Peace on Earth

UnknownI usually like to end each year (and begin each new one) with some thoughts other than “I’m definitely going on that diet tomorrow,” which okay, still happens I’ll admit.  Every year, when I send out my Christmas cards, I stamp the word “peace” on the envelope. I keep hoping.

I could quote Gandhi, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” I could quote Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, “Without inner peace, outer peace is impossible,” but we’ve all heard these words before. They are wonderful and they are true, but they are still just words.  They are meant to help us navigate past our egos and change our thoughts. From the looks of things we haven’t gotten the message. We’re not yet living our lives from a place of peace.

As this much anticipated year comes to a close, many will say that all the hype surrounding 2012 was nonsense – and much of it was. But I believe there was a great deal going on this year – in the realm of human consciousness – and more that will continue in the years to come.  People have been waking up; there has been and continues to be an evolution of our human awareness.

Blind acceptance of authority has fallen to the wayside, as people are less willing to give away their power to those who would manipulate, lie, and control them to further their own agendas.

People are realizing that war has become an archaic notion. They are refusing to wave flags in a patriotic frenzy, glorifying the act of sending their children to kill other peoples’ children in battles that have been manufactured for the gain of a few.

People are waking up to the suffering being inflicted upon the animals, whether killing them for sport, for the dinner table, or using them for corporate profit.

We are in the process of changing centuries of behavior and thought patterns as we evolve into beings that are beginning to recognize ourselves in each other.  The desire to cooperate will surpass the desire to compete.  The desire to be kind will surpass the desire to do harm, not only with our actions, but also with our thoughts and speech.

The barrier to peace is rooted in fear, which perpetuates the illusion of separation. Gandhi knew that the time for words was over when he said, “Become the change you want to see in the world.”  He wanted us to go past the rhetoric. Remember, what you think you become.  Imagine the possibilities if fear was replaced with understanding and compassion. Do you have the desire and the courage to change the way you think? Wouldn’t that make a more meaningful resolution for the New Year? It does start with us. Peace is the ultimate grassroots movement.

Wishing everyone peace and happiness in the 2013.

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Dancing with Maya

Lord Shiva Nataraja, The Cosmic Dancer

One day, my teacher was answering a fellow student’s question and he remarked about how our egos are “…dancing with Maya.” Maya, a Sanskrit term, loosely means ‘illusion.’ It is really our perception of what is real that is illusion. What we see as real is merely the manifestation of the One Reality. However, we perceive our physical world, including ourselves, as separate from the One Reality or God. The truth is that there is no separation. The idea of separation is the illusion.

I’ve used this analogy before, but if you remember the TV show Star Trek Voyager, the crew was able to entertain themselves on the holodeck. This was a place where various holographic worlds were created and story lines played out with the crewmembers acting out roles. While they were in the story, everything seemed perfectly real to them.  But, of course, none of it was. So, while we think of the world we live in as real, which it isn’t – physicists say reality is more holographic in nature -we, our egos that is, are merely characters in a play acting out a script on the world stage.

In the first Matrix movie, Morpheus continually tries to show Neo who he really is – or isn’t, which is Thomas Anderson living a tedious life within the confines of a computer generated ‘reality.’  Through a number of experiences, Neo is freed from the limited perceptions of his mind and by the end of the movie knows the truth. He sees the physical world as the computer generated illusion and therefore knows that the bullets that are meant to kill him are not real.

The reason we can’t accept the world as illusion is because we don’t see that the material ‘stuff’ the world is made of is not ‘stuff’ at all. Physics has proven that nothing is solid.  What’s more, the kinetic theory of solids, liquids and gases tells us that nothing is static, which means the ‘particles’ that make up matter are always in motion.  However, these ‘particles’ of matter are atoms and when you look at atoms you will find that subatomic matter is not matter at all but energetic patterns. Physicist and author Fritjof Capra in his book, the Tao of Physics, says, “…the constituents of matter and the basic phenomena involving them are all interconnected, interrelated and interdependent; that they cannot be understood as isolated entities but only as integrated parts of the whole.” He goes on to say that “…particles are processes rather than objects,” and that, “…subatomic matter is continually creating and destroying itself through the emission and absorption of virtual particles.”

We are witness to this creation and destruction all the time. The change of seasons is a perfect example. Also, we recognize the impermanence of our world in the rise and fall of civilizations throughout history, as well as the birth and death of stars and other universes.

Eastern mysticism sees creation, perpetuation and destruction in the universe as the dance of Lord Shiva Nataraja (pictured above).  It is Shiva’s dance that sustains the universe. From a physics standpoint, this is an elegant explanation of the continuous ‘dance’ of the interconnected patterns of energy that we perceive as the material world. Fritjof Capra goes on in his book, the Tao of Physics, to explain the details of this metaphorical representation as follows:

“The upper right hand of the god holds the drum to symbolize the primal sound of creation, the upper left bears a tongue of flame, the element of destruction. The balance of the two hands represents the dynamic balance of creation and destruction in the world accentuated further by the Dancer’s calm and detached face in the center of the two hands, in which the polarity of creation and destruction is dissolved and transcended. The second right hand is raised in the sign of ‘do not fear’, symbolizing maintenance, protection and peace, while the remaining left hand points down to the uplifted left foot, which symbolizes release from the spell of maya. The god is pictured as dancing on the body of a demon, the symbol of human ignorance which has to be conquered before liberation can be attained.”

Our perception of a material-based reality keeps us blind to the truth and bound to the rhythm of birth and death and rebirth powered by karma, which means ‘action.’  The bonds of karma (action) are broken only when we recognize that we, and all that we experience, are not separate from the One Reality or God, but are part of it. When that happens moksha or ‘liberation’ is the result.

Until then, keep your dancing shoes on…..

Reality and Illusion

I don’t quite remember the first time I heard the statement, “Reality is an illusion.”  It was probably back in the 80’s when I first got interested in yoga philosophy, but where I came across it I have no recollection. I do remember just glossing over these words not thinking about what they meant. A lot of what I was reading back then sounded very mysterious, and this idea that reality wasn’t real was no different.

Fast forward 20 years and I am sitting in a room with a student taking the SAT. I was there to be a reader for him and one of the passages in the reading comprehension section talked about the movie Star Wars and its sci fi effects using holograms. The passage went on to say how science was beginning to gather evidence suggesting that the universe was nothing more than a hologram.  I couldn’t wait to investigate this further.

I went online and found a piece written by Michael Talbot, Spirituality and Science: The Holographic Universe,”  (based on his book, “The Holographic Universe”) discussing the breakthroughs of modern physicists David Bohm and Alain Aspect. Their work seemed to confirm what I had read in that SAT passage – that the universe is indeed a hologram. Two startling conclusions can be suggested if this is so.

First, objective reality does not exist, since a hologram is not real.  Reality, therefore, is an illusion. Second, it validates the interconnectedness of all things in the illusion.

Let me explain the second part using an example from Talbot’s article. If you look at the hologram of any object, say a rose, you will see a 3 dimensional image of the rose. If you cut the hologram in half you will not get half the rose. You will find that each half contains the entire image of the rose. It doesn’t matter how many ‘pieces’ into which you cut the hologram. We don’t get pieces of the rose, only smaller wholes of the rose. This has led to a revision of the mechanistic model of the universe, where we only study the parts of things, to a more ‘wholistic’ way of thinking and seeing the world. We are finally seeing the forest instead of just the trees. The best example I can think of to demonstrate this paradigm shift is climate change. We are finally beginning to understand how by just focusing on the parts has been detrimental to the whole. In other words, we are beginning to understand that when you disturb one part of an ecosystem that can have consequences for that environment and possibly the entire planet. David Bohm believed this suggested that “separateness is an illusion” and that “all things are connected at a deeper level of reality.” A reality that is real.

Pretty radical stuff, wouldn’t you say? To the western mind, yes, it is probably unbelievable.  But the Eastern traditions have been saying the same thing for millennia.

Remember the Star Trek series? In Star Trek: Voyager, the crew was able to entertain themselves on the holodeck. This was a place where various holographic worlds were created and story lines played out with the crewmembers acting out roles. While they were in the story, everything seemed perfectly real to them.  But, of course, none of it was.

So if the universe is not real, then are we? Well, yes and no. Depends on how you identify yourself. If you see yourself only as the body you possess along with all its attachments and the labels that go along with it, such as, male, female, mother, father, executive, taxi driver, American, French …whatever, then no, this ‘you’ is not real. These are false identities we use to play out our roles on this holodeck we call Earth. Our true nature goes beyond the hologram, beyond labels. Our true nature is the One Reality that not only pervades the universe but also created it. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, the spiritual master, in his classic work, “I Am That” states, “…There is no ‘myself’ and ‘his self.’ There is only Self of all. Misled by the diversity of names and shapes, minds and bodies, you imagine multiple selves….don’t be stuck in duality.”

Next time I’ll discuss some tools and techniques used to reach a more non-dual view of our world.