Pointing The Way


I really love parables; especially Zen parables. The reason I love Zen parables so much is that quite often they are tongue-in-cheek, but at the same time very profound. As with all parables, we have no way of knowing if the stories actually happened, and because the meaning is never in the story itself, but in the subtext, I suppose it doesn’t really matter whether the story actually happened or not. The parable that I’m going to share with you is one of those rarities where I really hope that the story is a complete work of fiction. You will understand why as you read on.

Many centuries ago there was an old Zen master, who would raise his index finger in the air after engaging with disciples. Whether it was to an individual or a group, after imparting some wisdom, the master would raise his index finger in the air. This was a source of great amusement to a young boy in the village, and he would constantly mock the master every time he saw him by raising his finger in the air too. One day, the boy saw the master walking through the market place, and as usual he raised his index finger in the air in a mocking manner. As quick as a flash, the old man caught hold of the boy and cut off the finger. As the boy screamed in agony the master looked at him, raised his finger in the air and walked off.

A harsh lesson indeed and as I said, I really hope it isn’t true. However, the parable contains a beautifully profound message. It’s similar to the old story that says if you want to see the moon and stars, you have to look beyond the finger that’s pointing to them. For me, it is also an indication of the difference between a master and a teacher. A teacher will teach us what’s in the text book, everything that’s gone before; all the old stale stuff. A teacher will contribute to our conditioning, along with priests, parents, peers, media etc. Indeed, everything that shapes our thoughts about who we are as we are growing up. A master, on the other hand, treats everyone who comes to them as a unique individual and “points the way.”

A master doesn’t teach, in fact, I’ve heard it said that a master is the antidote to the teacher. A master points the way by giving us the key to ourselves. The greatest knowledge is Self-knowledge, and that isn’t something that can be taught. It is experiential and very unique to the one having the experience. The boy in the parable may have been young, but the master’s actions were saying, “I’ve cut your finger off, what are you going to do now? Look beyond the finger.”

Two Eternities? I Don’t Think So!

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Those who know me will be aware that I accept that organised religion can help people find a purpose in life and a blueprint for “right” living. However, I also know that ultimately, organised religion can only ever be a stepping stone to absolute truth. I hold this view mainly because the whole purpose of the spirit is to be free and to evolve within that freedom. This of course, includes the freedom to make mistakes. With organised religions you are required to believe things; things that quite often have no substance or credibility. Whilst it is true that our beliefs create our reality, it is also true that our beliefs are nothing more than thoughts and opinions, which are not necessarily representative of truth.

A classic example of this, is the concept of going to either Heaven or Hell. As a Westerner, I am of course, talking about Christianity; it would be unfair of me to use another religion as the example because I don’t have enough experience of other religions. Let me first just clarify a few things. In Christian mythology, it is stated that the world, the universe and beyond was created by a personal god. Presumably, the god created everything, not just a bit of this and a bit of that. So surely, that must include the mechanism via which everything functions. A religious person would probably refer to this as “God’s Law.” But, depending on what your leanings are, this could also be referred to as Natural Law, The Laws of the Universe, Spiritual Law or The Laws of Physics. I think we can agree that it is all pretty much the same thing. Either way, these laws are very precise and cannot be interfered with or altered.

We are told, that when we die we have to stand before God to be judged. If we are deemed to have been good we ascend to eternal life in Heaven. Alternatively, if we are deemed to have been bad, then we descend to eternal damnation in Hell. Now, it has occurred to me that having already established that the god’s own laws are very precise, and also that whether we go to Heaven or Hell, it is still an eternal life; be it one of bliss or damnation. Regardless of the name of the place, eternal life must surely take place in eternity, which in accordance with the god’s laws “does exactly what it says on the tin.” What I mean is that eternity is just that; it is eternal, boundless, unlimited, infinite.

So, forgive me for questioning religious dogma, but how can you have two different eternities? This would imply that there is a cut-off point or boundary between Heaven and Hell. Or even, a boundary between Heaven and a kind of no-man’s-land and another boundary between that and Hell. If there is a cut-off point or boundary, then either Heaven and Hell are not eternal, or they are one and the same place. I would even take this a step further and say that if we “GO” to Heaven, Hell or eternity, whatever name you want to use in the example, then there is no such thing. How can you go somewhere that is boundless? Where is the cut-off point that distinguishes between where we are now and the place of eternal life? How can infinity have a cut-off point?

The truth is, that Heaven and Hell are mind-made concepts that we create for ourselves here on earth. We already have eternal life, we are just experiencing an aspect of it here in the physical body, and when we eventually shed our bodies, we will go on to experience another aspect of it.

A Blast From The Past


Well, here I am, with my first post since November 20 last year. I must admit that I’ve struggled for inspiration and even considered abandoning this little project. But, once a writer, always a writer and surely, the world of wordery is a bottomless pit. I feel that I have come to the end of an era and eagerly await where the next fork in the path may take me. As I sat musing, well aware that I had not written anything for months, it occurred to me that this blog will be 11 years old this coming April. It also occurred to me how my writing has evolved with me as I have gone through several phases of change. So, purely out of nostalgia, and I suppose in celebration of getting the blog up and running and keeping it going for all these years, I thought I would repost my first ever blog article from 25/04/2011. It’s a piece entitled “God Goes Home” and I hope you like it.

PS I’ve also got an idea for another article, which I will post soon.

God Goes Home

Easter Sunday 24 April 2011 started off as a normal day.  I was in no hurry to get out of bed, eventually doing so at around 09:20. Whilst having my first cup of tea of the day I went about my morning routine of going online and posting my thought for the day on Facebook and checking other online stuff. I went into one of my email addresses and there was one solitary email, from my friend V in South Africa. It was very short and to the point; it said quite simply “Swami has left”. I was quite numb at first. My beloved Swami, Sri Sathya Sai Baba had left his physical body. There had been signs for some time that Baba was getting ready to go, and in recent weeks it became increasingly apparent that devotees were going to have to accept that this was the case.  It was still hard to believe though; you don’t expect Swami to go, simply because he has always been there.  For a number of hours I cried intermittently; not out of grief, for I know there is no such thing as death, but for the sheer love of Baba and the realisation that he gave so much to us, yet took nothing for himself. His love was, and still is, boundless and I am truly blessed to have been touched by Baba’s love on many, many occasions.

I count my blessings that I received the call to go to Baba’s ashram, Prashanthi Nilayam (abode of the highest peace), on two occasions in the 18 months preceding his physical departure.  It was during my second visit in February 2010 that I got my first hint that “Divine Mother Sai” may be preparing to leave.  I was chatting to an American guy who had an apartment in Puttaparthi, where the ashram is situated. He was saying how Swami’s physical health had been going rapidly downhill and that he had made an unprecedented gesture.  Baba had made an announcement formally inviting devotees from all over the world to attend the ashram during 2010, on a pilgrimage basis.  My friend told me that this had never been done before in all the years that Baba had been resident at Prashanthi (since the 1940’s).  My friend went on to say that he felt Baba was getting ready to leave his body and this was his parting gesture of love to devotees worldwide.  Because of the sheer volume of people the pilgrimage was organised with the utmost precision and only so many countries at a time could attend, for periods of ten days only.  Of course, this only applied to the organised pilgrimages; anyone can go to Prashanthi as long as they receive the inner calling  “not even 20,000 horses can bring you here if you are not called”  Baba

At the time I remember thinking that this was not to be taken seriously, and I politely humoured my American friend.  Little did I know how right he was.  Now as I sit here and muse about this strange day it hasn’t quite sunk in that Sri Sathya Sai Baba has left his physical body.  Probably because I’ve had so many inner experiences with Baba… and a physical body has never been essential to our relationship in the past… so why should it be now?  He always touched me with his love across time and space; so often my eyes welled up with tears of joy as he enveloped me in his loving light.  On one occasion he even blessed me with an astral experience by lifting me from my physical body and carrying me off into the ether.

I suppose that, at some stage, even God has to go home…but I don’t expect it to change my relationship with him.

Jai Sai Ram

Do We Get Punished By God?


Photo by Monstera from Pexels

So, do we get punished by God if we are “bad?”  That is a question that can be answered very easily. No, we do not. For a start, if that statement were true, there would need to be a God to do the punishing.  This God would have to exist along the same lines as the God of religion.  In other words, an individual entity separate from the rest of the universe and beyond.  The God would also have to possess all the worst egoic, human traits you could imagine; just like the God of religion.

First of all, it would have to make a judgement that we had done something bad and then dish out the punishment.  Being judgemental is a trait of the egoic mind that does not exist within consciousness.  By way of an individual choice, we may choose to refer to Infinite Consciousness as God, but this is just one of many names conjured up by humans to describe the uncreated wilderness of bliss∗ that is our true nature.

The only punishing is inflicted by ourselves in ignorance.

∗ “Uncreated Wilderness of Bliss” – a phrase coined by the yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, as a description of our inner truth.

The Court Jester


I absolutely love this little parable from early 2019, so I’m posting again.

A king became exasperated with his court jester, who simply wouldn’t stop jesting.  Seemingly every minute of every day, the jester would be cracking jokes and playing the fool.  Eventually, the king decided he’d had enough and he condemned the jester to be hanged; ordering that he be taken to the dungeon to await his fate.  The day of the execution arrived and the king started to have second thoughts.  He felt that good court jesters were hard to come by, and after all, the poor bloke had only been doing his job.  But, the king also felt that he couldn’t go back to the way things were, so he wrote out the royal pardon on official parchment and added the condition that the jester was not allowed to ever crack a joke again.  He put the royal seal on it and gave it to one of his courtiers to take to the executioner.

The courtier ran to the gallows, and arrived in the nick of time to see the jester already standing on the trap door with the noose around his neck.  The courtier blurted out that the king had changed his mind and that the execution should be halted; he then proceeded to read out the pardon.  As the reading of the pardon came to an end, the jester just couldn’t contain himself and quipped, “no noose is good news”.  He was hanged.

Of course that rather amusing story isn’t actually true, but it aptly explains how we function in accordance with our conditioning, as opposed to our true nature.  When we are born into this world, we are pure, open and still aware of the love that we are.  Gradually, as the years pass, we become conditioned; we are told that we are good or bad, beautiful or ugly, intelligent or thick etc, etc; and we become what we believe (or at least we THINK we have become what we believe).  Then we enter adulthood and we get a job or career, adding that to “who I am” as we go along.  In the case of the jester, “jestering” was what he did, it was not who he was.  However, he was not able to drop the egoic belief that, “I am a jester”, so when the opportunity arose, he couldn’t resist the quip and was promptly executed.

Whether you are an ugly professor, a beautiful cleaner or a good retail assistant, the professor, the cleaner and the retail assistant are what you DO, they are not who you are.  As to whether you are ugly, beautiful, good or bad, these are only judgements made by other people that you may or may not believe.  They are also not who you are and do not have to define you.  So, in life don’t be a silly jester; or the joke will be on you!

The Body; Real Or Unreal?


It’s amazing how our views and perspectives change as we evolve through this life. If somebody asked me the question, “the body; real or unreal?” even 20 years ago, I’d have thought they’d been on the funny stuff. I remember when I was completely immersed in the darkness of ego, there was no question whatsoever that the body was real. After all, is it not who I am? Then as I found my spiritual pathway and I started leaning towards the Eastern school of thought, I adopted the view, “the body is unreal, an illusion.”

The only trouble with that is, that I was also leaning towards the view that the body is irrelevant, that it didn’t matter. Of course, this is not true, The body is essential to our experience in the physical because it is the only vehicle available to us. I have now gone full circle, and my statement to you today is, “yes, the body is real,” However, this doesn’t mean that I have regressed back to the darkness of complete unconsciousness. What it means is that my perspective has changed, therefore that statement is made in a different context.

The body is real in that it is made of the same stuff as my eternal reality. Infinite Consciousness has precipitated, or intensified itself billions of times over into tiny pockets of physical energy that we call human beings; and one of them is me! So, the body is real in that it is made of Infinite Consciousness that has temporarily veiled itself in ignorance. What is unreal is the form the body takes, although to the logical mind it is as real as falling off a log. Consciousness veiled in ignorance as an individual soul, perceives the bodily form, the finite mind and the world to be the reality.

To use an analogy, imagine a play being acted out in a theatre. Imagine all the colourful costumes and scenery, and all the lines uttered by the actors and their mannerisms as they act out each scenario. All of that only happens because they are all bringing the script to life. On its own, the script is inanimate; just words on pieces of paper, just still, doing nothing. But, it is the underlying reality of what is going on during the time the play is being acted out.

We are all acting out the script of Infinite Consciousness, the world is our theatre and the body our costume. Consciousness in its normal state just exists as it is, in eternal bliss. But when it veils itself in ignorance on this dreamland stage that we call the world, it dances out its story; it gets to know itself in its own experience as opposed to the eternal emptiness that just contains possibilities; albeit, an infinite amount.

So, to sum up. Yes, the body is real, but not the form. Rather, the underlying reality, which is Consciousness. Consciousness, as the body and the world vibrates at varying degrees of frequency. What we see as the body and the world is simply the image created by our minds as the interpretation of that frequency. Therefore, the one and only reality is Consciousness itself.

Passing Clouds


Cumulus_2In the physical sense, human beings do share quite a lot together; information and food are two examples that immediately spring to mind. But this only relates to the illusion that is life on this dreamland stage we call the earth. In truth, we are all just passing clouds regardless of our relationships with each other. Whether friends, siblings, parents, offspring, work colleagues, or even so-called enemies, we are all nothing more than ships that pass in the night. The only thing truly shared between humans is the experience of being.

Our true nature is that of infinite consciousness, which is all there is. The experience of “being” is the experience of our true nature; all else is an illusion.

 

Hope


Thanks to Nick Fewings of Unsplash for the image

There are two ways of looking at Hope; like everything else, I suppose.  On one hand it’s great to have, especially from a religious perspective. To have hope in a world that has seemingly gone mad is surely a very positive thing.  But, I’m going to look at hope from a deeper spiritual perspective.  First of all though, what is it?  For me, hope relates to an event or something in the future that is going to be responsible for making me happy.  There’s only one drawback with that.  If I don’t get the thing I’m hoping for, or if the event I’m hoping for doesn’t happen, I’m in danger of my hope turning into pain and suffering.

Hoping for a certain thing or event to happen really keeps us blind to our true reality, which is the One eternal Self.  This truth can only be realised in the Now, or present moment.  Past and future constitute imaginary time and do not really exist.  The past that shaped and conditioned us, happened Now, and the future that everyone is worried about and that contains the hoped for things that we have spoken of, can also only happen Now.

Yes, hope can be a positive thing when it is understood for what it actually is, but it can also be a jailer, keeping us locked away in the mind-made prison of imaginary time (past and future).

Observing Our Own Fear


According to the likes of Eckhart Tolle and Rupert Spira, it’s quite common for people who are going through a spiritual awakening process to experience the resurfacing of negative traits, which were thought to have been dealt with ages ago.  Not only that, but also to experience feelings of fear, hopelessness and vulnerability.  This is something that I have been very aware of in my own daily existence for the past few years.  However, the fact that I am actually aware of these experiences, is a very positive factor.  I decided on this as a theme for a blog post, because I thought it would be very helpful for anyone who is experiencing the same thing as me.

My understanding of why this happens is because the ego (which doesn’t really exist) knows that it is on borrowed time, and does its utmost to stay alive; as long as there is fear and the derivatives thereof, the ego will continue to thrive.  Normally, we are so wrapped up in our egoic earthly existence, we get completely sucked in by the “story” being told by the mind.  We demonstrate negative traits and feel negative emotions without the awareness of them.  Not in the context that is meant here anyway.

I have written in many previous posts about how we are “the witness” to the drama that is going on around us, and not participants in the true sense.  So, I feel that it is encouraging to know that even though past negatives may have reared their heads, and doubt and fear have crept in, it is not necessarily a bad thing.  Even though these things still don’t exactly feel good, what is good about it is that I am observing these feelings not only within my body, but also as a detached witness who knows that this is not who I am.  With this understanding, all such thoughts and feelings pass through and dissolve away.  The Self is always exactly as it is; ever still, ever the witness and ever reflecting the light of consciousness.  

 

Debate


As I’ve gone through this life and gradually evolved, two things have occurred to me. Firstly, the actual mystery of life becomes less and less of a mystery. Secondly, and paradoxically, as the mystery of life reveals itself as the “simplicity” of life, I realise more and more how little I actually know; which brings me onto the title of this little post.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Debate! The above statement has brought home to me, like never before, the sheer fruitlessness of getting into debates about spirituality and religion. People have to grow and evolve at their own pace, and this quite often involves holding certain beliefs that may not ultimately be true, but are serving their purpose by way of a stepping-stone. I am also of the opinion, that if you get into a debate with another person about any subject whatsoever, the “winner” will not necessarily be the one who is closest to the truth, it will be the one who has the greater debating skills.

Swami, Sri Sathya Sai Baba always used to say, “never get into debates about spirituality and religion because they are sure to descend into arguments.”

I am now of the view that it is far better to remain as “the witness” and let others debate to their hearts’ content.