Saturday, October 29, 2011
Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Mt. 24:44)
Sooner or later there arises in every human heart the desire for holiness, spirituality, God, call it what you will.
One hears mystics speak of a divinity all around them that is within our grasp, that would make our lives meaningful and beautiful and rich, if we could only discover it.
People have some sort of a vague idea as to what this thing is. They read books and consult Gurus, in the attempt to find out what it is that they must do to gain this elusive thing called Holiness or Spirituality.
People pick up all sorts of methods, techniques, spiritual exercises, formulas; then after years of fruitless striving, they become discouraged and confused and wonder what went wrong. Mostly they blame themselves.
If they had practiced their techniques more regularly, if they had been more fervent or more generous, they might have made it. But made what? They have no clear idea as to what exactly this holiness that they seek is, but they certainly know that their lives are still in a mess, they still become anxious and insecure and fearful, resentful and unforgiving, grasping and ambitious and manipulative of people. So once again they throw themselves with renewed vigor into effort and labor that they think they need to attain their goal.
They have never stopped to consider this simple fact. Their efforts are going to get them nowhere.
Their efforts will only make things worse, as things become worse when you use fire to put out fire.
Efforts does not lead to growth; effort, whatever the form it may take, whether it be will power or habit or a technique or a spiritual exercise, does not lead to change.
At best it leads to repression and a covering over of the root disease.
Effort may change the behavior but it does not change the person.
Just think what kind of a mentality it betrays when you ask, "What must I do to get holiness?" Isn't it like asking, "How much money must I spend to buy something?" What sacrifice must I make?" What discipline must I undertake? What medication must I practice in order to get it? Think of a man who wants to win the love of a woman and attempts to improve his appearance or build his body or change his behavior and practice techniques to charm her.
You truly win the love of others not by the practice of techniques but by being a certain kind of person. And that is never achieved through effort an techniques. And so it is with Spirituality and Holiness. Not what you do is what brings it to you.
This is not a commodity that one can buy or a prize that one can win. What matters is what you are, what you become.
Holiness is not an achievement, it is a Grace. A Grace called Awareness, a grace called Looking, observing, understanding.
A. If you would only switch on the light of awareness an observe yourself and everything around you throughout the day.
B. If you would see yourself reflected in the mirror of awareness the way you see your face reflected in a looking glass, that is, accurately, clearly, exactly as it is without the slightest distortion or addition.
C. If you observed this reflection without any judgement or condemnation, you would experience all sorts of marvelous changes coming about in you. Only you will not be in control of those changes or be able to plan them in advance, or decide how and when they are to take place.
It is this non-judgmental awareness alone that heals and changes and makes one grow. But in its own way and all its own time.
What specifically are you to be aware of?
1. Your reactions and your relationships. Each time you are in the presence of a person, any person, or with nature or with any particular situation, you have all sorts of reactions, positive and negative.
2. Study those reactions, observe what exactly they are and where they come from, without any sermonizing or guilt or even any desire, much less effort to change them. That is all that on needs for holiness to arise.
But isn't awareness itself an effort?
Not if you have tasted it even once. For then you will understand that awareness is a delight, the delight of a little child moving out in wonder to discover the world. For even when awareness uncovers unpleasant things in you, it always brings liberation and joy. Then you will know that the unaware life is not worth living, it is too full of darkness and pain.
If at first there is a sluggishness in practicing awareness, don't force yourself. That would be an effort again. Just be aware of your sluggishness without any judgement or condemnation. You will then understand that awareness involves as much effort as a lover makes to go to his beloved, or a hungry man makes to eat his food, or a mountaineer to get to the top of his beloved mountain; so much energy expended, so much hardship even, but it isn't effort, it's fun! In other words, awareness is an effortless activity.
Will awareness bring you the holiness you so desire? Yes and no. The fact is you will never know. For true holiness, the type that is not achieved through techniques and efforts and repression, true holiness is completely unself-conscious. You wouldn't have the slightest awareness of its existence in you. Besides you will not care, for even the ambition to be holy will have dropped as you live from moment to moment a life made full and happy and transparent through awareness. It is enough for you to be watchful and awake. For in this state your eyes will see the Savior. Nothing else, but absolutely nothing else. Not security, not love, not belonging, not beauty, not power, not holiness - nothing else will matter any more.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Your eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light; but when it is not sound, your body is full of darkness. (Lk. 11:34)
We think the world would be saved if only we could generate larger quantities of goodwill and tolerance. That's false.
What will save the world is not goodwill and tolerance but clear thinking. Of what use is it to be tolerant of others if you are convinced that you are right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong? That isn't tolerance but condescension. That leads not to union of heats but to division, because you are one-up and the others one-down. A position that can only lead to a sense of superiority on your part and resentment on your neighbor's thereby breeding further intolerance.
True tolerance only arises from a keen awareness of the abysmal ignorance of everyone as far as truth is concerned. For truth is essentially mystery.
The mind can sense but cannot grasp it, much less formulate it. Our beliefs can point to it but cannot put it into words. In spite of this, people talk glowingly about the value of dialogue, which at worst is a camouflaged attempt to convince the other person of the rightness of your position, and at best will prevent you from becoming a frog in the well who thinks that his well is the only world there is.
What happens when frogs from different wells assemble to dialogue about their convictions and experiences? Their horizons widen to include the existence of wells other than their own. But they still have not suspicion of the existence of the ocean of truth that cannot be confined within the walls of conceptual wells. And our poor frogs continue to be divided and to speak in terms of yours and mine, your experience, your convictions, your ideology and mine. The sharing of formulas does not enrich the sharers, for formulas like the walls of wells divide; only the unrestricted ocean unites.
But to arrive at this ocean of truth that is unbounded by formulas, it is essential to have the gift of clear thinking.
What is clear thinking and how does one arrive at it?
I. The first thing you must know is that it does not call for any great learning. It is so simple as to be within the reach of a ten-year-old child. What is needed is not learning but unlearning, not talent but courage.
You will understand this if you think of a little child in the arms of an old, disfigured housemaid. The child is too young to have picked up the prejudices of its elders. So when it snuggles in the woman's arms, it is responding not to labels in its head; labels like white woman, black woman, ugly, pretty, old, young, mother, servant maid, it is responding not to labels such as these but to reality. That woman meets the child's need for love and that is the reality the child responds to, not to the woman's name and figure and religion and race and sect. Those are totally and absolutely irrelevant.
The child has as yet no beliefs and no prejudices. This is the environment within which clear thinking can occur. And to achieve it, one must drop everything one has learned and achieve the mind of the child that is innocent of past experiences and programming which so cloud our way of looking at reality.
II. Look into yourself and examine your reactions to persons and situations, and you will be appalled to discover the prejudiced thinking behind your reactions. It is almost never the concrete reality of this person or thing that you are responding to. You are responding to principles, ideologies, belief-systems, economic, political, religious, psychological belief-systems; to preconceived ideas and prejudices, whether positive or negative.
III. Take them one at a time, each person and thing and situation, and search for your bias, separating the reality here before you from your programmed perceptions and your projections. And this exercise will afford you a revelation as divine as any that the scriptures could provide you with.
Prejudices and beliefs are not the only enemies of clear thinking.
There is another pair of enemies called desire and fear. Thinking that is uncontaminated by emotion, namely by desire and fear, and self-interest, calls for an asceticism that is terrifying.
People mistakenly assume that their thinking is done by their head; it is done actually by the heart which first dictates the conclusion, then commands the head to provide the reasoning that will defend it. So here is another source of divine revelation. Examine some of the conclusions that you have arrived at and see how they are adulterated by self-interest. This is true of every conclusion, unless you hold it provisionally. Think how tightly you hold onto your conclusions regarding people, for instance. Are those judgements completely free of emotion? If you think they are, you have probably not looked hard enough.
This is the major cause of disagreements and division between nations and individuals. Your interests do not coincide with mine, so your thinking and your conclusions to not agree with mine.
How many people do you know whose thinking is at least some-times opposed to their self-interest? How many times can you recall having engaged in that kind of thinking yourself? How often have you succeeded in placing an impenetrable barrier between the thinking going on in your head and the fears and desires that agitate your heart? Each time you attempt that task, you will understand that what clear thinking calls for is not intelligence. That is easily come by - but the courage that has successfully coped with fear and desire, for the moment you desire something or fear something, your heart will consciously or unconsciously get in the way of your thinking.
This is a consideration for spiritual giants who have come to realize that in order to find truth they need, not doctrinal formulations, but;
A. A heart that divests itself of its programming and its self-interest each time that thinking is in progress;
B. A heart that has nothing to protect and nothing to ambition and therefore leaves the mind to roam unfettered, fearless and free, in search of truth;
C. A heart that is ever ready to accept new evidence and to change its views.
Such a heart then becomes a lamp that enlightens the darkness of the whole body of humanity. If all human beings were fitted with such hearts, people would no longer think of themselves as Communists or Capitalists, as Christians or Muslims or Buddhists. The very clarity of their thinking would show them that all thinking, all concepts, all beliefs are lamps full of darkness, signs of their ignorance. And in that realization the walls of their separate wells would collapse and they would be invaded by the ocean that unites all peoples in the truth.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life - look at the birds of the air - consider the lilies of the field. (Mt. 6:25)
Everyone at some time or the other experiences feelings of what is know as insecurity.
You feel insecure with the amount of money you have in the bank, or the amount of love you are getting from your friend or the type of educational background you have had. Or you have insecurity feelings regarding your health or your age of your physical appearance.
If you were asked the question, "What is it that makes you feel insecure?" you would almost certainly give the wrong answer.
You might say, "I don't have enough of the love of a friend or I don't have the kind of academic training that I need," or some such thing.
In other words, you would point to some outside condition not realizing that insecurity feelings are not generated by anything outside of you, but only by your emotional programming, by something you are telling yourself in your head. If you change your program, your insecurity feelings would vanish in a trice, even though everything in the outside world remained exactly as it was before.
One person feels quite secure with practically no money in the bank, another feels insecure even though he has millions. It isn't the amount of money but their programming that makes the difference. One person has no friends, yet feels perfectly secure in the love of people. Another feels insecure even in the most possessive and exclusive of relationships. Again the difference is in programming.
If you wish to deal with your feelings of insecurity these are four facts that you must study well and understand.
I. First, it is futile to ease your insecurity feelings by trying to change things outside of you.
Your efforts may be successful, though mostly they are not. They may bring some relief, but the relief will be short-lived. So it is not worth the energy and time you spend in improving your physical appearance or making more money or getting further reassurances of love from your friends.
II. Second, this fact will lead you to tackle the problem where it really is, inside your head. Think of the people who in exactly the same condition that you find yourself in now, would not feel the slightest insecurity. There are such people. Therefore the problem lies not with reality outside of your but with you, in your programming.
III. Third, you must understand that this programming of yours was picked up from insecure people who, when you were very young and impressionable, taught you by their behavior and their panic reactions, that every time the outside world did not conform to a certain pattern, you must create an emotional turmoil within yourself called insecurity.
And you had to do everything in your power to rearrange the outside world: Make more money, seek more reassurances, placate and please the people you have offended, etc., etc. in order to make the insecurity feelings go away. The more realization that you don't have to do this, that doing this really solves nothing, and that the emotional turmoil is caused solely by you and your culture, this realization alone distances you from the problem and brings considerable relief.
IV. Fourth, whenever you are insecure about what may happen in the future, just remember this: In the past six months or one year you were so insecure about events which when, they finally came you were able to handle somehow.
Thanks to the energy and the resources that that particular present moment gave you, and not to all the previous worrying which only made you suffer needlessly and weakened you emotionally. So, say to yourself: "If there is anything I can do about the future, right now, I shall do it. Then I'm going to just leave it alone and settle down to enjoy the present moment, because all the experience of my life has shown me that I can only cope with things when they are present, not before they occur. And that the present always gives me the resources and the energy I need to deal with them.
The final disappearance of insecurity feelings will only come when you have attained that blessed ability of the birds of he air and the flowers of the field to live fully in the present, one moment at a time. The present moment, no matter how painful, is never unbearable.
What is unbearable is what you think is going to happen in the five hours or in five days: and those words you keep saying in your head, words like, "This is terrible, this is unbearable, how long is this going to last, and so on." Birds and flowers are blessed above humans in that they have no concept of the future, no words in their heads, and no anxiety about what their fellows think of them. That is why they are such perfect images of the kingdom.
So do not be anxious about tomorrow, tomorrow will look after itself. Each day has troubles enough of its own. Set your mind on God's Kingdom before everything else and all the rest will come to you as well.