8/29/2010

Floating

The object of perception floats on the surface of consciousness like a tiny crystal of sugar on top of my mango pudding. Whether I eat the sugar or not is irrelevant to my enjoyment of dessert.

In itself, consciousness is already full of nectar. It needs no added sweetener. In itself, consciousness contains more sap than the blossoming lotus, more fragrance than the finest wine, more delight than any romance. The light of consciousness overflows through these senses, illuminating the earth: it's not the other way round. The earth is nourished by the light within us.

This is why Jesus says, "You are the light of the world."

8/27/2010

Save the World

To end war, it is not necessary to kill the enemy: just kill the idea of "the enemy." To draw closer to God, it is not necessary to pray harder: just dissolve the idea of "God." To overcome attachments, don't worry about attachments: just drop the "I" who is attached.

Seen through my concepts, the world needs many improvements. Letting go of concepts, especially the concept of "I," the world appears as it is, each atom lit from within by the radiance of God.

8/19/2010

I Believe In Everything

Whatever you say, I say right on, and its opposite even more! Every lie has its thread in the tapestry of truth. Every truth is a lie somewhere else. 2+2=5 is a wonderful mistake, for it leads to learning that  2+2=4. Every debunked hypothesis brings deeper insight. No affirmation stands alone. And no truth is worth killing for. I believe in everything.

We don't go to war over what we believe, but what we disbelieve. True Believers spend most of their time proclaiming, not what is right, but what is wrong. Believing passionately in few things causes violence. Righteousness feels entitled to destroy falsehood. I believe in everything.

One needs discrimination, vivekya. But the ultimate discrimination is stepping back into the absolute Self, separate from the relative creation, to witness the cosmos as a web of complimentary opposites. Creation is a play where all is true, all is false, and nothing touches the empty changeless silence of the witness.

If I believe in this rather than that, I am bound in the net of creation. But I am free to love when I believe in everything.

8/16/2010

Roses & Thorns


In every religion arise both dogmatists & mystics: dogmatists who turn the founder's words & works into a rulebook; & mystics who re-ignite the founder's original experience.

The mystics are condemned by the dogmatists, but not before they bequeath their poems, inner practices, and reports of ecstasy to us. Ironically, it is these poems, practices & reports - not the
doctrines of authority - that become the lasting heritage of that religion.

There is no law in the universe prohibiting us from choosing what works from any religion. Being SELECTIVE is not being superficial: it is being CONSCIOUS. It is being free. You are a citizen of the Earth: all religions are your personal heritage. You are utterly at liberty to construct your own path. Choose well. Choose love.

Live like the honeybee. Drink the nectar, leave the flower, and don't even touch the thorn.

A Painful Lesson

I used to suffer too, until I got tired of it.

When I stopped telling my life as a story about suffering, I began to notice that life was actually charged with bliss, punctuated by occasional episodes of pain.

Then I noticed something even more remarkable. When I allowed myself to go deeply into the pain, to experience the pain 100% without narrating it, without superimposing a story of suffering upon it, the pain turned into pure energy: the same energy that bliss was made of! What made the pain feel like suffering was resisting it, and labeling it with the story of Poor Me.

The past is the story of Poor Me. The future is the story of Great Me. But Now is not a story. Now is the space of pure life, pure love. Whenever I want to enter the Kingdom of Now, I just give up the story.

But this can be a painful lesson.

8/11/2010

God Is Restless


St. Augustine wrote, 'O God, our hearts are ever restless till they find their rest in You.' But God is restless too. God yearns for our hearts. From divine yearning, creation arises. Oneness yearns for relationship just as relationship yearns for Oneness. So if we desire true rest, let us rest in the God who yearns to rest in us.

Such tipsy quivering syncopated jazz in the heart of God causes the universe to vibrate. Without this constant pulse of yearning and union, there would be no creation. Waves rise, then settle back into the ocean: action, stillness, action, stillness. Through this pulsation, divine awareness awakens from the void to seek itself. In self-awareness, subject-object relationship is born. From the relationship of self with self within the void of pure consciousness, virtual particles are born as fluctuations in the vacuum of space. Then the vacuum overflows, and the Word of light bursts forth.

The opening verses of Genesis describe this restless physics of creativity.
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was formless and void, and there was darkness over the face of the abyss. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Then God said, Let there be light, and there was light.
Notice that there is motion in the stillness of the Uncreated, vibration in silence before the Word. Tohu-wa-Bohu, the "formless void," stirs with inner life even before God speaks. Like a mother seabird brooding on her egg, Spirit hovers and breathes over the ocean of pure consciousness, making uncreated ripples in the vacuum, until a virtual photon of light explodes from darkness and the play of the universe begins.

Creativity happens when we rest in the restless ocean of the Uncreated.

8/06/2010

Paradox

Being human is just so intensely paradoxical that the place inside me where I feel the deepest pain is precisely the place where God invites me to sing.

Let these wounds become eyes. And when the whole world aches too much to bear, let me return to my heart, and love myself until I overflow.

When I was with Maharshi Mahesh Yogi I once heard him say, "The closer you come to Truth, the closer you come to Pardox."

8/03/2010

Mighty Fallen


"How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!"*

We were the world's only superpower; our bombs were smart.

Our enemies quaked with shock and awe; war was a card game called, The 52 Most Wanted.

Patriotism was a yellow ribbon; our president had moral clarity; he solved our problems with a tax cut.

His mission was accomplished: he left no child behind.

"We will win their hearts and minds; they will greet us as liberators, waving flags."

"Democracy will break out like Spring, and the war will pay for itself."

But America needs humility more than triumph.

"Pride goes before destruction, an arrogant spirit before a fall." º


* (1 Samuel 1:19)
º (Proverbs 16:18)
__________________________


(A prose version of this was published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

8/02/2010

Depression and Our Longing


"I have a melancholy of my own." (Shakespeare)

"The source of my grief and loneliness is deep in my breast: this is a disease no doctor can cure. Only union with the Friend can cure it." (Rabi'a)

In profound loss and grief - a passing, a parting, a depression - we are offered a stark moment of Grace, a dark gold gift. It is the gift of descrimination between that which is eternally present, and that which falls back into ashes and dust. Our depression may be a profoundly spiritual moment in life. Do we honor it? Do we name our depression spiritually, or merely diagnose it medically?

I do not suggest that your depression is a lack of faith, a sign that you should "get religion" and be saved. That would be an insult to your experience, and I would rather praise your experience. I am suggesting, on the contrary, that your depression may be the sign that you are already deeply engaged in spiritual work without knowing it. Saints have called it, "the dark night of the soul," the phase of the journey described by Dante at the opening of the Divine Comedy: "In the midst of our life's journey, I found me in a dark woods, lost." Dante honors his depression. He names it, not illness, but spiritual journey. I implore you to honor your depression as a valley in the landscape of your quest, far deeper along than you might have imagined....

The mythologist Joseph Campbell recognizes two kinds of mythic "heros." There is the hero who receives a clear call and consciously chooses the journey. But there is also the hero who is "thrown" into the quest unaware, awakening deep in the journey to discover that she has already entered the stream.

"Whither shall I flee from your Spirit? Even if I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there. If I say, 'Surely the darkness shall cover me,' even the night shall be light about me! Darkness and light are both alike for you" (Psalm 139). This is a lament from the darkness of depression. The Biblical Psalmist speaks from a culture where that darkness is honored with a spiritual name. It is a terrible place, but a place where God may be discovered. How do you name your darkness?

Depression is a profound but unacknowledged longing, a longing so intimate, it is hidden even from ourselves. "Depth calleth unto depth" in a dialogue so deep within we may not hear it (Psalm 42). This longing is abysmal, a bottomless well sunk through our heart. We resist our longing because we are terrified to descend into this groundless place, where the Eternal waits like a secret Friend in purest darkness.

We may cover the dark well with sensations, addictions, the glittering debris of spending and busy-ness, the clutter of things we don't need for any other purpose but concealment. We disguise the hole in our hearts, which throbs and pulls at us, crying, "Come! Come away into a desert place and rest awhile." (Mark 6:31) When we deny that cry of the heart, we live in a state of estrangement from the world and the self. Beneath the compulsive enthusiasm and hyper-activity of American culture, there is profound depression.

Or we can choose to follow the longing. Follow the longing that pulls us out of the world of things toward the magnetic groundlessness inside. That groundlessness is, in the final analysis, our infinite capacity for self-awareness. Why do we call this path of longing a "spiritual" path? Longing is "spiritual" because it has no end, no destination. It is a plunge into the infinite. What we long for is "spiritual" precisely because it can never be an object, a thing.
What do we really long for? We long for the groundless radiance of our own subjectivity. We long for a Self.

Self-awakening means gazing into our groundlessness. Buddhists call this groundlessness, "bodhichitta." In Genesis 1, bodhichitta is described as "tohu wa bohu," "formless and void." It is the heart of the universe, the creative no-thing from which creation arises. In modern physics, we also discover this abysmal yet creative no-thing. Every material form is empty. The finest particle arises as a wave of the vacuum. The atom is pervaded by the vacuum. Is this not terrifying to a culture whose chief value lies in clinging to concrete forms?

"Vanity of vanities, sayeth the wise one, all is vanity." In this famous refrain from the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, the Hebrew word translated as "vanity" is "hebel," which literally means "empty." A precise translation of the text would reveal a Judaic version of Buddhism's Heart Sutra: "Emptiness of emptiness, all forms are empty." Those whose vision penetrates the real nature of the world must live a lie to survive in a culture so absorbed in the vanities and delusions of material form. They must live with a terrible secret: they have seen the vanity. They have penetrated the heart of emptiness. Carrying this spiritual secret in a culture of materialism may be the real meaning of "depression."

The world is not what it appears to be. We are uprooted from the comfort of things and cast into no-thingness. We fall into the void. But if we survive the fall, we discover something wonderful at the heart of loss: no-thingness is a divine gift. Embracing the formless abyss makes us selves rather than things. No-thing is our inwardness: it gives us Personhood.

I may smother my longing with medication, and set a clinical label over the well in my heart. But divine darkness calls me down, until I surrender to a Friend more inward than "I."

I may flee from the abyss into rigid systems of belief or compulsive patterns of activism: but then I condemn myself to a world without depth, without soul, a world of things. And those things may even be just and worthwhile political "causes." But they are still things in a soulless world. 


A soulless world has a future and a past, but no Presence. In such a world, I may become quite "religious" and quite "regular in my spiritual practice." But my practice is a technicality, my religion a flight from inwardness. American culture, including much American religion, worships the idols of distraction - idols of work, wealth and war - because it is a culture of flight from the pain and beauty of inwardness.

The Spirit is calling. She longs for me. And the Spirit's longing for me is my longing for a Self. She calls from my very heart. I flee. But I cannot escape from my inwardness. I cannot escape the perpetually unfathomed depth of my own Personhood.