You are Nobody – Part 2

free-wallpaper-11111111111In my December post, ‘You are Nobody,’ I discussed how we place too much importance on what the ego does. The ego has a role to play in this life, to be sure, but it’s a problem when that role becomes the only focus for the individual. The striving that propels the personality to achieve is crucial in the ego/personality fulfilling its destiny, but that same striving also takes it down roads that will never bring truth, or peace, because the importance is placed on the outer life at the expense of the inner life. Now, let’s take this a step further and consider the physical body itself.

“… you have to do all these things until you come to the conclusion that there is nobody doing anything… as long as you believe you’re still a body then you have to do those things that you have to do to find out that there is no body. ~ Robert Adams …from “The Knower is the last to go!”

The idea of immortality is a big deal for a lot of people. In fact, there are some very rich people pouring billions of dollars into longevity research.  Of all our attachments, attachment to the physical body is by far the strongest, so this comes as no surprise.  It’s also no surprise that attachment to the body keeps us stuck in duality. This is maya and this is the way it’s supposed to be, but the time comes for everyone when the way out of maya is presented. How many lifetimes that will take, well unfortunately, there is no way of knowing.

Meanwhile, we are all concerned with keeping the body healthy, as we should; however, society’s obsession with youth and beauty is not only a distraction, but also a perversion. It’s a trap that will keep you forever bound to the unreal, the impermanent. We all come into this life with a set of karmas that need to be expressed and experienced.  We must realize that the prarabdha karma of the body (and of the personality) will play out the way it’s supposed to. There’s no getting around that.

Below is a wonderful video featuring a young woman with breast cancer. She describes to Advaita Master Mooji her struggles with accepting her diagnosis and how she came to realize the non-dual truth that it is just her body that is sick – she (as pure awareness) cannot be sick or die.

As Mooji says, “Take care of the body, but you don’t have to worship it. Worship the Indweller…”

The melody at the beginning and end of this video is particularly beautiful. It is “Remember” by Omkara. You can listen to the entire song on youtube.

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You are Nobody

256px-Adobe_Red2In December 1990, I was contemplating (and secretly preparing for) a difficult but necessary life change. I felt scared, helpless and alone. At a Christmas party with friends, I remember thinking that this was probably going to be the last time we would all be together like this. My sadness deepened and I felt the fear of change crystallize inside my being. Then, the Christmas grab bag ritual began. I reached in and pulled out a book by Og Mandino.  I’d never even heard of him until that moment and for the life of me I can’t remember the title, but that book gave me great comfort and courage at a time when I needed it most.  I also recognized that it came to me at that moment in time for a reason. It gave me the validation I needed that I was making the right decision regarding my new life path. A month later, I made my move.

According to Forbes, “Americans spent $11 billion in 2008 on self-improvement books, CDs, seminars, coaching and stress-management programs.” And although, according to PRWeb, that number hadn’t risen very much in 2012 due to the recession and various scandals, that kind of money is still pretty hefty for an industry full of experts (some more qualified than others) who, for a price, are willing to help us achieve all that society deems important: the best career, the best relationship, and the best body, because as you know, this is the only way we can feel good about ourselves and the life we are living. Now, I don’t have a problem with people wanting to better their circumstances as they do glean insights into themselves, and gaining those insights is a not only a step on the journey, but those same insights can help them through some difficult times. Yes, it’s psychological insight, but it’s still insight and we all have to start somewhere. I believe that psychological insight into the personality is an important tool in the eventual “bigger picture thinking” aka “spiritual seeking” that inevitably follows.  Advaita Master Mooji says that when a part of your life crashes you experience “birth pains to a deeper awakening inside you.”

That said, my biggest issue with self-help gurus, as well as the dreaded self-help aisle at the bookstore, is the emphasis placed on the impermanent. If you were to put your energy into finding out who you really are, then the rest of it won’t matter anymore.  The biggest obstacle to seeking is that too much importance is placed on the life of the personality, largely because we still tend to separate out our earthly lives from our spiritual lives. And therein lies the problem. Even though our seeking tells us that ‘all is One,’ there is still a dualistic perspective to this life we are living.

“How do I integrate spirituality into my everyday life? Throw out the concept of “spiritual life” and “everyday life.” There is only life, undivided and whole. ~ Adyashanti”

Another pitfall stemming from this dualistic perspective is that once the spiritual search has begun, the personality thinks that its life should benefit from this seeking, which is missing the point of the search entirely.  We feel we should be rewarded in some way for our diligence by finally attaining that perfect job or mate.  What we forget is that everything in our lives is there for our spiritual benefit. The ultimate goal of the spiritual search is to kill off the ego, not make it stronger by pandering to it. The ego wants to be somebody; but You are nobody.

I will be forever grateful for the Og Mandino book I pulled out of the grab bag that winter night. But I also know that it was supposed to happen that way. In the twenty years plus since, I can safely say that although my life hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would, and whose life has – be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing.  The Universe knows what it’s doing. We need to trust it.

The bottom line is that every personality, every ‘body’, will have the life it is supposed to have. And if you gain inspiration or solace on the journey from a book or person, there is nothing wrong with that, just recognize it for what it is: something that was supposed to be there in your life, at that particular moment.

My child, because you think you are the body, for a long time you have been bound. Know you are pure awareness. With this knowledge as your sword cut through your chains and be happy!   ~ Ashtavakra Gita (1.13-14)

Cleaning Out The Attic

In this insightful and humorous video, Advaita Master Mooji addresses the struggle of getting past the mind and our misidentification with it. “Look, and sink more deeply until the arms of the mind are not long enough to reach You. Then you’re in a beautiful place.”

He urges us to stop investing in the personality; it will not lead to Truth. There is only the recognition of who you are that is necessary, and when that happens, all the rest will fall into place. Everything else just reinforces the ego, the body/mind personality. Know the “Self” and you will know peace.

By the way, at the end of the video, the person who asked the question remarked to Mooji, “That wasn’t the answer I was looking for, but it was the answer I needed.”  And so it goes…..

 

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!

Finding Truth Beyond Belief

As I’ve blogged before, I’m consumed with finding Truth.  I was raised Catholic – went to Catholic schools for the first 12 years of my education. That’s a lot of religion. Thinking back, I never really questioned my faith – my beliefs. There were loopholes in the dogma I was being taught – plenty of them – and I did question those as I got older, but I was stuck in blind belief. Also, I figured that science would eventually answer all of my questions. I was looking for that bridge between science and religion that I knew was there but was in no position to find.  I was trying to find the Truth through thought – through the manipulations of my mind.

I look around me and all I see is struggle. That struggle spurs some of us to seek what is real, what is true. But just like love, we end up searching for it in all the wrong places. When we think we find a piece of truth, usually in whatever religion we adopt, it is often shrouded so thickly in doctrine, dogma and ritual that we fail to recognize its essence. Don’t misunderstand me – at their core all religions contain truth. But you can make a choice between “blind belief of truth” or “truth beyond belief.”

Below is a quote that I found in my inbox. I subscribe to JKrishnamurti online and receive a quote from the Krishnamurti archives each day. This one particularly struck me so I wanted to share it with all of you.  Click here for more info: www.jkrishnamurti.org/

“We realize that life is ugly, painful, sorrowful; we want some kind of theory, some kind of speculation or satisfaction, some kind of doctrine, which will explain all this, and so we are caught in explanation, in words, in theories, and gradually, beliefs become deeply rooted and unshakable because behind those beliefs, behind those dogmas, there is the constant fear of the unknown. But we never look at that fear; we turn away from it. The stronger the beliefs, the stronger the dogmas. And when we examine these beliefs the Christian, the Hindu, the Buddhist we find that they divide people. Each dogma, each belief has a series of rituals, a series of compulsions which bind man and separate man. So, we start with an inquiry to find out what is true, what the significance is of this misery, this struggle, this pain; and we are soon caught up in beliefs, in rituals, in theories. Belief is corruption because, behind belief and morality lurks the mind, the self the self growing big, powerful and strong. We consider belief in God, the belief in something, as religion. We consider that to believe is to be religious. You understand? If you do not believe, you will be considered an atheist, you will be condemned by society. One society will condemn those who believe in God, and another society will condemn those who do not. They are both the same. So, religion becomes a matter of belief and belief acts and has a corresponding influence on the mind; the mind then can never be free. But it is only in freedom that you can find out what is true, what is God, not through any belief, because your very belief projects what you think ought to be God, what you think ought to be true.” – J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life

Perception – Truth or Belief?

OutTheDoor_thumbI couldn’t wait until I was old enough to buy my own clothes. When I would go shopping with my mother, well, let’s just say our tastes weren’t entirely compatible. If she were alive today and picking out my clothes, I swear she would still buy the blouses with the peter pan collars.  I remember back when I was a teenager and she would present me with yet another blouse with that horrid collar. “Oh mom,” I would groan, “they’re so childish.” “But, Diana,” she would reply, “they’re so pretty.” She thought they were sweet and feminine and I thought they were for six year olds. You could say it was just a matter of taste and leave it at that. But actually, it was a matter of perception. And perception is a powerful thing. So powerful in fact you could say that it is perception that drives not only our lives but also the material world. And the fuel is judgment.

French writer Gustave Flaubert wrote, “There is no truth. There is only perception.” This is an accurate description of what we find when we concern ourselves only with worldly matters. It was perception that was the downfall of Flaubert’s most famous character, Madame Bovary. Emma Bovary perceived her life in a certain way and judged it as dull and empty. Married to a country doctor, she struggled to find romance and excitement through a series of adulterous affairs culminating in a ruinous life and her eventual suicide. Our perceptions become our reality, our truth as it were, but what reality or truth are we really talking about?  There can be no certain validation of applied adjectives as truth. How we view our lives and the words we use to describe them is always subjective.

Our perceptions shape who we are, how we appear to others, and how we experience our lives. And those perceptions not only contribute to the judgments we make, but they motivate our action in the world. For example, if hunger could not be perceived we wouldn’t eat, (well, maybe we would anyway but that’s another story). If the cold and wet weren’t judged as bad, we wouldn’t know enough to come in out of the rain. If we perceive ourselves as not having enough, we then make the judgment that we are poor and we try to find a better paying job. The ‘we’ I keep referring to, of course, is our ego, not the Real you or me, which is timeless, indestructible, and completely unaffected by the role our ego (or character) is playing on the world stage with all of its attendant ‘stuff’, i.e. the material objects that decorate its life.

Remember, a basic premise of nonduality as proposed by Eastern traditions is “Reality is an illusion.” The ‘reality’ here refers the so-called ‘physical’ world and, of course, our perceptions of it. The lens through which we view the world is our mental conditioning, a compilation of every thought and experience we have gone through, which molds our perceptions (hence our beliefs) thereby preventing us from knowing the truth.

It is the ego that buys into all the social agreements surrounding how we are supposed to live and the things we are supposed to have, i.e. the big house, the expensive car etc. More perceptions, more judgments, more struggle. These social agreements form our perceptions and therefore our beliefs, but is there any truth to any of it? Think of all the belief systems in the world and the measures some will take to defend them. We use these perceptions and judgments to drive our characters through the play on the world stage. That is their only function. They do not define who we are. So don’t worry about them. Just recognize the material as immaterial and move on.

Truth is the only thing that has meaning.  If we are searching for it in the material world we will not be able to find it because truth transcends the material. Poet William Blake said, “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear as it is, infinite.” And that’s the truth.