Mind, Heart, and the Current Culture of Fear

SebastienEleven-year-old Sebastien De La Cruz sang the national anthem at one of the NBA games and racist rants on twitter followed. Then, just recently, the twitter world became inflamed once again with the crowing of Nina Davuluri, an Indian-American, as Miss America.  Both incidents captured a bit of on-air news time, but what is not being ninaaddressed is the underlying cause of these less-than-enlightened knee-jerk reactions.

I was reminded of something I took note of two years ago in the post The Eve of Destruction…of Fear! where I wrote:

“…look at immigration reform. If you really think about it and look beyond the rhetoric, you will see that we are being manipulated to regard anyone who is not ‘American’ as a threat.”

Only now, it’s not just people who come here from another country who are being shunned; people who are born here are not considered to be “American” because of the way they look.

jean_houston7-203x300I remember a talk Jean Houston, author and scholar, gave at the National Headquarters of the Theosophical Society back in 1992, titled “The Greening of the American Psyche.” She said that nationalism among a country’s citizens would become stronger. The Balinese would become more Balinese etc. Her statements at the time surprised me because I thought we were supposed to be evolving past the idea of duality (separateness) and moving toward the truth of non-duality (Oneness). But today, twenty years later, I see that she was right.  With the rise of hate and so-called ‘patriot’ groups , the notion of  “we are all one” is relegated to being a quaint new-age notion that has no grounding in the material world.

Krishnamurti said, “Patriotism, whether it is of the western kind, or of the eastern kind, is the same, a poison in human beings that is really distorting thought. So patriotism is a disease, and when you begin to realize, become aware that it is a disease, then you will see how your mind is reacting to that disease. When, in time of war, the whole world talks of patriotism, you will know the falseness of it, and therefore you will act as a true human being.” You can see how those statements would have brought K to the FBI’s attention. He was under their surveillance for a time and he did not speak in public from 1940-1944.

Media outlets have been reporting on the changing demographics of this country, which are being analyzed, politicized and debated with so much rhetoric, that we need a scorecard to keep track of all the perceived traits used to identify and separate ourselves from each other.  Unfortunately, this separation has it cheerleaders in certain political and media circles, resulting in the acrimony and hate we saw directed at Sebastien De La Cruz and Nina Davuluri.

Identity, and thus duality, originates in the mind. All rhetoric, patriotic or religious, gets processed through the mind, which is where fear originates. Where are our hearts? Our heart is the place where our inner life is nurtured and from where compassion, understanding, tolerance, and yes, non-duality, is expressed.

When I wrote “The Eve of Destruction…of Fear!”, I stressed the importance of cultivating one’s inner life, through techniques like meditation, to get past the fear mongering, which is engendering a mean-spiritedness in people who claim to be Christian and who supposedly love God, but who continue to fail to recognize that there is no difference between us and the Divine.  No Difference. But isn’t it interesting that every modality that would help us reach that understanding of  ‘Oneness’ by cultivating our inner life is consistently attacked by some organized religions, who really don’t fully understand the concept in the first place, which is evident in this article from the Baptist Press.  When they hear the word “meditation,” they counter with phrases like “alternative religions” or “cults.”

I’ve said before that the world is shallow, noisy, and divisive, so it’s not that difficult to keep people stuck in duality/fear as it’s constantly propagated by the patriotic and religious agenda pushing of governments, churches, and media outlets.  They may be able to reach your mind, but they cannot reach your heart, unless you allow it.

“Mind, once swallowed by the Heart, is burped up as silence and peace.’  ~ Mooji

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Born-Again!?

256px-Born-again_atheist_badge,_c.1987There are polls suggesting that atheism is on the rise. I just read through a list of ‘famous atheists’ and noticed that many of these people (there are a lot of celebrities on this particular list) consider themselves atheists because they equate God with organized religion. Heck, I’d probably be one too if I made that connection. I wish more people realized that God and organized religion (as it is today) are about as mutually exclusive as you can get.  And although Pope Francis tried to bridge the gap between believers and non-believers, the Vatican still holds that if you don’t follow the Church’s teachings you are going to hell. Talk about lousy public relations. And to dare contradict what the Pope said shows how afraid the Vatican is of losing control over the masses. The interesting thing, though, is that atheism, organized religion, and the material world share a common bond; they are all born and live in duality.

Organized religions attempt to take something that is formless and give it form or structure. To believe that God, the Absolute, which is pure Consciousness, has no form is a tough concept to get, so religions give God a form or face. The form that people use as their personal God is called their Ishwara.  There is nothing wrong with having an Ishwara – it certainly helps with bhakti (devotion) – but there will come a time when all form needs to be discarded. Form perpetuates duality (God is separate from who I am) and to be stuck in form will keep you stuck in duality (separation).

A major reason atheists reject the notion of the Divine, is their assumption that religions contradict each other with the assertion that theirs embody the only true God. Sri Ramakrishna, probably the greatest saint India has ever produced, studied all religions, including Christianity and Islam (yes, Islam) and found they all lead to the same God, having truth at their heart. Unfortunately, that truth gets lost under the layers of dogma, rules, control, and fear mongering, which bastardize the teachings and give rise to the divisive right-wing fanaticism we see today. And while I understand the reasoning behind rejecting organized religion, I don’t get rejecting the notion of the Sacred because of it. That’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, if you ask me.

The rest of the people on the list of “famous atheists” are either scientists or some other sort of academic, which use curiosity as the driving force.  Curiosity is important; it is the spark that propels the search for truth, but scientific research is limited and words are limited, as they attempt to explain something that essentially defies explanation in the material world. It’s not that they’re useless in searching, but the seeker should not pin his or her hopes of finding Truth on either.

When you engage in philosophical discussion, even if the discussion is about non-duality, eventually you get caught up in the illusion of the ego as it becomes buried under a mountain of thoughts. When you engage in scientific research, you are bound by a methodology that also keeps you stuck in the illusion. So, a laboratory or philosophical debate can never yield Truth because the medium used to find the answers is based in duality – the unreal. You’re either stuck in a lab or in the mind and you can never find the real in the unreal. In these scenarios, the best you can hope for is a direction for your seeking or an intellectual understanding of some sort, which is not entirely a bad thing because it keeps you asking questions. Also, let me add that science is beginning to recognize that there may be more to what we see as the ‘material’ world, which leads me to the next point.

As I see it, the basic problem with atheism is the unwillingness to consider the idea  that anything exists outside of the material world. And even though science is making some headway in this area, i.e. the world as a hologram, it will be a bitter pill for many to swallow. Not only because old habits (beliefs) die hard, but also because it will be difficult to fully comprehend the ramifications such discoveries have on our perception of the world and our lives in it.  This would mean bridging the gap between duality and non-duality, acknowledging that the idea of a world with form (duality) will need to be discarded in favor of the idea of a world composed of One Consciousness (non-duality).  Shifting paradigms is no easy task – just ask Copernicus.

I found it interesting that some of the atheists listed said (I’m paraphrasing here) that what is important is that we be kind to each other.  If they only realize that we should be kind to each other because we are each other, then they will have captured Truth – without following any dogma or doctrine. Imagine that!

A Spiritual Conundrum

Understanding the difference between the perceived and the perceiver is the essence of non-duality. The perceived is duality; the perceiver is non-duality. Duality allows the Absolute to experience its own creation, which it does through us, as we are an extension of the Absolute. But here’s the thing, because of duality we don’t realize this. See the problem?

You can’t ‘think’ your way through this. The mind won’t let you. The mind keeps you caught in a spiritual quagmire from which it’s impossible to extricate yourself. The truth lies in direct experience. Knowing doesn’t come from the mind. You must suspend thought to experience Truth.

In this video, Advaita Master Mooji explains the spiritual conundrum in which all seekers find themselves.

Ego – The Love/Hate Relationship

By Perfilbtl (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

During any sadhana, the seeker will be faced with unflattering aspects of oneself.  In my personal sadhana, which is shaktipat sadhana, these aspects are merely karmas that the Shakti is removing. My teacher tells us that all we can do is watch, but that doesn’t always help the character (ego) when it is experiencing the emotionality of anger, jealousy, judgment, and the like.  Even with the tools and techniques my teacher has given us to detach from the “emotional roller coaster,” as he likes to put it, getting caught up in negative emotions seems to be a normal part of the process.

The good news is that as karmas are removed, we find fewer buttons get pushed and life goes along in a smoother fashion. That is not to say that the external parts of life get easier; that is to say that we remain calm in the face of whatever happens, because the karmic trigger is gone. Acceptance of ‘what is’ is easier allowing one to go with the flow of life.

It wasn’t until shaktipat that I came to realize the ego is nothing more than a bundle of karmas. These karmas prevent us from knowing who we really are, which is pure Divine Consciousness, and perpetuates the duality, the notion that we are separate from everyone and everything, with which we experience our reality.

So therein lies the problem. With nearly 7 billion people on the planet, every single one of them, by nature of their individual karmas, have their own perception of how the world should be and many attempt to force this perception on the rest of us. Until we understand the non-dual nature of reality – that all is One – conflict and suffering will continue to plague us.  You don’t need to have shaktipat in order to understand non-duality.  Any spiritual path will lead you to this conclusion; shaktipat just happened to be the path I landed on.

My teacher likes to use the example of scarves covering the light of a lamp as a metaphor for the layers of ego or karmas that hide the light of our true selves. But in this analogy, the removal of the layers appears to be a gentle process. For me, as well as some of my fellow students on this path, the removal of karmas can sometimes feel more like ripping off a band-aid covering a still open wound. You feel exposed and vulnerable. Sometimes an ‘ego-loathing’ (in lieu of self-loathing) sets in. We are urged not to indulge in ‘mea culpas,’ but instead to be gentle with ourselves through this process. This will help us recognize the divinity within not only ourselves, but in everyone else out there struggling with the illusion of duality.

Some Tools for the Nondual Mind

In the last post, I talked about how reality just might be an illusion because physicists are now suggesting that the material world is nothing more than a hologram, which would confirm what Eastern traditions have recognized all along, which is that “reality is an illusion.”  There is also the suggestion of the interconnectedness of everything in our universe – that everything comes from the same ‘Source.’  Understanding that “we are all one” is becoming more and more obvious to us all, though the deeper implications of this statement still eludes us.

Duality implies separateness – the idea that we are separate from everything and everyone. Non-duality, on the other hand, implies the opposite. Non-duality implies “Oneness.”  So let’s see what can help us understand a deeper layer of reality.

Various traditions give us simple, helpful tips. Here are a couple of them:

1)   In certain yogas, repeating, “Neti Neti “ translated as “Not this, not this” to everything we see helps us to recognize that the material is not real.

2)   The first lesson in the Course in Miracles is similar in that it has the student look at various objects and repeat, “This table (or book or coffee cup) doesn’t mean anything.”

These exercises serve a couple of purposes. They help the person understand that the physical world is not real, thus allowing him/her to transcend the material and come closer to understanding the Sacred, the Infinite Source, which created the illusion and is therefore the only thing that is real. Also, this exercise helps free the student of judgment. He/she does not form any opinion about anything. Everything just is. These are simple techniques that offer interesting insights. With the right intention, they are definitely worth giving a try.