Archive for the spirituality Category

The Collapse of Modern Civilization

Posted in activism, alternative, analysis, anthropology, books, Chomsky, class, climate change, collapse, common ground, consciousness, crash, crisis of democracy, democracy, ecological crisis, ecology, economic collapse, economics, economy, elite, empire, empowerment, end-game, environment, Eric Fromm, fascism, freedom, geopolitics, global warming, globalism, globalization, good news, history, imperialism, inspiration, must-read, neo-feudalism, neocon, neoconservatism, neoliberalism, peak oil, people's movements, philosophy, police state, policy, political economy, political philosophy, political theory, politics, politics of oil, post-carbon, reading, resources, science, social theory, sociology, spirituality, sustainability, the world's other superpower, Uncategorized, war on democracy with tags , , , , , , on March 12, 2020 by jtoddring

More than 150 years ago Thoreau commented, “Our sills are all rotten.” He was right. It is for that reason that Western, and Westernized, “modern” “civilization” is collapsing.

This could be cataclysmic, of course, (as in, an ecological holocaust), or relatively peaceful, (akin to the Maya abandoning their great cities and returning to rural village life). As a grand transformation, it could be more of a collapse, or more of a thoughtful and voluntary transition. So, the spectrum is between cataclysmic and relatively peaceful transition, depending on how we respond to the collapse that is already in progress and well under way.

We needn’t be pathetically fatalistic, it should be noted,  for that is self-neutering, self-disembowelling, and self-lobotomizing. But we do need to deal with reality. The slowmotion collapse of modern civilization is unfolding now.

At present, most nations are paying lip service to the growing, interconnected crises that we face. As a result, most nations and regions will likely experience the unfolding collapse and tectonic transition in cataclysmic ways, to varying degrees, unless radical action is taken en mass, and immediately.

Avoidance of reality never works well as a strategy for responding to change.

 

That does not mean that all is lost. We should, along with radical efforts at social change, and serious contingency planning, also look to the road ahead: to what comes after the transition, or collapse, as the case may be – and again, it will be more one or the other depending on the nation, region and community.

Thomas Kuhn’s, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, along with Stephen Toulmin’s Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity, among other important works, beginning with Thoreau’s, Walden, mark the beginning of the end of modernism – and they mark the beginning of post-modernism and the post-modern era. (Or whatever terms we come to settle on, after the dust settles.)

If the terms post-modernism and the post-modern era have any meaning at all, it is not in that pseudo-intellectual bog that is the incoherent and self-contradictory collection of thoughts in Western “philosophy” that have taken hostage of the minds of the Western intelligentsia for the past 50 years, and which is called “post-modernism”. No, it is here, in the deeper, more lucid critique of modernism, and the pseudo-scientific, quasi-religious ideology of modernism, and the social structures, institutions, power structures and systems of modernism which are built on this castle of sand, and which have dominated the world for the past 300 years, and which are collapsing now, thankfully.

And if we are to survive as a species, we will have to hasten their demise. 

Toulmin, Kuhn, Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Fromm, Kropotkin, Chomsky, Rifkin, Kroker, Orwell, Bookchin, Eisler, Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, Aldous Huxley, Allan Wallace, Joanna Macy, Vandana Shiva, Margaret Atwood, Ronald Wright, Jared Diamond, Wade Davis, Mathiew Stein, David Suzuki, and Helena Norberg-Hodge, Michael Hudson, Ellen Brown, Yanis Varoufakis, Naomi Wolf, Naomi Klein, Gregory Bateson, EF Schumacher, Morris Berman, and yes, Nagarjuna, Shankara, Meister Eckhart, Lao Tzu, La Boite, Socrates and Spinoza, are a few of the guiding lights who can help lead us into the post-carbon, possibly post-collapse, post-modern era, through the 21st century and beyond, with confidence, compassion, and clarity of mind.

And we will need every source of good guidance and light we can find.

Keep calm, and let the revolution, and rebuilding, begin.

We must remember, however, that there are two extremes to be avoided. One is passivity. The other is fascism. Both are “trending now”.

JTR,

March 12, 2020

 

Fantasy and Indoctrination: Rough notes on a few fantasy novels: part two

Posted in analysis, anthropology, books, consciousness, elite, empire, empowerment, fascism, Feudalism, freedom, imperialism, neo-feudalism, Orwell, philosophy, police state, political philosophy, propaganda, psychology, reading, religious philosophy, social theory, sociology, spirituality, Uncategorized, war on democracy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2020 by jtoddring

Here are two more fantasy books that I could not get through. That makes three in a row. And to think, I had a love affair with Terry Brookes’ Shannara series!

(I read something like 20 Shannara novels in a row, and loved all of them, other than the last two that I read, which had morphed into fantasy/sci-fi, which was not my taste (do one or the other, but not a hybrid, please); and worse, had taken gruesome, graphic and grotesquely disturbing scenes, to new lows – well beyond anything I care to read. That was The Jerle Shannara trilogy. Yikes.)

The novel described above, in Part One of this review, New Yawn, The Novel, was incredibly boring, as I say, to me at least; and increasingly felt like it was entirely devoted to depicting life in a rich girl’s boarding school. Amazingly boring. And disgusting in its love affair with feudalism, and the infantile grandiosity that comes generally with a love of status and power.

*

The book I just put down, at page 5, likely to never pick up again, might be well-loved by many; and maybe a great book – I don’t know. To me, it was just another Harry Potter imitation, like the above book – and again, written for pre-teens. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course – I just happen to be 53. Teenage and pre-teen humour and interests don’t generally interest me.

I can’t say if the book is suitable for pre-teens, or teenage readers, or “young adults”, to use the catch-all term; or whether, like many “young adult” books, it would seem to me akin to feeding rat poison to your 10 year old,12 year old – or 17 year old. The things that children are freely allowed to ingest, both physically and mentally, is pretty appalling to me, in this now highly lackadaisical society.

(We went from overly strict and authoritarian, to letting kids do, read, eat and watch, just about whatever they like, far too often, and in too many ways. Balance is needed. And guidance. And a little more reflectivity and discernment – or a lot.)

All I can say is, it’s not a very engaging read for anyone over the age of 15, from what I can see. (I do wish fantasy novels would be marked as young adult, when that is clearly who they are written for.)

This is the first book of the widely, it seems, acclaimed Spellslinger series. Since puberty passed a few decades ago for me, I’ll pass it up. I do hope others who are younger enjoy it. And I hope it has writing quality, and also content, that are above banal, and definitely above putrid in terms of content or ideology/mythology/values. I couldn’t say anything much about it after just five pages, other than it’s age level was not suitable for me.

The Rage of Dragons? Now there is a book that qualifies as genuinely putrid to me, judging from what I could get through. After 20-some pages, of, again, extremely boring, flat, lifeless writing, that was filled with action, but remained entirely on the surface, and without any depth; and was even worse in terms of content than style, by far; I had to put it aside before my stomach turned.

The book seems like another Harry Potter / Tolkien spinoff/imitation. Not that that would necessarily be bad, if done well; but it wasn’t. The style was entirely flat. Far worse, the mythological/ideological/philosophical content was grotesque.

Tolkien, and his star pupil, Terry Brookes, like CS Lewis, wove tales of magic and adventure that not only entertained, but also had a moral vision. Egotism, greed and hate were depicted as faults to be corrected and overcome, not virtues to be emulated and lauded. Narcissism, vanity, arrogance, self-importance: these were mocked, scorned, or held up as something foolish and childish at best; dangerous and insane at worst. And lust for power, like sadism and malice, was portrayed as simply evil – to be opposed and vanquished, not imitated and esteemed.

Both New Spring and The Rage of Dragons had the values inversed. That makes them ideologically putrid, to my mind. Both books, and especially the latter, seem to me to be morally bankrupt, and poisonously misguiding to any who read them. The love of power is not glorious. It is a deeply dangerous social evil, which poisons the mind of the person who succumbs to it. Both books seem to rejoice in it. The former more subtly; the latter, overtly.

The Rage of Dragons is worse, maybe, because in addition to its unabashed gloating over power, ego, status, and feudal/class/caste relations, it seemed to me to tell the reader that, yes, black people and people of colour can be unabashed, ruthless, brutal imperialists, as well – and isn’t that just lovely! (We now have a gender-inclusive, multi-cultural imperialism. Isn’t that just swell.)

Again, both Thomas Jefferson and George Orwell would roll in their graves. So would Mark Twain, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others of sound mind and great character, who opposed and despised imperialism, in all its forms.

So no, “light reading” is not always neutral, or harmless. Sometimes it is nothing less than mental poison – like the corporate-state “news”.

Just turn it off. Change the channel.

Now, back to Dickens, Dumas, Shakespeare, and Le Guin – where sanity still reigns, and the values are not in the sewer.

JTR,
March 7, 2020

Reflections On Stillness & Action

Posted in activism, analysis, consciousness, empowerment, epistemology, freedom, healing, health, inspiration, ontology, people's movements, philosophy, political philosophy, political theory, psychology, religious philosophy, social theory, sociology, spirituality, sustainability, the world's other superpower, theology, truth, Uncategorized, wellness on February 25, 2020 by jtoddring

We need stillness and action – both, and urgently so. This should be becoming perfectly clear.

I’ve travelled through 20 countries, but still I find stillness the greatest adventure, and most rewarding, enriching journey of all. Going to the mountain top is exceedingly worthwhile, but going deep within is what makes it worthwhile. Reading thousands of books and travelling the world has been extraordinarily enriching and illuminating; but simply being still, and simply being, with gratitude, simplicity, wakefulness and attention, opens doors that cannot even be found, in any other way. As a dear friend said, “Be still, and seek the light.” I heartily agree! Action is required in order to heal our world, and urgently so. But stillness is required if our actions are to be sufficiently thoughtful or clear-minded to be a positive success.

 – J. Todd Ring,

 Author of Enlightened Democracy: Visions For A New Millennium, and The People Vs The Elite

The Lion’s Roar: Cutting through illusion to the heart of the matter

Posted in analysis, books, common ground, consciousness, cosmology, empowerment, epistemology, freedom, inspiration, must-read, ontology, peace, philosophy, political philosophy, political theory, psychology, quotes, religion, religious philosophy, social theory, spirituality, truth with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2013 by jtoddring
“There is no difference between theism and non-theism, basically speaking. Declaring an involvement with any kind of ‘ism’ turns out to be a matter of self and other. In fact, the whole question of self and other can then become very important. But if you really pursue any spiritual path, you will discover, surprisingly, that self and other are one thing. Self is other, other is self.”
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Speaking of Silence

It is extremely rare to hear anyone speak of spirituality or philosophy who actually gets to the heart of the matter, and does not merely flit about the surface. Chogyam Trungpa and a handful of others are the exception to the rule. In a sea of noise and dross, confusion and illusion, such voices of basic sanity are profoundly refreshing to hear.

The atheists and the theists are both off the mark – the former probably more so than the latter, admittedly. But that is alright. They will figure it out sooner or later. Reality will dawn on all, eventually.

“The number of minds in the universe is one.” – Erwin Schrodinger

“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us “universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

More from Trungpa Rinpoche:

GREAT COMPASSION IS PAINFULLY REASONABLE

“With great compassion, because you have developed clarity, you do not have doubts and you are not unreasonable. You realize that the best way to be skillful is to be reasonable. When you are fully reasonable, actually reasonable—and to a certain extent, painfully reasonable—you begin to experience the genuineness of situations and act accordingly, in a way that is appropriate to the situation.”

—The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma, Volume Two, by Chögyam Trungpa http://www.shambhala.com/the-bodhisattva-path-of-wisdom-and-compassion.html

The second central truth to all authentic spiritual paths, is that, since self and other are intimately related, interconnected, interdependent, and in truth, one, therefore, love, kindness and compassion are not just nice, pleasant, virtuous or noble, but simply a matter also of enlightened self-interest.

If we are awake, then we will live with compassion. That is the central teaching of all the great religions. It is also the central premise of the Enlightenment – the central underlying value which underpins and is the foundation of the core Enlightenment values of liberty, equality, solidarity and democracy. This is the foundation for an enlightened life, and also, an enlightened society.

J. Todd Ring,
November 13, 2013

For further reading, see Ken Wilber, No Boundary; Alan Watts, The Book; Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy; Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe; Renee Weber, Dialogues With Scientists and Sages; Holgar Kalweit, Dreamtime and Inner Space; Joanna Macy, World As Lover, World As Self; The Diamond Sutra, The Heart Sutra, The Prajnaparamita Sutra, The Uttaratantra; The Tao Te Ching and Chuang Tzu; The Gospel of Thomas, Marvin Meyers Transl; Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Harvard Divinity School Address; and the writings of Chogyam Trungpa – as a good start.

Country life, and the glory of silence

Posted in philosophy, spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2013 by jtoddring

I say aloud to myself, “Ahh…it’s so quite here! Thank God I moved to the country!” And the words reverberate warmly through the room, their sound highlighting by contrast the rich, glorious silence which they flow through, like ripples on a shimmering lake, the glint of sunlight reflecting diamonds all around.

Not always am I able to see the majesty and peace that is within me and all around me. A quiet and peaceful place certainly makes it easier, I have found. Some days are stormy; others, serene; and some, simply blissful. Today, there is a quiet bliss – the joy of simply being.

As Voltaire said, “Paradise, is where I am.” It is where any of us can be, if we become inwardly still and present enough to see it. But we have to stop clutching at glass beads long enough to notice that richness and expansiveness of being which is eternally present.

East and West agree – or at least, the sages from both hemispheres are in full agreement. The ground of being is pure and empty – and rich beyond measure: and it is always present, within us, and all around us. Let those who have ears hear; let those who have eyes see.

As a dear and wise friend once said, “Be still, and seek the light.”

Nirvana and samsara are one. The kingdom of heaven is within you.

J. Todd Ring,
October 20, 2013

The Key of Keys

Posted in analysis, books, Buddha, Christianity, common ground, consciousness, cosmology, empowerment, epistemology, freedom, inspiration, Jesus, must-read, Nag Hammadi, ontology, peace, philosophy, psychology, quotes, reading, religion, religious philosophy, resources, science, spirituality, theology, truth, wellness, world religions with tags , , , , , on September 18, 2013 by jtoddring

Egoless divine pride: the most glorious concept I have ever heard – from Tibetan Buddhism. The Uttara Tantra elaborates:

There once was a prince, who lost his memory and forgot who he was. Lost in forgetfulness and confusion, he wandered aimlessly, and became a homeless beggar. Years later, a minister to the king came across him, and recognized him in his dirty rags and filth. He exclaimed, “My prince! Your father has been worried sick about you! What are you doing? You must come home at once!”

The Upanishads tell a similar story. There once was a god who dreamed he was a pig. For years he wallowed in the muck and the mud, oblivious to who he was. After a long time, the other gods became pained by his confusion and his delusion, and called out to him: “You are not a pig – you are a god! Stop this madness, and remember who you are!”

Or again, from the Uttara Tantra: There once was a poor farmer, desolate in his impoverishment and despair. Daily he ploughed his fields, eking out a meagre existence, never knowing there was a great treasure buried right beneath his house.

Or as Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”

Or as Meister Eckhart, the 13th century German Christian mystic, the archetypal Western mystic said, “There is nothing I can point to that is not God. God is within me, and God is all around me.”

Or as Lao Tzu phrased it: Return to the source – return to your original nature. There you will find peace, joy, liberation, the ultimate happiness, and your authentic self – your true nature.

Or William Blake: “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is – infinite.”

This is the perennial wisdom. It has surfaced in all cultures in all times. It is the timeless wisdom. It is the voice of wisdom leading you home to yourself.

Know thyself. You are not less than you think you are, but inconceivably more. Your being is commensurate with the universe itself. Awaken!

Don’t be absorbed in yourself. Everyone has pain; everyone suffers. Life is full of suffering, as well as beauty and joy. Shift the focus from your own happiness to that of others. If you do, you will be surprised, maybe even amazed – and you will find happiness.

It is not always easy, no doubt: it takes effort, and practice, but it is worth it, and it pays off. And it pays off the most when you seek nothing and expect nothing. Love others, and peace and joy will come flowing in. It is a matter of a subtle shift of perspective – that is the entire answer to everything: a subtle shift of perspective. Parallax is the word. Shift the perspective, and everything becomes clear.

And remember, the yin – to use the Eastern terms  – that is, the receptive, is in certain important ways superior. The yang, the assertive principle, is useful, and also essential, vitally essential; but the yin is the foundation.  Knowing and opening to the yin, the receptive, will allow you to harmonize with others, and with life and nature: and that is the basis of relative happiness, ordinary happiness.

Deeply opening to the yin, the receptive, is the gateway to true knowledge, to prajna, to wisdom, to knowing who you are, and to returning to the source, the true nature of your own being.

Therefore, protect and nurture the yin, just as you respect and embrace the yang. Harshness will damage the yin, as the Taoists have rightly remarked. Beware of aggression, which is the exaggeration of the yang principle of assertion – either in others, or especially in yourself. Be gentle with yourself as well as others. There are times for firmness, and times even for fierceness; but gentleness is the best general rule.

With gentleness as the general rule, not only will you avoid harming others, not only will you avoid the blowback and negative repercussions that come from harming others, but you will avoid harming yourself – and avoid harming your vision, which is most important. To sow your own suffering is tragic, ill-advised and unwise. To cut out your eyes and perpetuate your own blindness, is worse by far.

Don’t rush, and don’t hesitate. Rushing is an imbalance toward the yang, and leads to aggression and strife, as well as stress, strain and exhaustion. Hesitation is an imbalance toward the yin, an excess of yielding or receptivity which creates a collapse into passivity, which leads to self-disempowerment and a loss of vitality, as well as a loss of satisfaction and joy. Find the middle way. Not too tight; not to loose. When in doubt, be gentle, and pay attention: the cues to action will reveal themselves in their own time.

Remember also, as the Zen saying goes: Before enlightenment, the dishes. After enlightenment, the dishes. The little things matter. Show care in all you do. And enjoy the journey.

Seek. Contemplate. Combine method and wisdom, effort with seeing – like the two wings of a bird, which give it flight. Then glimpse. Taste. Meditate. Know. Understand. Have confidence. And abide in your true nature, which is the infinite ground of being itself, commensurate with the entire cosmos in all its vastness, emptiness and glory. There is no more to be said. This is the key of keys.

J. Todd Ring

Sept 16, 2013

(See Lama Yeshe, Namkai Norbu or Sogyal Rinpoche for further reading, along with The Power of Myth, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, the Heart Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, the Prajnaparamita Sutra, the Uttara Tantra, The Mother of the Buddhas, The Gospel of Thomas (Marvin Meyers, transl.), The Perennial Philosophy, The Divinity School Address, Ken Wilber’s No Boundary, Michael Talbot’s The |Holographic Universe, Holgar Kalweit’s Dreamtime and Inner Space, Joanna Macy’s World As Lover, World As Self, and Alan Watts’, The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.)

The schizoid nature of the Western world: Overcoming the root paradox of Western civilization – and our own minds

Posted in analysis, anthropology, Buddha, Christianity, common ground, consciousness, cosmology, empowerment, freedom, history of Christianity, inspiration, life, peace, philosophy, Plato, political philosophy, political theory, psychology, quotes, religion, religious philosophy, resources, science, social theory, sociology, spirituality, theology, truth, world religions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2011 by jtoddring

The Western world is still trapped in a paradox and a self-contradiction of our own making: we are schizoid with regards to the body, the material world and to our physicality. On the one hand, we have, as people of the modern world, embraced our physicality, and even gone headlong into a love-affair with it, and are absorbed and engrossed in physicality, materialism, consumerism and the sensuous – fascinated and engrossed by the mere surface of things. On the other hand, we still retain the legacy of more than two thousand years of Judeo-Christian distrust, contempt, fear and loathing of the physical, and seek to avoid, escape transcend or be rid of the physical and all its perceive evil and limitations. Again, we are entangled in a paradox and a self-contradiction of our own making. To resolve the paradox and end the war that rages within us, and that we inflict outwardly upon the world in our confusion and pain, we must go to the roots, and reflect deeply.

Because we are not fully at home with either the spiritual or the physical, there is a pervasive alienation and gnawing discontent across the modern world – we are in a perpetual state of exile, always unconsciously nostalgic for paradise lost, longing or home, and always searching, restless, uneasy and hungry within. This alienation and inner hunger in turn drives the consumerism, voyeurism, escapism and quiet despair which plagues the modern world, and which in turn creates and underlies the ecological imbalance and devastation, injustice and war that is tearing the world to pieces, and threatens to extinguish all hopes for a bright future for humanity – or any future at all. To resolve this deep-seated paradox that lies at the heart of Western and Westernized civilization, and also within ourselves, is not only to heal our own fractured souls, but to begin to heal the world. But if we are to resolve the paradox, the internal contradiction, the war within, we must first understand it.

The root problem is a perceived duality or division between spirit and the flesh, or mind and matter, consciousness and the material world. Such a duality does not exist – other than in the fantasy world of our own imaginings. To redress the imbalance that we live under and within, we cannot simply go to one side, and reject one half of the infinite knot of interdependence which is the ground of being and the nature and fabric of existence. We have tried that for over two millennia, and that method has failed, and failed miserably and utterly. We cannot reject one half of our existence and ever hope for peace, for wisdom, for joy, for happiness, or even for basic sanity. Body and mind are one. Spirit and the flesh are not separate. Consciousness and the material are not two, but inseparable. When we begin to realize this, we will begin to be free, and we will begin to live in peace, and in the fullness of our being. Jesus and the Buddha, Shankara and the Kabbalah, and all of our greatest sages, prophets, mystics and visionaries have seen this, and have tried to rouse us from our disturbed and discordant slumber, but we have not yet listened, have not yet had ears to hear.

“We may therefore regard matter as being constituted by the regions of space in which the field is extremely intense… There is no place in this new kind of physics for both the field and matter, for
the field is the only reality.” – Einstein

“The perception of a division between self and other is a kind of optical delusion.” – Einstein

“Form is emptiness, emptiness is form;
form is not other than emptiness, emptiness is not other than form.”
– The Heart of the Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom

“When the two become one, then you shall see.” – Jesus

How do we proceed to rectify the situation, to restore wholeness, peace, basic sanity and clear vision? There are many ways we can approach the question, the essential paradox of not only our civilization, but of being itself, but ultimately, we must realize this: if we wish to transcend the physical, we can only succeed by embracing it; and if we wish to fully embrace the physical, it will not be possible until we have realized its transcendent nature. When the two become one, then you shall see.

If we wish to embrace the physical and live with a richness of sensory experience – which, it would seem, a majority of people in the modern world, both East and West, North and South, now wish to do, and passionately so – then we shall have to realize the true nature of the physical: which is the true nature of being. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. If you believe that things are concrete and inherently existing “out there,” separate from yourself, then you are living in an illusion, and only pain can come from illusion. We are still dwellers of the cave of shadows, to use Plato’s analogy. It is time we ventured out into the light of day.

Unity and diversity are inseparable – they are two sides of the same coin: this is the union of opposites which is the heart of being, and the very fabric of existence. “Things” and beings are not two but one. When it is realized that the two are one, then the physical can be embraced without risk of getting lost in grasping, confusion, and the pain and suffering that inevitably arises from attachment and clinging, which in turn arises only from the illusion of duality, the illusion of separation. Until the unity of being is discovered, any attempt to embrace the physical or the sensory, material world, will be fraught with suffering, anxiety and fear. “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all these things shall be added unto you.” Find the real within the heart of being, and the world is transformed from a mixture of pleasure and pain, fear and delight, into a paradise of open-hearted, unqualified joy – the peace that surpasseth all.

Until the non-duality of being is seen and realized, it is wise to live with as little clinging and grasping attachment as possible, and instead, cultivate a simple appreciation for what is, along with an open heart and a presence of mind. These qualities or states of mind will not only allow for much more happiness and peace, but will open the door to wisdom, and to seeing. Life can be enjoyed. And it will be enjoyed much more when delight replaces craving, and appreciation replaces attachment. Until the wisdom of directly perceiving the non-dual nature of being dawns in our minds, this is the course of the wise, or simply the sane path of life: the path of peace.

Alternately, if we wish to transcend the material and the physical, and find solace or salvation, illumination, peace or joy in the transcendent realm of the spirit, then we will have to sooner or later come to terms with the body and the material, for the two are one, and to reject the one is to miss the other. Peace is not found or attained through war, and the war within is what prevents us from seeing, and therefore from experiencing and knowing and being peace.

To emphasize the spiritual over the material, or consciousness over the purely physical, is the safer and also the more direct and more intelligent path to the resolution of the paradox and the solution to life’s riddle, generally speaking, although there are always exceptions, depending on the particular psyche of the individual and what works best for him or her. But to embrace and pursue or dive deep into the life of the mind and the spiritual is not necessarily to reject, banish or despise the physical and the material. To have contempt and disdain for the material and the physical is to miss the truth entirely, and to be forever at one end of a yo-yo, trying to maintain that precarious position through sheer will, when that position is artificial and impossible to sustain, since it is based in delusion: the delusion of duality. It is like trying to find your nose by cutting off the rest of your head. It doesn’t work. (The analogy is poor, for that which we are seeking, which we do not yet understand, is that which is All in all, and not merely a part among other parts – but the violence we do to ourselves by denying one half of the inseparable unity of being is accurately, if in an understated way, represented here.)

If we want to transcend the physical and material limits of time and space, our bodies or the world, then we shall have to embrace these, and not flee them. This is the fact. You can hypothesize and theologize `till you’re blue in the face, lacerate yourself with infinite cuts from the lash and your own self-flaggellation, lay on beds of nails and eat nothing but a grain of rice for eons, but you will not find the truth, nor will you find true transcendence or the depth or heights of the spiritual with such a deluded, dualistic and one-sided view. Contrary to the maxim of Orwell’s nightmarish depiction of our possible future, war is not peace, and neither does war lead to peace. War neither leads to wisdom, and war is what we have been practicing for some millennia now.

If we wish to transcend the physical, we shall have to embrace it – not by chasing after it, nor by clinging desperately and fearfully to it, but by simply allowing it to be, with openness, compassion and a calm abiding that can begin to see through the illusion of duality, division, alienation and separation. (The exile from paradise exists only in our minds. It is our forgetfulness of what is real that is our banishment, and we did that ourselves – so long ago, that we have forgotten the act which we even then misunderstood. Genesis is what we may call, a parable. It is not to be taken literally!)

Only that which we embrace can we transcend. Yes, we may be afraid of getting lost in that which we embrace, and that is a risk, but to shun or hate that which we wish to transcend will only lead us into a defensive and paranoid mode of being, in which neither the truth nor the depth or height or breadth or reality of spirit or being can be seen or found.

That which is rejected is secretly clung to, for to push away is to grasp and attempt to throw, but the grasping remains the central and underlying fact, as all zealots and Puritans and fundamentalists should some day come to realize. To reject is to be reactionary, and when we are reactionary, we are not free or transcendent of that which we are rejecting, but tied to it through our reaction to it, like Pavlov’s dog, who is ever bound to the spell of the bell. It is a conundrum that cannot be solved by the same kind of thinking that created it, to paraphrase Einstein. This koan, like all koans or paradoxes, must be resolved by discovering a deeper, broader, higher or more subtle way of seeing, so that the paradox is no longer an entanglement, but naturally resolves itself. When the bubble of our illusions burst, we may cry, or we may feel afraid, but if they burst at a deep enough level, and we see they were merely illusions, then laughter and joy will arise, and there will be a great and indescribable relief. At the very least, bursting the bubble of our illusions, however we may respond to it, removes more layers of fog from our minds, and opens the doors of our minds to a deeper and richer experience of reality and of life. The piercing of the clouds of illusion is the entirety of the path. Let us not be addicted to our illusions, but be glad to be rid of them.

To transcend the physical we must embrace the physical: and we do so, not by clinging to things, but by a simple openness of heart and an appreciation and compassion for what is. In that open space – which we do not create, but merely acknowledge, and allow to be – there is the ground of being, and there is the ground of our awakening. There, and there alone, will we find the path to peace, to transcendent joy, and to the ultimate truth. There is no path, in actuality, but only an opening to what is. In that opening, the truth is seen. And when it is seen, it is realized that it has ever been, that it has always been present, and that we could not have been separate from it for a moment, but only forgetful of it.

The truth is here. Open the heart and find it. Set yourself free. The truth is the key. And you hold that key, for you hold the key to your heart, and none other.

*

If we wish for happiness, to be of benefit or help to others, or to know the truth – that is, if we wish for richness of life, quality of life, fullness of life, a meaningful life, joy or peace; or if we want to be truly effective in helping others, and bringing them peace and happiness and freedom from suffering; or if we simply wish to know and understand the true nature of life, the world or our own being – then we must come to understand that these four elements are the keys: compassion, feeling, reflection and openness. With these four, all doors open, sooner or later – that is, all doors that are worthwhile to open – and not only are joy and peace found, but also the empowerment to be of greater help to others, and the wisdom of knowing the true nature of things. In this short meditation I have emphasized openness, but all four elements are needed to bring us to the capacity to realize and achieve these goals.

End the war now. Open the heart to what is and to all beings, and realize who you are.

Emptiness is the ultimate key. Emptiness is the doorway to fullness. It is only by being empty that we can become truly filled. Voidness is truth: and voidness is the infinite; and the infinite is the very ground of being itself – the nature of who you are, and the nature of all things. Form and emptiness are one. Neither can be reduced to the other, as the materialists and the world-rejecting spiritualists have presumed. Clinging to worldly things, or rejecting and hating worldly things, clinging to the transcendent or clinging to the material and the physical: these are two sides of the same coin, and they both represent the illusion of duality, and reaffirm the illusion of duality. Simply be, open the heart, and see what is. Let compassion and joy move you, and be not afraid. There is nothing real that can be threatened, and there is nothing unreal that exists. Open the heart, embrace life, and see.

The truth is not only close at hand, not only within you and all around you: it is all that exists.

We have been sleep-walking for some time. It is time to awake.

JTR,
September 13, 2011

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