"Ano raniyan mahato mahiyan: the smallest of the small is greater than the greatest." ~Upanishads
The ego holds us in the delusion that our own issues are the critical ones, and other people just don't get what's really important. But from the view of the Atman, the clear blue sky inside, nothing is more important than anything else. In the final analysis, each speck of dust is the holy land.
I did not learn this by reading the scriptures. I learned it from the exquisite fragrance of locust blossoms. Some people consider them mere weeds. Others regard them as delicacies, and scatter them on soup.
"You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape..."
We mistakenly assume that Advaita, the message of non-duality, is a modern message, or an Eastern message. But Advaita is also the soul of the Bible.
The essential text at the heart of the Bible is Exodus, chapter 3, and its commentary in Deuteronomy, chapter 4. Here Moses encounters God on Mt. Horeb (Sinai), the revelation in the burning bush. Moses asks God, "Who are you?" And God answers, "I Am that I Am." Then God says, "I Am is my name forever."
This is pure advaita. Moses looks for God, but God tells him to look for God in no-thing but the one who is looking: the I Am. God says, "In the fire I Am you saw no form; therefor never make a form, an idol of me." This becomes the first commandment: no idol, no God but God, which is also the central commandment of Islam: La ilaha illallah.
Jesus taught this same advaitic message. He constantly identified himself with the I Am who spoke from the formless in fire on Horeb. Jesus did not tell us to worship him, but invited us to follow him. He will lead each of us to who I Am, to the divine Self in all.
Jesus says, "Before Abraham was, I Am." He also says, "I Am the way, the truth, and the life." Jesus does not mean that a man with a beard and a pair of sandals, walking down the dusty roads of Galilee in the first century, is the only way, truth, and life. He is referring to one more present, more intimate, nearer than this very breath : I Am.
In the words of the Psalmist: "Be still and know that I Am God." When the seeking mind becomes still, awareness rests in who I Am, the divine Self. But if I cannot see God in who I Am, I will never see God in an other, not even in Jesus. For God is what sees.
Every human who declares "I Am" reflects the image and likeness of God. You and I are none other than the infinite light of the formless Adonai. We are each refracted beams of the same Self-luminous Lord who spoke to Moses from the burning bush.
How can we interpret the Biblical symbol of the burning bush? In Sanskrit, the word for "nerve" is "nara." God is called Narayana, the one who presides over the nervous system, irradiating it with the fire of consciousness. The burning bush is the sacred Life Tree of our brain, spine and nervous system, on fire with awakened consciousness.
The most sacred name of God in Hebrew is the great four letter name, called the Tetragrammaton, which is actually a verb, a declension of "I Am." There is no need to translate it into English or any other language - though it has crudely been tried as "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" - for this name is a sound, a two-syllabled sound: the subtle sigh of our breath, moving in and out.
The divine name is a mantra: the very vibration of our life breath. Through this vibration, awareness returns to the Creator, the Lord of life residing in the hollow of our nerves: the luminous Self. This is why, in Biblical revelation as in Vedic science, God's identity is intimately bound to the sound of God's name, and the practice of mantra meditation.
What we have in the story of Moses and the burning bush is not only the teaching of advaita, but the way, the practice, the sadhana to experience God as the light of pure consciousness.
'So many of you "spiritual" seekers attempt to attain loving kindness by waging inner warfare on your egos. But this subliminal quality of aggression against yourself permeates all your external relationships, and you project your internal warfare into the world. This is why bourgeois morality is so oppressive: it is the mask of resentment toward those who won't conform to conventional "self-discipline." Only when you enfold your ego in compassion, simply watching over it as a mother watches over her wondrous naughty playful perfectly stumbling child, can you hope to permeate the world with forgiveness, and the grace of non-judgment. I see this clearly because I am a very bad boy.' ~Willy
You don't have to journey to Katmandu. The fern marsh just beyond the backyard fence is deep and wild and quiet enough. No need to climb Machu Picchu. There's a mountain in your chest.
Unplug the electronic pounding. Listen to the hip hop of chickadees, acoustic bees in the lilac bush. Your first response ability is to power off, shut down, open your window and breathe.
Now listen to the real news, the throb of divine Silence gushing from the wellspring just beneath your breastbone.
Your cardiac plexus contains richer information than any media; yet it vibrates in stillness, flowing from the a priori, not through words, images or ideas, but through the amber hollow of a synapse in the blazing Life Tree of your nervous system.
To become silent is the greatest adventure. How do you do it? "Do" just slightly less than nothing.
Don't climb the mountain of mind. Follow the ancient river of surrender, the current of Prana-Shakti, down into the valley that lies between your exhalation and inhalation.
This journey takes no time. It is a journey into presence, the quest-less discovery of who you really Are, before you have a single thought, even a thought of "I." To get there, you must green and be-wild-er your heart.
But perhaps it is imprecise to call this vale of the a priori a depth: it is more intimate, more near than deep. It is not a hiding place, but the plain ever-revealed surface of awareness, the lens of infinite transparency through which you witness your thoughts and perceive the world.
You already are the source. You already are what Jesus called, "the inner spring, bubbling up unto eternal life." Don't just listen: be the effervescent silence of the listener.
Anahat, the unstruck sound of creation, echoes through your vegus nerve. Stars and planets originate in you, sparkling out of what makes you awake.
Polished by the breath of meditation, shining like a diamond with the clear light of recognition, requiring no thought or object to taste the ever-expanding bliss of the Self, your own awareness is the supreme authority. Bow down to That. Take refuge in That. Sing about That. Tat tvam asi.
You are the seat of learning, and your teacher is Wisdom herself. Know her by the musk of the dew of light born from the dark womb of your own presence. She is before the Word. She is the nectar of devotion distilled into honey sweeter than the world.
But devotion of whom? To what? Devotion of your mind to your heart, the pouring of the ghee of breath into the homa fire.
Now you can hear Saraswati's secret, Lady Hokhmah's hidden sutra, the bejeweled silence of Mother Sophia whispering, "I who enfold you am within you."
Photo: a place I go instead of the mountaintop.
"Energy is eternal delight." ~William Blake
Many of us try as hard as possible to still this wild golden splendor, give it weight, grasp and hold it, contain it in a fixed structure of practices and beliefs. Yet the only responsible thing to do is let go and rejoice, because what we are striving for is already happening, each moment.
We drown in an ocean of gold, the sea of pure consciousness. Our souls ever dance and dissolve in these waves of love, yet there's nothing we can do to harness or channel the divine energy, because it is who we Are. Can a bubble of foam control the ocean? Or course not, but it can Be water.
Let Shiva be Shiva: watch the phantasm unfold. Let Shakti be Shakti: celebrate the whirl. Let formless Silence reverberate with the causeless echo of countless forms. Let wild Stillness rise and fall in waves of self-delight. It's out of control: therefor rejoice...
Your most creative "work" will arise from this joyful surrender.
Conceptual thinking makes life seem complicated, and tears the fabric of the world to pieces. Intuition mends it, weaves it into one.
Now is the time for humanity to evolve and emerge from the cocoon of thought into the luminous air of intuition. This step doesn't add weight, but drops the burdens of past and future, worry and regret.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Take no thought for what ye shall eat or drink or what ye shall wear... Take no thought for tomorrow." He taught us to trust our intuition rather than our anxiety. Read Matthew 6:25-34 - the greatest Dharma talk ever given on the power of intuition, several thousand years ahead of its time.
Free from beliefs and ideologies that only separate us from the world, free from concepts that only divide subject from object, intuition seamlessly threads awareness through our environment. How could life be complicated when "inner" and "outer" are one continuum, and we ourselves are the warp and woof of creation?
Intuition is the world's feedback to itself, the fabric of the cosmos sensing its own pattern through us. Our intuition is the rhythmic pulse of the weaver's hand working the loom of Presence.
"That which is, is. All the trouble arises by having a conception of it." ~Ramana Maharshi
"The total number of minds in the universe is one."
The original purpose of Kali devotion was not to make a cult of our outrage, or to solidify our identity around anger: but quite the contrary, to transcend rage by embracing it in the abyss of a greater whole, a wave in love's vast ocean.
Only in that unconditional embrace may we see our bitterest enemy as Mother Kali herself, in her more distressing disguise. Without resistance, the healing heart of Wisdom enfolds our fury, transforming it into ananda. Then we know that, in the final analysis, both love and anger are made out of one energy, which is pure bliss.In much the same way that New Age culture appropriates the science of Yoga as mere exercise for the body, so we appropriate Mother Kali as a political icon for the ego of the offended party. But she will not be mocked. Kali knows no left or right. Her abysmal love swallows them both in the dark face of a beauty so intense it melts our edges.
Picture: 'Jai Kali Ma,' Sri Ramakrishna adoring Mother Kali
I honor my Mother who is buried under a willow. I honor the blessed Mother of my children, the Mother of Willy, the Mother of strays and wanderers, pregnant Mother fleeing across the border, Mother of the Poor, Mother of the Rich, Forest Mother, Mountain Mother, Valley Mother, Mother Moon, Mother Blood, Mother Serpent twined on the Tree Of Gnosis, Wolf Mother, Raven Mother, Mother Gorilla quietly munching handfuls of wild orchids, Mother Spirit, Mother Matter, Mother Om, waveless Mother Awareness in whom I know no thing, Mother Mary, Mother Kali, Mother Hokhmah, Mother of Darkness, Mother of Silence, Mother of the Word, to whom all prayers, to all gods, in all languages, return. My Mother, buried under a willow. Mingle my ashes with her.
It is beyond words. In fact, I don't even know what 'It' is. Yet It pervades me and overwhelms me like the blue sky. But one thing I do know: I don't know. 'I don't know' is a powerful mantra for cleansing the mind and opening the heart. I'm sharing this because I've noticed that so many people think they know WTF is going on. I don't envy them.
Painting, 'Meditating Daruma' by Konoe Nobutada, b. 1565. Daruna brought Buddhism to China. The emperor interrogated him. 'What have you accomplished,' the emperor asked.
'Nothing,' he replied.
'What merit have you achieved?'
'What is your teaching?'
My big brother, you led the way.
As first born son, you took upon your brow the wrath of the almighty Father so that I could be spared, although you did from time to time chase me around the yard with the Father's 22 caliber pistol loaded with blanks, while mom and dad were out partying.
You gave me the red taste of manhood, rewarding me with my first scar, which I still have under my left eye, when you flipped your best friend Dunny Dunham over your shoulder in a cowboy fight while I gazed worshipfully up at you.
It was just like a scene from 'Hoppalong Cassidy,' except that the heel of his boot came down on my cheek. I had to get 14 stitches in the hospital. To this day I point to the scar and proudly declare, "A cowboy did this to me in a fight, but he didn't mean it. He was my brother."
Mother and I went to your little league games where you played third base, and though I still don't comprehend baseball, I listened carefully to your incantations as you urged on the pitcher and pounded your mitt, teaching me the sacred art of chanting: 'Hmmmm baby hmmmm baby hmmmmm baby ki.'
When your team went to a Phillies game at Conny Mack Stadium I followed you right onto the rented school bus and you accepted me as your mascot. That was an act of grace, letting your little brother come. You didn't tease me, you fed me.
I threw up when I got home because I wasn't ready for crackerjacks hotdogs soft pretzels coke and Tasty Cake cakes and pies. But at least it wasn't Ballantine Beer: that would be a few years later.
You taught me other culinary secrets, and a most precious lesson: 'Eat whatever the hell you like,' which has served me well in a world of gluten-free vegans and corn-syrup conspiracy theorists.
I watched you in your cackie work suit come home sweaty from your first job, mowing somebody's lawn. You were fourteen, I was ten. In reverence and bewilderment I witnessed what you ate on those buggy summer afternoons in the kitchen.
Most boys demanded their mother's fish sticks or Oscar Meyer balogna. But you were a gourmet, cobbling together the exotic cuisine of the Chester County farmland, known today by connoisseurs as 'Quaker Kennett Provincal.' Your piéce de resistance: the chipped beef and jelly sandwich, washed down with icy Canada Dry ginger ale loaded with Hershey's chocolate syrup.
And now I sing of you as music mentor, who took piano lessons from weird boney old Mr. Simpson in his purple bathrobe, so that I would never have to. But you taught me the basic rock and role changes of the one-five-four chords, empowering my alto sax at boarding school when I played with the Del Chords wailing 'Louie Louie' and 'Hot Tomales.'
In fact, you led me all through my education. You preceded me at Unionville, Tower Hill, Exeter, Yale. I simply followed your footsteps, and waded joyfully through the slops of your reputation.
One evening you returned on your bicycle from Kennett, having spent the fruits of your labor on two LP's, which taught me the value of work, and the delicious freedom of wages well spent: 'Brenda Lee's Greatest Hits' and 'Elvis Is Back,' his first album after serving in the Army, 1958.
And how can I repay you for walking me home at night through the grave yard from the Kennett Movie Theater, where we watched 'Bridges at Toko Ri,' in which Micky Rooney gives his life for his country, and 'Old Yeller,' which taught me the virile yet tender wisdom of tragedy?
And after all, big brother, what did you really impart to me, if not the intangible spiritual gesture of courage called 'style,' the thing that each must touch within himself, and cultivate by being no one else.
Those were, as they say, 'the days.' And now, the years have withered to late summer gold, like poplar leaves on the lawn at Spottswood; like leaden green magnolia leaves by the edge of the 'Pine Camp.' Oh I am not surprised, big brother, that it is you who yet dwell here, in our sacred mother land, while the rest of us have wandered away...
Please keep a square foot of sod beneath the alfalfa stalks, by the pond, big brother, where the horses stand all day and whisk the flies away, and the mockingbird looks down all night from the willow, singing to reflections of the summer moon.
I want to mingle with your ashes there, and our mothers ashes, and our Father's, heaped under that willow. That would not be death, but returning... Lead the way, big brother, lead me home.
Photo: my brother Clipper strangling me on Dad's tractor