They say that nature abhors a vacuum. But nature is born from a vacuum, returns to a vacuum, pulsation of the vacuum of pure consciousness.
If you need proof, just go out to your garden and look at a chrysanthemum.
Of course, if you need laboratory proof, you can take 5,000 years and call it "the evolution of quantum physics."
But some of us are impatient for eternity now. We only need to see one blossom of emptiness.
I delight to see God shining from my body as the super-radiance of evolving self-organized bio-chemical complexity.
Does this glow come from matter, or does matter condense from this glow? The wick is dead without a flame. But the flame is dead without a wick. Matter and Spirit, like particle and wave, are just two ways of seeing the same phenomenon.
Why not settle our bodies into meditation, or walk with awareness in the forest, observing every electron blossom from the boundlessness of conscious space? Then, instead of descending as a mysterious Other from above, will not the Spirit percolate out of the earth as the bio-radiance of sacred matter?
I'm Wiccan, I'm Vedantist, I'm Buddhist, I'm Christian. Do you see a contradiction? Well then, maybe your eye is not open wide enough. The part you focus on defines the whole. When you focus on one sparkle, you see one face or facet and no other. Yet the whole jewel is greater than any facet. The jewel of God-Consciousness has as many faces as there are human hearts.
If you ask me, "Is a tree God?" I say, Yes. "Is God beyond the tree?" Yes. Both are true. I see God through the tree. The tree is a window. But the window is not the sky. I see the sky through the window, and the window illuminated by the sky.
When the eye is clear and simple, every creature on earth is God's window. Gazing through that creature, I enter Bodhichitta: boundless, formless, conscious space. Yet this infinite Buddha mind is contained by an atom.
Now I penetrate even deeper into conscious space. I find that space is alive, vibrant with waves of innate compassion. These loving vibrations of silence generate the whole universe, like a Word spoken. The cosmos is no cold vault of darkness hung with desperate momentary stars. In essence, cosmic space is a Person - one who intimately cares for every finite point conceived within that boundlessness. A vast carefulness envelopes the galaxies: the cosmic Christ, the Buddha nature, Krishna consciousness. If you think these terms signify three different things, you have not experienced thing-less Radiance.
This cosmic Christ yearns to share his love with every sentient being on every world encompassed by the infinite space of awareness. To communicate this love to the least of these his creatures, the infinite Person takes on a finite human body and clothes himself in flesh, the flesh of tbe Avatar. Jesus was the most recent avatar in history. Is there an avatar incarnate today?
Every photon of Jesus' body was God, as is every photon of my body and your's. The difference is, every photon of Jesus' body was conscious, like an opened eye! Jesus' body was the vessel in whom cosmic space became Christ Consciousness, aware of every pain and rapture of human love. Through Christ's excruciating ecstasy on the Cross of his own body, love infused itself into the earth, soaked into the soil, enfolded the fallen sparrow, irradiated every berry on the twig, ennobled the dust. The incarnation of Christ was the consecration of matter, rippling its blessing into the stars.
This brings us back to where we started: the divine chemistry of our own flesh. What good is the work of Christ unless we too, in every atom of flesh, trans-substantiate God's glory into matter?
Truth whirls and turns like a wheel. Dust becomes God as God become dust. This is why fools are wiser than wisemen. They just dance!
Here's my entry in the 'Personals' section at the back of the local newspaper : MHB Seeks SF. Mere Human Being Seeks Spiritual Friends.
For soul nourishment, I don't need another Guru with absolute authority. I don't need a savior or an avatar. Not even the second coming of Jesus. (Did he ever leave?) I need spiritual friends, peers, people with the courage to share doubt as well as exaltation, pain as well bliss, falling as well as getting high.
I just buried my parents' ashes under a willow tree by a pond in Pennsylvania. I don't want a new parent-figure, or a dependent child who makes a parent out of me. I want spiritual siblings.
I need to ground my bare feet in a circle, not climb a stairway to the stars. I'm no longer charmed by someone above, or seduced by someone below, on the ladder of souls. I need you beside me, walking this pathless path that leads us to the present moment.
Take my hand.
If anyone speaks of a "spiritual path," know that they are asleep.
Is there a path to awakening? Do you decide, "Now I will take the path to awakening; I'll wake up in about five minutes; or perhaps by 5 o'clock this afternoon; or maybe in five life times"? This is the talk of a mad man, or somebody who doesn't want to get out of bed.
The moment you are aware that you have been dreaming, you are awake. It takes no time at all. Awakening has nothing to do with time: it has to do with where you choose to rest your attention.
"The spiritual path" is an invention of the mind who would rather persist in dreaming the future than risk Now. Are we ready for the motionless explosion of Now? Are we ready to live on the cutting edge of eternity, where the past and future do not exist?
Enclosed in the gray armor of thought, our daily life is constantly one step away from reality. We do not live Life: we live a commentary on Life. Spirituality means awakening from this gray dream, this vapor of concepts about the world. What is remarkable about this dream is that it has the same unsatisfactory ghost-like quality for the rich and the poor, the movie-star and the telephone operator. What ever we may do to improve our material condition, we find ourselves caught in the same dream. We are all lost in mind-mist, which has no solidity, for it has no Being.
Awakening means that the world turns inside out, and blossoms into radiant solidity. The quality of Being is what makes the present moment present. It is not an abstraction. The past and future are abstractions, but Being is solid as a diamond in the noonday sun.
Just Being -- not being rich, or famous, or beautiful, but just Being -- is good enough. It is a fullness that cannot be increased by any material advantage. "And God saw that what he had made was very good!" Creation is not good because of its particular form or excellent structure, but because it exists. Creation is saturated with the quality of Being. If you are truly awake, just to Be is magnificent, wondrous, and refreshing.
If we choose to awaken, we choose to Be. We choose to Be 100% now without conflict, without wishing, without hope. We choose to dwell on earth in this body, just as it is. We choose pain and pleasure, just as it comes. We choose to stop whining. When we stop whining, we can delight with infinite gratitude in our very next breath.
My meditating friends wanted to go out for dinner. As usual, it had to be Indian food: lentils and dahl with a cup of chai. I said, 'I'm feeling like spaghetti, with a glass of chianti.' They looked at me the way kosher rabbis look at a ham.
I don't wear rudhraksha beads anymore. My wife doesn't wear a sari. To me, a red dot on your forehead is no holier than a zit. When fundamentalists reject anything that isn't in the Bible, we think them terribly narrow. Why isn't it just as narrow when New Age folks insist that everything has to be Indian to be holy?
I love India and I love to chant krishna bhajans. I love France and I love to sing Gregorian chant. I even love Wyoming. There's a place in the Big Horn mountains, you have to hike in a few miles from the highway, with an ancient stone circle where tribes used to meet and make peace. That place is as sacred as Chartres Cathedral or Rishikesh. Did I mention 'Amazing Grace'? Why is that any less a mantra than 'Om Namah Shivayah'?
My dearest friend, much younger than I, was one of the first Americans trained by Guruji to teach the Art of Living. He was living the holiest, strictest life of discipline, and he once confided in me that he really missed tuna fish sandwiches. I said, 'Why don't you just eat one?' He couldn't. But sometimes strictness has its limitations: he died of cancer quite young...
And my dear mother recently died so gracefully at 92, full and ripe and ready to go. She was always talking about how she would hook up with Dad again when she was in heaven. But just before she died, she said, 'I think when I get over there, I'll look up one of my old beau's. I'm not sure I want to settle down with you father again. He was too strict.' Now that's getting free!
When I see my beloved Guruji, I don't do that Indian jazz anymore: like praying hands or bowing my forehead down to touch his foot. That just creates distance. Instead, I give him a big smile and wave from across the room. He smiles back and wings a Hershey's candy kiss at me - really hard. It hits my chest and opens a chocolate wound of Bhakti. Later, I hug him. Once he threw snow in my face. And once, at the end of a strenuous silence course on which I had been particularly naughty, he slapped me - really hard. I took it as punishment, with no thought that it might be shaktipat. The next two hours my cheek burned hotter and hotter.
Then everything burst and all boundaries melted into golden honey. This didn't happen at some groovy ashram in India. It happened in the streets of L.A. and the airport and then in downtown Tacoma. It lasted for two days, everything saturated, dissolving into honey. 'Layam vraja', says a line in the Upanishads. 'Dissolve now!' Dissolve into the terrible sweetness of 'samana-chitta-yoga': the one same divine consciousness shining everywhere. Man, that is fierce! The sidewalks made of honey, smokestacks of honey, taxis of honey, homeless sad alcoholics made of honey lined up to receive honey from the honey ladies at St. Mary's Catholic honey kitchen. Yourself, the Guru, the statue of Krishna, the steaming pile of German shepherd poop next to a fire hydrant, all made of exactly the same golden honey! We humans can't handle such ruthless egalitarian sweetness. Guess that's what Blake meant when he said, 'We are put here for a little space to learn to bear the beams of love...'
Boundaries, whatever they separate - nations, religions, races, classes, creme brule from lentil dahl, beer from chai - boundaries are all like parentheses drawn in air, by a finger that only exists in your imagination. Boundaries are there to give us something to dance with. We dance with boundaries just to enhance the splendor of the gold they're all made of. In themselves, the boundaries have no more lasting existence than waves on the ocean.
Let's not forget that the ripples in which we frolic appear to be individual waves, but they are made of each other. And just beneath them, eternally, is the ocean of still, unfathomable, golden silence.
That's what I see in the crowds on the Washington Mall as they gather to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama: black, brown, gay, straight, Hindu, Christian and agnostic, all dissolved into one amber e pluribus unum.
Imagine your Body.
Let your Body imagine You.
Your Body is what you have imagined in the past
And your Soul is the glow of your Body in the present.
What you imagine now is your future Body.
To imagine that You are anything more than your Body
To imagine that your Body is anything less than a cosmos -
each cell a furnace, roaring with delight
in the radiance of biological complexity,
each atom a wild and perfect swirl of sentience
whose center is the womb of suns;
and in the silence at the proton's core,
the infinitesimal pause between the pulse
of quark and anti-quark, this sky,
the vast out-whirling mother of night
who mantles your hope with stars -
To imagine your Body anything less
is original Sin.
The heart of the path is to rest our awareness in its own mirror-like emptiness and self-luminosity, even for a brief moment, again and again without effort, until the Inner Light outshines the world. Then we can cherish every person we meet, friend or foe, as the reflection of our own radiance.
To discover the divine Self in the human other, and the divine Other in the human self, is the real meaning of love, the real work of God, and our real purpose on earth. We need not spiritualize the experience, making it a Mystery for the enlightened few. Nor need we politicize our love, reserving it for the poor or the oppressed, for that is a subtle judgment against everyone else. If the unity is real, it happens wherever we are, with whoever is right in front of us this moment.
"There are no others." said Ramana Maharshi. "Love your neighbor as your own self," said Jesus, quoting the Jewish Torah. "See God in every pair of eyes," said Shri Shri Gurudev.
Is the unity known through self-inquiry alone, or is the grace of the Master required?
Find out now. Don't wait another minute!
Like a mirror, scripture reflects what we bring to it. Its words mirror the qualities of our own consciousness. The fearful find a fearsome God in Holy Writ, as the warlike find a justification for war. In that same scripture, those with awakened hearts will find the law of love. And the enlightened will see one truth, which is simply the radiance of their own Awareness, shining through all the world's great scriptures.
When we find truth in an ancient text, it is because we have already awakened that truth in ourselves. Scripture gives confirmation of what we already half know, but hesitate to fully embrace. If deep in our own awareness we have not already experienced that truth as self-evident, we will not see it on paper, even when the words are printed in red.
Neither the Bible nor the Koran can save anybody. Scriptures have power at the time they are written because, in the present moment, Awareness energizes words. But when those words become shrines to the past, there is no revelation. Revelation shines not from dried ink and old trees but from Awareness itself. The Word is an inward light that shines inside you before any scripture is every written on paper. Does the Bible itself not confirm this? The first chapter of Genesis proclaims that the shrine of God on earth is neither a Book nor a Temple, but God's image reflected within us. "In God's own image and likeness God created humanity."
The world needs a new revelation: one that has nothing to do with a book. The world needs a revelation that speaks through Silence, not words; through the Presence, not the story of the past.
The truth is, this new revelation is already happening in you right now. To receive it, you must pay no attention whatsoever to the chatter of your thoughts or the memory of old words. Instead, rest your attention in the silence of Being itself, the unspeakable Presence that enfolds you. This is so very simple, but it requires courage. For you must refuse to form any image, any word, any concept of that fierce and nameless beauty.
"He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be banished, and he shall command peace to the nations." (Zechariah 9:10)
Jesus is a pacifist. His pacifism is unequivocally and unconditionally explicit in the Gospels. On the political right today, there are many in the Church who lend easy support to the concept of preemptive war. But no war of choice can be regarded as Christian.
To justify war, the Christian Right ignores the peace teachings of Jesus while giving deceptive interpretations of other Gospel passages. We must examine these passages and reject, once and for all, any claim that a Christian could condone wars of aggression and preemption. We must be vigilant against such claims, for the Bible has often been abused to justify fascist and imperial policies: from the slaughter of the Canaanites to the Crusades, from the enslavement of black slaves to the invasion of Iraq. After all, even Hitler used Christianity as an excuse for war:
My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter.... In boundless love as a Christian, I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison.... As a Christian I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. - Adolf Hitler, 12 April 1922 (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, Vol. 1, pp. 19-20, Oxford University Press, 1942)
I. False Arguments For War
Luke, Chapter 7
One of the deceptions used to give a Christian justification for war is based on the Gospel of Luke, chapter 7. St. Augustine was the first to use this argument, which asks the pacifist to prove the negative. In this passage, a Roman centurion begs Jesus to heal his sick slave. The disciples assure Jesus that the centurion is a good man, kind to the Jews, a supporter of the synagogue. Jesus heals the man's slave.
Does the healing of the slave indicate that Jesus condones war, simply because the slave's owner is a soldier? One could as easily ask, does it show that Jesus condones slavery?
Such an argument would be a non-sequitur. What the story actually shows is: (A) Jesus' healing power, and (B) Jesus' ministry to the Gentiles. The passage is not written in the context of any teaching about war. Yet Christian sophists claim that Jesus must have supported war, since he did not condemn the centurion for being a soldier! This argument shows how desperate they are to find some shred of evidence from the Gospel to support military violence.
The next verse abused to justify violence is Matthew 10:34-37: I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. Quoted out of context, this seems to evoke a martial tone. But taken in context, it is clear that Jesus is talking about the sword of decision, not combat.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
I ask any rational reader a simple question about this passage: is Jesus speaking literally? Does he want young Christians to kill their parents if the parents refuse to convert? Clearly, the context here has nothing to do with violence or war. As he often did, Jesus uses parabolic language. This symbolic "sword" is the same found in Revelations 1:16: "Out of his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword." And in the Epistle to Hebrews 4:12, the Word of God is "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit... a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart." This is not a weapon of battle, but the sword of discrimination. It is an ancient and universal symbol indeed. In Buddhism, this sword is the Vajra. In Hinduism, it is the Sword of Shiva.
Jesus asks for a radical choice, and choice may bring division in our life-style or relationships. Choosing his Way may even divide family members. Those who take this verse as a justification for war distort the intention of Jesus.
The final passage abused by Christian sophists is Matthew 21:12-13, where Jesus cleanses the temple.
Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves. And he said unto them, 'It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.'
Where in this passage is there any physical violence against persons, any use of weapons, or any act of war? In several Gospel scenes, Jesus demonstrates his overwhelming spiritual power (exouzia). Crowds part and authorities slink away from his presence. He never needs to use physical force when he wants to manifest such power. Here in the temple, Jesus certainly overturns the tables and seats of the money-changers: we can legitimately interpret these acts as physical. But we have no justification whatsoever to assume that Jesus strikes or inflicts bodily harm on any man. He uses no weapon of war. The context of this story is Jesus' demand for pure worship, not his teaching on violence.
It is clear that these passages cannot be used to justify war, and any attempt to use them for that purpose is a deception.
II. Legitimate Arguments Against War
There are passages where Jesus discusses war, retaliation, and the use of violence. Christian conservatives gloss over these passages. Yet they are the only places in the Gospel where it is legitimate to look for Jesus' explicit teachings on the subject of war.
Matthew 5: The Sermon On The Mount
The first such passage is Matthew 5, part of the famous Sermon On The Mount. When we read this, we fear and tremble: the words are overwhelming in their purity and their challenge to all that we would justify as "human nature." We glimpse Jesus' uncompromising and absolute pacifism:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you: Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also (5:38-39).... I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. (5:44)
Jesus does not use the ordinary Greek word for love, philios. Philios signifies the love we have for kinsmen and bosom friends. It is a natural emotional connection, a biological and family bond. Jesus does not tell us to feel emotional warmth toward our enemies. His teaching isn't a bumper sticker that says, "Have you hugged your enemy today?"
Jesus uses a rarer Greek word, agape, to suggest a new order of love. Agape is not emotional self-gratification, but an act of the will: to understand, to empathize, to stand in the enemy's boots snf gaze out through the chinks of the enemy's armor. By the power of agape, what we see through the enemy's eyes is ourselves, as the enemy sees us. This is morally demanding and patient work, requiring prayer.
The injunction to "resist not evil" is more literally translated, "resist not the evil one." Here, evil must mean another person, not an abstract moral quality. For if Jesus wanted us not to resist moral evil, this would contradict all the rest of his moral injunctions. His words can only mean non-resistance in a physical sense. Certainly we are called to resist moral evil in ourselves: but we are also called to refrain from physical violence against "the evil one". The phrase, "resist not the evil one," can only mean one thing: non-violence.
Matthew 26:52: The Garden Of Gethsemane
Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him. And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, 'Put away thy sword: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.'
In the garden of Gethsemane, after the Passover meal, priestly officials arrest Jesus. This is the only other Gospel passage, after the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus explicitly addresses the issue of violence. And it is the only time a disciple of Jesus uses a weapon. Jesus immediately, decisively rebukes him for it. One could well argue that the disciple strikes, not in aggression, but in defense of the innocent. Yet Jesus rebukes him anyway!
Here we see the same uncompromising pacifism encountered in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus not only preaches his pacifism: he walks the talk all the way to the Cross, spreading his arms to embrace the world with forgiveness, the good and the evil, friends and enemies alike.
Conclusion: Preemptive War
No nation has the right to invade another as a mere insurance policy, based on the presumption that the other nation might be a threat in the future. No one knows the future, and such presumption usurps the throne of God. If the United States is to demonstrate moral leadership, then we must lead by example. But if the U.S. example of preemptive war were imitated by every nation that wished to neutralize its rivals, world chaos would ensue.
In his God-like presumption to know the future, George W. Bush has killed tens of thousands of innocent Arabs -- far more innocents than terrorists ever killed in the U.S. or Europe. Iraq neither threatened us nor participated in the 9/11 attack. The invasion of Iraq cannot possibly be justified as self-defense. As an act of imperialism, Bush's war is naked aggression. As a Christian act, it is worse than naked aggression: it is a denial of Christ.
And what about our troops? Struggling to understand their mission and hold the moral high ground, they act with virtue, nobility and courage. But they have been abused: abused by the civilian leaders of our nation, abused by gray flannel Caesars hiding behind mahogany desks, pouring the blood of the world's finest warriors into the sand as an offering to Mammon, the god of Wall Street. Those who profit from the fog of war can no more call themselves Christians than those who sprinkle doves' blood on an alter of gold.
We must make an absolute ethical distinction between the soldiers who fight this war and the civilian authorities who abuse them. This is precisely why Jesus recognizes the Roman Centurion as a good man, without condoning the policies of the Empire.
Do you want to be saved? Do you want to be born again? Here's the Gospel, the Good News: If you want to be saved and born again, become aware.
For a single moment, don't do anything. Don't seek, don't pray, don't hope. Just become aware. Salvation is awareness. Awareness is perpetual rebirth. Awareness is never a single second old.
One moment of effortless awareness opens the vast silence, the eternal stillness of your Being, where a new heaven and a new earth are born. One moment of awareness is always the first moment of creation.
The momentous grace of simply becoming aware is the only spiritual practice we haven't tried, the only way left to redeem the world.