of my life — everyone and everything — takes place in my mind and nowhere else.
My life and its inhabitants — the people and events that populate my life — seem to me to exist and occur outerly; that is, outside my body. But that is an illusion. In fact that is THE illusion that all the Teachers talk about.
That said, I suppose, I expect, that all of those people and events, all of them, all of that, have a reality of their own apart from me and my mind in some way that I do not fully understand or know … yet. And in some way I am unable to articulate now, I suppose I appear — where necessary or appropriate — in their lives created by their mind just as they appear in my life created by my mind. BUT how I experience them, the way I am experiencing them, the way they appear and behave in my life is determined and shaped and manifested by me in my mind, and nowhere else.
Just so, an experience, any experience, I share with anyone else occurs in my life nowhere else than in my mind.
My sorrow, my disappointment, my anger — as regards anyone, anything, anywhere, anytime — is sourced in my mind and manifested by my mind as my life.
THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS.
No one and no thing exists in my life, no one does or says anything in my life, that is not a product of my mind.
Every second of every day I am creating, in my mind and therefore in and as my life, everyone and everything and everywhere that I see, hear, feel, experience.
Again, there are no exceptions. No
Yea, but …
So, if I am unhappy about anything anywhere, there is no point in whining.
Yes, to be sure, the ultimate solution is to transcend the mind, which is Self-Realization (as I understand the term). But in the meantime, the solution is change my mind. And my life will, my life must, unfold accordingly.
And the way, a way, to generate that is to recognize, acknowledge, that whatever I am not liking is itself, like Everything Else, a personification, a manifestation, a reflection of Infinite Consciousness, the Divine One (always remember God is Infinite), and therefore harmless to what I am in Truth. Embrace that thought, turn that thought into the atmosphere, the underlying attitude, of my every day life, and my mind will change which will change my life.
Piece of pie, easy as cake — a favorite line spoken by a Russian astronaut character in … I forget the name of the movie. Of course easy is exactly what it is not. But it can be done. Ultimately, it will be done. It is what being a spiritual seeker is all about.
Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.
June 16, 2023
Distrust your mind, and go beyond.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
I could be wrong, but so it seems
A discussion among friends generated this consideration:
Life as we know it is a school, a Curriculum. There is only one subject: Life, learning how.
Like school, it is a continuing continuous process.
At any given time, some of us are in kindergarten, some in elementary school, some in high school, some in graduate programs. Like that, in school.
No level is better than any other. Each is perfectly suited to itself. We all go through all of the levels. At our own pace. The levels are different, but the subject is always the same. Being taught, being learned: Life, learning how.
We appear to one another more or less the same. And so we assume we are the same. But we’re not. Any more than an infant suckling is the same as a child learning arithmetic in elementary school is the same as a student of astronautics at CalTech. We are at different levels. Not better, not worse; just different. Younger, older. The differences among us are normal, natural, common. Just like school.
And just like school, we go from one grade to another. Sometimes, we repeat a grade. Sometimes we seem to take a year off. But no one skips a grade.
The pace and the progress is (partly) up to us. When we pay attention, we notice what’s happening, we react accordingly. We listen, we observe, we question, we seek. Other times we wonder about the process, but without enthusiasm or commitment. Or we pay no attention, and just fool around.
But the beat goes on … and on and on. All the while, the Curriculum is in train, unavoidable, inescapable, inevitable: Life, learning how.
We judge ourselves. With patient, everpresent guidance and encouragement. Thank God. A Guru, a Daoshi, a Minister, a Priest, a Rabbi, a Shaman, a Sheikh, a Swami, a Teacher. A Spiritual Friend, inner or outer, visible or invisible, recognized or not. But always present.
And, yes, this scenario assumes reincarnation, even many incarnations. We never die. The body dies, but we live on.
We return. In a different body. As many incarnations as it takes, in as many species and forms as it takes. Always in school.
Does that mean we may live thousands, even millions of lives? I expect so. Does it mean we may live a life as a snowflake? Could be. A rock? Why not. Everything God’s.
Here’s Meister Eckhart:
If I am to know God directly, I must become completely He and He I; so that this He and this I become and are one I.
Which I take to mean: Eventually the pronoun i (lower case) — the ego, the separate and distinct
I am me and you aren’t perception — dissolves, disintegrates, diffuses, disappears into the One and Only upper case I, the One Than Which There Is No Other, as in Exodus 3:14:
I Am The I Am
Then, but no sooner.
Mind you, this is not something we do. Or achieve. It is an event that occurs. In the same way a cocoon becomes a butterfly, a seed becomes an oak. What we can do, what we must do, is allow, enable, embrace, this spiritual process: render to God, surrender to God, our separate and separative sense of me and mine. And that takes commitment, humility, enthusiasm … and time (determined by our dedication).
Reincarnation. Life, learning how.
Why? We are subject to
the Magnet of the Universe (that) draws every living thing … moving … towards a definite objective (Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill).
So it seems.
Best advice? In the words of Nat King Cole,
Straighten up and fly right.
May 5, 2023
One who believes
that God can be reached by human exertion will
encounter endless torment;
and one who believes nearness to God can be attained
without exertion will encounter an endless wishful
Abu Sa’id al-Kharraz
in Sufi Heirs of The Prophet
God says to Moses,
I Am That I Am (Exodus 3:14) or, simply,
That I AM is Infinite, and so includes all that there is. God perceives Herself/Himself/Itself as the Entirety.
When I say I AM, I mean I am all that there is, there being no other being or thing or whatever than I.
The Mind bites off a piece of that, and in doing so, creates the universe as we know it, which is the Entirety perceived piecemeal.
And so, as an apparent piece of the the universe, we — individual persons — refer to ourselves as
i am which is
I AM perceived separatively. When you and I say i am, we mean I am me not you, not that house, not that tree, not anyone or anything else. Separate.
The spiritual process is about undoing that. Erasing
i am and resuming
I AM. For which God created the eraser.
Just so, many of the Teachers urge us to meditate the query
Who am I? As seekers, we inescapably do that from the perspective of i am, the separate individual we perceive ourselves to be (that is, the body). But the promise of this spiritual instruction when performed regularly with enthusiasm is transformative. Our sense of self as the ego (
I am me and you aren’t) is lifted to the Self, the Infinite One, the I AM, which exists now and always, but which somehow has become hidden or veiled or whatever from our awareness. (For a consideration about that, please see
In The Beginning here.)
By the Grace of God.
January 29, February 2, 2023
I Am the savor of waters, the radiance of the sun and moon …
the sweet fragrance in earth, and the brightness in fire.
In all beings, I Am the life.
Bhagavad Gita 7:8&9
There are two statements — dicta — that have come to define my spiritual practice. In this context, I use the word in both of its meanings and spelling, as a noun and a verb. For example, ‘My practice is to awaken at 5:00 AM to practise stilling the mind.’ (Please note: In the US, both the noun and the verb form are spelled with a c, as practice. Here I chose the Canadian spelling in that sentence for emphasis.)
The dicta are “This is I command you, love one another” and “God is Infinite.”
Okay. Issa (Jesus), as do all Teachers, commands us to love one another (John 13:34). I confess, for much of my life, I took that to mean love those whom I like, or feel that I should like; but those who are clearly not lovable, who are genuinely hateable, are exempted. I figured Issa (although then to me he was, of course, “Jesus”) couldn’t have meant for me to love them too, right? I mean, is it possible that Issa loved Pontius Pilate? Really?
But then there is the other one, God is Infinite. Although I have found nowhere in the Bible saying specifically “God is Infinite,” Psalms 139:7ff is close enough. Besides, virtually all of the Teachers in all of the traditions start out with that. Figures. If God isn’t infinite then God isn’t God.
Okay, infinite. We all know what that means, don’t we? Well, just in case, here it is: if God is Infinite, then God is All There Is. In turn, that means, if God is All There Is, then all there is is God … because, again, God is all there is. In other words, there is no one, no thing, no where, no when, that God is not. Why? Because God is Infinite. Whatever any “it” may be, if God is not that, then that does not exist. Infinite allows no boundaries, no borders, no dimensions. Whoever, whatever, wherever, whenever there is, it is God — because, I say again, being Infinite, God is all there is. There is nothing anywhere that God is not … including Issa’s reference to “one another.” Here is a sentence from what I call The Sacred Riddle, “if You (God) are Infinite, You’re occupying all the space, all the time, there is, leaving not so much as a microsite for me” — or, I might have added, anything else.
Recent newspapers across the globe have run stories about Vladimir Putin bombing maternity wards, hospitals, schools, shopping malls, railroad stations, food depots, day care facilities, fresh water sources, civilian utilities. Yes, I know, war is hell; but Putin has taken his war in Ukraine to a heinous level. It is almost impossible for me not to hate him, never mind love him. BUT (and it’s a big but), if God is Infinite, then Putin and what he is doing … I can barely get myself to write it, is somehow God being that, somehow Divine. How do we square that?
I mean, if God is Infinite, then God is All There Is. Nothing is excluded, because if anything were excluded, then God is only sort of infinite or mostly infinite. And yet, it is easy for us to acknowledge that Teresa of Avila is a product of the Divine, or is in some way Divine herself, Lao Tsu, too. But Putin? Give us a break, Issa!
But consider this: If I stub a toe, maybe badly enough to break the nail, cause bleeding, even require a cast and a crutch, then I will be disappointed, even angry, especially if I have plans to ski this afternoon. But will I take out the anger on my toe? Will I hate my toe for what it has done to me? Of course not. On the contrary, I will care for it, pay special attention to it. Why? Because that toe is a part of, an element of, my body. And if I love myself, as we are all urged to do — in a mature way, then my love has to include that toe, right? In some sort of similar sense, a sense that I cannot (that I refuse to?) recognize, Putin is an element of, a part of, God’s Body. I mean, if you and I are, then so is Vlad. At some point, my reaction to that will be — and some moments even now it is — “Well, of course.”
Love one another. Let’s consider the word love. The Greeks were good with words. They had seven or more for love. There are three of interest here. First is “Eros,” which is hot love, sexual love. Any of us who have been through puberty know about Eros. I remember one Spring day in high school, during Miss Darrigrand’s advanced algebra class, being snared by a thought fantasy involving a girl in a nearby seat wearing a see-through blouse. That’s Eros. When Issa said “This I command you, love one another,” I am pretty sure that is not what he was talking about.
Philia. This is close. In American English, Philia is normally translated to brotherly love, but I have read that the Greeks use it more to mean friendship or affection. I like the word, and maybe Issa did too. But I think He was reaching deeper.
Agape (ah-GAH-peh). Yup, it’s Greek. As I consider it, that level of love is effectively indefinable, even inexpressible. A Google search of the word reveals lots of references to God’s love for man and man’s for God. I get that, and I agree; that’s hard to beat. But digging deeper, a search suggests Agape is relationship in its truest, most enlivening sense, which in turn brings up the love addressed in 1 Corinthians 13:4, which surely approaches Agape: “Love is patient, love is kind; it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”
But, with due respect to Corinth, I perceive Agape as more than that. Agape is neither deliberate nor intentional, and certainly not accidental. Agape doesn’t happen, it reveals itself. We do not choose Agape; Agape chooses us. Agape is deep, profound, uninterruptible. Agape has no boundaries, no commandments, no requirements, no demands, no regrets. Agape heals, fixes, restores. It is a wondrous, calming, uplifting, breath-giving and breath-taking love. My guess is, when we say “God is Love,” or when the Beatles remind us “Love is all we need,” that’s Agape. And when we say, “To love, honor, and cherish, until death do us part,” Agape is what we are talking about … and hopefully mean.
When we are truly praying to God in a heartfelt manner — alone or with a fellow human, or even with a beast (remember, God is Infinite) — that is Agape. Agape is not something we give or offer. Agape is not something we do. Agape is what we are. To my ear, Agape is God’s Grace: boundless, timeless, powerful, healing, resolving, majestic, comforting, miraculous, free — and then some. Our function as spiritual seekers is to open ourselves to that, all of that. Just so, Agape — enthusiastically allowing it — may be all that the spiritual process is about: Getting ourselves … me, my, mine … out of the way.
Surely, Agape is what Issa has in mind, Himself indisputably fully conscious of God’s Infinite Being, when He commands of us, love one another. Whenever I read those words, I hear Him adding, and I mean, now!
I said the dicta that haunt me are “This is I command you, love one another” and “God is Infinite.” Wrap those two into a single seamless One, and what have we got? “This I command you: Love God Who Am you and she and he and they and this and that and these and those whatever wherever whenever without end. Now!”
To which all the Teachers assure us,“Did I say it was going to be easy? No, of course not. But if it can be reached by anyone, it can be reached by everyone, including you.”
On the subject of hate, consider these lines from Martin Luther King, Jr : “And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems. … For I have seen too much hate. … and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear.”
December 6, 2022
If God is Infinite,
then by Definition there is only one God,
The One God.
And all roads lead There,
there being No Where Else.
He is the universe
though the universe is not He.
This morning, contemplating some of the ideas expressed and referenced in the past few days’ entries below, along with Issa’s (Jesus’) command that we love one another (John 13:34), generated once again a realization that Francis and Francis’ life — and you and your life — are an answer (or a partial answer) to God’s question to Herself (Himself, Itself — whatever pronoun we prefer, let’s face it, it’s incorrect) asking “Who Am I?”
A reminder: The premise of my book In the Beginning is that God, being Infinite, is unable to see Herself, so, in order to accomplish that, She creates a prismatic mirror, and perceives Herself in it as separated, diversified, manifested stuff; to wit, us. Or alternatively, God manifests Herself as Adam, puts Adam to sleep (Genesis 2:21), and dreams Herself as us. Either way, She experiences Herself, and answers the question Who Am I? (Is it a coincidence that all the Teachers constantly urge us to ask ourselves that very same question?)
Anyway, stirring all of that this predawn, here’s an image I came up with. Yes, it is a little cartoonish, but stay with it anyway.
Living immediately behind me, separate but closer than close, there is an I, with all of it’s body parts in absolute synch with mine — if you have ever, perhaps as a child just for fun, marched with a friend in lock-step, the image I have is like that. It is not Francis’ I (or, should I say, Francis’ i); it is another I, in place now and increasingly evidently, there always. This is a Big Shot I — maybe not THE Big Shot I, but close to it. And it is experiencing Its Self by observing and experiencing what Francis calls “me and my life.” To Francis, all of that stuff, including “me,” is just stuff — like, this morning, a comfortable seat, a small table, a rug, a potted plant, a dozing cat, a window, part of another house perceived in the window, and like that. But (and what a BUT this is!), to the synched I, it is Its Self! That Synched I (or is it, That Synching I) sees Its Self through Francis’ eyes — Its Eyes being synched with Francis’ eyes.
Now, with that image in your mind, consider the activities you have planned for the next few hours. All the stuff you are going to do. And just for fun, apply this cartoonish image to it. You’re brushing your teeth, but (yes, that but) you are not alone. You are being watched; or is it, you are being experienced. You’re taking a shower. You’re peeing. You’re dressing. You’re making breakfast. You’re reading the morning newspaper. You’re reacting to the morning news.
Wait a second! Did I say reacting? Who’s reacting?
Whose life is this life i am living? Is everything i have done, am doing, will do, just a product of The Synched I asking Itself, “I wonder what it feels like to have oats for breakfast? … to pat a dozing cat? … to look out a window? … to read a newspaper?” Try applying this thread to your plans for today, as I assure you I have been doing all morning. This takes to a new level the assurance by all the Teachers, “You are never alone.”
Jesus (Issa) said, “The Father and I are One.”
Is this some of what He meant?
At the top of this post, I mentioned the Command that we love one another. What has that to do with this? Well, if what each of us calls “me and my life” is at some Level the very thing He is experiencing as His Life, then I am not sure our rejection of it, even any of it, is good Karma.
December 3, 2022
Witness & Ego
Virtually all the books talk about the Witness and the Witness Position. As I understand it, the Witness is our so-called Higher Self, the Reality that is not tied to the body we think we are inhabiting. So what is the Witness witnessing?
As I see it, the Witness is not witnessing (observing) me and my life, Francis and Francis’ life.
The Witness is witnessing Its Own Reality, which is the Entirety. Francis’ horizon is a matter of miles. The Witness’ horizon is Infinite, Boundless.
Again, as I see it, the ego is witnessing or observing Francis and Francis’ life. In fact, it is the ego/mind that created Francis and Francis’ life. Bundled together a basket of senses and memories, labelled it “Francis” and “me,” and here I am, that.
In the spiritual adventure, the ego has a bad reputation. Indeed, the ego is considered the enemy. But that may not be fair. Our mistake is not having an ego; our mistake is mistaking the ego for the Self. The mistaken perception is “I am Francis,” when what we should be Witnessing is simply “I Am.”
Once again, as I see it, every aspect of reality — every element of what Francis calls “my life” — has an ego, including of course the body/mind labelled “Francis.”
Why? Because the ego is an aspect of being an aspect of Reality. Think about it. In a struggle, a lion fights for its life, not the antelope’s life. Ditto the antelope. An ant carries a crumb to its kind, not to you or me. We call that instinct. I suspect that, cosmically speaking, instinct is another word for ego.
I know, the ego is evil. Every seeker knows the Eleventh Commandment, Thou shalt slay thine ego.
But why do we say that? We say that to shift our sense of identity from the body — in my case, the body named “Francis” and the body’s life named “Francis’ life” — to … our True, Infinite, Nameless, In-All-The Universe-There-Is-Only-One Self. In many such cases, the body still remains, but it is no longer “I.” However, it still knows not to step in front of a moving train. In other words, it still has an ego/instinct.
So, is it possible that the ego is simply the being’s (notice, please, the lower case b) survival tool? It is evil only if we mistake it for what it is not — and was never intended to be! If so, then it is not evil; we are, uh, careless, foolish.
Maybe in animals we call the ego instinct because we do not want to consider that animals are like us, or we like them. If apes have egos, then Desmond Morris’s title The Naked Ape is apt. And that makes us uncomfortable. In Sunday School we are taught that we are special, even chosen, not just naked apes. We like that.
But, again, what the Witness is witnessing is the entirety, the Entirety. And the Witness Realizes that everything it sees is the One Self — ultimately Its Self. To the Witness the only difference between me or you and an ape is the appearance, and that is only apparent. We are all one Thing, and that One Thing is the one and only One.
So, yes, of course, we care for our body … the same way lions and antelopes do, and so we should. But here’s the thing, the spiritual seeker thing: REMEMBER WHO IS DOING IT! (Here’s a thought: Do lions and antelopes need to be reminded of that? If not, why not? Why do we, and not they? Yea, yea, The Fall.)
Self-Realization is also Awakening. And in this context, Awakening means being constantly Aware of What is Happening … and by Whom to Whom.
All of this raises the question: If lions have egos, do other living things, like trees? like stones? When the Pharisees told Issa (Jesus) to quiet his cheering supporters, how did He reply? “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40) Was he exaggerating? Was he speaking in metaphor? Well, here are a few words from Nisargadatta in I Am That (page 98): “… the freedom of the stone … Freedom unlimited and conscious.” And again, “Even stones are conscious and alive.” Or these lines about Babaji in By His Grace (page 43): ”He talked about the sanctity of the place, how Rama had sanctified the whole place by His presence. Each and every stone bears his footprint on them. … ‘Rama is present in each and every particle.’” And still again, Ramana Maharshi; in a discussion about ahimsa (non-violence), a questioner observes that even plants have life, to which Ramana answers, “So too the slabs you sit on!” The word slabs sounds to me like stone.
I know, it’s not that simple. But for me it is increasingly apparent — increasingly evidently True — that Life is all there is (God/Life is Infinite), and if that is so, then in some way, some way that, yes, I do not yet fully understand (I know it but I do not Know it), every apparent thing is alive. Including rocks and stones. And I like the feeling that generates in me.
November 11, 2022
Now, try this for fun: Standing or sitting in a room or in a field — or anyhow anywhere — look about you, and at every thing your eyes fall on, say to yourself, silently, gently, firmly, enthusiastically, convincingly, “I am that.” Then, after a bit, expand your mind’s horizon to include all that you just addressed and whatever else comes to mind, and affirm, silently, gently, firmly, enthusiastically, convincingly, “I am this.”
Do it fervently enough, often enough, and sooner or later you may hear yourself remembering Exodus 3:14: “I AM THAT I AM.”
November 17, 2022
Sitting this morning, this item about the ego boiled up.
The Teachers tell us that the inescapable question a spiritual seeker has to unfold and address is, “Who am I?” Why? Because the reason a spiritual seeker is a spiritual seeker is that all of us (albeit unawaredly — I know it is not a word, but it ought to be) are answering that question incorrectly.
We say “I am this body“ not because we are foolish or stupid or lying but because that is who/what we honestly think we are. “I mean, look in the mirror!” But again, we are wrong. Well, not exactly wrong, because … Actually that’s the thing that boiled up this morning …
From the day Nancy and I started reading the Teachers, and ingesting their Teaching, the question, “Why do we think we are the body we seem to be inhabiting?” has bubbled about in my head. Yes, all the Teachers insist rightly that our True Identity is not limited to the bag of flesh and bones labeled _______ (fill in that blank with your name). And when we — by the Grace of God — are Self-Corrected out of that nasty habit, we Realize “Of course!”
But here’s the question that needs addressing: Why? Why do we mistakenly identify ourselves with the body? The theological answer is “The Fall!” God gave Eve and Adam a gorgeous condo in a spectacular neighborhood, and what’d they do? Duh! They ate an apple.
Or the almost reasonable answer: At birth, an infant is, in effect, Realized: opening its eyes the first time, for all it knows, all that it sees is Itself. “Oh, look at me!” Mom and Dad and others immediately, lovingly correct Baby: “No, dearest one, I am mommy, dad is daddy, physician is her, nurse is him” and so on, until our first impression is, well, corrected. And the rest is history.
But the question “Why?” remains unanswered.
Just so, the premise of my book In the Beginning is that God, being Infinite, is unable to see Himself. I know, God is Perfect, so no faults; but think about it, from the perspective of an Infinite Being, there are no boundaries, no me or you or this or that. Everything is What Is, Me — that is, God — so there is no way God can say to Himself, there being no others, “I am this, not that”. So, from the book:
… if there was nothing that was that was not God, then God would not have been able to differentiate between Himself and anything else. There was no anything else. There was nothing to which God could point and say, “I am God and you are not,” thereby indicating for His own edification at least, which was which. That is, I perceive that I am me in part (some say, wholly and only) by perceiving that I am not you. Thus, “Me Tarzan, you Jane” informs both parties. My perception of your existence separate from mine creates mine, or at the very least affirms it.
So God does what? She creates a Way for Her to see Herself … and how does She do that? She creates an environment in which there is a “you” and a “me” and an everything else separatively. Which enables Her to look in a mirror, and exclaim, “Wow! Look at Me!”
In other words, our being (Being?) here is not the result of a God-forbid Fall of which we are, every single one of us, eternally guilty and forever atoning for. It was, it is, the product of, can we say, Day Eight of Creation. Which makes the Creation of Day Nine inevitable: Self-Realization. On Day Eight, God created what each of us calls me and my life, and on Day Nine, He Created the Eraser to undo Day Eight!
Of course that is a lot of nonsense. But, remember it is a metaphor, intended not to be True but to be Clarifying.
November 18, 2022
Let’s say some of this again. In all the Universe (by which I mean, not the astronomical universe, but the Cosmic Entirety — What Is) there is only one I — the I as which and about which God informed Moses: I Am That I Am (Exodus 3).
That is the only I there is. How do we know that? Because that I is God, and as we have established, to be God is to be Infinite. (That is, if God is not Infinite, then God is not God, but God is God.) So, God being Infinite, then by definition, everything about God is Infinite, because, again by definition, Infinite means having no boundaries of any kind, anywhere; no “this but not that.”
Which means that God’s “I” is Itself Infinite. Which, in effect, makes God’s I the only I there is.
Which means that when you or I say something like “I am me” or even “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date,” the I we are asserting, even if in song, is the One and Only I there is.
Yes, the circumstances surrounding our singing a tune are different from God introducing Himself to Moses, but, that said, they are in fact the Same. Here’s the Thing: When God uses the pronoun I, She knows Who She Is, and so there is no confusion about it. When we use the pronoun I, our mind attaches it not to the Cosmic Entirety, but to the bag of flesh and bones we seem to be inhabiting. It is a simple case of Mistaken Identity.
But is it a mistake? As I have written here and elsewhere, I believe it is not an error because, again, as I have written and said, if God is God then God is Perfect, and if God is Perfect She makes no mistakes, and if God makes no mistakes, then, God being all there is, there’s no such thing as “mistakes.” You and I cannot do anything that God has not Created … and Allowed.
(Aside: Over the years, from time to time, I have been asked to stop using three pronouns for God, as I do from time to time on TZF: She, He, It. “It’s confusing. Make up your mind!” Well, that’s just it, isn’t it? Whether God is male, female, neuter, or all of the above or none of the above, is not really a matter for my mind to resolve. I continue to waiver because the mind is devious and a creature of habit, ignoring which will serve me poorly on the day I meet St Peter at the Gate. “So, Francis, God is male, you say? Are you sure you don’t want to reconsider that before I make my Decision?”)
Anyway, when a child believes in the existence of Santa Claus and flying reindeer at the North Pole, is that a mistake? Not really. A child believes such things not mistakenly, but because she or he is a child. Just so, when we use the pronoun I as referring to me it is less an error than childlike. We are young. When we age and mature and are Graced with Realization, we see the same things differently.
As for the use of I meaning me (Francis), I visualize that I as a lower case i. It is still the same I spoken in Exodus — there being only one I in all the Universe — but youthful. Or, a lower case i is I spoken by a character, me, appearing in Adam’s Dream. Remember, God put Adam to sleep while Creating Eve (Genesis 2:21), and we are not told when God awakened Adam. Just so, I suggest that Adam asleep is not awakened until he is baptized by John The Baptist. At that event, Adam Awakens as Issa (Jesus), Self-Realized. Here is Matthew 3:16-17: “As soon as Issa (Jesus) was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”
Does that mean everything from Genesis 2 to Matthew 3 is the dream of sleeping Adam? Well, let’s not lose our heads. But, speaking as a seeker, considering it that way works for me.
November 22, 2022
This raises the question, “Is Adam still asleep?” In other words, was Issa (Jesus) the sole character in Adam’s dream, and so His awakening is Adam’s awakening, or was Issa only one of the characters in Adam’s continuing dream, which number would include the rest of us as yet unawakened?
Remember, this is a metaphor, so of course it does not fit the situation precisely. All that matters about a metaphor is, does it help to clarify or illuminate the situation?
If, as I suspect — based on the convincing Teaching of so many Teachers, Francis and Francis’ life is effectively a dream, then the dream continues. Which makes Issa (Jesus) — and Ibn ’Arabi, Nisargadatta, Ramana, et al, Teachers who choose to remain in the dream from which they are awakened in order to, well, Teach the rest of the dream characters (us) how to escape the dream as they did. To me, that makes sense … speaking metaphorically.
So, I repeat myself … again. My premise at In The Beginning is that God, as an Infinite Being, is unable to see Herself (being all there is), and so creates a device, let’s say a prismatic mirror, that in effect alters Her (in Her Mind’s eye) from One to Many — diversified; thereby empowering Herself to perceive Her One Self as many separate and separated things. For example, as Francis and Francis’ life, as you and your life, as birds and bees, as trees and bushes, and as all the rest of the astronomical universe (lower case u). ONE diversified into Its apparent parts. Similarly, doing it the other way around, recall Krishna giving Arjuna a divine eye, enabling him to behold the entire astronomical universe, with its manifold divisions, all gathered together in one, One.
Just for fun, here’s Mark Twain: “While you are in a dream, it isn’t a dream — it is reality, and the bear-bite hurts; hurts in a perfectly real way.“
Just so. Until you awaken.
November 29, 2022
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
Here’s a sentence that woke me up this morning: “God is Being.”
Well, yes, okay, God is Love, God is Life … but Being?
Another thought accompanied the first: Do not try dismantling it, Francis. God, being Infinite, makes Being a verb, a noun, an adjective. In other words, Francis, do not try to conjugate it or decline it. (My childhood was endless Latin class.) Let it Be. Just see the word. Hear the word. Ingest the word. Being.
I have been saying for years — certainly ever since the birth of TZF, There is no God but God, and God is all there is.
Being sounds like that; but more than that, too.
A few minutes later, out of bed, sitting in silence in another room, this came: “God is not in this room. God is this room.” Wow!
Again, even that general idea has been all over The Zoo Fence from day one. But this morning it was, it is, alive. Say it to yourself, wherever you are, softly but forcefully, so you cannot ignore it: God is this room. God is this car. God is this field. God is this experience.
Not metaphorically. Not sort of. Not theoretically. Actually. Truly. Totally.
Again, I hear myself about to repeat myself, but this morning it sounds, it feels, fresh. All the Teachers and Gurus, including Issa (Matthew 28:20) and Nisargadatta, Neem Karoli, Ramana — all of them — tell us over and over again, “I am with you always.” And being Self-Realized, Awakened, Enlightened, Liberated, Christ Conscious (pick a word) as they are, they are by definition Infinite. So, when they say I am always with you, now I see that they do not mean they are in the same room or same place as I am or you are. They mean, I am that place, I am this room — precisely because, being Infinite, they are What Is. Whatever is, a Self-Realized Teacher is That.
This morning, I hear them saying to me, “I am this room you are sitting in. I am the air you are breathing. I am the thought you are expressing. I am the keyboard you are pounding.”
I am with you always. Even now. Even here. Even this.
I have said and I have written, “We are never alone.” In those very words, or words like them, numerous times on these pages. But this morning, this is different. It is the same, but it is different.
We are never alone. We all say it. And we mean it when we say it. At least, we try to mean it, we want to mean it. But if God is this room, if God is the floor I am standing on, if God is the clothing I am wearing, then I am not alone. Really. Ever. Not one bit.
Of course I know, you know, where this leads to. But for the moment, this morning, I choose to say no more than to suggest a reading of The Sacred Riddle.
Being. Too cool.
November 4, 2022
Fix your heart on Me, give your love to Me, worship Me, bow down before Me;
so shall you come to Me. This is My pledge to you, for you are dear to Me.
Bhagavad Gita 18:65
I had a dream last night of a flying white horse. Like Pegasus. For the record, Nancy drove by a farm yesterday, and saw a large group of white horses standing together. Maybe the scene, as she described it, made an impression on me.
Anyway, the horses Nancy saw were real. Let’s say, flesh and blood real. But the horse I dreamed was not real. It was a dream. There was no horse, white or winged, in my bedroom. My horse, real as it seemed to me as I slept, was an image in my mind. No flesh, no blood. A thought.
Considering that image after awakening, I was reminded that that is what we are, a dream: a dream in God’s Mind. Many of the Teachers say that; but this morning, as I sat in silence, it was clear. Francis and Francis’ world are in God’s Mind like the horse was in my mind last night. God dreaming of Francis dreaming of a horse. Ditto you and your world.
Mulling that, it dawned on me (once again) that nothing about Francis — nothing about his life or his world — matters. I mean, think about it. Yes, there are people who interpret dreams, and take them seriously — like Jacob’s dream in Genesis — and undoubtedly there occur some dreams in some people that actually are premonitions or predictions. But I do not recall ever having such a dream (although, come to think of it, there was such a dream that may have influenced Nancy’s and my life — see here).
But dreams are just dreams, right? How often have I been told or said to someone,
Don’t worry about it. It’s just a dream? If we and our lives are
just a dream, albeit God’s Dream, why do we take them so seriously? Should we take them seriously?
Is this what we, as seekers, should say to ourselves when we read or hear about or experience tragedies — like wars and floods and earthquakes. Incurable, painful diseases. Market crashes. Terrorist events. If, as again, the Teachers insist, our lives are God’s Dream, a thought in God’s Mind, why do we not say to ourselves,
Don’t worry about it. It’s just a dream?
Mind you, as seekers we can, and should, say such things to ourselves. But surely we must not speak that way to others who experience such encounters. As long as they need comfort, comfort them we must. Like this.
October 22, 2022
Row, row, row your boat
gently down the stream,
merrily, merrily, merrily,
life is but a dream.
The implications of saying
God is all there is, as we do frequently at TZF, are many, even infinite. What it means to me is simply there isn’t anything else. It — whatever we call it — is literally, indisputably, all there is. It does not matter what we think we are seeing and hearing and experiencing, none of it is even remotely what or where we think it is. Indeed, in the pleasing words of J Fred Coots,
For all we know this may only be a dream. And seekers who are honest to themselves know that.
This morning, sitting in silence at dawn as I do, there popped into my head an observation by TZF’s own Brother Theophyle: The only difference among the world’s religions is spelling. Of course, most if not all of The Zoo Fence suggests that. But I cannot think where it is positively, unmistakably said.
So, if as we say here, there is no God but God, and God is all there is, then it follows that the fundamental purpose of religion, any religion, is to come to that recognition, meaning, in effect, every religion points to the same thing, and — properly, sincerely, humbly, earnestly, joyfully followed — leads to the same thing.
Yes, their parts may be spelled differently. But fundamentally, Theophyle is correct, spelling is the only real difference among them. If there is no God but God, and God is all there is, then every religion, whatever it may seem to be about, is about the one God, there being no other God but the one God, and whatever any religion may seem to be leading to, its goal is God, there being nowhere else but God to reach for.
What does this mean? Well, speaking as someone who was brought up attending Sunday School, it means that Christ was not a Christian. Neither was Christ a Jew or a Muslim or a Buddhist … or a fill-in-the-blank.
So, when Christ says
I am the way, the truth, and the life he is not telling us, either become a Christian or burn in Hell. Likewise, when YWHY insists
you shall have no other gods besides Me, he is not threatening us. Neither is Allah where the Koran demands
obey Allah (implying,
and no other God). And so on.
The function of religion is to nourish us, teach us, focus us, inspire us, motivate us, all toward discovering
Who am I?
There are other elements, of course, but none of them is intended to alienate us from one another, to encourage us to beat up one another. Let’s face it, when it comes to religion, mankind’s history is pathetic. That is part of why, at TZF, we prefer the expression spiritual tradition to the word religion.
As a species, we should be ashamed of ourselves.
October 21, 2022
So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel:
‘Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor’s religion is.’
Tintinnabulation. That’s a word I have never spoken or written before. Yes, I have read it. And, of course, I have heard it.
Tintinnabulation. The sound of a church bell. Speak it out loud, and it almost sounds like a bell ringing. Say it two or three times repeatedly. Be careful, it may bring you to tears.
Yesterday, I did an extraordinary thing. As soon as I had done it, I regretted having done so. No, it is nothing awful; nothing causing any pain or harm to anyone. It was just like something I have never done before. (Editor’s note: Reading this on May 18, 2023, I have no idea what it’s about. I have left this paragraph in place just in case … but my suggestion to readers is, ignore it.)
This morning I woke up with the word tintinnabulation in my head. Of course, I went straight to https://www.merriam-webster.com/ (I confess, I miss the big heavy book. Old dogs, new tricks.)
As I thought about all of the above, Nisargadatta came to mind — (his name figured in what I did yesterday) — and there burst into my mind, clear as crystal, this:
There is the Self. Call it Allah, YHWH, Brahman, God, the Infinite Supreme Consciousness, Father, or Mother, or any word of your choice. But here’s the thing, everything else — and I mean everything else — is a reflection of That. Including Francis, Francis’ life, Francis’ world, Francis’ universe, Francis’ God. Everything Francis is, was, ever will be. Everything about Francis. Everything Francis ever thought or did or will think or do. No exceptions. And that is all there is: That reflection.
All the theologizing, philosophizing, analyzing, mentalizing, sciencing I have done, we have all done. Is it a coincidence that today is trash day where Nancy and I live? The crew will come by later this morning to pick up our garbage. Oh my. The Gurus all say, I Am always with you.
Okay, yes. Reflection may not be the right word. I for one will be nitpicking that in the days ahead. But the concept, the idea, the whatever it is, is definitely IT. Like I said, clear as crystal.
Remember in the Gita. Krishna lends Arjuna his Divine Eye. And what does Aruna see? The same thing, the same world, the same everything he has always seen. EXCEPT — and what an except it is! — he sees it all as ONE. Where there were multitudes, there is now just one, the One.
The Guru says I am always with you. Of course She is. In Ramakrishna’s words, God Alone is the Guru. The Guru planted this extraordinary, self-evident (or should I say, Self-Evident) thought in my head this morning. Thinking about it now, it is no big deal. I mean, all I have said and written pretty much has been that. But this morning, it was, it is, different.
And the difference is what caused the accompanying tintinnabulation.
6:00 AM Eastern, October 17, 2022
The word reflection. It suggests duality — I stand in front of a mirror and in the mirror is a reflection of me. So duality: #1 which is me, and #2 which is a mirror. Not to mention #3 space between #1 and #2 … and all the stuff next to and behind #1 that is also reflected in #2. So, reflection is out. Too busy.
Try this. Imagine a chocolate bar — Hershey’s, Perugina, Ghiradelli, whatever. See it in your mind’s eye. Is it real? Well, in your mind it is. But that chocolate bar does not exist outside your mind — like in your mouth. Although, if your imagination is really at work, that mental chocolate may generate salivation! That’s getting to real.
Play with that thought for a while. Walk it around the block, so to speak. And then come back.
That is how God creates. In His Mind, She imagines me, you, the planet, the universe, computer programming, wildfires, theorizing, digesting, thinking. And He imagines all of those apparent items relating to one another. Me talking with you; you reading what I am writing; each of us digesting a shared chocolate bar.
Extend all of that as far and wide, in every conceivable direction, as you can, and then allow that it actually extends far wider than we can imagine. To Infinity and Beyond. All in God’s Mind.
That is where we are. That is
Creation. Beyond that is … what?
Again, we are like a chick in an egg. The egg inside the shell consists of, contains, what to the chick is life, the world, the universe, and of course itself. All there is, for all the chick knows.
Beyond the shell is … what?
At some point, the chick starts pecking at the egg’s shell. Just as you and I are doing now. To what? To whatever is beyond the shell … to Whatever is Beyond God’s Mind!
10:14 AM Eastern, October 17, 2022
This theme — word? it’ll do for now — is stuck in my head … in a good way. The question constantly arises, as all the Gurus, East and West, endlessly insist we ask endlessly,
Who am I? and today it leads to recognition that the I that I think I am (Francis) lives inside the eggshell.
Francis is an element of God’s Thought. That is, creation — Creation — is a single whole, an undifferentiated, undivided one thing, part of which or an aspect of which is Francis. Francis’ body, life, etc. is not a separate entity in God’s Mind. There are no separate entities in God’s Mind. Francis is a particle of the entirety.
Francis seems separate from all the rest (
I am me, and you aren’t) precisely because, as explored in In The Beginning, that was the Plan, an Infinite Being’s way to see Itself.
So, when I say,
Whatever is Beyond God’s Mind what do I think that is? If Creation, as some put it, is God’s dream, then what is it that God sees when She awakens from the dream? What do I look like there? Clearly, as, again, all the Teachers Teach us, there are no separate I's or me's There. But those who seem to us to be there, to have Awakened there — who are Self-Realized or Christ Realized, like Ramana Maharshi and Issa (Jesus) — do seem to project, in their Teaching, separate identities. One of whom, I do not remember who, said, in effect (not a quote):
I am not a separate person, and do not seem so to myself; it is only to you that I seem so. Do we project what we perceive about ourselves onto everything we perceive? Is life really, actually, just a mirror? Duh!
I take that to mean, when a voice from Issa — or others like Him — tells us,
I am the way, and the truth, and the life, that is not a metaphor. From his perspective,
the way the truth the life is, yes, precisely what he is. The person, the body, the lad Issa from Bethlehem, died on the Cross. What lives, what is always alive is just that, the way, and the truth, and the life — also known as God. He looks like the man Issa to us because that is because we are seeing Him from inside the eggshell!
Just so, as I waited in line at the grocery yesterday afternoon, I paused, looked around, took it all in, and reminded myself,
This is not what it seems. This is all an aspect of a single Thought taking place in God’s Mind, Francis inside an eggshell. And then I asked myself,
Is this Single Thought all there is? Is everything I know, everything I remember, everything I think I am and have been, actually all taking place right now in this single thought? The two people in my dream last night were adults. Did they have a childhood? Did I? The only way to answer questions like that, all the Teachers tell us, is get out of the eggshell.
10:43 AM Eastern, October 18, 2022
Hence, the Sanskrit term Sadhana, meaning, in our words,
the entirety of a seeker’s path — all the practices, the postures, the language, the clothing, the diet, and so on which, taken together, comprise the path or the way each of us has chosen (or, perhaps, by which each of us has been chosen) … undertaken with honesty, devotion, determination, thoroughness, earnestness, enthusiasm, and joy.
In a word, once again, the Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not whine. As always, so easy to say, so difficult to practice!
1:45 PM Eastern, October 20, 2022
Though this creation is unreal, yet on account of the emergence of the egosense it appears to be solidly real. The dreamer does not realize the evanescence of the objects seen in the dream; even so, it is in the case of this cosmic dream of the Creator.
Or, each of us is an unreal dream character in an unreal dream having an unreal dream.
Last evening I read in I Am That, page 382, Nisargadatta saying,
… if you learn to look at your consciousness … 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.
Here is the way that sounds to me: Francis and Francis's world and Francis's life — that is, my consciousness — exists or manifests or appears (word?) in a chunk (word!) of the Infinite Supreme that is
separated from the Undivided and Indivisible Whole by an illusory barrier, and within that apparent barrier there is (appears, seems to be) diversity that causes the Undivided and Indivisible One to be perceived, instead of as One That It Is, as many; to wit, as you, me, persons, horses, trees, cats, clouds, cars, computers, health, illness, loud, silent, hot, cold, tall short, life, death, me, mine, past/present/future, and so on like that.
Existence inside that barrier is the illusion. There, I — we — perceive everything, including ourselves, precisely as it is not. Nisargadatta suggests we think of it as a chick's egg. We are the chick. Like a chick, we are born there, and we live there, comfortably in the warmth and protection provided by the feathers of the Creator wrapped around our egg. Until one day, we are moved to peck at the shell, and we do.
All of that is our life, including our progress along the spiritual process. Living inside the eggshell, eventually wondering about the eggshell, and finally pecking at the eggshell.
… out of this very attitude will come the crisis which will break the shell. To me, attitude means wonder, question, practice, meditate, contemplate, consider, discriminate. Each of us will choose, be chosen by, a way suited to us. The more intently and earnestly and sincerely we perform all of that, the more energy we will generate, energy which vibrates, pecks, against the shell, causing it finally to crack and fall apart, leaving in its place What Is and Always Was.
Matthew 27:51 uses the word veil not shell:
… the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
Bhagavad Gita 11:13,
There, in the person of the God of gods, Arjuna beheld the whole universe, with its manifold divisions, all gathered together in one.
Neem Karoli Baba (known as Babaji or Maharajji),
Today I am released from Central Jail.
In whatever language, in whatever culture we speak it, even whether or not we speak it, Truth is True.
What I take from this reading is, wherever I am, whenever I am, allow a few moments to perceive in my mind, in my heart, myself pecking against the shell. I urge you to do the same.
… out of this very attitude will come the crisis which will break the shell. Nisargadatta says so. And He ought to Know.
October 8, 2022
Choices have consequences.
This morning, reading — for the umpteenth time — somewhere in I AM THAT (I regret I do not remember the page number), I came away with this (my words from memory, not Nisargadatta’s):
The Infinite Absolute Self projects Its Sense of Self-Awareness (“I AM”) onto my mind, and my mind mistakenly (as I recall, his word was more like carelessly) attaches that awareness to the body, generating my conviction “I am this body.”
Making a seeker’s task simple: Undo that attachment!
Mind you, that’s simple, as in uncomplicated, not simple as in easy or effortless.
September 10, 2022
Dreamt last night the same thought as above except expressed this way: "Francis, you are looking at a reflection of yourself and your life in a funhouse mirror that is purposefully misshaped to create a distorted image. Mother is telling you to turn away from that mirror's reflection, and see your Self without the mirror, as you are in Truth, and you keep replying, 'No, this is fun, I want to stay here, and watch this!'"
September 21, 2022
I do not know how to distinguish between our waking life and a dream.
Are we not always living the life that we imagine we are?
Henry David Thoreau
Among contemplative spiritual seekers like ourselves, even among all spiritual seekers, an inevitable aspect of the perfect relationship we have had, and continue to enjoy, is that sooner or later, it is going to have to be dissolved to allow us to realize ‒ that is, Realize ‒ our True Reality as not two but one, actually One with/in/as The One. Thus, we have to erase or eliminate the word “and” which is in effect the defining term in the expression “Nancy and Francis.”
That said, it is impossible for you and me to erase or eliminate the sense of separation we perceive between ourselves, between I am Francis, you are Nancy, I am Nancy, you are Francis, between I am me and you are you. Even when we say, “I love you,” true as it is, each of us is affirming to ourselves and to one another that I am a person who loves you who are another person. That sense of separation between Nancy and Francis, Francis and Nancy, is always there. We are always “we,” never “I.” Two, not one.
And there is nothing you and I can do about it. Only God can erase or eliminate the sense of separation that is inherent in the expression “I love you” (or any other aspect of our individual and shared awareness). We cannot perform that elimination or erasure. The ego cannot destroy itself.
BUT what we can do, what we must do, is tell God that we want it done. We must discover, and express, and affirm our shared willingness to allow it, to receive it, and to welcome it.
Why must we do that? Because God’s Love and Compassion is Infinite and Unavoidable. God will not take from us what we seem to want, what we appear to want, what our behavior suggests we want. As long as we believe, behave, act as if, we are two persons, we appear to God to want that perception. And to God, that is fine. God knows it is nonsense, but if it is what we want, from God’s point of view it’s fine. God loves us, so God gives us what we seem to want. “The kids are enjoying themselves; leave them to it for a while.”
So, how do we inform God that we want the “we are two persons” perception erased or eliminated? We do that not by seeking, expressing, affirming our love of God, of the Universe, of the Self, of Reality, of the “Big Stuff” — all of which, yes, we must do — but by affirming within ourselves to ourselves the “Little Stuff,” the stuff that is immediately at hand. That is, not by affirming “I am one with some distant, hypothetical, out there Reality (all of which is, yes, Real), but I am One with/in/as the person standing next to me washing dishes.” One and the same One; no boundaries. We want to impress upon God our awareness that we are together seeking to awaken ourselves to the reality that Nancy and Francis are one, that Francis-and-Nancy is one word; indeed, that the entire Universe is One Word, that the diversity we perceive all around us, including our two apparent selves, is an illusion. We want God to know that we seek to know there is no God but God, and God is All There Is. Just so, I remember reading in one of the books that, however much we may protest to the contrary, we cannot love God (actually, in the book I think it was Jesus (Issa), unless and until we truly, fully, unconditionally love our neighbor, our every neighbor, near and far. An honest relationship with God ‒ with anyone or anything ‒ is a thoroughly boundaryless relationship with all of creation. Again, no and; just I, the One I.
We need to affirm, meditate upon, contemplate, “Nancy and I, Francis and I, are not two persons; Nancy and I, Francis and I, are One. God being Infinite means that God and God alone is the relationship ‘Nancy-and-Francis, Francis-and-Nancy.’” What we are ‒ what you are, what I am ‒ is the Self, is God, is Reality, is the Big Stuff. Affirming, confirming, absorbing, embracing, ingesting, that awareness must become a constant aspect of our Sadhana. And it must become so deep, so intensely believed, so overwhelmingly real, that God cannot help but hear it. and act upon it. Then, God will eliminate the word “and” that resides between Nancy and Francis. And when there is no sense of “and” intruding between our sense of being, our awareness of our relationship will reflect that, and it will be projected onto our entire reality. The word “and” will cease to be separative. There will be One, as there always has been, and in some manner that neither of us can appreciate today, we will know it.
Da Free John, also known as Adi Da, among the craziest of our Teachers, used to rant to his devotees about “Avoiding Relationship.” Was the relationship to which he referred not the special, personal relationship between one another, not even the relationship between his devotees and himself, but the Relationship of everyone and everything with and in and as the One, the very only One? In short, the word “and.”
July 4, 2022
Note: For more about the word “and,” please click here.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,
and they shall become one.
Think about this, say this to yourself, meditate on it:
I AM I (The Self)
i am he (Francis)
May 19, 2022
Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
All that exists before natal birth is the Self. All that exists during and after natal birth is the Self. Natal birth does not alter Reality. In Truth, natal birth changes Nothing.
At the moment of natal birth, the infant opens its eyes, and all it sees, the entirety of what it sees, is the Self. Naturally, the natal infant assumes what it sees is itself. Figures. The natal infant sees the Self, and accepts that as itself … which of course It is, the Self being all there is!
But the natal infant’s mother, father, physician, priest, siblings, teachers, friends perceive it differently. So, naturally, they lovingly “teach” the natal infant that the entirety of what it sees, the Self, is not itself, that itself is limited to the physical body it seems to be inhabiting. In other words, “No, dear, I understand it may appear as you perceive it, but actually it’s a little more complicated than that.”
Therein lies the creation of “I am me, and you are not me — what’s mine is mine, not yours.” In a word, the mind, with its egosense.
What had been “I Am All” is now “I am the body, different and separate from all other bodies.”
The Truth has not changed. Only the Self’s perspective of Itself has altered.
Thus, what each of us perceives as “the world” and “my life” is a result of or the evidence of the Self’s altering Its Perspective of Itself. Here, the tradition often is that a “veil” has been placed by the Self between Itself and What Is: “Close Your Eyes, Self, and don’t open them until I say so.” However described, what happened is, the Self altered Its Perspective from Unity (or Union) to Diversity, from One to Many. We are still the Self we correctly perceived at natal birth to be Our Self, except “we-the-Self ” have chosen to adopt mother’s “corrected” perspective.
Of course, all of that is nonsense. But in the words of Vasishtha's Yoga “These expressions and descriptions are used merely for the sake of instruction.”
And, this is important, we made that choice for a Purpose. Clearly, nothing can happen or occur by mistake or by accident in a Reality that is God, Who is Perfect. So, the shift in perspective has to be intentional, in some way an aspect of God’s Plan. In which case, the traditional consideration of what transpired in the Garden of Eden is in error, or at least a misunderstanding. Eve and Adam and you and I are not the product of “original sin.” We are here by Divine Design. Adam and Eve and the “world” we seem to live in represent an intentional and essential element of Creation, to wit, the Infinite Being’s Way to See Itself.
But that is a different subject; for more about it, please see my book In the Beginning … or, most likely, a forthcoming entry here.
March 17, 2022
I am increasingly persuaded that there is a dimension of the human organism, and indeed of all creation, that we do not understand, and will not explore because old-fashioned science says it can’t happen.
The Bishop in The West Wing by Andrew M. Greeley
Consider this: The One and only Constant that is the Universe is Life. Not my life. Life. Uninterrupted, uninterruptible, beginningless, endless, infinite, constant, immutable, nameless, shapeless, timeless, boundaryless, indescribable, ineffable. And like that.
Life is the One and Only I. It consists of nothing (no thing). It is simply Being. Not a Being. Being.
There is really no point to our thinking about it, trying to envision it, to define it. It will not fit into our minds. Every thought we have of it, every word we express about it, is a metaphor. Just so, metaphor is the language of every True Teacher because every True Teacher is speaking about some where, some when, some thing that is not expressible.
Metaphor — or analogy — does not mean “not real.” A metaphor, like an analogy, is a device to explain or describe something abstract, something that does not lend itself to words, something that is too big for words, too big for our mind. A metaphor, again like an analogy, is a symbol representing something else. So, if a father were to say of his child, “(what’s-her-name) is an angel,” that would be — at least in every family I have known — a metaphor. And that is precisely how the mind was designed: to describe the indescribable; to utter the ineffable; to label the nameless; to diversify the indivisible. That is why Teachers like Issa speak to us in metaphors and analogies. Parables too are like that. Just so, even God speaks in parables to mankind (Qur’an 24:35).
The Infinite I, being Life, provides a semblance of “life” to the mind named “Francis” and the mind named “Nancy” and the mind named (your name).
The mind’s life is not Real. Only I, only Life, is Real. No thing else. So, the mind — my mind, your mine — is the appearance of Life. It is what Life looks like when viewed through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12) or behind a veil (Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45, Vasistha's Yoga 375, 691)
The mind creates the appearance of Life by crafting “Francis” and “Francis’ life.” “Francis” is not a person. There is no such thing as a person. “Francis” is the name of a mind that perceives itself as a person named “Francis” living in a country named the United States in an astrological universe created and overseen by a god named “Allah, Brahman, God, Yahweh.” All of that, and all the rest, is a metaphor. It does not exist; none of it exists; except in the mind, which itself does not really exist — except to itself.
Just so, there is no astrological universe. “Astrological universe” is a metaphor for What Is. Our minds are far too small to accomodate even a hint of What Is. That is why the mind is created with such an extraordinary imagination. An extraordinary imagination is what it takes to create a convincing appearance of a person living a person’s life.
Again, just to be clear, there is Life. That’s it. Everything else is a futile, sometimes amusing, nearly always genuine, attempt to understand That, to explain That. We will keep doing so until we Stop, until our search — my search, your search — for an answer to the inquiry “Who Am I?” is resolved, until, in the words of the Gospels Teacher, “It is Accomplished.”
Some traditions consider the mind’s generated reality to be a dream.
As in, “Row, row, row, your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”
To that, some insist that if “this” were a dream, we would know it. Dreams are by definition self-evident. Aren’t they?
Last night, asleep, I dreamt a story. It was in color; it was elaborate; it was populated by people who spoke intelligibly; it took place in an ordinary environment; it involved issues I recognized. While the dream was unfolding (that is, while I was asleep), it seemed every bit as real as what I am doing right now, typing this page of HTML coding about dreaming. But the entirety took place nowhere else than in my mind, where dreams happen.
Indeed, dreams do not seem dreamlike … until we awaken.
Who among us has not heard said, or said ourselves, “Don’t be afraid. It was just a dream.”
All the Teachers insist that the same is true of our lives. Just like our dreams, our lives seem real, to actually be happening as we seem to be experiencing them … until we Awaken.
As Mark Twain wonders, which is the dream?
A few days ago, I wrote here about God putting Adam to sleep in Genesis, and the apparent absence of any Bible verse announcing God awakening Adam. That raises the question that asks, is “this life,” Francis and Francis’ life, Adam’s dream? And if so, will it continue until Adam is awakened (Awakened)? Is that what “happens” at Self-Realization: An aspect of Adam that is dreaming Francis awakens, and the dream character “Francis” and his life disappears. Oops, ciao, Stefano!
That raises this question: Was Mary’s son Issa, the boy born in Bethlehem, a character in Adam’s dream who manifested as Christ when the Issa aspect of Adam was Awakened by the Dove that landed on his shoulder (Matthew 3:13)?
It’s complicated. Until it’s not.
Awakening is Self-Realization which is Satori, which tears the veil, removes the glass, and Restores Awareness to What Is, Always Has Been, Always Will Be.
Illumination abolishes darkness. Awakening erases the mind’s projection. The metaphor is undone. The Truth is Accomplished.
Like the Man said, Let There Be Light (Genesis 1:3).
January 29, February 1, 2022
The awakening or the enlightenment happens by itself,
just like the sun’s brilliance at noon.
When asked if he could say the Creed,
Bishop James Albert Pike replied,
No, but I can sing it.
From Nisargadatta in I Am That
… you have projected onto yourself a world of your own imagination, based on memories, desires, and fears, and imprisoned yourself in it. Break the spell, and be free. …
It is the mind that tells you that the mind is there. Don’t be deceived. All the endless arguments about the mind are produced by the mind itself, for its own protection, continuation, and expansion. It is the blank refusal to consider the convolutions and convulsions of the mind that can take you beyond it.
… Listen to what I keep on telling you, and do not move away from it. Think of it all the time and of nothing else. Having reached thus far, abandon all thoughts, not only of the world, but of yourself also. Stay beyond all thoughts, in silent being-awareness. It is not progress, for what you come to is already there in you, waiting for you.
… whatever thoughts come to you in connection with the ‘I am,’ empty them of all meaning, pay them no attention.
December 18 & 27, 2021
The Infinite thinks ‘I am the body,’
and that thought creates ‘me’:
Francis, Francis’ life, Francis’ world, and all that Francis thinks.
Inspired by Vasistha’s Yoga
Words are heavy. If birds talked, they couldn’t fly.
Northern Exposure television series
Thoughts on awakening this morning:
Quiet is not speaking. Silence is a Place.
Quiet is projecting the appearance of silence, but is itself noise. Silence is being in a New Place. Noiseless.
Quiet is outerly. Silence is innerly.
A librarian is quiet. Hush. A rock is silent. Just be.
Quiet is a verb. Silence is a noun.
Quiet is something to do. Silence is a place name.
Quiet is a decision requiring will power. Silence is a Position, requiring nothing. Exactly that, no thing.
Quiet is active. Silence is not. Really, silence just isn’t.
Quiet is a thought. Silence is thoughtless.
Quiet is nice. Silence is bliss.
How is Francis? Quiet. Where is Francis? Silence. Magari (see below)
Deus me adiuvet. God help me.
The word “magari” is my favorite Italian word. It translates to expressions like “perhaps,” “maybe,” “let it be so,” “would that it were so.” It is about events or things that are not so but that we hope, that we wish, that we pray, were so, or that would become so. In grammar, the subjunctive. Most of the time, magari is like an answer to the question, “Did you win the lottery?” Just so, it often, even usually, includes an inferred exclamation point. In my mind, the best English translation is “If only!” … or the Yiddish expression, “From your mouth to God’s ear!”
Thus, Francis’ mind is silent. Magari.
Quiet, yes. Silent? Magari.
Here’s the thing. The mind seems constantly, endlessly, uninterruptedly justifying its perception of reality by making existing reality seem pleasing, frightening, enjoyable, distasteful, exciting, boring, honorable, deplorable, memorable, inconsequential. Non-stop judging. It does not matter how or why or about what; just whatever it takes to get and keep Francis’ attention, to keep Francis thinking. And the mind indispensable.
As long as Francis is thinking about something, anything, the mind thrives.
The mind can work with quiet. The mind does not like silence.
December 19 & 27, 2021
If you dance with the devil, then you haven’t got a clue,
for you think you’ll change the devil, but the devil changes you.
J. M. Smith
This is getting complicated … and maybe simpler.
The mind, I said, is the veil (Veil) designed by The Infinite Unknowable Unspeakable Self to see Its Self. That idea, however over my head it is, becomes more likely in my mind the more I consider it.
This morning, still thinking about this, I perceive (I am reluctant to say “see” here) that what I call “God” is a part of, an element of, the universe created by the mind … no, not created (because the mind cannot Create), conceived, by the mind in order to enable the … let’s call It The Only Very One (TOVO), to See Its Self. Again, TOVO is One Inseparable Whole Self, Unspeakable and Unimaginable and Undecipherable, which cannot see Its Self because It is everything It looks at, considers, conceives. So, the mind is devised to generate a “separate, separated, separative” representation (word?) of TOVO so TOVO could look at TOVO and see Its Self as stuff: you, me, trees, dogs, planets, thoughts, et cetera! Again, just to be clear, heretofore the problem has been, as I put it in In The Beginning: But for God Who was everything, seeing oneself is not so easily accomplished. How could God stand before a mirror when He was also the mirror? How can a mirror see its own reflection in itself?
For more about this, consider The Prism Effect.
Of course it’s contrived. Nay, it’s insane. But it does explain Francis, Francis’ life, and Francis’ world.
Because here’s my problem: Francis as a thing makes no sense any more. The only way I find that I can make sense of Francis and Francis’ world is by perceiving it as TOVO’s Self-administered therapy (Therapy?) to see Its Self. That at least makes … sense. No other explanation, when I force myself to dig deeply, really deeply, is convincing. (Is that what the Sanskrit word sadhana means: “dig really deeply”?)
So, the secret is out. The mind has done it’s job, served it’s purpose. Francis seems to perceive with clarity who and what and where he is. (I say “seems” because who knows what’s ahead tomorrow or next week? No, make that, who knows what’s ahead minutes, even seconds, from now?)
December 17, 2021
An orange blossom’s being
is self-evident by its fragrance and fruit.
So the Lord God caused the man (Adam) to fall into a deep sleep …. (Genesis 2:21-22)
So, God put Adam to sleep.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God awakened Adam.
Is Adam still asleep? If so, is Adam dreaming?
This question is raised here and there in forums on the internet, and responses tend to be sarcastic. Here is a sample:
Neither does it say that he drank some water, or ate food, or taught his kids to honor God.
Not every single word or action of biblical figures can be written down,
or we would have to carry our bibles in a wheel barrel.
Well, yea, but the Bible is full of endless, repetitive, extraneous details, particularly the Tanakh, the Old Testament. Why not this detail? And, besides, is it really just a detail?
God is no Fool. Having created us, He could guess that none of us would wonder about Adam drinking water. But He would know that sooner or later some of us would wonder about Adam awakening from his God-induced sleep. How did it happen? When did it happen? What was Adam’s reaction upon awakening?
Happily, about a thousand pages on, the Bible does tell us when God awakened Adam:
As soon as Issa (Jesus) was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. (Matthew 3:16)
The man Issa, the infant born of Mary in Bethlehem or more likely Nazareth, is a dream character in God-as-Adam’s dream. The dream ended for that character when an awakening (God-induced Awakening) caused him to Realize his identity as the sleeping Adam, which is “God-asleep” (so to speak).
Just so, a dove landed on the dream character’s shoulder, and woke him up.
Yes, it’s a metaphor. Of course it’s a metaphor. Our entire lives are a metaphor.
Until we awaken. Then it is Real.
Are and always have been. And the Awakened Issa (Jesus) has been Teaching us that ever since as Christ.
“…no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3) Is “born again” a synonym of “Awakened”? And in Japanese, Kensho, and, in Sanskrit, Nirvikalpa-Samadhi? It is all right in front of us, for eyes that see, ears that hear. (Matthew 11:15)
Thus, each of us is still living as a character in Adam’s dream, and will continue doing so until a dove lands on our shoulder (or some other Divine metaphor), and, like the dream character Issa (Jesus), we Awaken to our True Identity, which is: I and the Father are One.
November 13, 2021 & January 2, 2022
Credo me esse ergo cogito.
I believe I am, therefore I think.
and thanks to Latin Discussion.
“I and The Father are One” (John 10:30) is an expression of awareness (actually, Awareness). It is not a claim; it is not a boast; it is not a threat. It is simply a statement, an assertion, of awareness. ‘I am aware that the Father and I are One.’ You, I, too can be so aware about the Self. To do so, you, I, must surrender our I am this body awareness. In effect, we must die to self-awareness. Then, in its absence, the ever-true, ever-present awareness of your identity in/with/as the Divine will be revealed, uncovered, un-veiled. You will be ‘born again’ to what you have always been, and always are.
But let’s be clear: When Francis writes things like “… you must surrender your I am this body awareness” I am kidding myself. “Francis” will never be so aware. The mind — which effectively is what Francis is, what separates (Veils) Francis from the Self — cannot, will not, surrender itself. Awareness (capital A) is the absence of Francis, the annihilation of Francis, the proof of the annihilation of Francis.
A parenthetical comment: Annihilation may be too strong a word, because it suggests the destruction of something that was actually there. All the Teachers tell us that Francis and Francis’ life is an illusion. It is like a mirage: it appears to be there, but it is not only not there, it is not at all. Maybe ‘erasure’ is a better word. Or maybe not nitpicking is a better idea.
Here’s the thing: There is no such thing as God and Francis. From God’s perspective, there is no such word as and. As God perceives, She-He-It is everyone, everything, everywhere, and BEYOND … there being No Thing Else. Clearly, Francis cannot enable self-annihilation. Suicide – physical death – misses the point. Annihilation of the self is a spiritual event. The Guru has to enable it, in whatever form or formlessness the Guru may be at work in a seeker’s life. I think it was Nisargadatta who said somewhere in one of the books, “It Happens.” (I cannot remember whether, wherever I saw it, the aitch was capitalized, but surely it should be.) An act of Grace. That is a task for God-as-Guru because, in the words of Ramakrishna, “God alone is the Guru.”
We think we are doing it until it is Done. Then, we realize (Realize) we did nothing at all. Not because we would not; not because we could not; but because we were not.
God began it. Only God can Finish it.
“Whoever brought me here, will have to take me home.” (Jalaluddin Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks)
November 11 & 29, 2021, February 11, 2022
Do not care about anything ever;
the grace of God is in every shape around.
The Chasm of Fire
Here are a few paragraphs from The Chasm of Fire by Irina Tweedie, page 172 in the paperback edition. (It is an abridged version of the far longer Daughter of Fire.) This book — actually both editions of this book — relates, in diary form, a fascinating and inspiring true story of a woman’s experience with a Sufi Master in India.
This selection is an excerpt of a conversation between Tweedie and her guru, Bhai Shia, on February 8, 1966.
Here is the passage:
Tweedie: I mentioned that Babu Ram told me a story which seems quite pointless to me. The story of a guru of Raipur who had beaten a young disciple to death; and then resurrected him to be a wali.
Bhai Shia: “I was present then, when it happened, and my Revered Guru and others were there, too. The boy was the son of a disciple, and the whole family were disciples of his: father, mother, uncles, all of them. They were all sitting there, and also the Master, the Teacher of the boy. The boy had a natural smiling face; he seemed always to smile like my Revered Father who also had this expression. The Master looked at the boy, and said, ‘Why are you smiling?’ And the boy kept smiling.
“So, with his stick in his hand, the Master began to beat the boy till the stick was broken. The boy kept the smile on his face. When the stick broke, The Master grabbed the heavy piece of wood with which wrestlers practise; and he continued to beat and beat till the head entered the shoulders, and the shoulders entered the body. One could not recognize who it was; nothing was there; just a mass of broken bones and flesh and blood everywhere.
“Then he stopped, and said to the relatives of the boy, ‘What is this? Am I not at liberty to do as I like?’
“‘Yes,’ they said, ‘We belong to you for life or death; you can do with us as you like.’
“‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I can do what I like,’ and went inside. Some say he was sitting chewing betel nut.
“Then he came out. ‘What is this?’ he asked. ‘Who is lying there?’
“Pointing to the mass of flesh which had been a human being, the guru ordered with commanding voice, ‘Get up!’
“And the boy got up, and was whole. and not a scar was seen on him.”
My immediate reaction on reading that account was, of course, you gotta be kidding! But, on reflection, I do not doubt that it occurred. I recall the numerous “miracles” attributed to Neem Karoli Baba, Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi, Sathya Sai Baba, Muktananda, numerous Christian saints (in the Roman Catholic Church, canonization requires two miracles attributed to her/his intercession post mortem), and many, many others. And I do not doubt those. Indeed, it has become Nancy’s and my experience that miracles, even in our own lives, are more common than ever we thought possible. (No, we have not shared them with others on TZF, nor will we share them, here or anywhere.)
And then I got to wondering: Does this event explain the “post mortem” appearance by Issa to Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and the rest? That is, the Resurrection? Issa was surely as advanced, adept, accomplished (I am not sure what word fits here) spiritually as the guru of Raipur in Tweedie’s account. If he could do it, then Issa certainly could do it!
Just to remind ourselves, here are a few verses about Issa (Jesus’) resurrection:
Now when (Mary Magdalene) had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is to say, Teacher). (John 20:14-16)
And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Hail!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.’ (Matthew 28:8-10)
Then he says to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and look at my hands; take your hand, and put it in my side.’ (John 20:27)
While they were talking about this, he himself appeared among them, and says to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ And while for sheer joy they still didn’t believe, and were bewildered, he said to them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ (Luke 24:36)
Mysteries upon mysteries.
November 8, 2021
November 8, 2021
Every happening, great and small,
is a parable whereby God speaks to us,
and the art of life is to get the message.
… while reading Nisargadatta this morning.
The mind is the (Brahman’s) vehicle for diversity.
Diversity is the vehicle (venue) for experience.
The mind enables Brahman to experience “HimSelf” as diversity (which is otherwise impossible for an infinite, boundary-less Being).
Pain is bodily. Pain is a normal, natural signal from a body part to the brain: “We’ve got a problem.”
For a seeker, to be able to say truly, actually “I am not the body” eliminates experiencing bodily pain as my pain.
Thus, “I am not the body” enables “I am the witness of the body,” the witness of diversity. Ultimately, Brahman seeing HimSelf as, not One, but many.
Yes, it is an illusion. But it is a purposeful illusion: To enable Brahman to see HimSelf.
Desire is the urge to experience.
Desire is a product, the function, of the mind. Desire is the mind.
Eliminating desire silences (not quiets, silences) the mind.
Bodily life (diversity) is unavoidably painful because it is a lie. Diversity is not Real. Diversity is a product of the mind, or a product of the mind’s being, and all of that, top to bottom, is an illusion.
The mind is the Veil. The Veil is the mind.
The Veil allows, generates, enables experience by “creating” an apparent experiencer separate from experiencing separate from an experience.
Experiencer-experiencing-experience is the proof of the Veil: I AM transformed (only apparently, like the image of a mirage) to “I am being this or that.”
Silence the mind = Remove the Veil.
October 16, 2021
Without the mind,
there can be no experiencer nor experience.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
I Am That Chapter 37
Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.
Vasistha’s Yoga: “The infinite consciousness has put on this appearance of diversity.”
Sri Nisargadatta: “Your own creative power projects upon it a picture, and all your questions are about the picture.”
I take that to mean, my mind creates and projects a picture of a separate and separative universe, and then convinces me that I am one of the separate forms, a human body, in that universe.
And I believe it to be true.
And I live, and I fear, “my life” accordingly.
Because my mind tells me to do so.
October 10, 2021
It’s easier to fool people
than to convince them that they have been fooled.
How do I “know” that my world (what I call “me” and ”my life”) is, as all the Teachers insist, not Real?
Because after decades as a seeker, I am thoroughly convinced that everything that can fit into my mind is not Real, that what is Real is Beyond the mind. And me and my world fits into my mind. My world is not beyond; my world is here.
(Why have I just put “know” inside quotation marks? Because another thing I am, after all these decades, thoroughly convinced of is that the only way to Know a thing, to truly Know anything, is to Be it. And knowing is not Knowing; knowing is not Being; neither is being.)
But I digress. Yes, digress is precisely what Francis is doing; not just now, but all the time. Indeed, digressing is precisely why Francis thinks he is Francis!
Anyway, all this mental fussing keeps me here, keeps Francis and his world apparently real. The only way to end that is to stop fussing, which means to stop making mental noise, which means to be silent. Not just quiet, but silent. Actually, truly, positively, stop the mind from thinking.
Mental distraction is the veil, the Veil. Thoughts are the Veil. The mind is the source of thoughts. Hence, the mind distracts.
There is no such thing as a “Truly Spiritual” thought. Even the word spiritual is itself just a thought. I know that because before writing it (both with and without the capital S) just now, even while writing it just now, I was thinking. After all, how can I write a word, how can I do anything at all with a word, without having it in my mind, thinking it?
Hence, words are thoughts, any words, all words.
There is real and there is Real. real is not Real. real is a thought. real is a series of thoughts. Thought is a product of the mind. Hence, real is a product of, the proof of, the mind.
Real is Silent. Nothing true can be said about Real other than that. And even that, even the word “silent” does not describe Silence because Silence —True Silence— is not a word; True Silence is beyond words; True Silence is unspeakable.
Francis knows all this to be true.
But Francis does not Know it (or any of this) to be True. That is, none of this is True in “Francis’ life” because Francis’ life itself is not True, not Real.
In effect, all of this mental fussing is like wondering whether the water in a mirage is warm or cold. There is no water in a mirage for exactly the same reason there is no Francis.
Yes, over the decades on the spiritual path, Francis has come to know a lot of things. But not to Know them. For to Know this stuff is to BE it. knowing is in the mind; BEING is beyond the mind.
And the way to BE is …
I don’t Know the answer to that question. Francis doesn’t Know the answer to that question. Yes, Francis can repeat what the Teachers have told him, but so can a parrot.
Every effort to answer that question is thought-induced. Actually, the answer just written (I don’t know) is the right answer. But to expect Francis to stop Francis’ thoughts is … nonsense.
And yet, there have been instants. Short instants and increasingly, long instants.
How did they happen? Why did they occur?
Again, I don’t know.
Suddenly, inexplicably, causelessly, Francis’ mind is SILENT, thoughtless. Thought becomes absent, revealing Silence. Revealing ever-present Silence.
Why did thought suddenly stop? Yea, yea, I know, I must have been “meditating.” But so what? It has “happened” even when I am not meditating. And yet, surely the spiritual path has something to do with it. Doesn’t it?
If so, are we to believe Paul was meditating on the road to Damascus (Acts 9)? Really? Paul had just come from stoning Stephen to death. Is stoning a spiritual posture?
Here’s what I know: Thought stops; there is Silence; thought returns.
Clearly, the mantra is, “For the Love of God, Francis, shut up!”
But hearing the mantra, the mind leaps in, eager to agree. “Yea, Francis, silence. That’s the ticket. C’mon, let’s think about it, write a Gazebo post about it.”
(Eventually, the Teachers assure us, thoughts will not return. On time, by Grace, like ripe plums dropping from a branch.)
October 2, 2021
… talk is in your world. In mine — there is eternal Silence.
Here’s a question: What if, after displaying me to my mother in her hospital bed, a nurse, when taking me to the natal ward, placed me, accidentally, inadvertently, in the wrong crib. And the error has never been discovered (until today?). Clearly, I would have evolved into a different person than the Francis I am today. A different name, different experiences, different memories and expectations, perhaps a different nationality and language and homeland. A different set of religious and spiritual values.
Hmm. That raises the question: Did that actually happen? Are Marian and Guido not my real birth parents? Should my name not be Francis, but Yakov, or Filipo, or Juan? Do I care? Does it matter?
And, more importantly, as a seeker (because whoever I was and am, whichever was my crib, I am now indelibly a seeker), who is the “I” to whom this error occurred? In other words, as we are consistently urged to ask by the Teachers, “Who Am I?” And, come to that, who is the seeker? Is it Francis, or is it whoever Francis was before being named, and formed into, Francis?
That is, to whom did this mistaken crib event happen? Not Francis, not Yakov. The eventual Francis or Yakov was still just a nameless organism. “Francis” did not exist yet. But the organism existed, was alive, and did have an identity … in the crib, before it was placed in the crib, before it was born into the world, even after it dies from the world. Who is it?
At Exodus 3:14, Moses quotes God affirming “I Am Who I Am”. Scriptures of various, perhaps even all, religions insist God is our Father, our Creator, our Source; so, what is true of God is true of us. Thus, “I Am Who I Am” applies to each of us, even to every thing; and it is the answer to the question “Who Am I?” urged on us by Nisargadatta, Ramana, and countless other Teachers. Now, we can say it, we can write it; I mean I just did. But do we know what it means. Are we able consciously to BE it?
That is the function of the spiritual endeavor! Somewhere within me, even while lying in the wrong crib, I must have known I was an I who was alive. If I did not know precisely, at least I had an inkling. And that knowing is still there. That is the source of Francis’ being alive, Yakov’s too. In a sense, that is Francis’ Life. Search it. Find it. Resurrect it. Be it.
Is this what the Gospels Teacher was talking about: Born again! Is this the immortal Life, the Life that was then, is now, and will forever be? Even the Life that is, to use Nisargadatta’s word, Witnessing Francis’ world (or Yakov’s world)?
September 24 and 27, 2021
… the Prince and the Pauper by Samuel Clemens under the name Mark Twain …
is about two boys who were born on the same day where one was wanted, one was not.
Each boy was not happy with his own life at an older age, so they switched places.
Were you not present at your birth?
Will you not be present at your death?
Find him who is always present ….
At some timeless, hypothetical moment, Brahman (the eternal, undivided, indivisible, indefinable, unspeakable Supreme) wondered “Who Am I?”
Of course, no thing like that ever happened, ever will happen. But that’s no reason to prevent us from considering it as having happened …
Brahman’s wondering created the mind.
The mind is Brahman considering Its Self. The mind is Brahman considering the question Who Am I? The mind is the veil. The mind is the ego. The mind is we.
The mind veils from us the Truth of who we are and what is going on.
The Teachers all say we cannot know Brahman. We can only Be Brahman which we are already, always. After all, being Infinite, Brahman is all there is. There is no thing that is that Brahman is not. The mind, as intended, veils Awareness of That.
Here’s why: Knowing a thing requires duality: a subject and an object. But in any relationship in which one of the parties is Infinite (like Brahman), there can be no other party or parties! In infinity there is room for only One! (For more about that thought, please see The Sacred Riddle.)
Just so, the sentence “Francis knows Brahman” is meaningless, absurd, heresy (as if Brahman cares). So the mind, which was Created to know Brahman, creates diversity, the One perceived as Many. (Actually, the appearance of diversity. Nothing, including the mind, can alter what really is.) In others words, so to speak, the only way to see an eternal, indivisible, indefinable, unspeakable thing, is to break it up into manageable parts. Thus, diversity. It’s like a mirage of a pond in the desert. It is not real, but it is real enough to enable consideration of it.
So, diversity, unlike Brahman, can be known: “Oh, look, there’s a person,” “Oh, look, there’s a cat,” “Oh, look, there’s a parking lot,” “Oh, look, here’s an astronomical universe!”
But, by definition, diversity includes time and space. After all, a statement like “I see you” inevitably generates questions like “Where?” and “When?”
In time, there is no Now, no true present.
That is because Now is timeless. Now is not a moment between past and future. Now is the absence of past and future; Now is timelessness. Now is not thoughtful. Now is the absence of thought. In Now diversity disappears, the mind dissolves (Zen: "no mind"), and Brahman is “back” to being Brahman.
The mind is always in the past or the future, never in the present, never in the NOW.
The mind is a series of memories and expectations.
The mind’s world (the body, chairs, beds, refrigerators, cities), which is the mind’s view of Brahman, is all memories and expectations.
The world is a thought, a projection of memories and expectations. Our lives consist entirely of memories and expectations.
Even physical death (death of the body) is an expectation before it occurs, a memory after it occurs. Every “thing” is like that.
None of it, no separate thing, is actually happening. All of it, every separate thing, is a thought in the mind designed to answer Brahman’s question at Creation: Who Am I?
Likewise, in Realization we are not “a person who is Realized.” We are un-bodied. We are back to the Brahman position.
But … and here I am guessing … having “lived” as a “person,” at Realization we are “Brahman Aware Of Who I Am.” We are then the answer to Brahman’s Question. Or we are Brahman knowing the answer to the Question.
September 5, 2021
When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear, and life stands explained.
The following is the gist of a conversation Nancy and I had together this morning. As will quickly become apparent to a reader, these lines are about what everyone of us is doing all the time; to wit, constantly projecting a world, a reality, in which we consider ourselves to be living. That is, “my life” is a projection of “me,” effectively making “me” and “my life” one and the same, or two views of the same thing. As long as we remain “spiritually ignorant” (a term used by Ramana Maharshi and other Teachers), these projections are real to us. (Or, as we say at TZF, it is in the nature of appearances to appear real!) It is at Self-Realization that we realize they are, ultimately that we are, an illusion. It is that kind of thing that prompts Teachers to respond, with a straight face, “Yes it is, and No it isn’t” to the question “Is the world real?” Anyway, here is what we shared over this morning’s tea.
“Francis” lives in what he calls “my life.” Likewise, “Nancy” lives in what she calls “my life.” Those two lives are not the same lives. Similar, close, related, but not the same.
The Nancy whom Francis knows is the Nancy who lives in what he calls “my life.” The Francis she knows is the Francis who lives in what she calls “my life.” Those two “Stefans” (the Francis who lives in what he calls “my life,” and the Francis who lives in what Nancy calls “my life”) are not the same Francis. Ditto the Nancys: The Nancy in Francis’ life, and the Nancy she calls “me” are not the same “person.” In each case, they are, again, similar, close, related, but they cannot be the same, because they are different “people” living in different lives.
Thus, Francis does not know, cannot know, the Nancy whom she calls “me" and who lives in what she calls “my life.” Indeed, Francis has never actually met her. Likewise, Nancy does not know, cannot know, the Francis that he calls “me” and who lives in what he calls “my life.” Nancy has not met him, and cannot know him.
As long as Nancy and Francis each perceive themselves as “me” living in “my life,” they cannot TRULY know each other … or anyone else … or, come to that, even themselves, because in Truth there is no such thing as a separate Francis or a separate Nancy. In the words of Sri Nisargadatta, “there is no such thing as a person.”
So, when Francis says to Nancy, “I love you” what he means is “I love the Nancy who lives in my life” for it is in fact that Nancy whom he is speaking to. Likewise, when Nancy says to Francis “I love you,” she is speaking to the Francis who lives in her life. (Note: That raises the question we did not ask ourselves this morning: Which Nancy, and which Francis, is it that hears the happy confession of love? That will have to be a topic for another morning’s conversation.)
Thus, here Francis is not saying that he loves the Nancy whom Nancy calls “me.” And that is not because he does not love that Nancy. It is because he has never met her. He cannot meet her. He will never meet her. Ditto re Nancy: When Nancy says to Francis, “I love you,” what she means is “I love the Francis who lives in my life.” In fact, she has never met, she cannot ever meet, the Francis whom Francis calls “me” and who lives in what Francis calls “my life.”
That’s the human condition. As long as the two of us (and indeed all of us) say to ourselves and to perceived others, “I am me, and you aren’t,” clinging to our egoic identity, it will be this way. But, happily, it is conversations like these that chip the wall, tear at the veil.
Now, the Teachers tell us that when we reach Realization, we die (or, as the Gospels Teacher put it a little more delicately, we are born again). That is, at “my” Realization, what Francis calls “me” dies, and the experience that he lived in what he called “my life”, dissolves. Ditto when Nancy reaches Realization: The Nancy whom she called “me” and the life she called “my life,” dissolves. All that’s left is All There Is: The Self.
And, the Realized person is not, of course, a person. From “there,” in Realization, we do not exist as a “person.” There, there is no “me” and no “my life.” And there are no “others.” There is only the Self. And it is of course Self-Realized. That is, the Self-Realized simply Realizes Its Self.
Note: In this morning’s conversation regarding Self-Realization, we did not consider the Sanskrit term jivanmukta – “one who is still in the body but has freed himself from the bonds of ignorance … and has attained liberation.” That too is a topic for another day’s conversation.
September 3, 2021
One day in Paradise, Adam sees Eve for the first time.
”I am Adam,” he says to her.
”Yes, I know,” Eve replies, “so am I.”
In The Beginning by SCN
Everyone lives in his own world. …
The mind that projects the world colors it in its own way.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
in I Am That
God is not me. God is I. There is only one I. God.
When Francis says “I am” it has no meaning. It is literally, totally, fully meaningless. It is just noise. Barely even that.
Francis is all of but nothing more than a collection of memories, expectations, and thoughts; that is to say, memories–expectations–thoughts. They are worth nothing. They are not alive. They are not a thing. They appear only to themselves, and it is only they themselves that take themselves seriously.
The collection of memories–expectations–thoughts convinces itself that it is a Thing. A Person. That it has a Name and a Life and a Being.
The collection of memories–expectations–thoughts dares to mimic God. It says I Am.
It says, I Am Francis.
The collection of memories–expectations–thoughts is nothing. It is no thing; it never will be a thing. God did not Create it. Somehow by some inexplicable means, it made itself.
What God did not Create does not Exist. Therefore, the collection of memories–expectations–thoughts does not Exist. And if it does not Exist, it is an illusion. It is a nothing perceived as a thing. The very definition of a mirage.
Francis is a mirage.
Until … Until … Until … Francis dies.
Not physical death. Not the death of the body. Physical death is meaningless, a waste of time. Ignore it. Forget it. The only things that notice physical death or care about physical death are other mirages, others like Francis, who, like Francis, do not, never have, never will Exist.
The death that matters, that counts, that makes a difference, is the death of the collection of memories-expectations-thoughts that has somehow convinced itself that it is a thing, even a person.
When the collection is gone, the mirage disappears, What is left is what is there Now, what was always There, and will always be There: God.
Just to be clear, there is No God but God, and God Is All There Is.
Whatever we think we are, wherever we think we are, whatever we think we know, whatever we think we perceive, is not. God is.
Live with It.
July 6, 2021
Let there be Light.
Future life & Karma
The news the last few days has been full of talk about American Catholic bishops and abortion.
It seems to me that argument, and arguments like it, miss the point altogether. If our current lives are judged in any way at all — which is a subject of it’s own — then clearly at issue will not be what we do or have done so much as our motives, why we behave as we do.
After all, killing another human being is presumably frowned upon at every level of the cosmic reality. But clearly circumstances — context — matters. Consider these events: slicing someone’s throat in anger; a surgeon unintentionally losing a patient; an automobile driver skids off the road, killing a pedestrian; in a snowstorm, an airplane pilot crashes into a mountain, killing all his passengers.
The question Saint Peter, or whoever is at the Gate, will be asking us is not what but why.
Just so, karma is not about what we do or have done; karma is always about why
So there is no point in trying to hide the bodies, or otherwise covering our tracks. It is not about things we can hide. It is about the stuff we cannot hide: our motives!
June 28, 2021
As for me, I’m just hoping God grades on the curve.
I AM THAT I AM
I will become what I choose to become
I create what(ever) I create
The Supreme Self
for no reason
as an apparently distinct embodied self
living an apparently mortal life
in an apparently material world
for an apparent while.
February 16, 2020
The Holy Sprit’s Voice
is as loud as
your willingness to listen.
A Course in Miracles (Text)
Here is Ramana Maharshi in response to a question posed at Arunachala about the nature of the mind:
The mind is only a bundle of thoughts. The thoughts arise because there is the thinker. The thinker is the ego. The ego, if sought, will vanish automatically. The ego and the mind are the same. The ego is the root-thought from which all other thoughts arise.
January 10, 2020
The truth cannot be seen by physical eyes which can only
see material objects.
When you see with your subtle eyes, you will behold the creation as it is, the truth.
Vasistha’s Yoga p 578
“Francis” is not a person, “Francis” is not even a personality. “Francis” is a label. A label attached to the basket of thoughts, memories, expectations, dispositions, tendencies, preferences, etc. that has evolved over the “timeless” existence of the “basket” that first came into being as an I-thought, a bubble of lifelessness rising out of Infinite Eternal Indivisible Inexplicable LIFE. The I-thought is the bubble’s first thought of itself as a self distinguishable from LIFE out of which it bubbled. Here, think of a wave, nay, a ripple, that forms on the face of the ocean. It is not distinguishable from the “rest” of the ocean, but somehow it develops the thought “I am a separate wave, separate from other waves, separate from the ocean.” The wave seems to itself to be distinguished, to be separate, from all the other waves, even from the ocean itself.
This basket, which for now contains only the one thought, the I-thought (“I am some body, I am some thing, different and separate from other bodies, other things”), is the mind, also known as the ego. It becomes attached to, or itself generates, a body. That “body” may be any sort of form — a tree, a stone, a worm, a horse, a human.
Whatever form it is, will end because, being a form, it has a beginning: It was born, and everything that is born will, must, have a death, must die. BUT the basket does not die. It continues past the form’s demise. And it attaches to, it generates, a “new” form, a new body, and that body comes to life with all the thoughts, memories, predispositions already present in the basket. And, during its lifetime new thoughts, memories, predispositions are added to the basket, which again, on its death, eventually becomes attached to another, new form. And on and on and on.
Thus, over the passage of time the basket accumulates additional thoughts, memories, expectations, predispositions, generated during its association with whatever form it is associated with at any given time. So, if the form is a worm, added to the basket may be the sense “Drenching rain is the pits,” and, if it later becomes a horse “the grass is always greener on the other side,” or if a cat “I am always on the wrong side of a closed door,” or if a human, well, you know. Like that, one form after another, constantly generating, collecting, amassing new thoughts, new memories, new expectations, all built upon the original, primordial, governing I-thought: I am me, and you aren’t. Clearly, we are not consciously aware of the previous, inherited contents of the basket that define us (some claim that hypnotism will expose them; also, some yogis can become aware of them), but they are there nonetheless, and in inescapable ways, they define us.
All the while, as seekers, we must keep ourselves constantly aware that all of this is unreal, an appearance, not a reality. The Reality, all of the Teachers agree, is none other than the One Than Which There Is No Other. But, the indisputable fact is, it is in the nature of an appearance to appear real. Like a mirage. And, God help us, it does appear real, and we do believe in its realness.
Until finally, inexplicably, a spark is struck that arouses within the original bubble, the bubble which, “in the beginning,” rose out of Infinite Eternal Indivisible Inexplicable LIFE, a spark that inspires within us the initial wonderment “Who am I?” “What am I?” “Where am I?” and sets into motion the spiritual process, a process that leads ultimately to the elimination of the basket, the erasure of the current label, the extinguishing of the current form, the death of the ego. What’s left is what was always there: Infinite Eternal Indivisible Inexplicable LIFE.
In the words of Ibn ’Arabi, “thou art not thou, thou art He without thou.”
In the words of the Gospels Teacher, “It Is Accomplished.”
November 20, 2019
August 8, 2020
This world is an optical illusion like the blueness of the sky. It is ignorance.
Enough of even this effort to purify that ignorance!
If this world-appearance which is unreal continues to appear, let it: it can do no harm.
Saint Teresa of Avila
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, Francis. It’s My Karma.
To be sure, it makes sense. If
there is no such thing as a
Francis is an
illusion, then clearly there is no such thing as
Francis is an illusion, so of course Francis’ karma is an illusion. And that is true of you, too, dear reader and fellow seeker, 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, Francis. 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 reincarnation: “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, the One Who is It.
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.
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
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 Francis,” what I mean is, I identify with the basket of thoughts (memories, expectations, and so on) originally weaved by Francis’s parents, and that now, taken all together, compose what I call “me.”
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
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:
Are there restrictions for the realized man with
regard to food?
Answer: No. He is steady and not influenced by the food he takes.
Q: Is it not killing life to prepare a meat diet?
A: Ahimsa (non-violence) stands foremost in the code of discipline for the yogis.
Q: Even plants have life.
A: So too the slabs you sit on!
So too the slabs you sit on! Who can read that line, and not have leap immediately to mind this passage from the Gospels:
some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him,
Teacher, rebuke your disciples.
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 Issa (Jesus) and Ramana as metaphor or even poetry. On reading such lines, we insist to ourselves that Teachers 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. (Return to the stones item above.)
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 Issa (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 Issa 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, Issa 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 Issa (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 Issa 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 Issa 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 Issa 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 Issa (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 Issa’s 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 interest 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 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 &ldqu;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/body-mind 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
A Course in Miracles
All Together Now!
(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 is 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. “Who is 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 Issa (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 are 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
Updated December 21, 2015, & in 2016, January 26, February 20
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?
Maharaj: As I hear the question, so do I hear the answer.
Q: How do you know that your answer is right?
M: Once I know the true source of the answers, I need not doubt them. From a pure source, only pure water will flow.
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
Updated December 21, 2015
Here’s another exchange between Nisargadatta and a seeker:
Questioner: When will it
Maharaj: It will happen as soon as you remove the obstacles.
Q: Which obstacles?
M: Desire for the false and fear of the true. You, as the person, imagine that the Guru is interested in you as a person. Not at all. To him you are a nuisance and a hindrance to be done away with. He actually aims at your elimination as a factor in consciuousness.
Q: If I am eliminated, what will remain?
M: Nothing will remain, all will remain. … Liberation is never of the person, it is always from the person.
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 Francis, 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 Francis”, what I mean is, I identify with the basket of thoughts (memories, expectations, and so on) originally weaved by Francis’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, Francis' 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 Francis, 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 Francis, 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 Francis 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 Francis. What I call Francis (and Francis’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
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
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 on the next day he called Damis and said: “My defense has to be pleaded by me on the day appointed, so do you betake yourself in the direction of Dicaearchia, for it is better to go by land; and when you have saluted Demetrius, turn aside to the sea-shore where the island of Calypso 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:
remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments. –Die
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
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.
January 16, 2012
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 ᑜ “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 aren8217;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, Issa, 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. which in FACT is of course a fact.
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, Issa, 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, Gurus, and Teachers (all which words are of course only the same word spelled and pronounced differently!). 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 (apparently?) aware only of that one.
So, suppose that in one of my realities there is a person with whom I have been friends for decades, and who in adulthood achieves Self-Realization. In that instant, he or she ceases to exist as a separate and distinct person, both in the present and in the past. All traces of his or her separative egoic existence are erased. And with his disappearance, the reality in which he existed disappears, too, in its entirety. What happens to me?
And not only is the reality which I shared with that erstwhile person erased or annihilated, so are all the other realities in which that person appeared. What about all the other personalities who existed in those realities? What happens to them?
Simply this: The disappearance of the reality I shared with the erstwhile person now Self-Realized has no effect on “me.”. As far as I am concerned, the disappearance of that reality, of “my” reality, is painless. I am not even aware of its happening. The personality I call “me” continues to exist untroubled, uninterrupted in an infinite number of other realities. The personality I call “me” is not even aware of the “loss” or disappearance of the reality shared with the erstwhile person now Realized. That reality is erased without a remaining trace; there is no awareness of its having happened, no memory of its ever having been, no impact whatsoever by its disappearance. It is, quite literally, as if it never was. And as for what I call “me,” that continues to exist in an infinite number of other realities, until 8230; Self-Realization appears there, too.
And, in the interim, I am never aware of the fact that my erstwhile friend in a shared never-having-existed reality achieved Self-Realization.
August 29, 2009
Consider a dream. No matter how complex the story, how numerous and various the characters, how apparently significant and relevant the events, when the dreamer awakens the dream ends. It ends for the dreamer, and it ends for all the personalities in the dreams. Nothing remains, not a trace. POOF! every bit of it is gone — except the Awakened Dreamer.
August 30, 2009
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
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
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
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 “Francis”. That’s clear. Francis 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 “Francis”.
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 Francis’s mother and father”. From there, evolved supporting ideas – Francis’s pediatrician, Francis’s baby carriage, Francis’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 “Francis”.
But the shape is empty. That is, it has taken the form of a vessel, of a “Francis”, 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 “Francis” 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 Francis. Francis 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 Francis,” 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, Francis”. 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
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
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
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 “Francis” that somehow imposed itself upon this piece of consciousness. Someone said, “You are Francis”, 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 “Francis” 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 “Francis”. 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 “Francis”, not Francis. So, Francis can’t “let go”; what would “he” let go of? How would he do so? UG’s right: “Francis” can’t do anything, and the very idea that he can is part of (the operative part of?) the illusion.
Francis can’t do anything that the Self doesn’t initiate. That is, “Francis doing” is actually “the Self doing (as Francis)”, isn’t it?
So, what can Francis 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 Francis’s endlessly doing that makes him a sufficiently annoying “personality” that the Self releases it. Maybe the Self concludes that being Francis’s no fun any more, and that’s Self-Realization; or, to paraphrase Paul Simon’s words, “The Self don’t find being Francis 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
Friend, hope 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.
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 Nancy’s and my path a Teacher. (Note: There is a “true fiction” report of this event in A Continuing Fiction.) 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 (or Nancy) 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 town. 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 had gone to a neighboring 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.
• Some readers of this piece, noting that TZF first encountered U.G. several years ago, have asked what took me so long. Fair question. Clearly, in this instance Anna (Nancy) was braver than I. She discovered U.G. before I did, and dove into his writings head first. I went in later, and then only one toe at a time. In an unnecessary defense, I might say that there is a lot of bhakta in me, and I was (am?) loathe to give up my ishta!
• For more about U.G., see here and here on TZF, and here on the web.
• For more about gurus generally, finding one, needing one, please click here.
• For a book review about the guru mentioned in this post, please click here.
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!
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
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
For more on this subject, please see The I Thought.
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
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
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?
mine, and attaches to the
body. Thus, the body is perceived as
and other bodies are perceived as
not me and
mine. Undifferentiated awareness as differentiated
awareness introduces duality, separation.
The basket of thoughts is the
personality. When I say,
I am Francis, what I mean is,
I identify with the basket of thoughts (memories,
expectations, and so on) originally weaved by Francis—
parents, and that now, taken all together, compose what
me. Here, the key question for a seeker is, Who
I that says,
I am Francis?
The undifferentiated or universal self
becomes (sees itself as) the differentiated or personal
I AM becomes
I AM this or
I AM this person.
The body is experienced as
me, not you and
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
Francis is, and doesn’t care.
Neither does it know, or care, that
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
my (as in, me not you, mine not yours) is one
of the thoughts in the basket (
me!). Instead, I will revert to undifferentiated
awareness, where (if that’’s the word) I was (?) before
the basket of thoughts called
Francis. 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
The basket of thoughts, the
personality, will still continue. I suppose, like
everything else physical, it has a lifespan. But it will
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
It (?) always is and always will be. Undifferentiated
awareness that somehow differentiates.
November 3 and 26 and following, 2002
December 2, 2004
See also this item on this page
I AM THAT I AM.
Oh, 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
I AM. Ultimate Reality is Aware of Being. Nothing
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,
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
in, mankind) comes from the Sanskrit word
thinking being. That etymology is new to me, but it
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 Francis,
and I have thought so ever since. Everything that has
happened since then, I have taken as confirmation that
I am Francis. But if those two adults had said instead
You are Einar, then today I would be saying
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).
spiritual point of view, this
idea is unpleasant because we are inclined to link the
heaven with personality. That is, we like to
think that salvation is personal (
I, Francis, will go to
But all the mystic traditions insist
(Christ Consciousness, Self-Awareness, Buddhahood, etc.)
transcends both thought and personality.
never be Self-Realized (go to
heaven); indeed, it is
identification with and as
Francis that keeps
As one of the
stories puts it, we are as far from heaven as the
list of words we precede with the personal pronoun
is long. Or, from the Gospels, Issa (Jesus)
(Christ Consciousness) says to the disciples
Where I am (going), you cannot come
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.
August 12, 2002
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.
August 16, 2002
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 “Francis” but in “Francis’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 “Francis”) say “I” or “me”, what may really be speaking is the entirety I call “my life”, even if “I” (Francis) perceive only “myself, this body” speaking.
What Francis calls “my life” seems to him to consist of assorted parts (this morning, the internet, rocks, clouds, and so on, and the body “Francis”), 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 “Francis 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
September 29, 2002
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
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
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
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
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?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
On this subject, please read the article
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
If Issa (Jesus)
Today, our local community radio
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
of any tradition.
(If it works better for you, when reading the words,
simply substitute your own Teacher for
so the title might be, for example,
came to your house to spend some time with you or even
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
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
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?
Were we to do so — were I to be doing so now, all day every day, then rather than fussing about “my last twenty minutes,” I could, I would, just continue preparing dinner as the kitchen timer ticked on. The same, but different.
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 – 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 – 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
Sarah Flower Adams
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 it’s 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
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 TZF’s line
If I do that I will not be able to function. But I
don’t think so. The Teachers
all say, in effect,
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
February 20, 2001
Above 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. Compare “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20
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
For more on this story, please see here.
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 TZF’s The Simple Way and also here). 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
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
If you came here from the cartoon, and would like to return now, click here.
God is Infinite,
Then God is all there is.
God is all there is,
Then there is no God.
Or any thing else.
September 18, 2000
There is God,
and there is no thing else but God.
In which case, who’s asking what where when … and why?
November 1, 2000
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
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 …
Karma’s 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
The Garden of Love
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were
And “Thou shalt not” writ over the door;
So I turnd to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore;
And I saw it was filled with
And tomb-stones where flowers should be;
And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys & desires.
May 17, 2000
The answer is: Always!
Not sometimes, often, usually,
Not when I’m good, when I’m bad, when I remember, when I forget,
Not from time to time, when necessary, when appropriate,
If the answer is always Always!
What is the question?
The question is,
”When is God with me?”
And the answer is,
March 30, 2000
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
Simply this …
Of all the powers granted a seeker,
of all the gifts, of all the secrets, of all the miracles
by far the most potent, extraordinary, and wondrous
is simply this —
the power to love one another
regardless of whatever else we may be doing
regardless of whatever else we might prefer to be doing
regardless of whatever else we wish the other were doing
This greatest power of them all
is not about visions and auditions,
clairvoyance, teleportation, or telekinesis,
prophecy, astrology, numerology, and palmistry
walking on water or walking on fire.
Neither is it about health wealth and happiness.
All of that is kid’s stuff
compared to this one
The Teacher said it,
clearly and unmistakably,
“This I command you, to love one another”
Notice, there is nothing there
about when it’s convenient,
or under certain circumstances,
or in special places
or among particular people
No ifs, no ands, no buts
No excuses, no exceptions
Simply, do it
walk the walk
love one another
January 28, 2000
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 the Lankavatara Sutra,
“Things are not as they seem, nor are they otherwise.”