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.

The Eve of Destruction…of Fear!

Barry McGuire sang the iconic song, The Eve of Destruction, in 1965, two years after the Kennedy assassination, when we were immersed in Vietnam and civil rights, and three years before the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.  The 60’s were a decade of change, turmoil and fear – sound familiar?

I think back about how we were all manipulated by fear back then, especially during the Cuban missile crisis: fear of the Russians, fear of the bomb. I remember, as school children, the completely ridiculous ‘duck and cover’ exercises we were forced to practice. I remember being out in the schoolyard and being fearful of every plane that flew overhead; afraid that it was the Russians coming to drop the bomb on us.  And we didn’t even have 24-hour news networks with nonstop talking heads telling us who to fear, how afraid we should be, and who was to blame for not keeping us ‘safe.’ To their credit, TV news anchors and journalists back in the ‘60’s behaved with much more dignity and impartiality than what we see today, and yes, the Cuban missile crisis was a difficult time, but fear still sells ratings and so we’ve seen the atmosphere of fear escalate, especially since 9/11. More wars, more money spent on death and destruction. Has the fear abated with all these efforts – even with the elimination of Bin Laden? Of course not. Even if we didn’t have a financial crisis going on right now, there would still be media attention focused on something to provoke fear in our hearts; 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. And it’s not just the politicians or the media, organized religions rank pretty high on the list of fear mongering.

Unfortunately, we cling to the material world as if it were our lifeboat. It’s not. When the stock market crashed in 1929, people threw themselves out of windows. Their identity was so wrapped up in what they had that they couldn’t live with the fear that loss provoked.

What does this have to do with non-duality? Quite frankly – everything. Fear keeps the illusion of separation alive.  You cannot experience ‘Oneness’ (non-duality) while you are in the state of fear. It’s impossible.  And, some will say, that’s the way ‘they’ want to keep it. Who are ‘they?’ – I’ll let you figure that out for yourselves.  If you keep the masses in fear you can continue your control of them. It’s that simple.

There are two types of fear: fear that we internalize and fear that we externalize. The internalized fear results in panic, anxiety, obsession, compulsion, and worry. The externalized fear creates the hate and violence we see on so many levels of society.  This type of dysfunction, whether it’s internal or external, all stems from the incorrect notion that the ego is in charge and the material world is all there is.

When we get out of our egos, through meditation or other exercises that promote a state of non-duality, we are no longer afraid because we are tapping into that part of ourselves that is real and indestructible.  We no longer see others or situations as threatening.

Remember, it’s a matter of perception. It’s not what happens to us that we should worry about, but our reaction to what happens. So cultivate tolerance, compassion, and your inner life. We are on the eve of the destruction of fear.

Catch – 22

Here’s the thing. I can blog about non-duality and you can read about non-duality until the cows come home, but until there is direct experience, there is no real understanding.  Oh, there may be an intellectual understanding to a certain point, but no real ‘gut’ feeling of those ‘aha’ moments that tell us we really and truly get it. Direct experience is the real teacher. Direct experience is truth because it cannot be refuted. Unfortunately, it also cannot be proven by the usual scientific standards, but that doesn’t preclude its authenticity.  We need to let go of our limited views of reality.  Look around.  It’s time and it’s necessary.

Now, here’s the problem.  You can’t go looking for direct experiences. They creep up on you at totally unexpected times. Even if you have a regular contemplation or meditation practice, there is no guarantee that you will have a ‘brick falling on your head’ type of experience.  You can, certainly, but with consistent spiritual practice, the experiences tend to be cumulative and therefore culminate into a broader kind of understanding, which over time changes your views about things and you begin that wondrous, scary journey from which there is no return.  Still, those ‘right between the eyes’ sort of experiences are the ones that catch our attention. But, of course, we have to be open to them.

The good news is that stories of non-dual, watershed moments are not as rare as one might think.  Eckhart Tolle, in the introduction of his book, The Power of Now, describes his life up to the age of 29 as one of immense anxiety and dread “…interspersed with periods of suicidal depression.” One night, as he was suffering through his usual panic and dread, he thought, “I cannot live with myself any longer.”  He suddenly realized the strangeness of that thought. He began to question who he really was. Was he “… the “I” or the “self” that the “I” cannot live with?”  The duality that we all experience smacked him right between the eyes and he began to wonder if only one of them (the ‘I’ or the ‘self’) was real. His spiritual transformation occurred at that moment.

Fritjof Capra in the preface of his book the Tao of Physics, describes his non-dual experience of ‘oneness’ occurring on a beach, where he suddenly became aware of the ‘…cascades of energy coming down from outer space, in which particles were created and destroyed in rhythmic pulses…” and how his own atoms were participating in this cosmic dance. He suddenly began to see the similarities between modern physics and Eastern philosophy, which set him on the path of writing this book.

Direct experience usually leads us down a whole new path in life, as it did for Tolle and Capra. It expands our awareness and life is never the same. We begin to rise above the tedium to see the big picture. But do we really need to have direct experiences in order to experience changes in our perception?

I’m not sure what the answer to that question is, so we’re stuck in a spiritual catch-22.  How do we get to a place where we can begin to perceive non-duality without direct experience? How about cultivating a bit of tolerance? Tolerance removes the obstacles that lead to compassion and kindness. That would be a huge step forward from where we are now. It requires that we lift our awareness and place it on something other than our own self-interests. When we get there, we begin thinking of ways in which we can be of service to others.  Ask yourself, “Am I serving myself or am I serving others?”  Service to others might just put you on the path toward non-dualism.

Every age thinks it has all the answers. We need to get over ourselves and realize that it’s time we wake up and move past the limited conceptual, man-made parameters of thought and embrace a more encompassing, compassionate view of reality in an effort to solve humanity’s problems. Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”  We need a shift of consciousness – now. We can put our awareness anywhere we want, so put it where it will do the most good.

Imagine

I almost posted this on the anniversary of John Lennon’s birth, but thought it was better suited as an end of the year post.  That is the time when, I feel, we are all most likely to be reflective.

This song’s lyrics together with the images in the video describe non-duality perfectly. I love the contrast of the opening as John and Yoko are walking down a path that is shrouded in mist and darkness (ignorance) and then enter an all-white house (love the sign “This is not here”).  As John plays the piano and sings the lyrics, Yoko is opening the drapes letting the light into the dark room, which is seen now to be completely white (the color of pure consciousness).  Fabulous!

I hope the lyrics will resonate with you as we move into yet another troubled year.

Enjoy and ….Imagine….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b7qaSxuZUg