Y’All Means ALL or Universal Salvation

hrc12937bu_2The HRC came out with a new T-shirt design that I love:  “Y’all means All.”

This T-shirt is meant to underscore the equal rights that are inherently owed to ALL human beings, and perhaps point out that ironically, states that are more prone to using the “Y’all” are most in need of remembering that God loves ALL of his children.  So, for all those reasons I love this T-shirt.  But I also love it because it reminds me of Universal Salvation.

I’ve been contemplating Universal Salvation a lot lately (so much so that I want to get the words “Universal Salvation” as my next tattoo).  Universal Salvation means that God has already “saved” everyone – that all souls will in the end return to God and as Rob Bell so daringly proclaimed (and I wrote about in a previous post) – Love Wins!

1024px-Francesco_Botticini_-_The_Assumption_of_the_VirginMorwenna Ludlow, in her book, describes Gregory of Nyssa’s two arguments for universal salvation as: “a fundamental belief in the impermanence of evil in the face of God’s love and a conviction that God’s plan for humanity is intended to be fulfilled in every single human being.”  In other words – Y’all means ALL.

Of course God loves all her children and would never leave any soul languishing in torment and separation.  Of course God will “save” us all and bring us all into Her Eternal Love.  Of course happiness is inevitable for all living things.  Of course all beings in all the worlds will be happy and at peace.  (I’m thinking I’ll get the Lokaha Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu as part of the tattoo as well – they mean the same thing).

And this is God’s victory alone – it has nothing to do with how great we are or how moral we are or how righteous we are – and it does not depend upon us converting the rest of the world to our particular religion (whichever one that is).  Universal Salvation is accomplished completely through God’s Grace.

graceI’ve been listening to Richard Rohr, my favorite God-crush, on my straight and narrow drives through the Florida flatlands to see my sisters and he has been talking about the completely unmerited quality of God’s Grace and of Universal Salvation.  Grace is just a gift from God that we receive constantly through no merit of our own, but simply from God’s love.  Yet, so often in religions and spiritual circles the notion of Grace becomes bizarrely confused with morality, karma or deservability.

I have been taught a lot about “invoking Grace,” and “pulling down Grace” and making ourselves “irresistible to God” so God would bless us with more Grace.  Nevermind the thought that someone could actually be “resistible” to God, that whole way of speaking somehow implies that Grace is something that is earned.  I’ve also been told that my Grace had run out, I didn’t deserve any more Grace due to my bad karma or lack of surrender, but again, that is being spoken from the premise that Grace is given only to the deserving.  7EF5243744C143FE98D711C3351CF5C7.ashxBut the very definition of Grace is that is it given to all with no restrictions as to merit or effort or worth.  Grace means that we all have an indestructible, inherent deservability – God loves us all unconditionally and gives us all unconditional Grace out of that love. Y’all means ALL.

In reality, all our spiritual practices or prayers or meditations are aimed not at making us more worthy of Grace or more worthy of Salvation, but of opening us to receive the Grace and the Universal Salvation that has already been given, or rather opening us to perceive the Grace of Universal Salvation that is always HERE.

10352890_1057779390900703_999636798334927694_nAs Richard Rohr puts it in his book What the Mystics Know: “We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God.  What’s absent is awareness.”  That is a truer way to teach about the Grace and Presence of God – what is missing is not our effort or morality or worthiness – the only missing ingredient in our experience of the Grace of Salvation is our awareness. 

I already wrote about this experience, but it is a moment I think about often:  Years ago I had this experience of looking up at the night sky and seeing, right along with the stars and the moon and the whole universe, Grace showering down upon the entire earth.  At the time I perceived it as “showering down upon” because that is what I had been taught – that we pull Grace down by our effort and prayers.  But now I realize that maybe what I was seeing in that moment was just the Grace that exists everywhere at all times as the Presence of God that holds every single human, animal, plant and mineral, the state of immutable perfection that is God as the created cosmos.

So, all we have to “do” is stop doing – stop doing anger or guilt, stop doing judgment or self-judgment, stop doing hatred or self-hatred, stop doing fear and hell-fire.  Once we stop doing, we naturally reside in Grace.  Once we let go of our egoic sense of unworthiness and effort, we naturally fall into God’s unconditional love.

Once we become aware of our oneness with the human and the divine and remember that Y’all means ALL, we can be fully present in awareness and realize our Universal Salvation.


Please explore Richard Rohr’s Many Wonderful Books and Audios or other authors explored in this post:

Do We Really Want to Be a God-Fearing People?

lovewinsI went to a wonderful event at The Collective last weekend – their Threshold Weekend with Peter Rollins.  There was much inspiration and food for thought and Peachy and I enjoyed it thoroughly (Peachy came, too, even though she is already enlightened).

At one point Peter Rollins mentioned a book by Rob Bell called “Love Wins” and how controversial it was when it came out, how certain churches would vehemently oppose it and shout “Blasphemy!”  I hadn’t heard of the book and wondered how something with such a benign title as “Love Wins” could cause such a stir?  What is controversial about Love winning?

When I looked up the book on amazon I saw that the full title of the book is “Love Wins: a Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”  Ah – Rob Bell wrote a book questioning hell, questioning the existence of some horrible realm of demons and suffering where people might get sent for eternity if they sin or even if they simply don’t accept Jesus Christ as their savior, even if they have never heard of him.  He’s simply asking the question – Would a loving God send people to eternal torment forever?

Again – why is this controversial?  Isn’t the answer obvious?  To me, it’s just common sense that a Loving God would not be capable of condemning anyone to an eternity of fire, damnation and torture with a red-hot poker. To me, it’s common sense that a Loving God would ensure that Happiness is Inevitable for all living things.  To me, it’s common sense that God’s love for us will ensure not only our eventual happiness but also the inevitability of World Peace.  Of course Love Wins!

I sincerely ask the question – why would anyone be offended and angry over someone stating that God loves us too much for a fiery Hell of eternal anguish to exist?  What is the attachment to hell?

inferno_purgatory_paradise_mapHell really doesn’t make sense.  I remember reading Dante’s Inferno in college.  It is a Medieval classic describing the many layers of hell (complete with a vestibule) with specific cruel punishments for specific sins, the torture becoming more and more atrocious with each level.  But oddly enough, the first layer of hell, called Limbo, is not such a terrible place.  In the first level of the inferno live Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and all the great minds of antiquity that Dante’s culture admired and revered.  Yet, they had lived and died before Jesus Christ, so they could not have been saved, no matter how intelligent or noble, and therefore they had to spend eternity in hell.  But because Dante liked them and they really couldn’t help it, he made the first level of hell an ok place to be – it’s just that they were technically eternally damned, so they certainly weren’t allowed into Heaven or even Purgatory.

Everyone can see the ridiculousness of that situation, right?  In order to conform to the non-sensical theology of his time, Dante invented a version of hell that wasn’t too bad for his philosophical heroes to dwell in. And we can all understand it – we don’t want our loved ones to burn in hell!  Of course not, even if we believe their religion or their life style choices to be wrong, we love them, we don’t want them to be damned for all time.  It’s heart breaking.  Shouldn’t we be glad to realize that a Loving God would never banish billions of soul to hell?

So why not just give up the idea of hell and embrace the reality that a Loving God loves us all?  Is it that we haven’t learned to love our unknown-23enemies yet?  Is it that we don’t like the idea of God loving those who we don’t love ourselves?  Is it that, even though we want a happy ending for ourselves, we’re not willing to give up on the idea that those we don’t like or disagree with will surely spend all of eternity in suffering?  Are we hanging on to hell out of our own anger, spite or vindictiveness?  That’s not pretty, is it?

Yet, here we are in 2015 and people are still clinging to the notion of God sending souls into eternal darkness and torment?  The idea of Love Winning and conquering hell is somehow controversial?  We are still hanging on to the Medieval sense of hell and of an angry God that will throw us in a deep dark dungeon and throw away the key.  What is the attachment to fearing God?

god-is-loveI’ve never understood fearing God.  I didn’t grow up in a religious household, which in this instance might have been a good thing.  I was never taught to fear God, I was never told that if I wasn’t a good girl I’d go to hell or God would be angry and punish me.  I had enough to deal with anger and punishment from my regular human parents, but at least I didn’t grow up with some kind of Heavenly Father about to strike me down with lightning.  Whenever I go to church and there is some kind of creed or prayer spoken about fearing God, I always abstain or change the words to “loving God.”

I remember at one point hearing a rather simplistic new age edict that every emotion was either from fear or love.  The theory was that every negative human emotion such as anger, hatred, envy or depression has fear as a root cause and all positive human emotions come from love.  I don’t know if the mysteries of the human heart and of all emotional energy in the universe is actually this simplistic, but it makes sense that fear is the opposite of love.  So, if God IS Love, how can we come closer to God through fear?  How can we know and feel God in our lives through fear?  Again, I ask, why would we want to be a God-fearing people?

hell-no-cd_thumbnailI saw that Richard Rohr also has a CD called “Hell, No!” questioning the existence of hell.  In the CD’s description it says:

“Until Christians deal with their false notion of hell, their capacity to love and trust God is seriously compromised. Such a belief aims the whole Christian life in a fear-based direction and with a narrow win/lose worldview that only appeals to the ego.  Love cannot happen through threat, punishment, or demand. God’s ways are much more subtle and true. The largely medieval notion of hell that many Christians hold to this day makes mystical union with God largely impossible and even undesirable.”

When you fear someone, you basically just want them to leave you alone, not notice you – you want to go about your business, following the rules and hoping God won’t notice any sins you might commit along the way so you can just skate through and not end up in hell.  If you know someone who will severely punish others for mistakes or transgressions, who will inflict pain and suffering – is that someone you want to be close with?  Is that someone you can love deeply and intimately, even if you think the punishments are justified?  No – believing that God would send souls to an eternity of pain keeps us from even wanting a mystical union with God and keep us from truly knowing and feeling the all-loving and all-merciful God that only wants our absolute healing and happiness.

Quite contrary to an angry punishing God of medieval hell fame – I experience God as eager to love us!  Eager for our happiness!  Eager for us to open and receive His healing presence of Peace!

If we are a God-fearing people, then we can’t at the same time be a God-loving people.  So, let’s give up the idea of hell and punishment, let’s truly believe in the forgiveness of sins and the Victory of God and Christ and Love.  Let’s eagerly run into the arms of our All Loving God.  It’s inevitable anyway.  Love always wins!


Love-WinsContinue your contemplation of a Loving God with these posts:

Stand on One Leg and LOVE!  The Rest is Commentary

Grace v. Karma

devil_angel440x3001No, Grace v. Karma is not the name of a new spiritually oriented courtroom dram-edy on TV about two angels incarnated as attorneys navigating the touchy issue of Grace and forgiveness vs. Karma and punishment (though it would make a great new show and I think I’ll start writing a pilot right away).

I saw this very interesting video recently about the fall of the Angel Lucifer because he didn’t agree with God about the new plan of Grace through the Christ Consciousness.  I was planning on showing the clip here but interestingly, I can no longer find the video anywhere – which is good, because it was really only the main concept that interests me, so I will simply recap.

In the video they talk about these things very matter-of-factly, as if they are simply giving a history lesson of what happened in the Angelic realms in times primordial.  I don’t really know if all these things can be considered historically accurate.  I think when we are talking about multi-dimensional Divine history it is entirely possible that more than one thing was happening at once and to say something might be true doesn’t mean another account is untrue.  Add to that the fact that our own perceptions and understandings of these things can be somewhat limited and our verbal expressions are even more limited.  All this to say that I’m not 100% convinced that the account they gave went down exactly as it was spoken, like characters with lines in a most epic movie, but I do believe there were some very interesting concepts worth contemplating.

arts-graphics-2008_1183116aBasically, what they explained was that when the worlds and the universe was formed and Lucifer was still one of the “good guys,” he was given dominion over the earth and humanity.  The plan for humanity’s evolution on earth was more along the lines of karma – learning your lessons by cause and effect, so if you kill 8 people in one lifetime you have to come back and get killed 8 times to balance that out before you can progress.  But pretty soon (whatever that means in Eternal time?), God figured out that this was going to take forever (again, quite funny given that God exists outside of time!), and so he decided to change the plan from karma to GRACE.  So, God sent the Christ Consciousness (in the form of Christ, Krishna, Buddha etc) to earth to remind all us silly souls running around taking an eye for an eye that karma was not such a great idea.  Apparently, Lucifer didn’t like this so he rebelled and well, the rest is what they call “history” if you can call mythic biblical angelic/demonic events history.

So – God overrode the law of karma with the law of Grace!  The Christ Consciousness was sent here to free us from karma, from sin, from error and ignorance.

Yet I know that much of religion still has a lot to do with the tension between Karma and Grace.  On the one hand is Sin, struggle, guilt, redemption, repentance and doing the right religious rituals to somehow earn our salvation.  On the other hand is GRACE – the complete and absolute love from God that says, there are NO rules, there is NO sin, you don’t need to do anything except receive the Grace of God!

I sometimes think, ok, if you really believe that Christ died for our sins, then BE forgiven!  Stop feeling bad or guilty and receive the Grace (of course, in all humility, this is easier said than done).  To quote from my Valentine, Richard Rohr, “People get trapped in chains of guilt and low self-esteem, what they judge to be poor performance and less than perfect attendance. As if the goal of religion is “attendance” at an occasional ritual instead of constant participation in an Eternal Mystery!”

So – one could say that Grace is part of the Eternal Mystery.  It is hard to understand that God’s Grace is available to anyone at all times for no reason whatsoever.  But that is the definition of Grace, isn’t it?

247987_349278608498234_1130549657_nAt one point, I was told repeatedly that my Grace had “run out.”  That somehow my bad karma had caused my grace to dry up, I couldn’t have any more because I had, in her opinion, been a bad girl.  At the time I kind of accepted that and tried to improve myself and “earn” more grace again – but now I realize that statement was not only not true in my case, it is NEVER true in any case – it is FUNDAMENTALLY false.  It is completely contrary to the very definition of Grace!

If I feel bad about myself, if I believe someone else telling me I am not worthy, if I deprive myself of the experience of Grace that is available to me at all times, then that is my own doing.  Likewise, if a person is angry and hateful and destructive, they probably won’t experience a lot of Grace, but that has nothing to do with their deservability – it has to do with their focus.

Grace has nothing to do with karma or sin.  That’s the whole point!  Grace transcends karma.  Grace overrides and overrules karma.  Grace trumps karma.  Grace extinguishes karma.  Grace kicks karma’s butt.  To quote Richard Rohr again:  “Divine Love is stronger than hell, death, or sin. In the end, grace wins!”

Grace is so beyond karma that there isn’t really any “versus” – Grace doesn’t even struggle with karma at all – it just shines its glorious light of infinite love and radiance endlessly through the whole universe as if karma doesn’t even exist.

bluepearlocean2One night, many years ago, as I was walking up from the temple after an evening gathering of chanting and meditation, I stopped to look up at the stars.  What I “saw” with my inner eye was God’s Grace showering down upon the whole earth – like a warm golden light of luminous love, peace and absolute good that was just part of the fabric of the universe, constantly showering down upon us, radiating through our very lives even if we don’t notice.  And now I somehow know that this wasn’t just a moment of Grace I happened to witness – it is ALWAYS happening.  Grace is inside us all and inside all of life, the entire universe!  All we have to do is realize it.

And I guess that is the tricky part – realizing it.  That is where the illusion of karma comes in, the illusion of our stories, our guilt or lack of self-worth, what falsehoods we believe about ourselves or about God.  I guess that is where the repentance, the prayer, the ritual and the spiritual practice comes in.  That is where it’s important to be able to discern – wait, my Grace has not run out – that is impossible!

It also has to do with our judgment of others, our use of karma to blame and justify the suffering of others and to withhold the compassion that would flow naturally from our hearts if we were filled with Grace. We can’t really take the goodies of the Grace for ourselves without sharing them with everyone.  Grace doesn’t work that way.  So, I guess in order to live in Grace we must 1) realize that we deserve to receive God’s Grace for no reason at all and 2) realize that is true for all of us.  Except that there are no “musts” when it comes to Grace.  Grace is a Mystery.  So, forget about everything I just said and just experience the Grace.

God’s Grace is here, it’s free, it’s radiant and embedded in the very fabric of the universe for us to simply BE.

winter_morning_wallpaper

The Radical Equality of Oneness

crowd-of-peopleI recently watched a spiritual documentary, a movie meant to be inspirational for living our life purpose, which it was.  However, there was this underlying premise that I found kind of bothersome.  Some of the best-selling authors and motivational speakers kept making comments like “Most people live in a trance, unawakened and on auto-pilot.”  There was reference to shopping mall consciousness and the general apathy of the larger part of humanity.  This kind of judgmental attitude towards billions of people on the planet struck me as actually contradictory to living my soul purpose, which is to love my neighbor as my Self.

In order to inspire us to live life to the fullest and really examine our passions and purpose, do we really need to think ill of most people?  It feels kind of like flippantly saying “everything is an illusion” – it is kind of rude.  And it seems not only unkind, but untrue.

5-inspiring-photograph-helpI find that “most people” find ways to express love in their lives – small ways, big ways, medium ways, all kinds of ways.  There are billions of people all over the world who do all kinds of good things – loving their children, supporting local charities, volunteering at local churches, feeding the homeless, giving to the Humane Society, sending care packages to soldiers overseas, donating their old clothes to thrift stores, taking care of their aging parents, helping a neighbor fix their garage door…  I could type all day long and the list would not come to an end.  These are all ways of expressing love and soul purpose.

I guess some best-selling authors or motivational speakers might not see a housewife’s passion for pottery as her fulfilling her purpose or going on her hero’s journey, but it IS her way of centering herself, meditating and putting love into what she does – not just in ceramic coffee cups or vases, but in all her actions as a human citizen.  Why is that “less than” doing a series of success seminars or writing books on how to live your dreams?

man-meditating-black-color-light-SSI also hear this underlying judgment of “most people” in spiritual circles sometimes.  Some of the sweetest most well-meaning people I know talk about how we have to hold the Light for all the un-spiritual people of the world or how we are part of the 2% of those who are focused on awakening.  I am absolutely certain that I have said similar things many times, so in a way I am grateful to this movie for pointing this separation attitude out to me.  I intend to be more conscious, loving and inclusive in the future.

And it might be true that those who meditate on the Light of God hold Light for the whole planet.  I know there are great Masters and yogis in the Himalayas who spend their lives in service to the consciousness of humanity by holding the focus of God in meditation and prayer (though I doubt very much that they look down upon “most people”).  In our kirtan at Chinmaya last weekend, as we were chanting the name of God and proclaiming the victory of Lord Rama I could feel the energy ascending, radiating out in all directions and manifesting the Victory of Love on Earth!  I’m sure that was a good thing.

But there are many good things and many ways that most people hold Love and Light, too.  I want to be careful to not hang on to any subtle separation that divides the 2% from the 98% or creates any kind of us/them thinking or spiritual elite.  I don’t want to go around thinking that meditators are cooler than other people.  I am not separate from my sisters or co-workers or friends, I am not separate from all the kind-hearted people at my church who may not meditate but who have a sincere love for God and who try to be the best neighbors and grandmothers they can be.

parentWe are all part of the world we are creating together and we are all doing our parts to the best of our ability.  Who am I to say that my part is any more important that anyone else’s?  What would happen if all parents in the world stopped loving their children?  What would that do to the vibration of human consciousness?  I can’t even imagine how much upliftment and love all the parents of the world add to humanity!  Is it more or less than the amount of love people on a path of spiritual awakening contribute?

What would happen if all the dogs and cats in the world stopped being cute and opening human hearts to feel love? What would that do to the sum total of love in the world?  For that matter, what would happen if crickets stopped chirping their eternal Om?  How would that change the vibration of the planet?

What would happen if all those people who “just” go to church on Sundays stopped going to church?  If all the millions if not billions of people who go to churches and synagogues and mosques and temples to sing praises and honor God for an hour or two every week stopped doing that?  When I started going to the All Saints Cathedral I’d watch everyone standing in line going up for communion.  Some people would hold their hands in prayer, some people would stand in line glancing around at the people coming and going, but they were all participating in becoming one with the body of Christ.  Who am I to say that the person holding their hands in prayer is worth more spiritually?  Who am I to say that this person is contributing more than that person?  All I see is that something holy is happening and so many people are participating and it makes God happy and it’s 662026beautiful.  It could be that the 98% who focus on God one hour a week do more for human consciousness than the 2% that focus on God 40 hours a week.  I don’t think there is really a way to do the math, but the point is, it’s all good, we’re all contributing love to the world.

We are all an intricate whole.  We are all doing our parts and adding our vibrations of love in our own ways and we are all dependent on each other.  I don’ even know if I COULD  be focused on God or awakening if it wasn’t for all the people in the world loving their sons and daughters or their dogs and cats or their spouses.  If all those billions of people stopped holding love in their hearts and their daily lives, if all the artists and craftsmen of the world stopped putting love into every stitch, would there even be enough love in the world for me to focus on loving God?  Maybe the world would fall into such a low vibration that I would just fall into chaos and despair?  Could I even hope to awaken without everyone else doing their parts in the collective consciousness?

Instead of thinking of “most people” as living in an unconscious trance, I should be grateful to every single one of them for all the ways they help to lift me up!

I read the online bio of one of the speakers in the movie and it said “so-and-so is a major, major player in the spiritual transformation taking place on the planet today.”  It struck me as almost strange to say that.  Is that what we should want?  As a spiritual blogger, peace activist and someone wanting to help all of humanity live in Peace, Love and Happiness, should I, too, strive to be a major, major player?

MLK 1I know that there are great teachers and wondrous leaders in the world, of course, and I admire and love them and am grateful for all their inspiration and the power of their love.  But Martin Luther King could not do what he did without the nameless guy walking behind him, the nameless son of a nameless mother who feared for his life as he marched.  There were thousands of those nameless someones who marched and stood with Martin Luther King in countless unknown ways.  There were also all the nameless people sitting in their living rooms watching the protests, watching the injustice, feeling horrified as the peaceful protesters were beaten and arrested, simply for asking for equality.  Could the world have changed without those people feeling their hearts touched and crying alone in their homes?  Could we have changed our collective consciousness without any part of the whole?  We were all doing our part and in that way Martin Luther King is no greater than the nameless sons and daughters who marched with him or the nameless fathers and mothers who watched with wrenching hearts on the television set.  Or if he is greater, at least he is not separate from any one of us.

I think that if there is anything that makes a great leader great, that makes someone a “major, major player” in our evolution, it is the ability and the humility to see ourselves in all of humanity, to see ourselves as part of a greater whole and to love that wholeness as our Self.  There is a radical equality in Oneness, and to truly hold the Light for the planet is to remove any subtle judgments or separation, to see the beauty and perfection of “most people”, and to simply LOVE.

Sun light love

Everything in Moderation, Even Moderation

c71154b62e816f03e6f0a6ccfebe0326Given that it is the beginning of the New Year and the store aisles are featuring weights and scales and exercise videos and the collective consciousness is rife with excessive resolutions about moderation, I thought it would be a good time to contemplate both sides of the spectrum, and the middle of the spectrum, as it were.

The West has the adage “Everything in moderation.”  Buddhists have the Middle Path.  Islam has the path of Enlightened moderation.  In Hinduism there is the balance between Advaita and Dvaita, seeing the world as illusion AND as real, being at once detached and engaged.

It seems that moderation is also the rule of nature.  Temperatures are not too high or too low (Global Warming notwithstanding), animal populations have a balance of death and new life and lions only kill one gazelle at a time.  Inside our bodies this middle path is called homeostasis – even in our bones we have a balance between bone production and bone destruction.

And I do believe that moderation is a good thing – a little bit of potassium is necessary to live, too much can kill you.  It is clear that the excesses of Western Civilization have had devastating effects (killing a lot more than one gazelle at a time) and can lead to catastrophic effects (aforementioned Global Warming).  And physically, one glass of wine in the evening may have health benefits, but 5 or 6 is detrimental not only to the liver but to the quality of one’s life on many levels.

In Religion, moderation is a key to compassion and respect of all human beings and cultures.  Moderation is what keeps us from going to extremes of self-righteousness which leads to fanaticism and the most hideous of extremes – hate in the name of love.

Spiritually, moderation is a very important quality.  Without moderation we can get lost in our relationships, our emotions, our attachments, our attainments, even our suffering.  I have learned the painful lesson that without moderation we can lose our connection to that still small voice and listen to the sometimes louder voice of outer extremes.  A spiritual path without moderation can even be dangerous.

Yet, in contradicting myself again, I also believe it’s not good to practice moderation to the extreme.  We don’t want to be so moderate that we are passion-less.  We don’t want to be so middle of the road that we don’t stand for anything.  We don’t want to be so detached that we don’t care.  We don’t want to be so moderate that we hold back our full self and live a half-hearted life.

There are a few things that should be done fully, completely, 110%, no holds barred, do or die, no limits, go for it like there ain’t no mountain high enough!

Loving God is something I recommend doing to the extreme.  That one I am sure about – don’t hold back for any reason.  I guess some would say you should love God in moderation because you need to also feed your family and pay your bills – but I say Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might – and do so WHILE feeding your family and paying your bills.   God wants your children to eat.  God loves your children absolutely, so I would even venture to say that loving God in excess will help you feed your family.  If you are doing something in the name of loving God that somehow interferes with your children eating, then it’s not really loving God.  There is absolutely no reason you can’t take care of daily life while loving God with absolute abandon.

thakur_hriday2I guess sometimes you can love God so much that you go into a state of ecstatic rapture and are not able to write checks, but even so, I say go for it.  It only takes a minute to write a check, so then you have hours to reside in ecstatic bliss.  And if you plan on doing this frequently, like Ramakrishna, make sure that you have someone around you to write those checks for you and to put your loin cloth back on if it falls off while you are in a blissful state of oneness with the Lord.

Most of us don’t need to be concerned about not knowing when our loin cloth falls off because we are so busy loving God to the extreme, like Ramakrishna, and if that is a concern, I’d consider that good fortune and not a reason to love God any less.

Loving our neighbors as our Selves is also something I recommend doing whole-heartedly.  I believe as a soul incarnated here, I am to love my neighbor as I love God – unconditionally, completely and without limits.  And just as there are those who say love God in moderation, there are also those who say love others in moderation – you need to also take care of your self.  And yes, this is true.  We do need to not only eat and sleep but also replenish ourselves emotionally and spiritually – and if we don’t, we will not be able to continue giving.  Yet – this moderation does not mean that we need to LOVE any less.

Indeed, this need for moderation in sleep and food is often confused for an excuse to limit loving – but again, loving your neighbor as your Self does not mean that you do not eat or sleep – it simply means you LOVE your fellow human beings with your whole heart and strive to love them as God loves them.  There is absolutely no reason you can’t eat and sleep while loving your neighbor as your Self.

And it is very important to distinguish between this energy of pure love and its distant dysfunctional cousin, co-dependency.  Giving away your Self to a man or a woman or a parent or any other ego identification is NOT love.  And this same co-dependence can even be acted out in a cause – giving your whole self to feeding the hungry, but from a place of guilt or anger or escaping what you don’t want to face in your own life.  So – in the case of co-dependence, moderation IS good.

MotherTeresaHowever, this is not LOVE.  What I am talking about is LOVING thy neighbor as thy Self in the extreme, no limits – like you are loving God.  When feeding the hungry comes from that place, it is far from dysfunctional, it is saintly and Divine.  Co-dependence in human relationships is the opposite of loving your neighbor, just as fanaticism in religion is the opposite of loving God.  Mother Teresa was not a religious fanatic or a co-dependent do-gooder.  Her mind was balanced and her heart was open and flexible, and she loved humanity to the extreme.  She loved humanity as she loved God.  We should all be a little more like her.

Moderation and extremism is a complicated issue.  It is full of paradoxes and contradiction, open-ended questions and infinite possibilities on both ends of the spectrum and in the extreme point in the Middle.  However, if I were to conclude something , it would be this:

Live life to the fullest, but don’t get addicted to dare-devil sports that will kill you cave-diving when you’re 21.  Love God with all your might, love thy neighbor as thy Self  – to the extreme, and do so with a very high level of discernment and balance of mind.  Extreme love also requires extreme consciousness or it can turn into the opposite of love.  Everything in moderation, even moderation.

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Painting by Jim Thompson at www.art-mind-soul.com

Stress Reduction – God’s Secret Weapon

ilovemy-crm-logo - CopyI recently taught a 6 week meditation class for stress reduction.  I work at a fairly conservative small college and this past quarter the focus of the staff Wellness program has been on reducing stress for health benefits.  The Wellness program is something the college has for its faculty and staff in order to get better rates from our insurance company.  I guess they figure if the employees receive support and education around health there will be less claims – less by-pass surgeries and long-term diabetes treatments to pay for.  So, basically – it comes down to money.  In a strange twist of fate, in order to save a corporate-greed-capitalist-America insurance company money, I was paid to teach meditation to my co-workers during our lunch hour on Fridays.

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Or is it a twist of fate?  Maybe it is just fate straight up.  Maybe it is exactly as God planned.

My friend Lord Flea sent me an article from the New York Times – How to Find a Job With Meditation and Mindfulness.  It is about a meditation studio craze in New York where Manhattanites are flocking to invite-only meditation studios to meditate and network with investors and start-up entrepreneurs. The article states how this idea came to New York from San Francisco and Wisdom 2.0 – a conference bringing together leaders from the Silicon Valley tech giants with experts in yoga, mindfulness and meditation.  Their goal is “to live with greater wisdom, purpose, and meaning, while using technology in ways that create a more open and healthy culture.”  This is an organization that I first heard of from my friend in San Francisco, Janardhan Chodagam, a very successful software engineer who realized that “a life of fulfillment trumps a life of achievement.”  When I met him he had left the industry to teach meditation with the Brama Kumaris full time and was doing an introduction to Raja Yoga for overworked business professionals in the Bay Area.

Teza, or Lord Flea, is one of my closest spiritual friends, a true lover of God and believer in the power of Love.  Yet, when she started meditating decades ago, she wasn’t looking for God. She heard a talk about how Transcendental Meditation made a person more efficient, productive and creative – and although she started meditation for productivity, she ended up on a lifelong spiritual path.

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Deepak Chopra & Dr. Oz Meditating to lose weight

Years ago I also heard a story of a woman from Brooklyn.  She was your run-of-the-mill Brooklyn housewife and she saw a sign in the window of a yoga studio advertising a certain breathing technique to help you lose weight.  She took the class and the teacher recommended practicing the technique for 10 minutes a day.  She figured if she did the breathing technique for longer, she would lose more weight.  Before she knew it, she was meditating for hours a day and having all kinds of spiritual experiences.  She went to India to meet her teacher and wound up dedicating her life to God, founding an ashram and a charitable organization that does work in the US, India and Uganda.  All because she wanted to lose some weight.

You see, I think that God is secretly using all these “lose weight” and “increase productivity” and “reduce stress” tag lines to help forward the evolution of human consciousness on earth.  It doesn’t matter why we start on a spiritual path.  It doesn’t matter how we get focused on love, peace and a higher way of life.  It doesn’t matter if we expand our consciousness initially because we want to network and find spiritually centered investors for our new fashion start up.  It doesn’t matter if we open our hearts to compassion because we downloaded a meditation app from 1 Giant Mind (who I talk a bit more about on the Meditation Resources page).

biz man med - CopySome people might see New York’s meditation/networking clubs as a crass capitalist sacrilege.  But I rejoice in ALL the wonderful new ways God is finding to bring people to the center of their being.  How amazing that so many business tycoons are breathing in relaxation and breathing out peace.  How glorious that so many doctors are prescribing mindfulness meditation to lower blood pressure.  I can’t even begin to count how many people are being transformed into better, more loving human beings simply by beginning the practice of meditation for any reason whatsoever.  I can’t imagine the impact all these success workshops and health seminars are having on our collective consciousness.

God loves us.  God is constantly looking for any way at all to bring Her children home to more love, peace and happiness.  She sends prophets and saints.  She gives us nature and the miracle of sunsets.  She gives us music and poetry and all the creative expressions of the human soul.  And She gives us Wellness program stress reduction meditation classes.  People get into meditation for all kinds of reasons – blood pressure, weight loss, productivity and success.  God uses all kinds of sneaky ways to aid in the evolution of human consciousness.

I don’t know if you could really say that God has a weapon of any kind.  I know all kinds of scriptures depict God as smiting and drowning and killing all kinds of peoples, but I really think that if there is anything that God is NOT capable of doing, it would be to cause harm.  But, I guess in the old spiritual battlefield of inner decision between good and evil, God can kick some ass.  And in that arena, stress reduction is Her secret weapon.


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Times Are A’Changin’ – or Are They?

6a50a4c6098d43f9e6de4d24f5d2d508Here is a quote about the state of our youth.  Can you guess who said it?

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

Did you guess? Emily Post?  Miss Manners?  Donald Trump?

I’ll give you a hint.  The quote is from someone who died 2413 years ago.

This is what Socrates said about the youth of his day.  For some reason I find that hysterically funny.

Yesterday morning, the morning after Thanksgiving at my sister’s house, we were sitting around the kitchen table, extended to accommodate the extra family Three Types of Political Campaignsmembers.  As tends to happen at family gatherings during holidays and special occasions, the conversation steered towards the state of the American political system (broken), the intelligence of American politicians (or lack there of) and the state of our youth (rude with no attention span).  Then I thought of Socrates.  And after the discussion of how cell phones have ruined our youth, I used my cell phone to google the quote.

It is oddly comforting to me that people were complaining about the youth of their day over two millennia ago, sounding exactly like something my grandmother might have said.  Our breakfast conversation was actually similar to Socrates (that is a lofty claim, I know, but our conversation didn’t get any more philosophical than this derision of young people).  I realized that if Socrates was offended by the youth of ancient Greece, maybe the youth of our day isn’t so bad.  Maybe they are just being youth and we are just being the grown ups who complain about them gobbling their food without any manners.

Then I remembered the very true (though somewhat slurred) story about the election of 1800 from Drunk History:

 

When we get down about negative campaigning or smear tactics in today’s politics, it’s good to remember the antics of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams 214 years ago.  They were basically behaving like two 8 year-olds throwing mud at each other – each one trying to out-do the other in outlandish and completely untrue negative ads.  Thomas Jefferson went to the newspaper and told them John Adams was a hermaphrodite – there are actual printed statements that Adams had both male and female sex organs.  John Adams told the media that everyone should vote for him because Jefferson was dead – and even if you disagreed with everything Adams said, at least he was alive!

When I saw this clip, I again had a strange sense of optimism.  If this is what our founding fathers were up to over 200 years ago and we are still around and haven’t ruined ourselves with our own stupidity, then maybe we’re doing ok.  Maybe, just maybe, we are actually getting better.  Even with all the negative attack ads and political spin, at least our candidates aren’t just blatantly making up stuff about each others sex organs.

hopeYou see, instead of seeing that we are all doomed because our youth and our politicians have always been deplorable, I see that our youth and our politicians are just being how they have always been and humanity has just had a tendency to complain.  That doesn’t make everything horrible.  Even if people like to lament about the state of young people, politicians and the weather while sitting around a breakfast table, the world is actually quite a wonderful place.

Maybe our youth aren’t so rude.  Maybe we are making progress.  Maybe things are actually changing for the better.  Maybe we ARE evolving.  Maybe there is hope.

Contradictions, Paradox and Unity

walt-whitman1Way back in my high school days of Dead Poets Society and Oh Captain my Captain teenage angst poetry I remember loving this line by Walt Whitman:

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

The older and hopefully wiser I get, the more I love that line.  It is true.

Sometimes in writing I worry about contradicting myself, like it will make me lose my credibility or make me look inconsistent or like I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about (which I have never claimed that I do, so if it turns out I don’t know what I’m talking about, there is no contradiction there).  But of course I contradict myself!  Contradicting myself doesn’t mean that I am inconsistent or hypocritical.  It simply means that life contradicts itself.

I also worry about contradicting others.  The other day I saw a friend of mine and she said to me “was this post about so-and-so?”  My first thought was – oh my God, people are actually reading what I write!  My second thought was – uh-oh, people are actually reading what I write.  How do I go about clarifying and refining my understandings without being anti-anything or giving anyone the impression I think they are wrong.  Doesn’t there have to be some form of “not this, not this, not this…”  Yet saying “not this” doesn’t negate the unity.  The unity is large, it contains multitudes.

I wrote in an earlier post about my concern about responding to something I disagree with in my posts.  I don’t want to be “anti” anyone or have my energy come across as disagreeable.  I want to embrace and unify and bring love.  And sometimes I hear something come out of someone that doesn’t feel 100% true to me and so I contemplate and ponder, I focus my awareness on what it is I am feeling and I gain more clarity inside myself.  Then I share that in my writing.

0124Like the other day, with my dear friend’s habitual “it’s all an illusion” utterances.  Yet when I emailed him and said hey, I wrote about you today, he replied that he was honored.  “I am truly honored…uh…in that i was mentioned in wonderful piece in such a loving way and that i could be a cause of such deep contemplations.”  And what’s more, he said that he really agrees with me that it is the separation that is an illusion and that the  “disengaging interpretation engenders apathy and by golly, boredom, ‘nothing matters because everything is an illusion…’  c’mon, what about living. (if talking to a dog, ‘flare those nostrils and experience the melange within each instant, free from the obscuring delusion of thought.)”

For every person that has said something that I have deeply listened to, contemplated and responded, I hope they would have the same experience.  I’m sure that they are just as sincere in their seeking as I am and that deep down inside they share the same longing to know Truth, to love God and to live in Unity and Happiness.  I hope we all get closer to the answers that we are seeking and that we can help each other along the way by comparing and contrasting, clarifying and refining, inspiring each other into deep contemplation and deeper understanding of this beautiful paradoxical vastness we live in.

Heck, half the time after I publish a post I think – oh, but the opposite is also true.  A few days later I’ll post something that says – oh, and I want to disagree with myself.

God is in Her very nature paradoxical.  God is a beautiful mystery.  In the vastness that is God, seemingly opposite things can both be true at the same time.  In fact, multiple things that seem contradictory can all be true. It is true that nothing matters because God will always win and happiness is inevitable for all living things.  It is also true that everything matters because it is up to us to stand with God and each moment that we prolong the suffering for any creature is a betrayal of our own loving nature.

goldeneggIn Hinduism there are multiple creation stories.  In one version the creation emerged from a Golden Cosmic Egg.  In another version, the great man-God Purusa was dismembered and each of his body parts formed a different caste of humans. The ancient Rig Veda gives a strikingly modern agnostic rendition – not so much a creation story as a creation pondering, stating that we don’t really know what happened and maybe even God doesn’t know:

“There was neither non-existence nor existence then… What stirred? Where? In whose protection?… Who really knows? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?… Perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not – the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven (God), only he knows – or perhaps he does not know.”

There is not one definitive truth of creation.  Yet, somehow, it doesn’t really bother Hindus in general.  No one seems to mind the blatant contradictions and multiple versions of events.  They are not so concerned with there only being one account of the creation of the universe.  I guess they just have an acceptance that the universe is large and it contains multitudes.  Just as there are hundreds of gods and only One God at the same time.  Hinduism is often depicted as “polytheist” but it is really radically monotheistic, seeing all gods, and indeed all of life, as a manifestation of the one Divine. The hundreds of gods are varying expressions or faces of the One God who is vast beyond all time and space – so vast that God contradicts Herself all the time!

It doesn’t make sense.  It’s not meant to.  It’s not possible for God in all Her vastness to make sense.  Yet She is the Supreme Order of the Universe.  Yet She is what feels like totally obvious common sense inside our hearts.

JesusLovesYouBeachI once saw a bumper sticker that said “Jesus loves you but I am his favorite.”  I know it was meant to be funny, but what struck me is that it was so perfect because it’s true. The only thing is, it’s true for every single person on the planet.  Jesus (and God) completely loves you the most out of every being in the universe – you are his favorite.  And you, too.  And you.  And so forth.  Jesus is vast, he contains multitudes.

God is a paradox.  I contradict myself.  Opposites are true.  Deal with it.

Is the Creation All An Illusion?

medicinewheelblueI have a very dear friend who is a self-described Buddhist leaf-on-the-wind.  He is one of the kindest people I know and he earnestly strives to love and give without attachment or selfishness.  I love him and admire him, I honor his sincerity on his spiritual path, but he does have one habit that kind of bugs me.  In conversation he frequently says, “well, whatever, it’s all an illusion anyway.”

I know this is a Western popularization of the Eastern idea of Maya – the illusory world of polarities and separateness that we live in.  Maya is the world where we have us and them, you and I and where we have ego and the Self.  In modern day Quantum Physics, this notion of Maya is reinforced by the notion that we create our own reality from our own minds – that the electron does not exist until it is observed by the observer.  This notion of the world as illusion is also depicted (in a most bad-ass way, I must add) in the Matrix movies.  Here, the entire world we think we live in is literally just a computer programmed illusion meant to keep us from questioning the nature of reality.

And I love all the new physics and scientific discoveries about the Unified Field and string theory.  I love the Matrix movies and how Neo discovers that we are not limited by the confines of the illusory world we have known and we can fly and stop bullets and do some amazing kung fu!  I love the Bhagavad Gita and the Lotus Sutra and all the Eastern wise ones freeing us from our illusion of selfishness.  However – when I hear someone say the statement “it’s all an illusion anyway,” I cringe inside.

I found this gut feeling I’ve had in my insides whenever I’ve heard that statement perfectly expressed in Eknath Easwaran’s introduction to the Bhagavad Gita:

Thank you www.sanatansociety.org

Thank you www.sanatansociety.org

“The sages called the dream of waking life – the dream of separate, merely physical existence – by a suggestive name, maya… In the Gita, maya becomes the creative power of the Godhead, the primal creative energy that makes unity appear as the world of innumerable separate things with ‘name and form.’

Later philosophers explained maya in surprisingly contemporary terms… the mind looks at unity and sees diversity; it looks at what is timeless and reports transience.  And in fact the percepts of its experience are diverse and transient; on this level of experience, separateness is real.  Our mistake is in taking this for ultimate reality, like the dreamer thinking that nothing is real except his dream.

When we look at unity through the instruments of the mind, we see diversity; when the mind is transcended, we enter a higher mode of knowing – turiya, the fourth state of consciousness – in which duality disappears.  This does not mean, however, that the phenomenal world is an illusion or unreal.  The illusion is the sense of separateness.” 

Ah!  Finally, an articulate understanding of why I have always been annoyed at these modern day dismissive “it’s all an illusion” comments.  I’ve always just said – “argh! it’s not an illusion, it’s the creation.”  But I had never been able to put it into words quite that clearly.  When I read these words I felt a big CLICK in my being, and a big sigh of relief.

peace-wallpaper-backgrounds-desktop-nature-109803That’s it.  The fact that our ultimate reality is one of Unity and Oneness with God and with each other doesn’t mean that the whole of God’s creation is just an illusion and of no consequence.  It’s just the sense of separation that is the illusion – in reality, the world that we live in is a gift of wonder and beauty and it’s something that should be cherished and enjoyed, not dismissed as all an illusion.  That’s why I’ve always felt that shrugging your shoulders and saying “whatever, it’s all an illusion anyway” can be kind of rude.

What’s worse is when someone looks at suffering – one’s own suffering or the suffering of others – and thinks, well, it’s just an illusion.  Sure – maybe on the highest level of reality everything is God, including the evil people who can abuse and torture other human beings – and maybe in the highest level of reality the souls who are enduring this pain will one day return to the Unity of God and all will be good again.  But on this level of the creation, suffering is real and suffering deserves compassion and action.  Whether it’s a person accepting their lot in life because it’s all an illusion anyway or someone shutting their heart down to the suffering of others because it’s not really real – I don’t think that is what is meant by the teachings of maya.

Maya is “the creative power of the Godhead that makes unity appear as the world of innumerable separate things.”  This level of reality that we live in is an expression of the Oneness of God appearing as innumerable people and animals and flowers and millions of wondrous little creations.  We should do everything we can as long as we are here in the body to make it the most loving, compassionate and beautiful expression possible.

Beautiful-Tree-Photography-15I think the whole purpose of all these teachings about Maya is to get us to wake up to the reality of Unity while we are still here in the creation.  And it’s not so that we can understand that while we are in this body nothing is real and we just have to put up with the illusion until we leave our bodies and return to the truth of Oneness Consciousness.  How much more wondrous and beautiful are the mountains and seas and birds of the air when they are experienced as part of a continuous loving Oneness, an illuminated and sparkling manifestation of God Herself!  How much more marvelous is a tree when it is seen with amazement as an extension of my own Self, just like looking at my own hand as a part of me.  How much more beautiful is another person when in their eyes and their face I see the essence of my own soul!

“Here again we can illustrate from physics: the world of ‘name and form’ exists only as a condition of perception; at the subatomic level, separate phenomena dissolve into a flux of energy.  The effect of maya is similar.  The world of the senses is real, but it must be known for what it is: unity appearing as multiplicity.”

So, instead of dismissing this world as illusion, let’s just dismiss the separateness and see the Unity in all of creation so we can wonder at the unbelievably beautiful flux of Divine energy that we are all a part of.

The Matrix or Fearless? The Pros and Cons of Limitations

Bumble-bee-and-purple-flowers-July-4-2011I know in most instances limited thinking is not a good thing.  Like when presented with “There aren’t a lot of jobs in town” it’s good to remember you only need one job.  And the mack daddy of all unlimited thinking is letting God do the manifesting.  I mean, God can part the Red Sea, God can walk on water, God can manifest saris out of thin air, God can raise the dead, God can create the heavens and the earth – God is certainly not hampered by the small number of cool guys in town.

There are instances though where limitations are good, in a way.

As an example of the unifying effect of the internet, my new blogger friend in Turkey is helping inspire realizations in me yet again.  Meyla wrote about the balance of knowing or not knowing (the whole post is really good, you should read it, and I’m not just saying that because she references how cute and wise my Peachy is).  She pointed out the saying about bumble bees:

“Aerodynamically, the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know it, so it goes on flying anyway.”

So, would we be able to fly if no one had ever told us that we couldn’t?  Or would we end up killing ourselves by trying to jump off a roof and quickly learning that we can’t, in fact, fly.  Maybe there are some limitations that are good?

01It’s like the Matrix movies – Neo doesn’t accept the limitations that he has been programmed to believe about what he can and can’t do – so he CAN fly.  But is that limitlessness only applicable in the computer generated Matrix?  No, in the third movie when he is blinded, he can see through his inner sight and he continues to fight for the Good of humanity and defeats Mr. Anderson anyway.  So, limitlessness is good, right?

In the movie “Fearless,” Jeff Bridges plays a man who survives a major airplane crash and because he doesn’t die when he was certain that he would, he becomes fearless.  He walks in front of traffic in major intersections, he stands on the edge of the roof on fearlesshighrises.  He acts crazy and nearly kills himself and his passenger when he drives around without any fear or limitations.  So, limitations are good, right?

One movie demonstrates the power of limitlessness.  The other movie demonstrates the need for a little bit of limitation so we can keep from hurting ourselves or others.

I guess it’s about finding a healthy balance of limitations.  It’s important to know when the limitation is JUST a thought form – like “it’s impossible to find a good apartment in this town” and when the limitation is related to a law of physics – like “I can’t jump off this building and fly.”

However – it’s also important to note that on the spiritual journey the laws of physics do not necessarily always apply.  God can do whatever God wants.  But we need to be humble enough to trust that God also created the laws of physics for a reason and to know when it is God’s will that we break them (like curing cancer, not jumping off the roof on a dare).  And we need to have enough self-awareness to know where we are at in our spiritual awakening so that we don’t jump off a roof before we have actually cleared all those pesky subconscious human limitations and are really and truly One with God and ready to fly.  Maybe it’s better to start with flying in spirit and then simply learning to levitate a few inches above our meditation cushions and so forth.

I’m not saying we can’t fly – it works for the bumble bee – but it’s a process.  It’s a balance.  Like my friend Meyla puts it:  “Imagine trying to stand-up in the middle of a see-saw. A little bit of the real world and a little bit of the other real world.”

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Nothingness and Happiness Continues

ensoYesterday my post was about how my answer to the nature of nothingness is happiness.

To sum up – whenever you’re engaged in a mental debate of esoteric spiritual principles about illusion or nothingness – ask yourself:  is this making me a more conscious and loving person who makes the world around me a more compassionate place?

However, there is another reason why my answer to the nature of nothingness is happiness.

Nothingness is supposed to be the That that is behind all illusion, behind all thoughts and emotions and human fabrications.  It is talked about as what is left when all our attachments, all our ego, all our karma and our samskaras are released – when we let go of our self identification.  Nothingness is the Pure Consciousness or the Om.

The thing is that I do not think that what is behind all things is just a void – a nothingness that is so empty that you even have to remove the nothingness from it.  Every experience of the realm beyond this realm I have felt in my heart, every glimpse of the That that is behind all things that I’ve ever had has felt like Love.

That was my experience of the chant Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu just a couple of weeks ago – that the chant is not just a prayer for all beings to be peaceful and happy, but it is the presence of the universe, the vastness and eternity of God that is IN and behind and underneath everything as this state of peaceful happiness.  That is my experience of the Nothingness that is beyond all human karma, ego and illusion.smiling buddha

The other thing that occurs to me is that those who have gone before us and have achieved liberation from all karma, ego and illusion are HAPPY.  They don’t sit there with blank stares on their faces immersed in some great void of nothing – they smile!  They are happy and uplifting to be around – they all seem to be very warm and loving.  So – this also points me to the nature of this nothingness as something filled with a lot of goodness.

Even if we look at the laws of physics – if nature abhors a vacuum, why would we think that the nature of the universe is based on nothingness?

So, based on common sense, my own experience and from what I know in my heart, it seems more true to me that the nature of the universe is based on fullness – a fullness of Light, Bliss, Peace and Love.  That is why my answer to the question about the nature of nothingness is Happiness.

What is the Nature of Nothingness? Happiness, of course.

Philosophy-FighterOn occasion I find myself in the midst of spiritual conversation.  Sometimes this conversation can manifest itself as a spirited debate about the nature of nothingness or if this whole entire world is in fact just an illusion.  There might even be people present who believe themselves to be right and that others are wrong (as if one can ever be certain about nothingness, doesn’t nothingness preclude certainty just by the nature of being nothingness?).

My answer, if ever I am asked, “What is the nature of nothingness?” is Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.

May all beings in all worlds be peaceful and happy.

The reason that is my answer is that it is useful. It might not be directly related to the question, but it is relevant to what is important.

So many times when there are these heated spiritual debates about the nature of nothingness or “is a table really a table when to a termite it would be dinner?” with each person doing their darnedest to prove their point and come up with the right answer, I just think – who cares? Does it matter if a table is really a table?  Does this make me a more loving and conscious person?  And by conscious I mean aware and mindful of my connection to all of life, not more knowledgeable about the exact nature of tables.

There are many spiritual topics that we can go in mental circles about, and that might be entertaining, so have at it – have fun.  But before we start taking it all too seriously and worrying about who is right and who is wrong and who is the more enlightened about the nature of nothingness, I think the main question we need to ask is – does this help me make the world a better more compassionate place?  Does this help alleviate suffering for anyone?  Does this bring more love to the world?

When I moved to St Augustine I discovered a sweet peaceful little retreat center west of town called Chinmaya Mission.  I had not heard of Swami Chinmayananda before but I 220px-Sourire_coul_2have grown to hold him with sweet affection in my heart and I am grateful to have this Hindu refuge as part of my Interfaith life.  When I was getting to know more about him, I was reading the Chinmaya wikipedia page and it says their motto is “To give the maximum amount of happiness to the maximum number of people for the maximum amount of time.”  And I thought, that is the most perfect mission statement I have ever seen.

So often we have these lofty spiritual goals to “Uplift Humanity,” “Awaken the Divine in the human spirit,” or even “Liberate humanity from the illusion of attachments” etc etc etc.  And these are all good things, all worthy missions, and I have participated in several groups with similar purposes – but sometimes it’s hard to know what it really means, how is this mission really changing real life for real people?  And it was so refreshing to see a mission statement that goes so directly for what matters most.

So, the next time you are grappling with high minded esoteric existential questions and you feel like you don’t quite understand the complexities of it all – just come back to this question:  Does this give the maximum amount of happiness to the maximum number of people for the maximum amount of time?

Evil Is Like Peeing in the Ocean

I came across this science video that explains about peeing in the ocean and it reminded me of evil.  No, I’m not saying that pee is evil – it is a natural part of human life, and all other animal life for that matter, that can often feel quite enjoyable and relieving. What I mean is – evil is like a tiny amount of pee and God (good) is like the huge vast ocean.

 

Maybe Gandhi said it a little more eloquently than I:

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean. If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

As the video explains: Urine is more than 95% water anyway. The average human potty break contains 1 or 2 grams per liter of sodium and chloride ions and even less potassium – elements that are all naturally found in ocean water.  Urea is really the main waste product in pee – it is what is formed as our body rids itself of excess nitrogen – but the amount of urea in our urine is only around 2%.

The volume of water in just the Atlantic ocean is 350 Quintrillion liters. That is 350 followed by 18 zeros or 350,000,000,000,000,000,000 liters. There are roughly 7 billion people on the planet and if every single one of them peed into the Atlantic ocean all at the same time the amount of Urea in the ocean would still only be 60 parts per trillion. So – almost nothing.

So, why did this video remind me of evil?  Many years ago I watched the movie The Green Mile.  If you haven’t seen it, it is about an innocent sweet-hearted black man wrongly convicted of hideous and cruel crimes against little children and his eventual electrocution.  It was heart breaking.  My whole insides were aching with the pain and the horror of both the terrible fate of this innocent man and the horrific things that people do to children.  Even though it was a work of fiction the cruelty of humanity depicted is all too real and I was overcome with deep deep grief.  Ramakrishna_image_cropped

I went into my little room, sat on my little mat on the floor and looked at my small little altar.  I started crying and praying, praying and crying, rocking back and forth, holding my aching heart as I looked at one of the pictures on my altar, one of Ramakrishna.  I looked into the eyes of this holy man who lived long ago and kept asking why?  Why?  Why do humans do such things?  How can we be so evil and cruel?  How can we cause so much pain and unbelievable suffering to other human beings?

I started feeling the presence of Inner Beings, of Christ and Ramakrishna.  My prayers were being answered and I was being comforted.  As I began to calm down, I received the peaceful and eternal feeling that was entering into my heart.  In my mind’s eye I was shown a picture of the Earth as if seen from outer space.  The planet was alight, radiating a soft golden glow of warmth and love.  So beautiful.  The Light was God’s Goodness in our humanity radiating both from the inside out and the outside in.  On the planet I saw specks of darkness, little black spots where the Light wasn’t shining through.  The specks were the evils of humanity – the cruelty and maliciousness of all human atrocities – Hitler, Stalin, rape, murder, war.  No matter how dark and vicious, they were tiny specks on the Light of God.

I think about that moment very often.  I didn’t take it to mean that evil is “nothing” or that evil “doesn’t matter” or that we shouldn’t do everything in our power to make the world right.  My heart still breaks at the suffering of children and women and men due to the evils of poverty, violence, oppression and war.  But I am able to hang on to the Love and Goodness of God and see in us the Goodness of humanity – our original innocence, our fundamental core of Light.  So, the darkness no longer overwhelms me.  I not only have hope, but I know that God will always win, that Good and Love and Light will always be bigger than darkness.

I imagine that is how someone like Nelson Mandela could struggle against the evils of apartheid and live through 27 years of prison, torture and suffering and not succumb to hate, anger or vengeance.  I imagine it is from some connection to this Absolute Good that he could maintain his sense of forgiveness and continue to radiate such peace and love throughout his life.  I know it helps me to keep moving forward in my small endeavors to create more Peace on our planet and to unlock the ultimate goodness of humanity.

As Gandhi said – and here I paraphrase – we must not lose faith in humanity.  Humanity is like the ocean and evil is like pee and the ocean will always be beautiful.