Ever since Aristotle defined 'ethics' as 'habits,' Western morality has been backwards. Aristotle said that we become kind by acting kind, we become loving by acting loving, we become just by acting just, because kindness, love, and justice turn into habits.
But Spirit is who we already are before we act; and love, justice, wisdom, mercy are the inherent attributes of pure Consciousness before a single thought arises. Furthermore, everyone knows that, if we attempt to act kindly without being kind, we are just acting: our behavior is artificial.
When, on the other hand, we directly experience our transcendental divine Self through meditation, we awaken those divine qualities in our innate a priori awareness. Then we ARE kindness, we ARE love, we ARE justice, prior to acting them out.
But Aristotle believed the self was a blank slate. He literally called it the tabla erasa on which we inscribe our character by acting out ethical habits. He taught such ignorance because, unlike his master Plato, he never experienced a Self that transcends the intellect. He was a thinker, a philosopher, but not a yogi. He did not taste samadhi or breathe in "the peace which passeth understanding."
Before Aristotle, Plato taught that we must transcend the ordinary thinking mind, the mind of opinion - literally the Greek word he used. When practice the dialectic that takes us above mind into the realm of the Logos, we will gaze at the pure light of truth with the inward eye of the soul. He described this method quite carefully in The Republic. And for Plato, this ascent of the mind to pure seeing was not only a contemplative process, but was the method of science - again, his own word, scientia.
For Plato, it is this direct inward experience of the Light that changes our behavior into ethical action. Ethics are not inscribed in the soul through our material action; ethical actions flow out to the world from the Light within.
Like Plato, Buddha taught that we must transcend the cluttered multiplicity of the mind and awaken the unity of sunya, emptiness. Emptiness is the Buddha nature, the other shore, beyond the restless stream of thinking. Emptiness gives birth to compassion. This is the paradox of Buddhist ethics.
The Upanishads also taught transcendence. We must transcend waking thought, dreaming, and deep sleep, entering turiya, the fourth state of consciousness. The direct experience of turiya is the Self, the still and ever-silent witness of action. Then action arises spontaneously in harmony with Dharma, the moral law. This is also the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. Yogaastah karukarmani: "Be established in the state of Yoga, the eternal non-changing Self, then act."
In Chinese tradition, the same principle is the basis of the Tao Te Ching. It is the art of wei wu wei, "act by not-doing." When awareness surrenders to the Tao, the Te of ethical action arises spontaneous in harmony with nature.
Thus, the ancient masters of the East awakened the state of transcendental consciousness through deep meditation, prior to action. Consciousness preceded action. And Plato was deeply influenced by his master from the East. But the West followed the ignorance of Aristotle, rather than the wisdom of Plato.
Aristotle was a materialist. He taught that action precedes consciousness, and our habits in the material world are the foundation of our Spirit. The ancient masters taught just the reverse: consciousness precedes action, and Spirit is the source of matter.
We followed the materialism of Aristotle. We would have been a completely different civilization had we followed Plato.
Painting, Plato and Aristotle by Raphael, 'School of Athens,' Vatican Papal Apartments
When we practice affirmations for 'abundance,' we often make 3 mistakes.
First, we concentrate. Concentration is a subtle form of strain, belying uncertainty.
Second, we focus on our lack, not on abundance. Even when we think we are thinking about abundance, our very affirmation comes from an anxiety about lack. The subconscious is always more powerful than the conscious. So which seed are we actually planting? The thought at the surface level of awareness, or the subconscious anxiety?
Third, when we conceive of abundance, we think of personal rather than shared abundance. 'My abundance' is still a thought of lack. It lacks generosity of heart. It lacks expansion.
Don't focus, rest. Don't rest as lack, rest as abundance. Don't rest as personal abundance, rest as shared abundance.
Now rest so deeply, so confidently, so joyfully, that you let go of your very intention, and there is only silence...
Letting go of the intention in deep silence is called 'samyama' in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. 'Samyama' is much more powerful than concentrating on your intention, or asking for it in prayer. 'Samyama' means having an intention, yet letting it go in a silent mind.
Therefor, (1) You have clear intent, but it is not contracted into 'mine'; it is intended for all. (2) It is not subverted by its unconscious negation. (3) You let go of this very intention, and rest as silence.
Letting go drops the seed in the field of Infinite Possibility, the creative womb of the Mother, who is Pure Awareness. Be patient. Let the seed sprout in its own time.
Rest in shared abundance.
'Abundance,' oil on canvas by Leon Frederic, Belgium, 1897
Information is overrated. It is far more important to find out Who is being informed. In fact, we often use information as an escape from awareness.
In the age of digital media we are addicted to "knowing," entranced by an endless hypnotic stream of information. Yet most of the time, we're not looking for information at all: we're looking for connection. And we connect through the silent magnetic field of the heart, not through information stored in our brains.
Let us become sane again. Let us engage in the sacred practice of Unknowing. Unknowing is a return to Presence.
Right now, can you step out of the information in your head and become a naked Being available to sunlight, wind, pebbles and stars? Can you awaken to the green frog hiding under a fern, the person at your side, the breath of the moon?
How much education is required to hear a robin, or be overwhelmed by sunset? How much knowledge do you need to feel your heart beat? And to love?
Some will say that Unknowing is ignorance, but it is the opposite of ignorance. Ignorance is being mesmerized by the stream of distraction, swept into a toxic river of images and sensations fed to us by the media, until we have no inner life.
But Unknowing is awakening. We wake to the space beyond thought, the Clear Light that streams from within.
You are not the clutter of your knowledge. You are the Knower. You are the Light of the world.
Embrace bewilderment: be wild.
There is a forest of entangled miracles at the center of your heart. There Jesus calls his disciples, "Come away by yourselves into a wild place and rest awhile" (Mark 6:31). He wants to recharge their energy with untamed innocence.
In the Old Testament, God calls Israel back to the wilderness: "I remember the unfailing devotion of your youth, the love of your bridal days, when you followed me into the wilderness, through a land unsown." (Jeremiah 1)
"True comprehension is bewilderment," wrote the young Martin Luther, when he was learning from Rhineland mystics like Meister Eckhart and Johann Tauler. Later, when Luther turned politician, he lost his inner powers, renounced mystical innocence, took up dogma, and joined the patriarchy.
Tauler wrote that God is "a simple hidden wilderness beyond being," and "a wilderness incomprehensibly wild... where multiplicity is lost in unity" (Sermon 60). Rhineland mystics like Tauler had nurtured the Protestantism of the radical reformers. They were almost entirely exterminated, not by the Catholic Church, but by Lutherans and Calvinists. Imagine how different Western history would have been had the Reformation kept its roots sunk in the mystics, rather than transplanting itself to the arid pseudo-rationalism of the Puritans!
Thus we now must look back to the Roman Catholic roots of mystical Christianity, especially among the Rhineland mystics, where Celtic monks from Ireland had been the first missionaries, rather than monks from Rome.
In the French version of the Arthurian Grail story, La Quest de la Sainte-Grale, the anonymous author, probably a Cistercian monk, tells us that "each knight chose to enter the forest where it was most overgrown, and there was no path."
The pathless wilderness where we meet God need not be on a mountaintop, in a desert, or forest. Wherever we are, even in the midst of market place or urban jungle, we may enter the wild places of the Heart, and be lost in Love.
"Love is like an aroma, like a current, like rain."
Leap into the stream of annihilation. The past does not exist. The future does not exist. There is no present moment, no resting place, no state of being or point of reference called now. Now is not a noun but a verb, a verb that signifies perpetual dissolving.
How long will you cling to illusory images of time, fleeting sensations of a solid world? These images exist only in the mind. These sensations are a shimmering mirage of emptiness, fluctuations in a vacuum, to be witnessed and enjoyed, but never possessed.
Why not relinquish every attempt to grasp a permanent object, a permanent mind, a permanent me? Simply dive into the stream of death, which is the stream of beauty, which is the stream of birth.
This never-ending flow of dissolution seems terrifying, does it not? That is because you are standing outside it. You are standing on the shore.
Those who have the courage to leap in and lose every-thing will discover, through an instant trembling flash of eternity, the true nature of this river, which is bliss.
The sound of the Omkara mantra contains all possible alphabets, and all the harmonics of sacred geometry expressing the physics of creation. But 'Aum' must be de-mystified. Just listen to your body hum...
When Jesus said, 'I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last,' he was referring to the beginning and end of the alphabet, contained in the resonance of 'Aah' and 'Ouu.' These are not only the interior sounds of Aum, but the two-syllables in the Tetragramaton, most sacred name of the Lord in Biblical tradition. Of course, 'Ah' and 'Ouu' are also the sweet and by no means esoteric sounds of your own breathing...
In Aum, 'Ah' and 'Ouu' end in a dimension-less point of vibrant silence, the hum of infinite possibility. Mmmmm... This point is called 'Ayin soph' in Hebrew, 'Bindhu' in Sanskrit. Writing Aum in Sanskrit, the Bindhu is simply a dot over the whole figure. In that soundless hum, innumerable universes arise and dissolve. After chanting Aum, you can feel this boundless dot just above the crown of your head, where your soft spot, the fontanelle, never really closed...
Let the sound of 'Ahh' resonate in your belly. Let the sound of 'Huu' resonate in your heart. Let the sound of 'Mmm' resonate in your brain, massaging every neuron. Your brain is a beehive, cells buzzing with the healing music of Aum. Now feel the silence of vast space above your crown...
There is no priestly secret about Aum, reserved for gurus. Aum is the sound of your own body, being created this very moment out of a divine Breath.
According to Mandukya Upanishad, 'The sound of Om is the universe. Whatever has existed, whatever exists, whatever shall exist, is Om.' The opening words of John's Gospel echo the Upanishad: 'In the beginning was the Word... all that is created, is created through the Word.' A Vedic verse declares, 'Adau Bhagavan shabdha rasahih: In the beginning, the Lord manifested the universe through a stream of sound.' Modern physics confirms that all matter is really made from waves of abstract energy, resonant fields of the silent vacuum.
Aum is the primordial play of infant's speech. Mantras were our first language, and Aum contains all mantras, all names of God. In moments when we are truly happy, in a state of wonder, how do we speak? We return to that original language. We do not preach philosophy or metaphysics, or shout political slogans. We utter the primal mantras of creation: the sounds of consciousness celebrating its integration with a human body:
Ah. Oh. Hey! Wow! Hi! Mama. Papa. Mmm... And even now, when we question someone's existence, we ask, 'Whom'? But the ancient sound of 'whom' was not a question. It was the answer. 'Huum' is a heart mantra, the 'unstruck sound' of the 'anahata' chakra: vibration of the cosmos emanating from our own awareness at rest in its eternal source.
'Huu' is a name of God in both Islamic and Jewish mysticism. Sufi's chant, 'Alla' Hu, Alla'Hu, Alla'hu.' 'Huum' is the bija mantra that ends the central prayer of Tibetan Buddhism, locating God as the jewel in the center of the heart lotus: 'Om Mani Padme Hum.'
If you want to meditate on the deepest name of God, listen to the sound of your own physiology, resonating from the silence of the void. If you want to understand the science of mantra, become like a child: sing praises from your heart.
I offer this mad babble to celebrate National Poetry Month. Shelley wrote in his Defense of Poetry, 'Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.' He was speaking of the sacred power of language that is EVERY human's birthright.
Don't speak a second-hand language! Don't let the words of religious dogma, politics, or the media's talking heads co-opt your divine voice. In your own flesh, discover your Word of creation. Use it to bless and heal the world. Name yourself. Name the earth. You are a creator, and creation begins with the Word.
Om Sat Naam!
At this very moment, the surface of your oceanic mind is a foam of thoughts, images, memories, each lasting but an instant. Yet beneath this bubbling mind-stuff is the sea of Silence - self-luminous, still, eternally awake in its own nature, which is perfect peace.Lacking nothing, your depth is full. Full of what? Radiant emptiness. And when you express any form of this fullness, that least expression is the complete whole, the ocean in a drop. For only fullness can come from fullness, pressed out and overflowing, each particle a hologram.
Yet because the essence and substratum of each form is emptiness, whatever you express is lighter than air, scintillating and playful, with no weight, no need to last more than the instant of its birth.There is nothing to call "mine," nothing to cling to, because you are perpetually ripe and sweet inside. You have always already fructified. You act not to attain a goal, possess a property, or fulfill a need, but simply to release the fragrance of your fruition.This gently surging sea of contentment is who you truly are. And the great masters - Krishna, Elijah, Gautama, Jesus, Muhammad - are your elder brothers. You and they are born of the same Goddess, the mothering depth of eternal inner Silence. The masters came not to establish creeds, churches, or religions, but only to remind you of your true nature.Therefor, there can be neither rivalry nor hierarchy in their Presence. Just take the hand of any one of them, your chosen Friend, and let him guide you gently back to yourself.
When? Why not now, this very morning? Why not come Om?
It is merely the journey of a breath, taking no more than a heart beat. Then you can share your radiant emptiness with humanity. Isn't this why you are here?
The nature of the Divine is such that no one who actually experiences the reality would entertain any sort of belief. Prayer arises only in separation from that Radiance. Actual taste of the Infinite annihilates language and consumes thought in the fire of naked awareness.
Without any theology whatsoever, one simply sings, not in words but in kirtan, fiery syllables of ecstasy: Om, Ah, Hum, Ma, Hrim, Shrim, Ram, Alla'hu!
Mantric sound vibrates and organizes darkness into light, prior to thought. Creation is not meaning but energy. What does a flower "mean"? What does a mountain "mean"? What does pain "mean"? The taste of honey on your tongue? The ever-expanding bliss of pure consciousness? Real meditation frees the mind from the tyranny of concepts.
The ecstatic one stops philosophizing and just starts humming. At the birth of time, this is all God did, and look what happened: She created the universe.
Listen to the wild
silence of your open heart
or you'll miss the Spring.
Today, just for an hour, let's give each other permission not to be outraged. Permission not to react, but to respond. Permission not to trigger each others anger, but to polish one another with forgiveness. A gracious light is always pouring from the heart. Indignation often blinds it. The world can survive for an hour without indignation, but it can't survive without your light.
Photo by Kristy Thompson
Collage of my verse by Rashani Réa