Chain link love

Causality is a concept both western and eastern philosophers have referred to for thousands of years. Simply put, causality is the relationship between an event and the results of that event.

Behavior and the consequences of that behavior have been on my mind a lot lately and it occurred to me this morning that there is a causality chain between our silence and the singularity from which we came and to which we will all eventually return.

I subscribe to the concept that God is Love. And, I strongly believe that one must have compassion to experience true Universal Love. The link or bridge to that critical compassion is empathy. Compassion is impossible without empathy.

Empathy shouldn’t be confused with sympathy or pity.  Empathy is a vicarious experience which wires one’s heart and mind to another.  Empathy cannot occur without deep listening. True listening as opposed to just hearing.

Finally, we simply cannot listen while we are talking. We must be silent. Silence is the only space within which deep listening can occur.

Of course, all of this takes practice. Practice sitting in silence. It’s not easy, especially in modern society. But, sitting in silence prepares you to listen to others on a level that creates a bridge of empathy over which compassion is transmitted to cultivate and experience and share the Love of God.

Milk, Meat, and Mystical Union

People today reject religion in part because, without understanding why, their minds have matured beyond religion’s first two phases; the childhood phase of symbols and the adolescent phase of moralism.

This concept echoes a verse in Corinthians that Christians will remember from their childhood bible studies, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for till now you were not able to bear it, neither yet now are you able.”

When a person is too young or uneducated or simply theologically unsophisticated like the people in Corinth, the use of symbols is important.  The sign of the fish or a crucifix are examples of religious symbols.  Mythological stories, metaphors, and analogies are important in this phase of spiritual growth.

However, just like a child grows into an adolescent, a believer should mature in their faith and eventually should understand and require more than symbols.  Moving from one phase to the next shouldn’t be a cause for alarm or angst.  The maturing devotee should be ready for rules and morals.  Moralism often gets a bad reputation simply because it’s misused and used beyond its effectiveness.  Many times people never progress beyond moralism and it amounts to their entire, lifelong faith experience.  Even though there’s a phase in a person’s spiritual life in which moralism is critical, it’s equally critical that we eventually grow beyond it.

Jesus was very clear to his friends and followers when he told them it wasn’t enough to just refrain from murdering and fornicating.  To be where you ultimately need to be in your spiritual journey you also need to cease hating and lusting.  And, not just because those things are morally wrong.  But, also because you will never find peace and experience the Kingdom of God (described as Nirvana, and the Eternal Now in other cultures) while you are grasping (lust) and devoid of compassion (hate).

Jesus knew that moralism only takes us so far along the path.  His whole time in this world was spent teaching others the importance of a direct relationship with our creator that goes beyond all understanding.  A mystical relationship.  A relationship that isn’t in the past or in the future, but only now, in the present moment (see Matthew’s lilies of the field).  A relationship that’s beyond symbols and beyond an ever changing set of moral rules based on prevailing culture (see slavery and misogyny).  He submitted that we all must practice something most people are frightened to attempt, even if they understand it; a direct, mystical union with God.

Although the childhood phase of symbols and the adolescent phase of moralism were critical for medieval and even modern society, our post-modern world has moved beyond symbols and morals and is literally begging for a direct mystical union with God, the Eternal Now, some sort of spiritual singularity.  Even if they have no idea why or what it is they’re looking for.

Perfectly fine people are rejecting and dropping out of churches and synagogues.  People are taking up atheism because their post-modern mind rejects symbols and has moved beyond moralism with no where else to go.  What they are ready for, most mainline religions have rejected.  Most churches are still worshiping symbols and idolizing the narrative, instead of moving on to the adult phase of direct communion with God.  That might sound sad and harsh, but that seems to be what’s happening.

A mature religious vehicle can provide the guidance for that mystical union that is within all the world’s great traditions.  But, the leaders and teachers prepared and qualified to provide the proper guidance are few and far between.  And, the general religious population – the devotees who should be moving on to their own adult  phase and direct relationship with God – too often are stuck in a childhood of symbols and spend their time practicing the idolatry of ancient narratives.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  We can’t fall into a trap of discerning and judging others just because they’re in a different place.  It’s just that so many people are looking for something more and it’s right there with them and they don’t even know it.  Instead, people are all to often exploited by a world of grifters, thieves, and politicians selling thrills, distractions, and fake solutions to a problem that never was.

You are the only thing between you and God.  All you need and all you have to do is wake up to that fact.

Subtle Nirvana

Do not be dualistic. Truly be one with your life as the subtle mind of nirvana. That is what subtle means. Something is subtle not because it is hidden, nor because it is elusive, but because it is right here. We don’t see it precisely because it is right in front of us. In fact, we are living it.

When we live it we don’t think about it. The minute we think about it, we are functioning in the dualistic state and don’t see our life as the subtle mind of nirvana.

– Maezumi Roshi

A unitive view of birth and death

When loved ones pass away, I don’t think we’ll one day be reunited as much as we’ll forget we were ever separated.

When we pass, I believe our pain and loss dissolves along with our physical and mental memories of the loved ones who passed before us. But, I also believe the folding back of those mental images will illuminate the source of our memories and deep feelings, which is the source of everything.

I think one reason losing a loved one is so painful is because they remind us of that source; the singularity from whence we came and will return. We love who we love because they remind us of the ultimate source, which resides within us both.

This is what marriage is all about; becoming one with another. Our love for our children takes us even closer to the singularity where there is no division, “where the soul never dies.”

This is why people greet each other in so many cultures with a slight bow, with hands pressed together, thinking or saying the words, “the divine within me acknowledges the divine within you.”

From this perspective, we won’t experience less of our loved ones when we pass, but infinitely more. The conceptual separation between us will disappear along with the dualism through which we view the world.

We and the people we love in this world will be what we were before – one and the same.

That’s how I believe we’ll be reunited with our loved ones.

The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us, how will our end come?”  Jesus said, “Have you found the beginning, then, that you are looking for the end?   You see, the end will be where the beginning is.”

“Congratulations to the one who stands at the beginning: that one will know the end and will not taste death.”

~ The Book of Thomas

I believe the only thing we ever “taste” is the anticipation of death. Our clinging to impermanence and its resultant fear is what we actually taste. As the author of this quote from The Book of Thomas described, when you immerse yourself in a unitive worldview and realize the end and the beginning are one-and-the-same, your view of death is no different than your view of birth.

And, we celebrate birth like no other event in our lives! We obviously don’t mourn our loved ones before they’re born because we have no memory of them. Birth is a miraculous transformation of the unseen source of everything into a being who we can perceive with our five senses.

What we call death is merely another transformation of that original unseen source back to that which we cannot perceive with our five senses. Our lives are a natural arising from the unseen to the seen back to the unseen. One fantastic continuum with no beginning and no end. The eternal life we’ve all been promised.

What we mourn then is our memory of those gone before us. And, we can choose to celebrate that memory just as easily as mourn it and be filled with happiness and optimism rather than pain and remorseful nostalgia.

And that of course is what all of our loved ones, both past and present, want us to do.

Let go and breathe

I understand Nirvana is a Sanskrit word which means literally “breathing out”. Whewww. Letting go of your breath = a particular concept of heaven? So, if you cling to your breath, you will lose it. Interesting. It reminds me of the bible verse, Luke 9:24 – “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it…”

The concepts of clinging and letting go, transience and impermanence, living and dying, all fit together like a puzzle and transcend cultures and theologies.