To be or not to be

“To remain unconscious of being is to be trapped within an ego-driven wasteland of conflict, strife, and fear that only seems customary because we have been brainwashed into a state of suspended disbelief where a shocking amount of hate, dishonesty, ignorance, and greed are viewed as normal and sane. But they are not sane, not even close to being sane. In fact, nothing could be less sane and unreal than what we human beings call reality. By clinging to what we know and believe, we are held captive by the movement of our conditioned thinking and imagination, all the while believing that we are perfectly rational and sane. We therefore continue to justify the reality of what causes us, as well as others, immeasurable amounts of pain and suffering. Deep down we all suspect that something is very wrong with the way we perceive life but we try very, very hard not to notice it. And the way we remain blind to our frightful condition is through an obsessive and pathological denial of being, as if some dreadful fate would overcome us if we were to face the pure light of Truth and lay bare our fearful clinging to illusion. It is within the dimension of being that Truth reveals itself.”
~ Adyashanti, in, The Way of Liberation

How many scientists does it take to change the World?

Even if signing petitions, voting for the right guy, or replacing light bulbs were working, the monstrous amount of things going “wrong” today should make it obvious that fighting each and every one of them separately is simply not an option. Nor will the attempt of global control do any good. Both build upon the same dysfunctional foundation.

Most people never ask the question why there is such a lot of trouble around in the first place, why so much is in disarray, is falling apart, is going to waste, is deteriorating or being destructed, why all those disasters, misfortunes, calamities, sorrows and adversities are happening at the same time. Those who are aware of it normally come to see the usual suspects, greed and money, at the root of everything – which is already a step into the right direction, though there are levels way deeper than these.

Some ask, “Why is nobody doing anything about…” you name [it], and, ironically, the answer to that is the very same that can be given to the first question, the one that’s rarely ever put. What comes up when one is inquiring down to a relevant depth may seem both ineffective and at the same time way too big to be handled by any one person, yet I found that it is much easier than it seems, and it may well be the only feasible path there is – apart from letting things sorting themselves out; because in the end, they always will… dissolve.

Eisenstein sees a fundamental disconnectedness at the root of it all, a disconnectedness that prevents people from acting from love, care, courage, and commitment. “But where does such love, care, courage, and commitment come from?”, he writes. “It can only come from personal relationship to the damage being suffered.”
Now, if that is so – and I hold that it is – then that which is the cause of disconnectedness needs to be looked at thoroughly, in order to arrive at decisive action. From my view there is no replacement for this kind of understanding, and it cannot be faked or emulated.

A solid hammering

When you are reading a book like “Born in Tibet”, what you are getting is not so much a description of the country and its history, but what they meant to Chögyam Trungpa and how growing up in Tibet felt like to the author. I should warn you that it is the same with what I am writing here; it cannot prepare you in any way for what you would see and feel and experience on coming to Auroville. My writings do not provide you with facts, either. They rather tell you a lot about what is on the writer’s mind, and what this place means to him (and maybe why he uses to talk in the third person about himself).
My fellow Aurovilians may back me up on the fact that, regarding descriptions of the joys and difficulties of living in Auroville, there is a very close connection between the observer’s world view and their experience of events in this township. It seems as though Auroville is magnifying psychological challenges, philosophical puzzles, or, if you prefer to express it in these terms, karmic conditions which dominate a person’s life. One might say that, in Auroville, you are getting a solid hammering of the exact issues that call for getting resolved.
The intensity of it all seems unbearable, even torturous, sometimes. Auroville, some folks observed, is not exactly the place of smiling people; betrayed of their dreams and bewildered, many choose to leave. But if one is willing to face the heat this pressure from an unknown source can become a powerful drive for working out the issues oneself, finding out what they mean, overcoming the self-inflicted internal suffering, and translating all of that into a way of life in a close-knit community. Irrespective of “Divine Consciousness”, ” eternal youth”, “human unity” and all the rest of it, this is, to me, what AV’s four-point-charter is all about, and why the Mother could boil it down to one single, all-inclusive sentence, “All people of goodwill are welcome”…
…to learn how to embrace the other 95%

Jesus, in a bottle fashion

I have been baptized a Catholic, and I grew up among Lutheran country folk. My social situation, though, was not such that any upright Christian, or any righteous Philistine, for that matter, would have approved of my existence at that time. My mother did have to leave home and had trouble finding a flat thanks to that unaccounted-for belly of hers. According to the doctrines, I was… I am the product of sin, and no matter what the New Testament says about forgiveness or first stones — Jesus, basically, was a funny-dressed guy sharing space with some sheep on a cheesy picture above the sofa — the Old Man In The Clouds wasn’t as merciful as the Bible, according to the priests, propagates. What it takes denominations for, I couldn’t tell anyway. As a result, I came to a similar view like Jeremy Taylor, an Anglican cleric, who wrote in his “Polemical discourses” in 1674,

“That the Scriptures do not contain in them all the necessary to salvation, is the fountain of many great and capital errors; I instance in the whole doctrine of the Libertines, Familists, Quakers, and other enthusiasts, which issue from this corrupted fountain.”
At a later point, I guess it was around 7th grade, I heard, through a Catholic teacher, of the idea that the scriptures were not to be taken literally, and that God was not some remote person, but he was present in everything, and even later, that he WAS everything. I neither realized that I had been introduced to the concepts of Animism and Spirituality, nor what was the difference between the two. I mean, it DOES make a difference whether it is about the wine in the bottle, and the bottle, as every environmentalist grievingly must accept, does not seize to exist after the wine starts to animate a human being instead, or if we are talking about the bottle as such and it vanishes with the spirit.
Words, I gradually found out, are a tricky thing describing a no-less-tricky reality, whatever that is. I guess that was when I began to understand how sarcasm works. Though I took some of its products way too literally. The cynical mind of the rational person makes religious texts sound pretty weird, like:
“CHRISTIANITY — the belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.” (taken from Urban dictionary)
As we are almost completely disconnected from the culture and conditions that created the Bible, it is hard to tell what the source actually said when it talked about Trinity, Heaven and stuff. Words, what do they mean anyway? Tyranny, racism, sexism, war, slavery, depletion, exploitation — name anything that has not been justified by God’s supposed will as stated in the Bible.
What is needed to have truth speak from any text, of course, is, to approach the text with the right mind, a mind that is open to the kind of experience, or insight, which a source is talking about. A spiritual mind alone can make proper use of a religious text, like a rational mind alone can fully understand a scientific paper.
So readers got to be willing to go through the inquiring exercise themselves. Sam Coleridge, in a marginal note to Taylor’s above statement, put it aptly so in 1811:
“As I cannot think that it detracts from a dial that in order to tell the time the sun must shine upon it, so neither does it detract from the scriptures, that tho’ the best and holiest, they are yet scripture – & require a pure heart & the consequent assistances of God’s entlightening Grace in order to understand them to edification. And what more does the Quaker say? He will not call the written words of God the Divine WORD: & he does rightly.”
–A book I value; sel. marginalia by Samuel Taylor Coleridge; ed. by H. J. Jackson, 2003
While different, “foreign”, angles of attack can produce interesting insights, the core message only reveals itself with a matching key to its interpretation and an understanding of the diversity of truth’s expression.
Therefore, if you approach the Bible text from a Hindu or Buddhist point of view, it begins to make way more sense than when following Western de-spirited, exclusivist trains of thought — including theology. There are less contradictions and more points one can relate to as a modern person. The text would only indicate a truth (‘metaphorical‘ doesn’t fully describe its functioning) which can be verified by anybody anywhere through exercises of introspective contemplation, rather than stating the truth in and by itself.
Whereas, to me, the Dalai Lama makes for a better Bible interpreter than the Pope himself, the rationalistic worldview completely fails to grasp the inner meaning of the texts (because, in science, there exists no meaning). The analysis in terms of mere historicity and function opens the gate for cynical reading. At best it results in puzzlement, or in sarcastic rephrasings like the one above. And hey, they can be quite funny. I did laugh hard on reading it for the first time, though I liked the following even better:
“God is dead.” –Nietzsche
“Nietzsche is dead.” –God

Science rules… out other realities

“Science is the dominant religion of our time. Like most religions, it comprises canonical texts, metaphysical teachings, a priesthood, initiatory processes (grad school), its own special language, schismatic cults, and a procedures for discovering truth (the Scientific Method). Like any dominant religion, it is closely wedded to institutions of economic and political domination as well.”
–Charles Eisenstein, same day, on Facebook

On the blindness of scientism

One famous Indian once said that it was not a measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
I would like to add that, in turn, it is not a sign of health in a society when it is unable to accept, and integrate itself into, the suchness of existence. If it has, at its basis, the idea of improving on nature it is well on its way to insanity.
For in that case it regards itself — culture — as external to, and separate from, nature, a category it introduces to name the thing it seeks to manipulate and control.
And the whole practice of substituting vitamin pills for fruits, plastic packaging for freshness, hydroponics for soil, legal bondage for empathic relationships, social insurance for compassion, money for trust, horsepower for horses, governance for personal responsibility, rational for reasonable, and all the rest of it, reeks of manipulation.

Science and technology, along with politics and religion, are fine as far as they go, but as solutions to our crisis they must fail, for they are expressions of the paradigm of separateness from, and control over, ‘nature’. They can reveal aspects of reality, yet in no way can they claim to be the only way, or source, of knowledge that there is. For their understanding of reality is limited while existence is infinitely larger and deeper than their rational scope.

We have observed what came from giving way to pure rationality. Just look at the world of today. If we are engulfed in conflict and misery it is because, among others, rationalism lacks an ethical dimension, a social dimension, a spiritual dimension, and an emotional dimension, all of which are defining us as human beings. That which is ‘irrational’ is part of reality — the totality of existence. The sense for it is not a glitch, a dysfunction, or a human disease, but exists for a reason. When we exclude it from our ‘calculation’ we are ignoring the deeper roots of the world’s condition, and therefore the way forward, both of which literally lie outside science’s view and technology’s grasp.

Our society may be profoundly sick (or maybe it is just a passing adolescent phase), but as a species, we are neither dysfunctional mutations nor diseased miscreations (born sinners, as the Bible goes); we are wearing cultural glasses that impair our sight. Leaving culture aside, not negating it, but looking beyond it — what do we see?

Roadrunner

Last night I thought, When I am in a state of delusion I am running in circles; that means, I am on a path going nowhere – as opposed to when there is clarity and I am on an path to Nowhere. Any way (sic!), there is nowhere to go; I am, we all are, there already.
Woke up this morning to find that it is true; so far, I have reached nowhere.

No, that’s the other ONE

The other day a Facebook friend liked a posting which featured a quote from Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche:

“Millions of people in this world are interested in some version of meditation, or yoga, or one of the many so-called spiritual activities that are now so widely marketed. A closer look at why people engage in these practices reveals an aim that has little to do with liberation from delusion, and everything do to with their desperation to escape busy, unhappy lives, and heartfelt longing for a healthy, stress-free, happy life. All of which are romantic illusions.”

The teacher’s remark about the illusory nature of most spiritual activities made me nod spontaneously because here in Auroville you find quite a few people who mistake personal improvement for liberation from delusion.

I do not know the first thing about the rinpoche, or whether he generally fosters elitist notions, like some of the commenters believed; the quoted statement of his does not strike me as judgmental, though. It is just pointing out facts, however hurt one may feel by it.

For most of my life, before lack of success made me see the futility of it, I have believed with everyone else that trying to change the order of things, or becoming a “better” person, were solutions to all the problems in the world. Being unhappy and trying to escape that state was a powerful drive to get me started. So neither wll I dismiss activism as a valid step on the path to liberation, nor is it my intention to diminish its efforts and achievements.

But I also understand that the attempt of manipulating oneself or “the other/s” stems from the same illusory paradigm which created this troubled world in the first place. Spirituality, as well as political, social or environmental activism, can become as easily a means of escapism as amusing oneself to death while looking the other way. Our generation, being scared of, and shaken by, the mischief humans create has a hard time getting this point.

The subject busied my mind for what was left of the day. In the evening I felt drawn to watch a video featuring a man who really, really rocks me every time I hear him speak. Funny thing is, it incidentally revolves around the very same topic as the above mentioned quote, only does it attack it with a playful lightness which I find tremendously charming.
Feel invited to shed some tears of laughter.

What’s your story?

As I proceed with translating “The Ascent of Humanity” I almost daily stumble upon sentences reflecting deep insight into the fabric of reality. Stella Osorojos from the Santa Fe Time Bank called it “one of the most important books of the century”. She says she means it, and so do I. So please forgive me for coming back on elaborating on content from “Ascent” every now and then.

Many thinkers describe life as “living a story”, meaning that there is no such thing as an “objective universe out there” by the rules of which we have to live, and that the thing we call reality is not the actual thing of infinite properties, but merely a limited, abstract projection of, and withiin, our mind; what remains after so many filters of perception and selection. That projection is comparable to a map, a picture or a story which represents reality in the form of symbols (“The map is not the landscape”). Depending on the zoom level you prefer, the attributes you pick, the number of details you go into, the presentation format you choose, the symbols you design and the emphasis you set, the outcome will be very different from any other persons’ work. How many different maps of the world are there? How many interpretations of “Amazing Grace” or “The Count of Monte Cristo”? How many different opinions on any political matter, any piece of art, and every single person on earth? How many different definitions of God? And have you ever wondered why witnesses to a certain crime (or any other event) are talking of seemingly completely different things?
All those are stories, and so is life. For the way we look at it is arbitrary – and it shapes our actions depending on the choices we make, thereby changing also the repercussions we experience from outside.
Buddha called the way we usually look at, and live, our lives an ‘illusion’, J.Krishnamurti called it ‘image’, Adyashanti described it as ‘virtual reality’, and Villoldo actually called it ‘a story’. So does Charles Eisenstein who explains in Chapter VII-10 of his book how we are not victims, but creators of our fate; how there is no inescapable coercion, just surrender to stories; and how language, which is a story in itself, partakes in shaping the story of your life: 

Even naming these stories and observing them in operation already makes them less powerful. However, I have found it useful to deliberately undo them through the way I speak to myself and others. We can use words in ways that deny the stories that enslave us, and thus accelerate our freedom. For example, Marshall Rosenberg suggests rephrasing every “have to” sentence as “I choose to… because…”

Here is a personal example. I used to say, “Even though I hate it, I have to give grades.” When I rephrased it as “I choose to give grades because I am afraid I will lose my job if I don’t,” everything became much clearer. I realized that my job was much less important to me than my sense of integrity, which for me personally was violated by giving grades, and so I decided to leave academia. By thinking in terms of “have to” we surrender our power. The very words carry within them an assumption of powerlessness.

As I wrote in earlier essays, a gun to your head does not imply being unrejectably forced to do as you’re told. With or without that gun, you still have all the choices in the world, as long as you are willing to take the consequences. And please don’t ridicule my words there: it doesn’t mean you are to making stupid decisions in a dangerous situation. It just means you are free to do whatever fits into your value system, your story, if you are aware of that story. The less fear you have of forces threatening to overpower you, the more freedom there is for you, up to the point where there is no coercion at all.

You do not have to believe in the shamanic concept of physical-reality alteration by forces of the psyche to actually shape your personal reality the way it suits you best – although such forces might have an impact, who knows.
Unluckily most of the people I have been talking to hardly understand the concept or even reject it, and I could feel the underlying fear. People speak of freedom, individuality, and the power of love, yet don’t trust it much. And why would they, having been raised under a system where there is such a huge background fear, a survival angst about not fitting in with all the others, losing their job, losing their livelihood, sometimes even physical hurt. How would you not feel threatened and coerced into doing things you don’t like, such as working a degrading job, watching your back, and giving into all sorts of constraints.

The fact is: this is just one story to live by. If you equate an external attempt of force to a reaction of yours, then this story will shape your experience of reality, your life. The threat then, of course, feels very real. But as countless individuals have proven, other ways are possible. With the number of choices available to you, increasing by the degree you free yourself from unconsciously lived-by stories, life becomes better. By better I mean satisfying and fulfilled, as you then tend to make ever more choices by yourself, out of free will, instead of being forced to obey, subordinate, follow, give in, which equals to living someone else’s life. If you take the freedom of living a story where there is no irresistible pressure creates even more freedom. Freedom from (particularly fear), and freedom to (create your reality).
Living by the story of Western civilization, on the other hand, resembles being hunted down by all sorts of predators, getting driven from one crisis into another, until you eventually get trapped and die. You may even be lucky enough to count as one of the predators; but as long as you are unaware of survival-of-the-fittest being just a story – the story of our culture – you are a slave chained to a story like all the others. Gandhi put it best when he asked, “Don’t hate your oppressors. They need liberation, just like you.”