Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Ceremony of One, Celebrating One.

Religion as we know it in these times is often a hollow vessel. It is meant to contain something, or to be an entrance to something but it is mostly a mechanism for social control or political and economic force. I do not dispute that people find some comfort in it and it gives them a neighborhood of kindred spirits but I don’t see it fulfilling it’s primary obligation of uniting God and humanity into a living breathing state of being that runs through the day and night as a template for life.

It represents something that should be the centerpiece of existence. It is the ceremony of celebrating that which animates, protects and informs us. It is actually based on something real; something more real that we ourselves are, if we think of ourselves as separate items moving about in a world of differences.

I have come to see that what religion represents is something that should be intricately woven through every moment of our lives. Everything that we do has a ceremony of celebration about it. What we think, what we feel, what we say and what we do. “Every event in our life, no matter how seemingly insignificant is a particular dealing of God with our soul.” Every moment the divine is present and witnessing our life; right there, right there in the moment of your awareness of it. We are God’s movie projected on the screen of his dream. If we can be persistent enough and determined enough we can wake God up inside the dream so that he lives through us in a united consciousness. This is the intention of things like, ‘pray without ceasing’ and ‘be still and know that I am God’.

It is also not a matter of learning but of remembering, which is why reminding ourselves is a powerful act. Ceremony helps us remember. Religion is composed of ceremonies celebrating certain life conditions; birth and death, saying grace before we eat, morning and evening prayers, festivals and celebrations such as Christmas and Easter, Diwali, Ramadan and so forth. These need not be the totality of our involvement. Every moment has the potential for a ceremony of celebration, every breath... we have heard of masters and what do you think they do?

It has been said that if we want God in our life we should go about our lives as if we were God, act as God does, behave according to the examples of those who are known to have been vehicles for God. Buddha is a good example. Jesus Christ is a good example. Christ said, “Whatever you do, even to the least of you, you do to me.” If you ponder that it sort of says the same thing a different way.

The whole point of the whole thing hinges on something that people have great difficulty in grasping and that is, it is happening right now. It isn’t happening later. It didn’t already happen. It is happening now and it is always happening.

When I eat on my own, I hold my plate forward and bless it. I say, “Lord, please consecrate this food to my body for the fulfillment of the great work.” When I am eating with other people, I surreptitiously close my eyes for a moment and give thanks. I don’t say anything nor do I inveigle others to join. With some people it is natural to take a moment to do this and it happens of its own accord. With strangers and those no so inclined, I keep it to myself. At the same time, I don’t eschew the opportunity because someone might notice. I have the right to bless my food. I just don’t make a point of calling attention to it. That sort of thing is more the province of religion. Religion likes to graft ceremonial operations on to human events, displacing what came before as if it were always the property of that religion to set the stage.

No religion is preeminent. Christ said, “In my father’s house are many mansions, if it were not true I would not have told you so.” Right there, Christ is saying, “different strokes for different folks.” He is saying that the weave of the tapestry; the architecture of the church, the artifacts and icons may be different but they are all the contents of a room in the larger house of God. The great Indian saint, Ramakrishna entered into every one of the seven major religions and experienced enlightenment in each one. He said that they are all the same. A person could learn a lot by reading the biography of Ramakrishna by his disciple ‘M’.

Some religions are more scientific; maybe ‘metaphysical’ is a better word. Some are more literal. Then when you think about it, it is only the manifest aspects that are literal and all of them have that. All of them have the metaphysical as well. As I have said on other occasions, “religion is lined paper”. When we learn to write as children we are taught on lined paper. After awhile we do not require lined paper anymore, even if religion insists that we do. Also, some people are just more comfortable with lined paper. It scares them what may be present beyond the lines.

What religion attempts to provide, the individual life can possess and practice in every moment as a natural way of doing things. Isn’t it mostly about expressing gratitude? It is also about seeking answers. Did the answers stop coming once the text got written? That doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? Where did the answers come from to begin with? They didn’t come from outside. They came from inside. Someone became self-realized. Someone became a Christ or a Buddha and then stated from that place illuminations upon the moment they were in.

Jesus was the prototype for the Christ consciousness. The Christ consciousness is singular but the Jesus aspect is not. More have come since. Buddhism is easier on this matter. There are many Buddhas of varying states who all are a part of Buddha-mind. Krishna has appeared as many different aspects. He came as Rama. He came as a turtle. He will come as Kalki, yet Krishna is an expression of Vishnu. Still, you hear that Krishna is the totality. You also hear that Jesus is the totality and all of this is true. Think about the similarities between the words, “Krishna” and “Christ”.

It is said that Jesus spent some time in India. Religion doesn’t tell us this but other texts do. It’s part of the missing years of Jesus.

Shambhala is an idealized concept. It is also a real place. You can get there but boy, that is some journey and it might not occur in a single life. Still, you can get there. You can go to The Western Pure Land of the Amitabha Buddha by keeping that intention on your lips and in your mind through your life. When you leave your physical life you can be reborn there and continue to be reborn there as you learn; not having to come back here. This is a lot like Christianity. The Amitabha said that he would not accept enlightenment until every other sentient being had gone before him. This is also much in line with the life and teachings of the Christ.

Perform your life as a ceremony of one in celebration of the guaranteed fulfillment of the promise of each and all of life’s magnificent avatars and teachers. If others join you that can be wonderful but you must do it regardless; Cave Dei Videt- beware, God is watching. Or you might say, “Be aware”. Isn’t that what ‘beware’ means? It has a different impact though, doesn’t it?

You are the child of a gracious and loving God. Go read the 23rd Psalm and think about the meaning of the words. Act as if you were living right inside that Psalm or whatever you may find to guide you in any of God’s mansions.

Visible sings: The Sacred and The Profane by Les Visible♫ Mountian of Release ♫
'Mountian of Release' is track no. 9 of 13 on Visible's 2007 album 'The Sacred and The Profane'

The Sacred and The Profane by Les Visible

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Spiritual Path is a Slippery Slope.

In any place that you may be standing there is a circle surrounding you. The circle has a deep and profound meaning in relation to life but we won’t be going into that within the (pun intended) parameters of this post. Suffice it to say that a circle is more than a circle even though a circle is a symbol of the whole. It also restricts what is within it and is a barrier for what is outside of it; if not a barrier then certainly a demarcation line.

I don’t like to get into negative associations at this blog. The link I offer here is by way of exampling a particular area of endeavor that is referred to as ‘spiritual’. It’s a typical proponent of the New Age. You will note the obligatory list of radio and television appearances which are meant to confer legitimacy; the writing endeavors which also confer legitimacy and last but certainly not least, ‘The Angel Blessing Candle Kit’. This last does not appear to be an expression of legitimacy but it certainly indicates market sense.

You can follow to the main site from this page and scan the author’s stable, which also contains some amount of the fodder drawn for conventions around the U.S. and I suppose... foreign venues too. This is one circle of representatives of new age thought. There are others. If you’ve ever walked into a large spiritual new age book store you’ve seen the hundreds and thousands of books that deal with emerging modalities that treat all mainstream and arcane conditions with some ritual or routine. For all I know there’s some good to be found in some of them. I’m not here today to address the efficacy of any of them. I learn enough from the presentation to make an informed judgment for myself.

Much of these therapies and practices have spilled over into the mainstream. You’ll find the books at Borders and any other chain. There are conventions and seminars and retreats. There are lectures and tapes and DVD’s. It’s an entire department store of information and items that may or may not do what they claim. They’re not unlike religious bookstores and religious stores that sell pictures and icons, statues and jewelry and assorted relics that may or may not possess some mysterious power or impact upon the mind toward the stimulation of faith.

Attendant with any movement that presents itself as new age or spiritual there follows the business end of the operation. In this sense there is no difference between them and ordinary business. They offer something for sale and you purchase it. Whether it is long established, organized religions; new age systems, flying saucer associated operations like The Raelians or Scientology, there’s a company store that takes you a step at a time toward something... somewhere.

There are organizations that present themselves as agents of light and there are darker venues that make no bones about their affiliations. There’s a question of legitimacy with most of them and all of them make a circle that keeps something in and something out. Some of these groups like the Elizabeth Claire Prophet group are said to have an affinity for machine guns. Rajneesh who became Osho had quite the security setup and that group’s story is well known. The Hari Krishna meltdown is nicely exposited in the book, “Monkey on a Stick”.

I think highly of Paramahansa Yogananda but if you look at his organization and the splinter groups with their war of words on the legitimacy of this or that group claiming to be the true vessel... it’s a discouraging thing.

It always seems to come down to money and power. It’s about the inside and not the outside. Since the ancients tell us that the kingdom is within and that it is realized by shucking off the things of the world, or learning to live in the world but not be of the world, it’s a strange contradiction what happens a lot of the time.

I don’t see anything wrong with selling books or DVD’s. It’s a matter of balance really. It’s a matter of where the priority lies. My concern here is whether you get what you are going after, not any particular peculiarities of any particular organization.

Personally, I think you need a teacher. I’m convinced that you won’t get far without one. I’m also convinced that at any point where the impetus strikes you to seek for the answer that you have a teacher already; whether known to you or not. I think the onus on the seeker is to have good intentions and to be consistent in efforts and practices. I think the seeker also has to be willing to let go of anything at any time in order to evolve in understanding.

If you have a teacher then there isn’t much need for books except to give the mind an opportunity for inquiry. For some people this succeeds, for a time, where simple self-inquiry might prove too arduous or amorphous. Is ‘the self’ contained in a circle with everything else beyond the perimeter? What is the self and which self are we talking about? We look outside and we see a multitude of selves. We look inside and often see a multitude of selves. The inside of the mind can be as much of a funhouse hall of mirrors as the outside.

You hear about the voice within. If there is only a single self within then to whom is that voice within speaking? Maybe it is speaking to the soul, which is a vehicle for the self. Maybe it is something similar to how the reins in the hands of the wagon driver inform the horse. That’s how it seems to me and I have to admit to being affected by the Hindu posters and art of various sorts. Maybe the soul is a more permanent self than the mind’s identity of the holder in a particular incarnation. Maybe the soul at some point then merges into the supreme self and becomes God. This would account for those who are great souls and those who embody the self. By example I give you Gandhi as opposed to Ramana Maharshi or he whom Meher Baba claimed to be. I don’t dispute Meher Baba’s claim. I like Meher Baba. The truth is that I just don’t know.

It’s a slippery slope. Even when you are on the right track there are wrong tracks presenting themselves on all sides all along the way. How do we gain the focus and determination not to falter? We are all at different levels of understanding. Let’s imagine for a moment that we are not neophytes. I would imagine that for those who are not neophytes, the presentations of religion and new age thought as well as so many philosophies and various available clothing and outfits are veils before an aperture. Sooner or later you find yourself where neither books not organizations can take you any further. It is natural that we should discard outworn devices. For most of us, this is not possible or desirable. It can be downright frightening. This is why I always come back to Love. There may be something greater than Love but I doubt it can be discovered without it.

My point is, in the confusion of all that is offered, I suggest you fall back on Love. Somehow, to me; Love, Wisdom and Realization are deeply connected at the source and the pursuit of any leads to each and all. It’s a simple thing. Of course, the mind and transient identity insist that comprehension is within their grasp. I suggest that it is not and never will be and that is frightening too. So Love seems to presume trust and faith as well.

As much as a circle may demarcate what is inside and outside of it, it also leads back to its own beginning in the linear sense; ergo, the serpent with its tail in its mouth. Basically, I don’t think you can go wrong with Love even it you don’t know where you are going. For me it is the safer course and since it has been said that Love makes everything like itself, it might be that that is the answer to the question of the self. I don’t know but it is what I think about.

Visible sings: Color Ball by Les Visible♫ It Must Be Love ♫
'It Must Be Love' is track no. 8 of 12 on Visible's 2007 album 'Color Ball'

Color Ball by Les Visible