Saturday, December 27, 2008

Spirituality Spot Found in Brain


Here is yet another scientific study that validates the importance of letting go of our illusion of self and control that emanates from our Ego. This must happen in order for us to get in touch with our True Nature, our Source, Self, or God. We are experiencing some kind of spiritual awakening today that is finally getting into the mainstream media and will hopefully start many on their Path with Heart. When the skepticism of the scientific mind begins to find proof of this spiritual connection in the testable material world, we can all rejoice at the prospect of humankind finally understanding the Oneness of All and lead us to transcend this "Me Definer". When one hurts another, one hurts oneself and everyone else at the same time. We are all One and we must work together just as the left hand naturally works in concert with the right. After all, we are one body, one organism, one Self. Such is the joy, the wonder, and the ultimate bliss of our True Nature!


Spirituality Spot Found in Brain

By Robin Nixon, from LiveScience

What makes us feel spiritual? It could be the quieting of a small area in our brains, a new study suggests.

The area in question — the right parietal lobe — is responsible for defining "Me," said researcher Brick Johnstone of Missouri University. It generates self-criticism, he said, and guides us through physical and social terrains by constantly updating our self-knowledge: my hand, my cocktail, my witty conversation skills, my new love interest ...

People with less active Me-Definers are more likely to lead spiritual lives, reports the study in the current issue of the journal Zygon.

Most previous research on neuro-spirituality has been based on brain scans of actively practicing adherents (i.e. meditating monks, praying nuns) and has resulted in broad and inconclusive findings. (Is the brain area lighting up in response to verse or spiritual experience?)

So Johnstone and colleague Bret Glass turned to the tried-and-true techniques of neuroscience’s early days — studying brain-injured patients. The researchers tested brain regions implicated in the previous imaging studies with exams tailored to each area’s expertise — similar to studying the prowess of an ear with a hearing test. They then looked for correlations between brain region performance and the subjects' self-reported spirituality.

Among the more spiritual of the 26 subjects, the researchers pinpointed a less functional right parietal lobe, a physical state which may translate psychologically as decreased self-awareness and self-focus.

The finding suggests that one core tenant of spiritual experience is selflessness, said Johnstone, adding that he hopes the study "will help people think about spirituality in more specific ways."

Spiritual outlooks have long been associated with better mental and physical health. These benefits, Johnstone speculated, may stem from being focused less on one’s self and more on others — a natural consequence of turning down the volume on the Me-Definer.

In addition to religious practices, other behaviors and experiences are known to hush the Definer of Me. Appreciation of art or nature can quiet it, Johnstone said, pointing out that people talk of "losing themselves" in a particularly beautiful song. Love, and even charity work, can also soften the boundaries of "Me," he said.

The greatest silencing of the Me-Definer likely happens in the deepest states of meditation or prayer, said Johnstone, when practitioners describe feeling seamless with the entire universe.
That is, the highest point of spiritual experience occurs when "Me" completely loses its definition.

"If you look in the Torah, the Old Testament, the New Testament, in the Koran, a lot of Sufi writings, Buddhist writings, and Hindu writings, they all talk about selflessness," said Johnstone.

We may be finding the neurological underpinnings of these writings, he said.


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Friday, December 26, 2008

Study: Doing Good Makes You Feel Good


I have been happily busy visiting with friends and family this holiday season and came across this article by Melinda Wenner on LiveScience. It is always good when science validates the wisdom of Jesus, Lao-tse, Buddha, and other less known enlightened teachers. With Christmas just ending, this interesting study reveals our True Nature so well and is just one more agreement with the Oneness of all. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have and feel the innate need to open your heart to those in need and share the altruistic Love that is our Source, our Self, and the God within us all.
Namaste'



There's a new incentive to doing good things for others: It makes you happier, according to a new study.

Michael Steger, a psychologist at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, has always been amazed by how differently people lead their lives. Pat Tillman, for example, left the NFL to enlist in the Army and fight in Iraq and later Afghanistan (where he was killed), Steger said, but celebrity and socialite Paris Hilton continually pursues "a public life of shallowness."

Steger couldn't help but wonder which behavior makes people happier—seeking pleasure or doing good?

To find out, he and his colleagues asked a group of 65 undergraduates to complete an online survey each day for three weeks that assessed how times they participated in hedonic, or pleasure-seeking behaviors, versus meaningful activities, such as helping others, listening to friends' problems and/or pursuing one's life goals.

The surveys asked the subjects how much purpose they felt their lives had each day and whether they felt happy or sad. The subjects also completed two sets of questionnaires at the beginning and end of the study to assess how they felt about their lives more generally.

They found that the more people participated in meaningful activities, the happier they were and the more purposeful their lives felt. Pleasure-seeking behaviors, on the other hand, did not make people happier.

Realizing that some people may feel guilty about reporting pleasure-seeking behaviors, Steger and his colleagues then modified the survey questions slightly to make them seem less exceptionable, and asked a new group of students to perform the study again, this time over a four-week period. The psychologists got the same results.

"A lot of times we think that happiness comes about because you get things for yourself," said Richard Ryan, a psychologist at the University of Rochester, who was not involved in the study. But "it turns out that in a paradoxical way, giving gets you more, and I think that's an important message in a culture that's pretty often getting messages to the opposite effect."

In order to make sure that the relationship between happiness and doing good wasn't the other way around—that happiness instead leads people to do good things—the researchers looked at which tended to come first. They found that the subjects became happier after they did something good, suggesting that happiness does, in fact, come about as a result of doing good things.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

Flowing Through Karma


Living within the law of Karma can be a wonderful experience if one just accepts the obstacles in life and turns them into positive, albeit surprising, experiences. This is where attitude is truly everything! As we encounter these unexpected interruptions, we have a choice to make - do we allow our Egos to draw us into the negativity of anger and frustration because we lost "control" over our well-made plans or do we accept the fact that we are really not in control and then find the positive opportunities that this new situation offers? Well, the sage chooses the latter, understands that this departure is simply a natural occurrence on one's Path with Heart, and continues in this new direction with a curious smile. This is how one can "cheat" Karma and prevent creating a negative Cause or, preferably, pass through this situation as an observer do not create any Cause . This includes the all-important wisdom gained from understanding the enormous benefits that arise from "going with the Flow". This is always a choice that each of us has no matter what the circumstances are. So how about an example....

I am currently reaping the rewards from letting go of this illusion of control and allowing my Path with Heart to make an unexpected change of direction that now has me enjoying an extended visit with close friends (family) that have always occupied a very special place in my heart. There are very few, if any, more positive and pleasant situations to experience. So here I sit typing a post to my blog on a laptop computer - something I have never done before! Something simple yet just another example of a positive experience born from an event that most would perceive as misfortune. You see, while traveling to the college graduation celebration for my "niece", my vehicle lost power and forced me to pull off of the highway many miles from my destination. It had to be towed to a reputable repair facility over fifty miles from my destination on a Saturday night and obviously causing me to miss this very important event that I had so looked forward to attending for years. This started a series of unexpected interruptions to the plans of several other wonderful people and presented each one with a similar choice of whether to allow this surprise to ruin their evenings or to just accept it as part of their respective paths and change course with a smile and a sense of adventure. All I can say about their experiences is that each one of them greeted me with open arms, kindness, and a sincere concern for my welfare. Every moment was, and continues to be, a wonderful and very heart-warming experience. There is no doubt that they chose the way of the sage and therefore, something with the potential to anger and frustrate, became a positive and rewarding experience.

Although we do not have Free Will because Karma rules our Destiny, we do have a choice in how we deal with the "obstacles" in our lives. We can choose to relax, accept, and enjoy the positive within all such events or we can allow our Ego to beat us up in it's frivolous attempt to "control" the situation and add yet another negative Cause(s) to our Karma with the resulting adverse Effect(s) that must be faced down the road of life. I am far more wealthy and blessed by my choice. Which will you choose next time?

Namaste'
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Understanding Wu-Wei or Non-doing


I understand that this concept of non(t)-trying can be confusing. We are so used to trying to do or to control everything. We have strayed far from our True Nature and most have lost their way back. The whole point is simply that we are already in total control before we start trying to "control". This drive to "control" is your Ego fighting against your True Nature. In the calm center of the moment, the Present, when there is no thought or interference from the Ego, we are truly in control. The ancient Taoist principle of "wu wei" is exactly what I am talking about here. Please read this definition from Wikipedia:

"Wu Wei" means natural action - as planets revolve around the sun, they "do" this revolving, but without "doing" it; or as trees grow, they "do", but without "doing". Thus knowing when (and how) to act is not knowledge in the sense that one would think "now" is the right time to do "this", but rather just doing it, doing the natural thing.
"Wu" may be translated as not have or without; "Wei" may be translated as do, act, serve as, govern or effort. The literal meaning of "Wu Wei" is "without action" and is often included in the paradox wei wu wei: "action without action" or "effortless doing". The practice of wu wei and the efficacy of wei wu wei are fundamental tenets in Chinese thought and have been mostly emphasized by the Taoist school. The aim of wu wei is to achieve a state of perfect equilibrium, or alignment with the Tao, and, as a result, obtain an irresistible form of "soft and invisible" power." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_wei

All of the true disciplines such as Yoga, Tai Chi, the myriad of meditation practices, and everyday disciplines such as boxing, dance, and archery, teach this concept too. It is only in the Present, where no thought occurs that we are at our best. This is when we are all powerful and fully human. This is the only way to achieve oneness with our True Nature, Self, God, Tao, or whatever you choose to call "that which can not be named". It is our Source and is the Source of everything in the universe. It is who we are even though the Ego "says" we are something separate. The Ego is nothing more than interference - no different from static on a radio is as it drowns out a station you want to listen to. Tune out this noise and the signal comes in strong. Silence the mind and act without thought. "Doing" is acting with thought so your energy is scattered, not focused, and far less gets done. "Non-doing" is acting without thought so your total being is completely focused on the act and therefore all is done. "Doing" is hard work. "Non-doing" is relaxed and effortless. Simply put, doing and thinking oppose each other and diminish the act. Non-doing, in contrast, is acting without internal opposition so one's total ability is focused on the act. Chapters 48 and 38 of the Tao Te Ching by Lao-tse show the importance of non-doing:

The student learns by daily increment.
The Way is gained by daily loss,
Loss upon loss until
At last comes rest.

By letting go, it all gets done;
The world is won by those who let it go!
But when you try and try,
The world is then beyond the winning.
~ Translated by Raymond B. Blakney


Chapter 38(partial)

A truly good man is not aware of his goodness,
And is therefore good.
A foolish man tries to be good,
And is therefore not good.
A truly good man does nothing,
Yet leaves nothing undone.
A foolish man is always doing,
Yet much remains to be done.
~ Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English, 1972



The principle of wu-wei contains certain implications. Foremost among these is the need to consciously experience ourselves as part of the unity of life that is the Tao. Lao Tzu writes that we must be quiet and watchful, learning to listen to both our own inner voices and to the voices of our environment in a non-interfering, receptive manner. In this way we also learn to rely on more than just our intellect and logical mind to gather and assess information. We develop and trust our intuition as our direct connection to the Tao. We heed the intelligence of our whole body, not only our brain. And we learn through our own experience. All of this allows us to respond readily to the needs of the environment, which of course includes ourselves. And just as the Tao functions in this manner to promote harmony and balance, our own actions, performed in the spirit of wu-wei, produce the same result.
~ Ted Kardash

These Eastern concepts can be a little confusing at first but after one tries to understand for a period of time, then just relax, clear the mind, and you will understand.
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Karma Rules So Why Try?


Karma keeps us coming back to the material realm until we overcome it. Few of us will cross this barrier. This does not mean we should stop trying. In fact, we should spend every possible moment letting go of the steering wheel of life and turning control of ourselves over to the infinite wisdom of the Present. It is only in these moments that we are living outside of Karma and therefore one with our True Nature - in the perfection of our Source or God. This is real Faith! This is when we are truly alive, in touch with our infinite goodness, experiencing the altruistic universal Love, and feeling the ultimate bliss of Empathy. One thought, though, and this paradise is gone. We are back to the world of Karma where causes chase effects like a dog chases it's tail. The more we try to get back to that magical place the farther away it gets. A perfect example is when you lose a thought. It is on the tip of your brain so you chase after it. You chase and chase and chase but it keeps moving away. How frustrating it gets so you chase even harder. Maybe your frustration even makes you angry at yourself - what a dummy I am! Funny, though, how as soon as you give up the chase, relax, and move on, you instantly remember the thought. Living in the wondrous infinity of the Present is exactly the same. You must give up trying. You must quit believing you can control, or are in control, of anything. Control is all an illusion created by your Ego. The only time you are truly in control is when you give up trying to control. By not-doing, all is done!

Karma still rules the day though. The Ego is very powerful and does not relinquish control easily. So why bother? You must understand that as long as you let your Ego create causes through thoughts and thinking actions, you are creating effects that will come back on you. Remember, when you are born into this material world, you have left blissful perfection and will now reap what you have previously sown. Welcome back to "Judgement Day"! You will be confronted by your leftover effects, good and bad, and will continue to create or cause more future effects. By letting go and shutting down all "control" by your Ego, all causes cease. No new effects are being created. The more often you can "stop the world" and live in the Present, the less Karma will effect you. The more often you experience these moments of pure Love, total Empathy, and overwhelming bliss, the more in touch you become with the suffering and needs of others. The more love you feel towards others who are struggling just like you to get through their "Judgement Day". You still create causes that create effects that will come back to you, however, your causes(thoughts and thinking actions) are more often kind, caring, and positive. The resulting effects will return to you kindness, caring, and goodness. Life becomes better. Your attitude becomes more positive. You find yourself driven to the aid of others whether that be a kind word and a smile to someone who desperately needs it or you are compelled to run to the aid of someone in immediate danger. Your world view is slowly but surely changing for the better and you feel happier with yourself, your material situation, and with your perception of others. The most important thing, though, is you find yourself living in the Present more often. Now that you are aware of the Power of the Present, you are automatically and unknowingly drawn into these beautiful moments - no trying, no controlling, it just happens.

As "they" say, "practice makes perfect". This age-old cliche' could not be more accurate! The more you experience the wonders of the Present, the more often you will experience it. The more often you experience it, the closer to perfection you get. The closer you get to perfection, the closer you get to overcoming Karma. The closer you get to overcoming Karma, the closer you get to Overcoming this World. This is "The Way" as taught by Jesus. This is "The Way and It's Power(Virtue)" as taught by Lao-tse in the "Tao Te Ching". Now do you know why you must try?


"If you stay in the center and embrace death with your whole heart, you will endure forever"
~ Lao-tse
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Karma: Our Anchor to this World


This is my perspective on Karma that I have been promising for some time now. The essay "Overcoming Ignorance" by Jos Slabbert prompted me to present this essay on Karma that not only fits perfectly with the Taoist teachings of Lao-tse, "The Tao Te Ching" but also with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, "The Way". The two together clearly explain the Law of Cause and Effect, or Karma, which is the ultimate principle governing human existence.



KARMA

Karma is the ultimate principle governing our human experience in this physical world. It is the the law - the judge, the jury, and the "executioner" - that rewards us for our good actions and punishes us for our bad actions. Karma is what many religious teachings refer to as "Judgement Day", however, it is not a day but is spread out over our lifetimes. We are our own judge because each cause(action, thought, word) births a resulting effect which is the reward or punishment, depending on the cause. As long as we create causes, we will experience the associated effect sometime afterwards. Our Karma started sometime in the distant past at the time our soul first arrived in this physical world. No one knows when that moment occurred but for all practical purposes, it was many lifetimes ago. Each of us is born into this world in a state of perfection but facing a long list of effects that will manifest sometime during our lifetime. We have no choice but to deal with the good or the bad effects because Karma is absolute, objective, and guaranteed. As long as we create causes, the consequential effects must run their course. All causes and effects, Karma, take place in the material realm therefore we are bound to this world for as long as there are effects to be dealt with. This is why each of us is born to a Destiny that is predetermined by the effects left over from previous incarnations. Hence, reincarnatiion is mandatory under the principle of Karma. Because we can not just choose to leave this world, we do not have Free Will. The choice we do have, though, is how we choose to deal with the events we are destined to experience. This is the key to our happiness and, for a few, the key to Destiny itself.
The teachings of Lao-tse teach us how to master ourselves and return to our True Nature, Our Source, or God. I have studied the Tao Te Ching for about thirty years but have yet to find where it clearly addresses overcoming Karma. There are five chapters in the Tao Te Ching that pertain to achieving immortality* but the wording can be somewhat confusing. For clarity on this, I turn to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth which he called, "The Way".

This is where my perspective on Karma deviates from that of Jos Slabbert, the author of "Overcoming Ignorance". I have the greatest respect for his scholarly work but I just can not deny the whole point of the teachings of Jesus. By his own words, he exclaims that, "I have overcome this world". By any definition of the word "overcome", it means that he had been bound to this material world at some time in the distant past just as we are right now, however, he had overcome that which had bound him to this world - Karma. He accomplished the most difficult thing a human can do. He gained true Free Will, and escaped the grasp of this material world. The incredible thing about Free Will, is that he had the choice to come back to this material world to show us "The Way" to do what he did, overcome Karma. This is Not to be taken lightly! "The Way" is the absolute epitome of challenges that relatively few will ever conquer, yet it IS possible. Jesus exhibited the altruistic Love that is the essence of our highest level of existence when he chose to come back and show us "The Way". There is no doubt that it took many reincarnations, the eventual awakening we all must experience, the beginning of his Path with Heart, his complete mastery of self, a mastery of each and every moment in time, and a life completely lived in the objective Present. In other words, he stopped creating causes and his accumulated effects ran their course as he objectively flowed by each and every one of them. Eventually his accumulated effects reached zero, his Destiny ended, he was free from the grasp of Karma, and he overcame this world!! This is called "Heaven" by many Christian teachings, "Nirvana"* in Buddhism, "Moksha"* in Hinduism, and by many other names throughout the various cultures of the world.
So where do we go when we die?

This is probably the most thought about question in the world. This is where different perspectives of the One Truth eventually became the myriad of religions in existence today. The origins of each one arose in the same way as when ten people who witness the exact same event "see" ten different events. They all saw the same thing at the same time yet each person interpretted the event differently. Anyone who has taken Sociology 101 has experienced this phenomena with a simple exercise all Sociology professors use to demonstrate perception. Ironically, and sadly, this variance in perception of the One Truth has been, and continues to this day to be, the main reason mankind engages in war and hate. If only the religious leaders of the world would come together to examine the very core of their beliefs, they would eventually find this thread of Truth at the center of all religions. My what imaginations we have! So, religions aside, where do we go upon death? I can tell you what little I remember from the two "near death" experiences I had in 1975. There has been two times since then where I was faced with certain death and I "saw" again what I had glimpsed at the moment of my "death". I experienced the most incredible state of perfect peace, perfect calm, perfect silence, and exctasy infinitely beyond mere words. I saw, and was engulfed in, the most beautiful golden light. A light so bright yet so soothing, a golden light that wrapped me in complete security and sereneness, a light so powerful that I could not resist it's pull on me even if I had wanted to. Wherever we go to rest between reincarnations is what I would call Heaven. The Taoist sage, Lao-tse, wrote "Mourn a birth and rejoice a death". I completely understand this truth for it is here in this material world where all pain and suffering occurs from the moment of birth until the moment of death. It is completely up to us how we deal with the challenges of life on earth and whether the Karma we create manifests as pain or as pleasure. This is the one choice we all have.

Namaste'


"The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you."
~ Jesus of Nazareth

"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne."
~ Jesus of Nazareth



* (Tao Te Ching) Immortality, Chapters 16, 33, 44, 50, 52.

* (Buddhism) Nirvana is the complete cessation of suffering; a blissful state attained through realization of no-self; enlightenment.


* (Hinduism) Moksha is the liberation from samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth or reincarnation




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Monday, November 3, 2008

A Simple Meditation


When I was training in and instructing Kenpo, my Sensei would lead me and the few other associate instructors in a meditation similar to this one before every Instructors Tech training session. He verbally directed this form of hypnosis starting with the feet and working on each muscle until we no longer felt our bodies. We became nothing but pure consciousness! It was an incredible experience that completely relaxed the body and calmed the mind to a state of unbelievable clarity and awareness. Our abilities to train and to Kumite became seriously enhanced. I suggest you tense each muscle first before relaxing it because this added technique increases your ability to isolate each muscle and also increases the level of relaxation. Enjoy!


A Simple Meditation


For those who have never tried meditation, a simple exercise is given here. It requires only a little time each day, or whenever you feel stressed, and can have a beneficial effect in a very short time. All you just need is a comfortable place to relax, some fresh air, and some peace. Simple meditation requires no special technique, just a little time and some patience.

Body....

Firstly, lie down on your back and take a few moments to get comfortable and gather your thoughts. Relaxation of mind and body go hand in hand, so begin by relaxing your body as much as possible, which is much more difficult than you might think. Pay special attention to any areas of tension, such as the shoulders or lower back. Here are a few time honoured techniques to help you relax:

If you have a reasonable grasp of the workings of the body, you can go through each muscle in turn, picturing it in your mind as it relaxes and lengthens. Start at the feet and work your way slowly up the whole body until you reach the top of the head. Actually visualise the muscles, tendons and bones and see them relaxing in turn.

If your knowledge of anatomy isn't so good, just work up through the body parts in turn and feel them all relaxing slowly in turn. Just let the tension slip slowly away...

A favourite technique of stage hypnotists to induce hypnotism is to try imagining that your whole body is very heavy or very light. Feel your limbs either sinking into the floor as if made of lead or rising up into the air as if attached to a helium balloon- many people find that this is very relaxing.

Whatever you do, don't worry if its harder than you thought or you don't seem to be getting very far, you'll improve with practice.

Mind.....

Having spent some time relaxing the body it is time to quieten the mind. Don't try to simply 'stop thinking', just take a back seat and detach yourself from your thoughts, be like a spectator, watching them drift through your mind and pay them no heed. Don't worry if you don't seem to be having much success, just relax and see what happens.

One of the best ways to calm the mind is to focus on some repetitive action, this is why mantras (repeated sounds) are used in some systems. Better still is to focus on the breathing, so once you feel relaxed in mind and body, take notice of the way you are breathing. Try to take slower, deeper breaths as low down into your abdomen as possible. If you have difficulty breathing into the abdomen, place one hand there, and the other on your chest - try and breath so that only your lower hand moves. Every time you slip and discover your mind drifting just gently return your concentration to your breath. Don't scold yourself, don't worry whether or not it's doing anything, just relax as much as you can and enjoy the time to yourself.

You can practice this simple breathing meditation as often as you like, and for as long as you like. Once you feel you have done enough allow yourself to slowly come back into the normal world, allow yourself a little time to notice how you are feeling, and slowly sit up, and then try to carry the relaxation with you into your routine life.

Above all, enjoy it and don't try too hard!

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Overcoming Ignorance....continued..... Part III: Conclusion

Please read Parts I and II first....



This is the conclusion to the expansive essay on overcoming ignorance. This essay is very detailed and filled with actions necessary to be one with Tao
. I want to thank the author, Jos Slabbert, for allowing me to use his wise words to help light the way on my Path with Heart and hopefully to help others to find their way also. As I stated previously, I have a different and more serious perspective on Karma and will attempt to illucidate my position in a new post very soon.


D. Behavioral Symptoms of ignorance


Behavioral symptoms of ignorance may be clearly visible to outsiders, but the ignorant are mostly unaware of their own ignorance.

What follows is a list of what could be symptoms of ignorance. They might indicate where you can improve.

Many of these symptoms might seem obvious, but make no mistake. They can manifest themselves in subtle, discreet, almost invisible forms. Your own ego, too, has a way of presenting itself in forms acceptable to your conscience. Do not be fooled by it.

What all these symptoms have in common is a lack of compassion. In fact, ignorance can be defined as any state of mind other than compassion.

1. Talking too much

Talking too much is often based on an overestimation of your ability to grasp subject matter. It could also be the result of your underestimation of the difficulty of subject matter. Ignorant people are often too eager to give their opinions on complex matters. They often rush in "where angels fear to tread". The wise are aware of their limitations, and with this in mind, they will carefully search for solutions.

Talking too much is often a manifestation of an inflated ego. For more information on this aspect, read the essay "Talking: A Problem and a Challenge"at www.truetao.org/the way/talking.htm.

2. Closed mind

In spite of their talkativeness, ignorant people do not want to get involved in true and vigorous exchanges of ideas. Their conversations are often monologues designed to impress. They are bad listeners, because they have usually made up their minds, and do not plan to change their minds. They are too insecure to change their minds. They are quick to criticize others, but cannot take criticism themselves. They are too scared to change their ideas or behavior. They will not admit being wrong, and they are more interested in appearance than true substance.

3. Egocentrism

Ignorant people are egocentric. They are focused on themselves, their careers, their development, their agendas and their interests. They show very little interest in anyone else's concerns but their own, except when somebody else's activities could be of benefit to them.
4. Inflexibility

Ignorance is often betrayed by inflexibility. Ignorant people often show off impressive agendas. Their agendas of self-interest often become their focus, and they refuse to deviate from their carefully planned strategies. They have no time for spontaneity and intuitive moments of compassion or just sheer joy. Ignorant people will often become slaves of schedules or aims, forgetting totally that life is there to be lived, and not to be enslaved to.

5. Ambition

Ignorant people often tend to be exceedingly ambitious, and their ambition is clearly centered in the service of their own selves. An integral part of their ambition is to outperform competitors and opponents. It is to become the center of attention and admiration. Even when their work is of a "spiritual" nature, they will still be plagued by egocentric ambitions which diminish or pervert their work.

6. Vanity

Ignorant people tend to be very vain. They are very worried about appearance, and what others think of them. Maintaining appearance is an obsession with them. For this reason they are susceptible to manipulation and corruption. Their fear of losing face will cow them into submission at the cost of betraying themselves.

7. Desire for status

Ignorant people crave status, or at least the appearance of status. They tend to see status as of greater substance than true performance, and they often surround themselves with superficial artefacts depicting status.

Fame or integrity: which is more important?
Money or happiness: which is more valuable?
Success of failure: which is more destructive?

(The Tao Te Ching, Chapter 44)

Their desire for status often turns them into individuals easily cowed by the specter of losing the good opinion of society. Reputation is high and integrity low on their priority list. Their fearful little minds search desperately for the warmth of recognition and acceptance.

8. Envy, jealousy, meanness

Ignorant people are often so dedicated to the ego that they cannot tolerate people close to them being successful. The last thing they can do is genuinely rejoice in the success of their "friends" or peers. They are forever enviously measuring the success of those they deem to be in competition with themselves, and they live in fear of being outdone by someone. They often small-mindedly refuse to accept any new ideas that might endanger their standing or status. They would sometimes revert to meanness to "defend" what they feel is their rank or position. They are often discreet gossip mongers, or sly backbiters, manipulating people's opinions to their own advantage. There is very little space for any form of real compassion in their lives, even though they would go to great pains to publicly demonstrate virtue.

9. Quick to condemn, slow to forgive

Ignorant people are often very quick to condemn. Their condemnation is often based on prejudices and uninformed assumptions. They prefer to reflect the popular prejudices and sentiments which promote their status. They are quite easily cowed by the group mind. In fact, they have few real principles they would not betray when faced by rejection. Often, ignorant people are slow to forgive because they refuse to take the bigger picture into consideration, and because compassion does not play a role in their lives.

10. Cynicism

The most dangerous form of ignorance is that of deliberately making the wrong choices, in spite of knowing they are wrong. People doing this are often beyond help, and can only be wrenched back to sanity by extremely traumatic experiences in their own lives.

11. Driven by emotions

Ignorant people are often driven by their emotions, and they tend to be as fickle and unreliable as their emotions. Their mood swings determine the level of their commitment and devotion. They tend to accept their emotions as reality, and would therefore often be enslaved by them.

Desperate and ignorant people
search for peace
on perpetual waves of inconstant emotion
or in the possession of things.
The Taoist sage knows
peace is
neither a condition,
nor a possession,
nor an emotion.
Peace is
emptiness
and
silence.

(The Tao is Tao, 92)

12. Easily captured by ideas

Ignorant people lack the critical faculties to evaluate concepts and ideas, and they therefore easily fall prey to ideologies. In this way, they would easily allow a concept to influence them and govern their actions. They lack the awareness that they can easily be ruled by things they are not aware of, particularly destructive tendencies in their own minds.

13. Lack of perspective

Often the thinking of ignorant people lacks perspective. They do not have the detachment to evaluate their own ideas. They refuse to think critically about their own thinking. In this way, they become slaves of their own thoughts.

Thoughts
shape
the ignorant.
The Taoist sage
is shaped
by silence.

(The Tao is Tao, 65)

14. Feelings of superiority

The Master views the parts with compassion,
because he understands the whole.

(Tao Te Ching, Chapter 39)

Pride is mostly a symptom of ignorance. Humility is a natural product of true understanding. The moment you understand the whole, you realize that you are not better than a person who has fallen by the wayside. Looking down on others is a sign of ignorance. When you truly understand, you will stop condemning others. Feelings of superiority prevent compassionate action. They allow prejudice and hatred to flourish. They constitute a terrible form of ignorance.

15. Materialism

The most obvious symptom of ignorance is a life devoted primarily to material gain beyond basic necessity. People focused on material gain are often chasing illusions of permanence, and will never find real satisfaction. You find this form of illusion even among religious people, who will rationalize their greed with "spiritual" argumentation. Materialism is linked to ego and dependence on status. It is a terrible form of captivity. Freedom linked to materialism is an illusion. Democracy based on greed and material wealth will never bring true justice and freedom to its people. True liberation is a spiritual one.

16. Impatient action

In ignorant people, impatience and action often combine in a very destructive way. Driven by their ego and their own ambition, ignorant people lack the patience to wait for the right moment to act. Thirsting for honor, they would not sit back and allow others to take the credit for solving problems, even if they are better able to. They are geared to short-termed strategies and solutions. Their impatience is often a result of their own greed, and it therefore often has destructive results in the long term.

E. Overcoming ignorance

Ignorance is a condition encompassing all aspects of life. Overcoming it is an essentially holistic venture exacting changes of a far reaching nature. Conquering ignorance is a deeply spiritual process. As such, this process cannot be described adequately in language. Its final condition is one of complete harmony with the Tao.

What follows is an incomplete list of a few important steps that can be taken to overcome ignorance, or at least to reduce it.

1. Expand your knowledge

The kind of knowledge referred to here is knowledge about relevant matters of the spirit. In spite of warnings that the intellect is not the main force in spiritual development, it nevertheless still plays an important role, particularly at the beginning of one's development. There are many things one could learn through reading or conversation. Through texts, one could "meet" many great minds, and learn from them. By discussing central concepts with more advanced minds, or with compassionate and wise friends, one could learn tremendously.

2. Kill your ego

Reducing the ego is essential. It is the source of too much suffering and delusion to tolerate. It is a tall order, though, for it could involve a total change in one's attitude and approach to life.

To learn more about dealing with the ego, go to the essay titled "Reducing the Ego: Strategies and Tips" at www.truetao.org/the way/ego.htm.

3. Become compassionate

The best way to start is to leave one's comfort zone and to become deliberately and actively compassionate. It is amazing how compassionate action can help to reduce the ego, and how it naturally increases wisdom in you. But it is essential that your compassion is not in the service of your own self. It must be true compassion, where the self has become unimportant.

To learn more about compassion, read the following essays:

"Wisdom and Compassion: Two sides of the Same Coin" at www.truetao.org/theway/wisdom.htm.

"The Tao Te Ching: Qualities of Compassion" at www.truetao.org/theway/ttc.htm.

4. Persist

Never give up. Remember that the path you have taken might be a long and strenuous one. You will need discipline as well as patience with yourself. And lots of faith.

5. Meditate

Find ways of disciplining and expanding your mind Make it part of your daily routine. It is essential that you learn to be in control of your mind and your thoughts.

For more information, read "Thinking: Winning the Battle of the Mind" at www.truetao.org/the way/thinking.htm.
6. Accept the mystery

As has been pointed out earlier in this essay, faith does play a part. Particularly at the beginning of your development, you have no choice but to tentatively accept certain premises in good faith. As you grow in spiritual experience, you will have ample opportunity to test these premises, and uncertainties will then become certainty. But the mystery of the Tao will remain, and faith will always be essential.

For more information on the role of faith, read "The Power of Faith in Tao" at www.truetao.org/the way/faith.htm.

Who can think the unthinkable?
Only the sage
in total harmony with Tao.
Yet his thinking
is an act of complete faith
beyond concepts.

(The Tao is Tao, 94)


~ Jos Slabbert, 2001
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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Overcoming Ignorance.....continued......Part II


Please start with Part I......

This essay is amazing in it's detail and unbridled in it's clarity of the Truth. I have followed my Taoist path for many years and have never come upon such an intuitive and gifted teacher as the author of this essay, Jos Slabbert. I sincerely hope that all who choose to read this are as impressed and appreciative of this dynamic and engrossing essay as I am. There is, however, one topic in this section of his essay that conflicts with my years of study and understanding. I have a different perspective of Karma - a subject that goes to the very core of the Truth. Karma is extremely complex in it's simplicity and Mr. Slabbert's perspective is very accurate and well defined but I believe that there have been and will be the one in a billion or more individuals who have in the past and will in the future overcome Karma.
I will explain my position separately at another time in the very near future and the reader can then decide which to believe. Be well. Be happy. Be!

continued....

C. Aspects of ignorance

1. Lack of right knowledge
Our society is saturated with ignorance. It is close to impossible to escape ignorance and its shackles. This ignorance is often based on a gross lack of the most basic knowledge of matters of the spirit.

Society is rife with falsities, superstitions and misunderstandings. People often spend many years of their lives totally immersed in an illusionary, deceptive world. This causes them to suffer, and even worse, to cause suffering to others.

There are many falsities that must be identified and discarded before one could even start developing oneself properly.

What follows is a list of some of these false assumptions and superstitions which bind one to a world of illusion.

Illusions and Superstitions

* The illusion of static permanence

As long as one believes that one is part of a world of permanent things, one will never understand even the most rudimentary aspects of the spirit.

The sage knows
the shade of the tree
is more real
than the tree.
He stares into the mirror
to see only
emptiness
staring back at him.

People unwilling to face reality cling to the concept of a static world, which is incredibly ignorant, for the world abounds with proof that the world is a perpetually dynamic and transient process. Spiritual stagnation is the inevitable result of holding on to the illusion of static permanence.

* The illusion of solidity - materialism

Believing in permanence is the basis of materialism, in which one sees concrete things as more real than the spirit, and therefore the only things worth living for. When one believes this, material possession is seen as the way to satisfy the spirit, and one becomes greedy for material things in order to find fulfilment and peace.

Confused,
drowning in the flood,
he clings to
his imaginary branch
instead of swimming for the shore.

* The illusion of "I" - a permanent soul

There is absolutely no doubt that the illusion of a permanent "I" causes the most confusion and harm. It is the basis of egotism, which is to serve a false self created by one's own mind. It corrupts even spiritual life, for it often takes the form of serving an ego-soul which uses religion as a bridge to reach its own selfish aims.

Why do I cling to myself
as if I really exist?
I refuse to accept with joy
what I will enter through suffering.

(The Tao is Tao, 34)

* The superstition of salvation through an external source

In all religions, there are people who tend to search for an easy route to salvation or enlightenment, which does not involve changing themselves in the process. They will cling to superficial ritual and form, believing that these rites would do for them what they refuse to do for themselves. They try to create the illusion that they could get the article without paying the price for it. It is a terrible superstition causing stagnation and suffering.

You and you alone can salvage your life.
You and you alone can walk the path.
No one else can do it for you.

Many Christians, for example, wrongly believe that if they have faith in Christ as a kind of miraculous icon, they would find salvation for their souls without following Christ's actual path. Christ has pointed at the path they should take, but they have confused his finger with the path. Christ is not a comfortable shortcut. He has given us a perfect example of a way to salvation, a way that can only be followed by the very bravest, for it involves sacrificing the self even to the point of crucifixion. It is living in the spirit of Christ that gives Christianity vitality, not ritual pretense of sacrifice, or prostrating oneself before some icon.

In the same way, many Buddhists would perform what would be symbolic rituals to build up merit. Rituals are no shortcuts to spiritual development. Symbolic acts isolated from real life do not move your spirit forward. Chanting other people's words of wisdom without application is like pretending to move forward on the path while you are in fact waiting for someone else to take you there. The spiritual essence of the Buddha gives Buddhism vitality and energy, not ritual imitations of virtue.

* The superstition of escape from karma

Many charlatans have made fortunes out of selling people what they claim to be forms of escape from the inescapable forces of karma. In the Medieval Age, the church even sold absolutions from sins to naive people. Often, holy men or women or relics, are presented as agents neutralizing the effects of your actions.

One thing is clear. There is no way to escape the inexorable law of karma. The law of cause and effect operates as relentlessly in the world of the spirit as it does in the physical realm. You shall reap what you have sown. Your deeds will come back to haunt you. Even a Buddha does not escape the relentless fairness of causality.

Only a real change in your mind, thoughts, speech and action will change your karma, for karma is nothing but your own action: it is in fact you. Only when you are not serving an ego will you live without creating more sorrow and suffering for yourself and for others.*

The ignorant
live in fear and anger of
the inescapable laws
of cause and effect.
They try to ward off Karma
as if it were some beast that could be slain.
They grovel before the gods
as if their favor
could render Karma ineffective.
Samsara,
the wheel of birth, life, suffering and death,
runs over them,
leaving them in tatters.

The Taoist sage
knows
Karma is inescapable,
yet he lives free from dread,
for he knows
he is Samsara,
and the wheel cannot run over itself.

The person in close harmony with the Tao
lives without anger,
for he understands
Karma is but himself:
there is nothing to be angry with.

The Taoist sage lives
as if
the inexorable justice of Karma
and the relentless inevitability of Samsara
do not touch him,
for
he is liberated from himself.

(The Tao is Tao, 39)

* The illusion of an explicable god

The Tao is silence
words
cannot capture.
The Tao is emptiness
not even
silence
can embrace.

(The Tao is Tao, 2)

Many religions will define their god, and present their definition as "The Truth" to their members, forcing them to subscribe to their specific concepts. By doing this, they gain power over the minds of people. In this way, religion has often been perverted from a liberating experience into one of captivity.

The illusion that god can be defined can be destructive.

* The superstition that knowledge is progress

The ignorant
try to escape suffering
by accumulating knowledge,
in this way increasing
their ignorance.

(The Tao is Tao, 47)

A surprising number of people still subscribe to this naive superstition. Tens of thousands of universities, institutions, agencies and projects gather information in the belief that the stockpiling of knowledge is progress.

Of course, as history has shown us in so many graphic examples, knowledge can also lead to what can hardly be interpreted as progress in terms of civilization. The Hiroshima bomb is an example of the destruction knowledge can bring. Our systematic destruction of our environment is proof of how thoroughly technology can be embedded in the worst form of ignorance, namely greed.

Not knowledge, but our harmony with the Tao determines whether we truly progress or not.

Our true development does not lie in the ingenuous inventions and innovations of technology, or in the gigabytes of data stored in vast databases, but in the realms of the spirit, for the spirit defines the direction knowledge takes.

* The illusion of "wisdom" without compassion

There is no such thing as wisdom without compassion. People with cold hearts posing as wise men are the true false profits of our age. Often their "wisdom" is utilized to enrich themselves materially, or to gain power and fame.

"Wisdom" isolated from compassion is a treacherous form of ignorance. It is destructive. It gives false hope only to betray in essence.

Wisdom can never be in service of greed. It cannot serve power. It does not exist in the company of the callously affluent.

Mere cleverness may solve many problems, but it will never solve the essential problems of the world, which lie in the realm of the spirit.

* The illusion of "compassion" without wisdom

No matter how much you love someone, your love will be of little value if it is not guided by wisdom that will transform your love into compassion.

Love not guided by wisdom often leads astray, increasing instead of relieving suffering. Love without wisdom easily turns into a destructive force serving the ego.

It is only when love turns from a cheap emotion into real commitment that wisdom has a chance to become its guiding force. Compassion, like all aspects of spirituality, lies beyond the merely intellectual or emotional. It lies in the sphere of commitment and experience.

Love without wisdom is a form of ignorance. Compassion guided by wisdom is the greatest force in the world.

For more information on this aspect, read the article "Wisdom and Compassion: Two Sides of the Same Coin" at www.truetao.org/theway/wisdom.htm.

* The illusion that action is progress

This illusion seems to predominate in the modern world, where "men of action", impatient and impetuous, in the service of greed, manipulate and change without regard for the natural processes of our planet. Never has there been a time in history where the virtue of action has been more overestimated and has become an end in itself.

2. Lack of faith

Ignorance
is not
a lack of knowledge,
but a lack of faith
in the unknowable.
The ignorant
cling to knowledge
as if knowledge can explain
the inexplicable.
The Taoist sage
lives
in harmony
with the mysterious.

(The Tao is Tao, 46)

Faith is our effort to deal with the mysterious. Once something has lost its mystery and we understand it, we do not need faith to deal with it.

The Tao as well as our spirit will forever lie in the realms of the mysterious, and will therefore always require a great deal of faith from us.

Faith means trust and acceptance:

True faith
is
complete trust
without understanding:
It is to accept
silence
silently.

(The Tao is Tao, 22)

There are many unprovable aspects that will just have to be accepted by us. We need the faith of a child to do so. Of course, our critical rational faculties will object vehemently against this gagging of our intellect. But we have no choice. If we refuse to take this upon ourselves, we will never be able to enter the spiritual realm.

To step into the realm of the spirit
is to abandon thinking.
Can you step over the precipice,
not knowing what is below?
Life starts this way.

(The Tao is Tao, 17)

Particularly at the beginning of our development, we obviously need a lot of faith, for we have not yet experienced on a spiritual level the revelations that will turn surmise into certainty.

Until experience has confirmed our beliefs, we need faith.

3. Lack of application

Too few people practice what they believe. Too many people are content with being armchair philosophers. Too many people today are addicted to intellectual excitement. Their effort to understand then often becomes an egotistical preoccupation with thrills of the mind. They will cling to the intellectual, which will then become a handicap and not a help on the way to harmony with the Tao. As long as you do not progress beyond the merely intellectual, you will never reach harmony with the Tao. In fact, intellectual analysis without the commitment to application ultimately confuses and increases disharmony and agitation.

Moving towards the Tao is not only an intellectual exercise. It is real movement which finds fulfilment only in the experiential sphere. It is not only talking about compassion; it is practicing it as well. It is not just discussing wisdom; it is also living it. It is not merely considering theoretical possibilities; it is to be in the thick of life, acting intuitively where there is the need to act, and to refrain from action where it is wise to do so. It is to speak out when compassion compels you to, and to shut up when wisdom demands it.

Theory is cheap. A life of the spirit is real, and demands its price.

The Buddha warned against accepting any so-called "spiritual truth" unless you have tested it yourself and found it to be true. Wiser advice has never been given.

Once you have started on your way, never give up. Be patient and resilient, no matter what happens to you, and no matter how many setbacks you suffer. Never turn back. Show grit. Have courage. Have faith. Never give up.

4. Egotism

Egotism is certainly the main stumbling block in destroying ignorance and becoming wise. The belief in a permanent "I" and in the permanence of things combine to form a terrible obsession, in which the main aim becomes the glorification of self. This self, however, is a false one, a contrived image of who you are supposed to be. It enslaves its believer and often drives him to hyperactivity and distress.

5. Dualistic thinking on a spiritual level

Many people allow their rational faculties to interfere with their spiritual life. This causes many problems. The rational separates, whereas the spirit strives to unite. The rational spotlights differences, the spirit emphasizes sameness and identity.

As long as you limit the rational and the analytical to its own sphere, where it has a legitimate and essential function, no problems will occur. Problems ensue when your discriminatory faculties intrude upon matters of the spirit.

The discriminatory faculties tend to undermine faith. For example, trying to explain the inexplicable causes confusion and not clarity. We have already mentioned what happens if you want to define god: you then turn god from a source of spiritual power into something that can be packaged and sold by organizations to increase their own power.

There is quite simply a limit to our rational abilities. There is a point in our spiritual development where only faith and commitment will allow us to progress.

A terrible byproduct of dualistic thinking on a spiritual level is the belief that things are really separate. We start believing that the "reality" created in our minds is real. We lose sight of the fact that separation is artificial and does not exist.

In a state of ignorance, we tend to be unaware of the confusing influence that language has on our ability to progress. For example, we tend to think that the "spiritual" and "material" levels are two separate levels, and we do not realize that it is our thinking that separates these two aspects. What we fail to see is that, in fact, the spirit and our bodies are identical. Not realizing this can lead to much confusion and suffering.


To be continued........

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Overcoming Ignorance.....Part I


I want to share this wonderful and informative essay with you because this is what I do and who I am. Ignorance is not a derogatory term or state because we are all ignorant about many things. I know that I am. Ignorance is actually the state we are all in before the spark of wisdom ignites and illuminates a path previously hidden. The timing of this occurrence is not in our hands any more than the day of our birth was. It will happen when it happens. I sincerely hope that something I post here will be the flint that ignites your spark. The wisdom is here for anyone able to "hear". I hope this helps those of you already on your Path with Heart and possibly helps to awaken one or two of you who are starting to question the illusion of the status quo.

"The only thing I know is that I know nothing."
~ Socrates


Overcoming Ignorance.....Part I

A. Introduction

One could ask why one should write about ignorance at all. People who are truly ignorant are not aware of their ignorance - not being aware that one does not know is a defining quality of ignorance. The ignorant will not really read this kind of article, for they will not know this is applicable to them. So why "preach to the converted"?


Ignorance seems to be a universal condition. In some way and to some degree, we are all ignorant. To a certain extent, we are all victims of illusion. This essay is designed to give readers some guidance on how they could assess their own "degree of ignorance", and how they could overcome it.

Becoming aware of one's own ignorance is the first step towards getting rid of ignorance. It is a thinking process, but also one of taking concrete steps in real life. It is an act both of analysis and commitment.

No matter how wise or compassionate one is, there is always room for improvement. Becoming wise and compassionate is a never ending quest.

B. The root of suffering

Ignorance is the root of suffering. Hinduism, Taoism and all schools of Buddhism, including Ch'an and Zen, but also many Christian schools of thought, agree on this.

Ignorance is more than just the absence of knowledge, even though a lack of knowledge is often part of the condition. It is the negative opposite of wisdom: the absence of qualities associated with wisdom. Ignorance also implies a lack of compassion, and as such it constitutes a self-centered attitude and its subsequent destructive approach to life. It is a life of greed and hatred instead of compassion and wisdom. It is to fall victim to illusions of permanence and materialism - the inability to distinguish between the real and the fake, and the failure to choose priorities correctly.

In Zen, ignorance is seen as the antithesis of enlightenment. Enlightenment is to be freed totally from ignorance.

Ignorance in Taoism is often described as disharmony with the Tao. It is a state of control by the ego, a restless condition of volatility dominated by illusion and destructive emotions. This state of disharmony with the Tao can only be overcome when one manages to strip oneself of a false sense of self, illusion and pretense. To be freed from ignorance is an awakening process - often gradual, but with brilliant moments of keen insight - and it entails the discovery of the true self and the transformation that accompanies it. It is a movement from disunity towards unity with all of creation.

Ignorance is the source of most suffering, yet it is "curable". It is a state of mind anyone - even the wise - can fall prey to, but it is a condition anyone can be liberated from - even those who seem to be inextricably enmeshed in it.

We live in a world promoting ignorance, vivifying the illusionary, and ignoring, even denying, the true essence of things. Fighting ignorance has therefore become a constant vigil against negative influence, which can take the form of peer pressure, the group mind, government propaganda, or subtle and brash forms of an omnipresent advertising industry. Our consumer society is focused on evoking greed and inflating the ego, and it is difficult to isolate ourselves from its negative influences. Governments often fan the flames of blind patriotism. Often, our professions, social pressures and education promote and demand an egotistical life style which runs contrary to a compassionate and wise approach to life. Many people seem to have no alternative but to follow life styles which strengthen their own egos and ignorance.

In this environment hostile to the spirit, it is difficult to rid oneself of ignorance and to move with the freedom only harmony with the Tao, and compassion and wisdom, can bring.
To be continued....
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Secrets of Inner Peace


"No price is too great to pay for inner peace. "

- Sri Chinmoy

Consciously or unconsciously we are all searching for inner peace. Inner peace is the foundation of lasting happiness, and satisfaction. Without inner peace, man can not know, either himself, or be at peace with the world.

1. Inner Peace is a Choice.

It is our own thoughts that will either bring us peace or restlessness. If our mind is clear of useless, undivine thoughts, we can experience inner peace in abundance. When we lose our inner peace it is because of our own thoughts. It is tempting to blame our problems on the world and other people. However, a man of inner peace will not allow the outer world to disturb his inner mind. If we maintain equanimity and detachment to events of the world, inner peace will remain a permanent feature of our mind.
God has not forgotten
To give us peace.
He is just waiting for us
To ask for it.

- Sri Chinmoy [1]

2. Inner Peace is to be experienced Here and Now.

It is a mistake to feel inner peace will be achieved in the future, when circumstances are more favourable. Inner peace can only be felt in the present moment. If we live only in the here and now, we will not worry about the future, or speculate on the past. If we live only for the present moment we can learn to understand the immediacy of inner peace.

3. Inner peace and Oneness are inseparable.

If we live in the critical mind and are constantly judging others, we will never experience real inner peace. When we judge others we try to assert our superiority over others, but this can never bring inner peace. When we are flooded with inner peace, we feel others are an extended part of our reality; the imperfection of others actually seem our own imperfections, just in another body.

4. Inner Peace is in the heart not the Mind.

To find inner peace in the mind, is difficult. The nature of the mind is to think, analyse and create problems. The nature of the heart is oneness, love and joy. If we can bring to the fore the qualities of the heart, we will find peace. It is also in the heart, that our Soul resides. The Soul is the divine part of our being, and is inundated with peace.

"To come back to the secret of inner peace, our questioning and doubting mind is always wanting in peace. Our loving and dedicated heart is always flooded with inner peace."

- Sri Chinmoy [2]

5. Inner Peace is Dynamic not Passive.

Inner peace energises us. When we have a connection with inner peace, we spontaneously have a positive outlook on life. Inner peace is not a passive quality, it embodies great energy.

6. Inner Peace and Meditation.

If we feel inner peace remains a far cry, we should not despair. If we sincerely pray and meditate for inner peace we can achieve it. Our sincere aspiration for inner peace, is the most powerful tool for making it a living reality. We cannot expect to be flooded with inner peace if we make no effort to attain it.

"To hope to achieve peace without spirituality or meditation is to expect water in the desert." [3]

7. Peace does not Require an Escape from the world.

Inner peace does not require us to live in an himalayan cave. Inner peace can be experienced in the hustle and bustle of the world. What is important is the state of our mind, not the outer circumstances.

By: Richard Pettinger, Sri Chinmoy Centre, Oxford

References

[1] Excerpt from Peace: God'S Fragrance-Heart, Part 2 by Sri Chinmoy.

[2] Excerpt from Eastern Light For The Western Mind by Sri Chinmoy. - The Secret of Inner Peace

[3] Excerpt from Eastern Light For The Western Mind by Sri Chinmoy. - The Secret of Inner Peace
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Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Thief and His Son: A Lesson in Wisdom


Following one's path toward self-mastery is a personal journey and everyone's experiences are as different as their individual perspectives. As I have mentioned before, knowledge and wisdom are two very different aspects of learning. Usually one studies to gain knowledge but until one internalizes this knowledge through direct, mindless experience, it just remains an abstract concept. Learning martial arts makes for an easy example. Your Sensei teaches you a kata, or form, then you spend months practicing it from start to finish until you can do it lightening fast, without mistake, without thought, with softness and hardness, as you withdraw in defense of your adversary's attack and respond to neutralize the threat. You have then transformed knowledge into wisdom. You do not need to think about doing it. You just do it. This is called,"It is already done before you do it". It is as much a part of you as your breath is. Such is the same in gaining the wisdom to master yourself. Below is a good explanation of gaining wisdom.

The Thief and His Son

by Derek Lin


To explain the study of Zen and Tao, the Fifth Patriarch told this story: "The Zen we have here is like an old thief who led his son into a mansion and instructed him to go into a walk-in closet to steal some clothes. As soon as the son went into the closet, the father closed the door and locked him in. He then ran through the hallway banging on doors and walls, making a loud racket before fleeing into the night. "The residents got up, looked around and realized that there might still be a thief in the house. They banded together, lit a candle, and started searching room by room. "The son, still trapped in the closet, was in a bad situation. Out of desperation, he made mouse noises, which attracted the searchers' attention. The master of the mansion ordered his servant to unlock the closet. The young man sprang out, blew out the candle, pushed the servant aside, and ran for his life. The residents regrouped and gave angry pursuit. "The young man couldn't shake them, but suddenly he saw a well up ahead and got an idea. He pushed a large rock into the well, and ran in a different direction. The residents heard the loud splash, assumed he fell in or jumped in the well, and went looking for him there. "Thanks to this ploy, the young man was able to get away cleanly. He returned home to tell his father what happened. After he completed his report, his father said, 'You're ready to be a thief now.'" Okay. What was the point of this rather long-winded story? What did the Fifth Patriarch mean when he said Zen was like these characters above? Think about it for a few moments before you read the next paragraph. Can you guess the meaning of this story? The main point is that ultimately, Zen and Tao are concepts for each person to grasp individually. A student of Zen and Tao is like the young man in this story, and the master is like the father. A true master will provide a certain amount of guidance and lead the student along the path to a personal trial. For every piece of wisdom one gains, there is a corresponding trial which takes place in one's heart as well as the mind. When you undergo this process, you start out just like the young man, trapped, alone and in the dark. The lock that keeps you trapped isn't a physical lock. Rather, it represents an obstacle to comprehension, and you need the key of insight to unlock it. In this critical juncture, it is entirely up to you to make a breakthrough. No one can help you. Now why is that? By the above we have described the process, but not the reason. Why is this something that you must do by your lonesome? By their very nature, Zen and Tao are highly personal. If someone were to explain them to you, all you'll get is a version of his understanding, expressed through the imperfect medium of his words. It still won't be your own understaning, because something is always lost in the transition, and his understanding is tied to his intuitions and perceptions, which are not and can never be your intuitions and perceptions. The only way to make Zen and Tao uniquely your own is to find a way out of this maze in the heart and make your escape to realization and oneness. During this mental flight, your pursuers are the forces of ignorance and misconception, and when you succeed in getting away from them, understanding dawns, and a light bulb comes on in your mind. You experience that golden "eureka" moment and win another piece of the Truth. That's what the study of Zen and Tao is all about - personal breakthroughs leading to personal enlightenment. In the context of our story today, it's all about qualifying to be a thief… which, in turn, means taking another step toward becoming a true master.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Secret of Death


Then Almitra spoke, saying, "We would ask now of Death."

And he said:

You would know the secret of death.

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;

And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.

Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?

Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.