A blog on understanding your 'self' – and for lovers and teachers of interfaith as inter-spiritual living. It's an ongoing stream of interspiritual Nondual & interfaith resources for realizing happiness by finding our way home to our true Self.
A useful site on Hindu teachings presents two analogies.
The first is the ‘drop and the ocean’ analogy in which
The soul is compared to a drop of water and liberation to its merging into the vast ocean which represents the Supreme Soul (God). According to the advaita schools, the soul and God are equal in every respect, and liberation entails realisation of one’s Godhood. Thus, one’s mistaken sense of individuality is dissolved, and one merges into the all-pervading Supreme.
The second is the ‘green parrot analogy in which
The individual soul is compared to a green bird that enters a green tree (God). It appears to have “merged”, but retains its separate identity.
The personalistic schools of thought maintain that the soul and God are eternally distinct and that any “merging” is only apparent. “Oneness” in this case refers to:
unity of purpose through loving service realisation of one’s nature as brahman (godly) but maintenance of one’s spiritual individuality.
Liberation involves entering God’s abode, though many schools teach that those souls who have become free from material contamination are already liberated, even before leaving the material body
The two analogies are to help explain two views’ on the process of attaining ‘moksha’ a freeing or liberation from samsara, the endless round of repeating cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth (reincarnation);
practically all schools consider it a state of unity with God, the nature of such unity is contested. The advaita traditions say that moksha entails annihilation of the soul’s false sense of individuality and realisation of its complete non-difference from God. The dualistic traditions claim that God remains ever distinct from the individual soul. Union in this case refers to a commonality of purpose and realisation of one’s spiritual nature (brahman) through surrender and service to the Supreme Brahman (God).
REINCARNATION and ARE THE TWO VIEWS RESOLVABLE?
Firstly I should say that the conventional understanding doesn’t work for me. Instead I see reincarnation as every moment in which I prompt myself to return to the ‘body of my true Self’, away from any egoistic, lower self, attachment.
Oak trees produce acorns but the don’t become again the acorn from which they grew. Life is progressive in terms of the after-life. But in this world every time we repeat the same ego-driven mistakes we ‘reincarnate’ ourselves into our lower self.
In unitive meditation we merge with the Whole, but not as a co-equal partner with the Godhead – the finite cannot claim to comprehend the Infinite. That which we become at-one with is Creation not the Creator.
On this subject listen to the 8thC Chinese poet known as Li Po;
“The birds have vanished from the sky,
and now the last clouds slip away.
We sit alone, the mountain and I,
until only the mountain remains.”
If the ego is sufficiently quietened for us to be ‘absorbed’ it is a unity with Creation not the Creator.
To the Chinese poet I would add a Baha’i perspective the holds that in the afterlife we commune with souls with whom we have associated;
13. As to the question whether the souls will recognize each other in the spiritual world:
This fact is certain; for the Kingdom is the world of vision where all the concealed realities will
become disclosed. How much more the well-known souls will become manifest. The mysteries
of which man is heedless in this earthly world, those he will discover in the heavenly world, and
here will he be informed of the secret of truth; how much more will he recognize or discover
persons with whom he hath been associated. Undoubtedly, the holy souls who find a pure eye
and are favored with insight will, in the kingdom of lights, be acquainted with all mysteries, and
will seek the bounty of witnessing the reality of every great soul. Even they will manifestly
behold the Beauty of God in that world. Likewise will they find all the friends of God, both those
of the former and recent times, present in the heavenly assemblage.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í World Faith, p. 367 –
This Baha’i extract is from Dr Bill Huitt’s excellent compilation HERE
The two views illustrated by ‘the green parrot’ and ‘the drop-ocean’ analogies are resolvable via this perspective. In so far as we mirror the higher Self and quieten the ‘chattering monkey’ of the lower self we attain Moksha, Nirvana, Heaven. This is a moment by moment switching until we are enabled to maintain a more constant connection with the higher Self. Experiences of unity are sublime, ineffable, bliss-full but we are not then at-one with the Godhead, just sufficiently ego-less to feel at-one with the rest of Creation! We get close to God in this limited sense through living a life that obeys the Covenant of eternal verities found in the mystical heart of all great faiths.
From Zen we learn
The great Master Dogen said,
“To study the Buddha Way is to study the self,
to study the self is to forget the self, and
to forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.”
To be enlightened by the ten thousand things is to recognize the unity of the self and the ten thousand things.
A limited at-one-ness – through seeking the True Self within – and enjoying endless dualities of this world are the two wings through which we fly spiritually (including spirituality as intellectuallity).
It is certainly true that ‘all is God’ but our reality and our powers are devolved not co-equal.
to visit the ISKCON site from which I took inspiration for this article.
Interspirituality, the 21stC version of perennial wisdom, celebrates the Oneness behind the jostling exclusivist-ic world-views!
Thanks for the discussion and your question about non-duality and teachers of non-duality.
From a quick listen to Rupert Spira so far it seems to be high quality teaching. The design of his site is exquisite! See HERE
As with other luminaries e.g Tolle and Wilber I would make the following comment;
In brief non-duality & duality are both gifts of life (God if you prefer or the Whole) – both are essential, both are ongoing. We need to work both wings in complementary harmony. The goal of life is not to eliminate duality, but to have strong, complementary synergistic experiences of duality and non-duality! Harmony requires diversity and vv.
The separate self is good – hallelujah! The small self is good – without it we would have no mastery of self. Without it no comedians would lift our spirits. Without it no artist would create.
As the great Zen Master Dogen said,
“To study the Buddha Way is to study the self,
to study the self is to forget the self, and
to forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.”
To be enlightened by the ten thousand things is to recognize the unity of the self and the ten thousand things.
This is an enormous field – see the work by Jerry Katz HERE (1000+ very long pages!) and HERE
I tried to build some of these ideas into the 60 Seconds Meditation (for galloping frenetically-busy people) – HERE
“Create in me a pure heart, O my God, and renew a tranquil conscience within me, O my Hope! Through the spirit of power confirm Thou me in Thy Cause, O my Best-Beloved, and by the light of Thy glory reveal unto me Thy path, O Thou the Goal of my desire! Through the power of Thy transcendent might lift me up unto the heaven of Thy holiness, O Source of my being, and by the breezes of Thine eternity gladden me, O Thou Who art my God! Let Thine everlasting melodies breathe tranquillity on me, O my Companion, and let the riches of Thine ancient countenance deliver me from all except Thee, O my Master, and let the tidings of the revelation of Thine incorruptible Essence bring me joy, O Thou Who art the most manifest of the manifest and the most hidden of the hidden!” – Bahá’u’lláh
(From album entitled – Luke Slott “Create in Me a Pure Heart”)
The ‘One Garden’ – A General Introduction for newcomers to the One Garden Groups
Game, set & match! – If you have realized the Oneness behind the diversity you are already a ‘member’ of the ‘One Garden’ – welcome home!
AIM & PURPOSE OF THE ‘ONE GARDEN’ COMMUNITY – to celebrate, experience, explore & practice oneness/Oneness – from within the enlightenment teachings of great spiritual teachers – in a frame work of perennial wisdom or Perennial Philosophy (see below) context .
In our meetings we use mainly contemplative dialogue but start and end with short silent meditations. On a daily basis group members practice according to what they choose – some may still be happily within mainstream faith communities, some might be refugees from painful experience in mainstream religions, some have simply realized that behind the myriad world-views there is Oneness.
We see the overall spiritualizing process as 2 ‘wings’ that together enable spirituality.
i) All spiritually alive people use the first wing to stay connected to the Whole i.e.
– it requires that the ‘ego & mind’ be quietened, (this is our heart-centre & right-brain).
ii) The second wing with which we fly spiritually is dialogue (left-brain, head-centred).
We achieve a sense of connection with the Whole, (it ebbs and flows, unless you are one of the great masters), via mindfulness – or more correctly mind-less-ness!
The two wings need to be in harmony – if one wing is overdeveloped we flap and go round in circles and never fly upwards at all!
OUR MAP-MAKERS: As map-makers of the ‘territory’ we have Eckhart Tolle, Aldous Huxley, Wayne Teasdale & Ken Wilber – and for a popular historical perspective – Karen Armstrong.
Other great teachers: Thich Nhat Hanh, Christian Contemplatives, Shaikh Kabir Helminski, Abdu’l-Baha,, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Quaker Universalism, Deng Ming-Dao, Albert Einstein, Prof John Miller (great champion of Holistic Education) – and ‘wonder-full’ poets & philosophers!
All are ‘gate-keepers’, or pointers as Buddhist teachers say, to realizing ourselves in the ‘One Garden’!
If you like reading see suggested reading list below
WEEKLY – BUT NO NEED TO ATTEND EVERY WEEK – each session is ‘stand alone’. You don’t have to buy books or read lots – materials provided.
WHO IS IT FOR?: For all on a path to realizing their true self .
HOW’S IT WORK? – each week we have a topic/question: One way we work is simply to put ‘spiritual jewels’ next to each other e.g. by juxtaposing these two pieces by Rumi & Abraham Joshua Heschel;
1 Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing – by Rumi
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
2 Concepts & Amazement – a quote by A J Heschel
“Concepts are delicious snacks with which
we try to alleviate our amazement.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel – Who is Man p.88
EXAMPLE TOPIC: Being at-one
EXAMPLE QUESTION: Where & how and through what are we one?
DEVISING THE AGENDA: One way we use is following a short period of silence and a short introduction including quotations the group, we work in pairs, and consult to generate the questions that will make up the agenda for the main group dialogue. Sometimes we have free-flowing dialogue or ‘rounds’.
THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY
“Most of the great wisdom traditions agree on an age-old model which says about both the Cosmos and about our human nature:
1. Spirit, by whatever name, exists.
2. Spirit, although existing “out there,” is found “in here,” or revealed within to the open heart and mind.
3. Most of us don’t realize this Spirit within, however, because we are living in a world of sin, separation, or duality-that is, we are living in a fallen, illusory, or fragmented state.
4. There is a way out of this fallen state (of sin or illusion or disharmony or non-integration), there is a Path to our liberation.
5. If we follow this Path to its conclusion, the result is a Rebirth or Enlightenment, a direct experience of Spirit within and without, a Supreme Liberation, which
6. marks the end of sin and suffering, and
7. manifests in social action of mercy and compassion on behalf of all sentient beings.”
a) Shortest version (RP) = Awakening:Detachment:Service
b) A Christian-Buddhist comparison (Very short version)
There is something bigger than us – the Mysterious Whole
We either are (West), or seem to be (East), separated from it (Victims?)
Through various means we can become reunited with it (or realize that we already are).
Once the separation is overcome, we will lead larger, richer, fuller lives.
In Christian terms, the four steps are:
Faith (or works)
In Buddhist terms:
Nirvana (the state of the Absolute)
Illusion or Ignorance
Practice (devotion or meditation)
TO COME AND ENJOY THE DISCUSSION IN THE ‘ONE GARDEN’ GROUPS YOU DON’T HAVE TO READ – I PROVIDE ALL THAT IS NEEDED AS A HANDOUT
If you prefer videos check out the stunning range on YouTube by Tolle, Teasdale, Wilber, Thich Nhat Hanh, Karen Armstrong & especially the dialogue between Wayne Teasdale and Ken Wilber
BUT IF YOU LIKE READING:-
On my personal journey I wanted a heart connection with those who both described the territory of the One Garden and those who lived it as well as taught it. Below are those who became my ‘gatekeepers’ to the One Garden – the map-makers and the teachers.
a) THE MAP-MAKERS OF THE TERRITORY OF THE ONE GARDEN
First I strongly recommend you read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now – that is enough!
Want more – then read The Mystic Heart by Wayne Teasdale or Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy
Then Ken Wilber and Karen Armstrong
b) THE ‘GATEKEEPERS’ WHO POINT TO THE ‘ONE GARDEN’, AND THEIR SUGGESTED KEY BOOKS
“If you are average you have 30 months to live,” the Consultant said 10 months ago.
Having found out that my remaining life is likely to be very much shorter than the expected 20 to 30 years caused a reorganization of priorities, a focusing, a greater willingness to live in the now!
But support is flying in from all directions! I recently found this extract from Thich Nhat Hanh – it is comforting, elevating, beautiful, sweet, inspiring, a source of quiet joy as is everything that emanates from this man, one of the greatest teachers of our time ;
“When I drink tea it’s very pleasant
to be aware
I am drinking cloud.”
What happens when you die?
by Thich Nhat Hanh
A transcription from a talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh during a retreat with five hundred people in Hong Kong on 15 May 2007 (apologies for any inaccuracies of mine — Editor)
In order to answer what happens us when we die, we need to answer another question – what happens when we are alive?
What is happening now to us? In English we say ‘we are’ but it’s proper to say ‘we are becoming’ because things are becoming. We’re not the same person in two consecutive minutes.
A picture of you as baby looks different to you now. The fact is you are not exactly the same as that baby and not entirely a different person either. In a picture of you as a five year old, you are not exactly the same as that child and not entirely a different person either – the form, feelings and mental formations are different.
In the middle way there is no sameness and no otherness
You may think you are still alive but in fact you have been dying everyday, every minute, cells die and are born – for neither do we have funerals or birthdays (laughter).
Death is a very necessary condition of birth. With no death, there is no birth. They inter-are and happen in every moment to the experienced meditator. For instance a cloud may have died many times, into rain, streams, water. The cloud may want to wave to itself on earth! Rain is a continuation of the cloud. With a meditation practitioner nothing can hide itself. When I drink tea, it’s very pleasant to be aware I am drinking cloud.
When you are parents, you die and are reborn as your children. “You are my continuation, I love you.” The Buddha told us how to ensure a beautiful continuation – a compassionate thought, a beautiful thought. Forgiveness is our continuation. If anger, separation and hate arise, then we will not ensure a beautiful continuation. When we pronounce a word that is compassionate, good and beautiful that is our continuation.
When a cloud is polluted, the rain is polluted. So purifying thoughts, word and action creates a beautiful continuation. We can see the effects of our speech in our children. My disciples are my continuation – both monastic and lay. I want to transmit loving speech, action and thought. This is called karma in Buddhism.
This body of mine will disintegrate but my karma will continue – karma means action. My karma is already in the world. My continuation is everywhere in the world. When you look at one of my disciples walking with compassion, I know he is my continuation. I don’t want to transmit my negative emotions, I want to transform them before I transmit them. The dissolution of this body is not my end. Surely I will continue after the dissolution of this body. So don’t worry about my death, I am not going to die.
Let us meditate on the birth of a cloud. Does it have a birth certificate? (laughter) Examine the notion of birth – the notion that nothing can come from something, from no-one to someone. Is it possible for something to come from nothing? Scientifically this is not possible.
The cloud was water in an ocean, lake, river and heat from the sun gave it birth – the moment of continuation. For instance, birth – before you were born you were in your mother’s womb. The moment of birth is a moment of continuation. Is the moment of conception the start? You are half from your dad and half from your mum already, this is also a moment of continuation. When you practise meditation you can see things like that.
It is impossible for a cloud to die. It can become water, snow – it cannot become nothing. It is also impossible for us to die. Speech, action and thought continue in the future. The person who dies still continues because we are not capable of using meditators’ eyes. They continue in us and around us. All our ancestors are alive in us. Our ancestors are in our chromosomes.
I wrote a book ‘No Death, No Fear’. When conditions are right I manifest and when not, not. There is no coming, no going. Before she manifests we should not call her non-existing. Before manifestation you cannot call her non-being. They are a pair of opposites.
Meditating on the nature of creation and being may be the best way to understanding God. The theologian Paul Koenig describes God as the Ground of Being. Who then is the Ground of Non-being? This diminishes God. In Buddhism both notions of being and non-being can describe reality. Similarly, above and below, Europe and here.
Nirvana is the absence of all notions, birth and death, coming and going, sameness and otherness. According to Buddhism, ‘to be or not to be’ is not a real question.
Meditation takes us beyond to a place of fearlessness. We’re too busy, so we become victims of anger, fear. If we have really touched our nature of no birth/death, we know to die is one of the root conditions to realise oneself.
We have to learn how to die in every moment in order to be fully alive.
This teaching on the middle way is the cream of Buddha’s teaching. Many of our ancestors realised this and were not afraid of death.
We should be able to release our tensions. We are the karma we produce every day in our daily life, if we know how, to ensure continuation. I have a disciple in Vietnam who wants to build a stupa with my ashes. He wants to put a plaque with the words ‘Here lies my beloved teacher’. But I want to write ‘There is nothing here’ (lots of laughter). Because if you look deeply there is continuation.
I treasure the time I have left, more for me to practise. I want to generate energy of love, compassion and understanding so I can continue beautifully. I would like you to do the same. Use your time wisely. Every moment produce beautiful thoughts, loving, kindness, forgiveness. Say beautiful things, inspire, forgive, act physically to protect and help. We know we are capable of producing beautiful karma for good continuations and the happiness of other people.
When the time comes for dissolution of this body you may like to release it easily. You aren’t to grasp – releasing body and perception. Remember the image of a cloud in the sky seeing continuation in rice and ice-cream waving to itself. You can already see your continuation. The art of living is continuation. For myself and the other beings.
Sariputra – one of Buddha’s main disciples, Ananda and other friends went to see Anathapindika a lay disciple who was a businessman and dying. He had made time to come to dharma talks and weekly practice.
When the Venerables came they asked whether the pain had diminished. He replied that it was increasing. The monks led him on a meditation on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. After a few minutes there was no more suffering and he smiled.
When you sit close to a person dying talk to them of happy experiences in their life. Touch seeds of happiness in them…………………………………………..
It speaks to the greatest joys and the greatest hurts of my life.
Let us ‘inter-be’, as this great Zen master teaches, from every atom of his being. If he is not the real McCoy, there is no real McCoy.
Note from WikiPedia on the theologian Paul Tillich and ‘God as the Ground of being’;
Tillich described God
(spatially) as the “Ground of Being” and (temporally) as the “Eternal Now,” in tandem with the view that God is not an entity among entities but rather is “Being-Itself”—notions which Eckhart Tolle, for example, has invoked repeatedly ………were paradigmatically renovated by Tillich, although of course these ideas derive from Christian mystical sources as well as from ancient and medieval theologians such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas
I recently had the the news that my life-span will be cut short. I am committed to enjoying every moment of every day, and to being the longest surviving IPF patient.
Looking Mr D squarely in the face is vital but I’m not going to play chess with him, as in a certain Ingmar Bergman film, nor will I Iet him spoil any flash of beauty that comes my way. I acknowledge that the minute, hour and day is set – so be it. (As it is for everyone – but we manage to ignore the fact most of the time.) But today is the first day of a shorter life as much as it is the first day of the rest of the life of anyone with a century to live – so let me breathe in all it’s truth, beauty & goodness!
Fortunately I had discovered the ‘secret of the universe, the ‘secret of all secrets’ a few years ago. I suppose I’m not certain what I should do with it other than try to live up, in some measure, to the challenge that it brings – the challenge of closing the gap between theory & practice! Closing the gap is to ‘Die before you die’ as contemporary Sufi master Sheikh Kabir Helminski reminds us (Chap 22 in his book Living Presence)
The important death is the death, or diminution, of the egoistic lower self in favour of living in the presence of the Self. Here are some of my favourite inspiring quotations that bring together aspects of the two kinds of death:
“Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one’s own being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom. By making us drink right from the fountain of life it liberates us from all the yokes under which we finite beings are usually suffering in this world.” D T Suzuki
Another Zen Master in providing a summary of Zen Buddhism said, “No self, no problem.” (Such divine brevity!)
Lao-tzu said, “Embrace death with your whole heart.”
Socrates said, “Practice death.”
“Those who sense the wonder, share in the wonder.” A J Heschel
“What does it matter Oh my Lord if I never meet you – I am already annihilated.” – Sufi
FROM THE BAHA’I ‘MASTER’ – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
A friend asked: “How should one look forward to death?” 96
‘Abdu’l-Bahá answered: “How does one look forward to the goal of any journey? With hope and with expectation. It is even so with the end of this earthly journey. In the next world, man will find himself freed from many of the disabilities under which he now suffers. Those who have passed on through death, have a sphere of their own. It is not removed from ours; their work, the work of the Kingdom, is ours; but it is sanctified from what we call ‘time and place.’ Time with us is measured by the sun. When there is no more sunrise, and no more sunset, that kind of time does not exist for man. Those who have ascended have different attributes from those who are still on earth, yet there is no real separation.
“In prayer there is a mingling of station, a mingling of condition. Pray for them as they pray for you! When you do not know it, and are in a receptive attitude, they are able to make suggestions to you, if you are in difficulty. This sometimes happens in sleep. but there is no phenomenal intercourse! That which seems like phenomenal intercourse has another explanation.” The questioner exclaimed; “But I have heard a voice!” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: “Yes, that is possible; we hear voices clearly in dreams. It is not with the physical ear that you heard; the spirit of those that have passed on are freed from sense-life, and do not use physical means. It is not possible to put these great matters into human words; the language of man is the language of children, and man’s explanation often leads astray.” 97
Someone present asked how it was that in prayer and meditation the heart often turns with instinctive appeal to some friend who has passed into the next life.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá answered: “It is a law of God’s creation that the weak should lean upon the strong. Those to whom you turn may be the mediators of God’s power to you, even as when on earth. But it is the One Holy Spirit that strengthens all men.” Hereupon another friend referred to the communing of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses and Elijah; and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: “The faithful are ever sustained by the presence of the Supreme Concourse. In the Supreme Concourse are Jesus, and Moses, and Elijah, and Bahá’u’lláh, and other supreme Souls: there, also, are the martyrs.”
When asked about the individual persistence of the animal’s personality after death, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: “Even the most developed dog has not the immortal soul of the man; yet the dog is perfect in its own place. You do not quarrel with a rose-tree because it cannot sing!” SOURCE http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/ABL/abl-52.html
One theme that cuts across death and death of the ego is reality as in the is-ness of things – don’t quarrel with a rose-tree because it can’t sing!
TAGS: Zen, Buddhism, interfaith, inter-spirituality, interfaith inter-spirituality, death, ego, dying to self, Self, Socrates, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Lao-tzu, Heschel, Sufi, is-ness, ontology, today, the secret of the universe, Kabir Helminski, Sufism, prayer, meditation, Baha’i, Jesus, Moses, Elijah, Bahá’u’lláh, salvation, redemption, animals, roses, dogs, birds, perennial philosophy, is-ness, ontology, being, reality,
to re-balance our tendency to ‘live in our heads’ and bring us back to
and to wholeness –
Many of us long for the happiness of at-one-ment .
We also long to reduce the pull of the lower self. How?
By staying ‘awake’ more. How? Through mindfulness.
How? a) Creating short periods of stillness and silence
b) staying conscious of the breath, c) as thoughts and feelings arise acknowledge them but don’t fight or chase them – say “Hello – thank-you – goodbye.”
If things stop or get interrupted just go back to stillness and the conscious breathing.
“Breathing in I know that I’m breathing in.” “Breathing out
I know that I’m breathing out.”
“Smile: Breathe: Go slowly.”
– Zen master – Thich Nhat Hanh
RECOMMENDED BOOKS & VIDEOS: Books non-religious 1) One Moment Meditation – stillness for people on the go by Martin Boroson, Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world (INCLUDES A CD) by Mark Williams & Danny Penman. VIDEOS: Buddhist – just put ‘Thich Nhat Hanh’ into YouTube!
MEDITATION – Vipassana – Professor Shrader’s teaching plus two suggestions from RP
Below is the couple of sections in which is the form of meditation that Prof, Shrader teachers his university students – in the time it takes to change classes!
TWO NOTES from RP
i) I would say do what he says but start with Breathing in I know that I’m breathing in, Breathing out I know that I’m breathing out – ….. Tolle says several short sessions during the day, minutes or even seconds are better than one long one – especially if you tend to fall asleep!
ii) I also remember a teaching, and use it. When a thought or feeling arises say. “Hello – thank you – and goodbye!”
Prof Shrader’s instruction is as follows:
Sit up straight. Rest your hands lightly in your lap or on your knees. Do not close your eyes entirely, but let your lids relax so that the eyes become half-closed/half-open.
Without moving your head, lower your gaze to approximately 30˚ below the horizon.
Do not look at anything in particular. Do not think about anything in particular. Do not worry about anything in particular.
As thought come to your mind, as they surely will, simply acknowledge them and let them pass. Do not follow them. Do not try to suppress them so as to have a blank mind. Simply observe and let them pass. So too with feelings or emotions. Acknowledge them for what they are. Accept their presence. Do not try to suppress them, but do not follow them. Let them pass.
We sit silently for five minutes. For some students, it seems like an eternity. They shift nervously in their seats, occasionally opening their eyes a bit wider or turning their head to see if anyone is looking at them. At the end of the allotted time, I instruct them to slowly open their eyes and gradually return to a consciousness of the room in which we sit. I ask:
So how do you feel? Rested? Relaxed? Calm? Energized? Centered? Focused? Do things look and feel a little differently than they did five minutes ago? Do you find yourself becoming acutely aware of details in this room that had heretofore escaped your attention? Are you perhaps more aware of – do you perhaps even feel more connected to – the people who occupy a space adjacent to your own? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you have caught a glimpse of the power of vipassana.
In its simplest form, vipassana cries “timeout” to the stream of cognition and concern that
constantly berates our being.
In the quiet space that remains, one finds – not unconsciousness as some might suspect – but rather an inexplicably virginal – untapped, unused, unassuming, and unspoiled – abiding awareness.
“How can this be?” a student will sometimes ask. “I thought I knew my mind, but now I
find the mind I thought I knew may not be mine at all. The self I thought I knew – the me
identified with thoughts and feelings that float across a canvas of mind much like
shadows across the wall of Plato’s cave – this self may not be real at all. More pointedly,
this self (even if real) – which I took to be me – is not me.”
VIPASSANA – In Mahayana Buddhism contexts, it entails insight into what is variously described as sunyata, dharmata, the inseparability of appearance and emptiness, clarity and emptiness, or bliss and emptiness.
When the mote turns in the light: A 10 STEP Barthesian course on Street Photography
Sub-title: 31 OF THE MOST IMPORTANT IDEAS ABOUT (STREET) PHOTOGRAPHY
DERIVED FROM ROLAND BARTHES’ BOOK CAMERA LUCIDA
inspired by the annotation by Kasia Houlihan (University of Chicago)
Roger Prentice Ph.D., MA (ACE), B. Ed. (Hons)
1st draft 4th Dec 2011
Although my practice of photography is still at a beginning stage I want to keep up an old habit – that of theorizing my practice and practicing my theory. On the theory side as a starting point I have gone for ‘the big one’ Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida.
Barthes’ book Camera Lucida: reflections on photography is more like literature than an academic text. Indeed its very purpose is to get us to function in a ‘heart-centred’ way, instead of via left-brain classification and logic-chopping. It is even more like a Zen master’s pointings or teachings. It is profoundly intuitive and insightful about photography in relation to the inner life of being human. It is not in any conventional sense subjective – it is about the very opposite the state of transcending the ego and ironically, given its arguments, it is about living transcendentally in the now.
Camera Lucida provides answers for an enormous range of problems, not just to understanding the true nature of photography. In particular it is staggeringly insightful about what it is to be human, in the world with others (and the memories of them) and the exquisite place the art of photography can play in deepening our realization of our true selves.
I have taken as a starting point Kasia Houlihan’s excellent summary/annotation to be found HERE The four sections relate to the 4 paragraphs in Kasia’s original summary/annotation. To Kasia I will be eternally grateful because it enabled me to stop wandering around in a desert of unmanageable responses to Camera Lucida – and it saved me from the temptation to dive in to the very large pools of academic writing about Camera Lucida – where I would probably have developed unbearable head-hurt and eventually drowned. Including the 10 Step course this is a framework for further development.
The area of photography that grips me currently is Street Photography. I discovered the truth in Camera Lucida two ways a) by doing street photography, however modest my achievements to date and b) through all the work that went into my doctorate – see HERE .
For serious students therefore I suggest the following 10 steps;
1) start taking photographs and keep up the practice between every one of the other steps listed here – & get as much feedback as possible.
2) look at photographs a lot – yours, your family’s and those of great photographers,
3) read Camera Lucida, don’t worry about understanding
4) read Kasia Houlihan’s original summary/annotation to be found HERE and this piece (in development) which was inspired by it.
5) read or re-read this listing of 31 major ideas,
6) read articles about street photography – there are a range of starting points – HERE
7) read at least the summaries of my doctorate HERE or work out your own understanding of the human spirit
8) do even more photography
9) read every poem and other literature you can find about photos & photography, look at every painting & dance about light etc. Link photography to transcendent spirituality if you will – there’s a ‘course-on-a-page HERE
10) then and only then read the academic literature on Camera Lucida and Barthes!
Whatever is true here about photography is also true about street photography – in fact I would say it is especially true about street photography. I intend to write other articles about how this incisive, manageable way into Camera Lucida relates to street photography, to art generally, to spirituality and so on.
1 The book Camera Lucida sets out to determine a new way of looking at photography.
2 Camera Lucida is about a new consciousness – by way of photography.
3 Barthes seeks a new way of reading and valuing photographs – an altogether customized framework.
4 Barthes’ framework is to be distinct from all existing accounts of classifying photographs.
5 He wants to deal with photographs so as to get at the essence or noeme of photography.
6 Barthes says that he wants, ‘a History of Looking’. (RP don’t know what is meant but 26e below might be the answer)
7a In his search Barthes attempts to account for the fundamental roles of emotion and subjectivity
7b in i) the experience of and ii) accounting for Photography.
8 Subjective experience of photography (I would say creating as well as reading) has an essential nature—or eidos
9 The essential nature of a photograph is as an index indicating, ‘that-has-been.’
10 Photography is set apart from all other forms of representation.
11 Previously established ways of classification etc are ‘disordered’ (because they fail to work with the essential nature of photography.)
12 Consequently it is unclassifiable (I suppose compared to say genre classification in film).
13 We need to hold to the fact that ‘the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially’.
14 The essence is the event,
15 The event is ‘that which is never transcended for the sake of something else.’
16 In other words, the photograph is never distinguished from its referent—that which it represents;
17 ‘it simply is what it is’ (I, RP, wonder if this means, “It is what it is because it is indissolubly linked to that which it represents?)”
18 This is illustrated by the fact that one says ‘this is me’ when showing someone a photographic image of oneself, as opposed to ‘this is a picture of me.’
19 When we look at a photograph, it is not the actual photo that we see, for the photograph itself is rendered invisible; (presumably because we see what the photo is a referent of – or see what we are)
20 Consequently the photograph is unclassifiable,
21 Why? – because it resists language, as it is without signs or marks—it simply is. (This is comparable to Lacan’s version of the Real.)
22 Furthermore, the subject that is photographed is rendered object, dispossessed of itself.
23 Consequently it becomes ‘Death in person.’
24 In his personal—subjective—examination of multiple photographs, Barthes proceeded to note a duality that was characteristic of certain photographs: a ‘co-presence of two discontinuous elements’—what he terms, the studium and the punctum.
25a The studium refers to the range of meanings available and obvious to everyone (RP because we are taught by the culture and society of which we are part).
25b The studium part of these photographs is unary and coded, – the former term implying that the image is a unified and self-contained whole
25c The unary meaning of the studium can be taken in at a glance (without effort, or ‘thinking’).
25d The latter (THE CODING) implies that the pictorial space is ordered in a universal, comprehensible way.
25e The studium speaks of the interest which we show in a photograph,
25f the desire to study and understand what the meanings are in a photograph,
25g to explore the relationship between the meanings and our own subjectivities.
26a The punctum (a Latin word derived from the Greek word for trauma) on the other hand inspires an intensely private meaning,
26b one that is suddenly, unexpectedly recognized and consequently remembered
26c It “shoots out of [the photograph] like an arrow and pierces me”.
26d It ‘escapes’ language (like Lacan’s real); it is not easily communicable through/with language.
26e The punctum is ‘historical’ as an experience of the irrefutable indexicality of the photograph (its contingency upon a referent).
26f The punctum is a detail or “partial object” that attracts and holds the viewer’s (the Spectator’s) gaze;
26g it pricks or wounds the observer.
27a The ambiguity of the book’s title lends itself to the many levels on which the text addresses media theory.
27b This ranges from the very materiality of the photographic medium itself
27c to its grander implications for human consciousness in the pursuit of truth.
28a In his efforts to divorce photography from realms of analysis that deny or obscure its essence, Barthes ultimately formulates a new science of photography
28b It is an original framework in which photography steps beyond the shackles of classification and such terms as ‘art,’ ‘technique,’ etc. and, thus,
29a It draws upon an ‘absolute subjectivity’
29b This absolute subjectivity exceeds the normal boundaries of the everyday by moving the activity of viewing from a transparent relationship of meaning and expression to a level in which meaning seems to be there without the presence of subjectivity.
29c It is as if the photograph brings out the unconscious;
29d it also represents the unconscious, while at the same time, it denies all of these relations of meaning.
29e The photograph allows for the sight of self,
29f not as a mirror but as an access point into a definition of identity—
29g but identity associated with consciousness,
29h thus housing a whole;
30a it is in the photograph ‘where being coincides with self,’ (109)
30b It is ‘true being, not resemblance.’
31a The photographer, (is) a mediator,
31b S/he is one who (RP potentially & for themselves) supplies the transparent soul its clear shadow,
31c S/he reveals the soul’s value and not its mere identity (110);
31d the photographer, ‘makes permanent the truth.’
MY PERSONAL CONCLUSION
Camera Lucida is more like a revelation, a spiritual text, than a piece of academic writing. I have no no doubt that it’s a work of intuitive, soul-searching genius. It tells us nothing about the mechanics and technique of photography. It tells us everything about the nature of being human, in which photographs are a gateway to reading our soul.
We (should) read photographs as we are asked to read the text of the self – with the whole of our consciousness and with truth, beauty, goodness and justice.
As Barthes shows himself, and us, the defining characteristic of photographs (at least the personally affecting ones) is that they show us ‘that which has been’. They are embodiments of memories. As such they elicit powerful emotions and as such they tell us who we are, which is why when that part of the brain which enables memories is damaged people no longer know who they are, or who people close to them are. In normal health however we can only have a healthy life-supporting relationship with memories, and photographs, if we live reasonably successfully in the now. Living in the now is the only way we can healthily experience ‘that which has been’.
All photographs are self-portraits. In all creating of, and viewing of, photographs we are searching. For ourselves, for our love, for that mysterious Whole of which we each are an infinitesimally small part.
We, and our photographs, are each the mote that the ray of light makes visible. Through them we enter the lucidly lit room.
For me in our ‘plucking from the flow’ the photographs that come to us it is not so much the ‘collecting of souls’, as Thomas Leuthard suggests, but is the embodiment of spirit caught when the mote turns in the light. That for me is my street, and its flow of (human) spirit, in that genre we call street photography.
Photo: Roger Prentice
GLOSSARY 1 WikiPedia Indexicality an indexical behaviour or utterance points to (or indicates) some state of affairs…….. Social indexicality in the human realm has been regarded as including any sign (clothing, speech variety, table manners) that points to, and helps create, social identity.
Photography, street photography, rogerprentice, roger prentice street photography, photography course, Henri Cartier-Bresson, p
Interfaith as Spiritual Federalism gateways and teachers to feeling at one with the great wisdom traditions – an interfaith inter-spiritual & Perennial Philosophy ‘course on a page’!
I came a long time ago to the understanding that there are many paths but one summit. I wanted a deeper sense of connection with other wisdom traditions. I wanted to feel the kind of nourishment that believers in those wisdom traditions feel. I wanted a gateway and a teacher that would give the connection I desired.
One key idea to come out of this is Spiritual Federalism – is the next goal for interfaith work? It’s an alternative to conversion mania. The world may have ended by the time the Christians have converted the Jews or Muslims the Christians or the Baha’is everyone else. Indeed conversion mania may bring the world to its end! Spiritual Federalism is simply the idea that if you are comfortable in your current wisdom tradition so be it. But if you have a universal heart and wish to reach out to find the oneness behind the various traditions you are like an American citizen – you belong to your State, Texas for example, but you are also, via federalism, an American.
These are the Paths, the Teachers, the Teachings and a video introduction for what I have to date;
Interspirituality, Perennial Wisdom, Universalism and Integral Studies – great teachers who show the oneness beyond the diversity (some of these teachers apply to more than one category!)
CONCLUSION: Through these teachers I am an inter-faith-ist, an inter-spiritual-ist, a Universalist, an intermystical-ist, a student of perennial wisdom, a Traditionalist i.e. someone committed to the mystical core of all true wisdom traditions.
I therefore am at least a Muslim, a Baha’i, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Jew and a Taoist – light is light in whatever in shines – providing men, and its usually men, have not obscured the light with a black shade of their own making!
According to Kurt Goldstein’s book The Organism: A Holistic Approach to Biology Derived from Pathological Data in Man, self-actualization is “the tendency to actualize, as much as possible, [the organism’s] individual capacities” in the world. The tendency toward self-actualization is “the only drive by which the life of an organism is determined.” Goldstein defined self-actualization as a driving life force that will ultimately lead to maximizing one’s abilities and determine the path of one’s life; compare will to power.
The famous book Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes, about the nature of experiencing a photograph, refers to his depth of feeling about a photograph we never see, a photograph of his mother. This picture Lesende (Reader) affects me considerably, but not as much as one of my mother as a young woman leaning on her bicycle. It affects me for reasons I can bring to mind, but also affects me beyond such reasoning. (At first I thought it was a photograph – it is an oil painting in just one of Richter’s extraordinary range of styles.) We are much more than what we think, we are, in addition to that which is known, a mystery – even to ourselves.
The depth of affect (feeling) is determined by the subject, that is by the unique admixture of experiences and personal history each of us has had. But of course most have experiences in common; pleasure, pain, loss etc. The personal history is what determines the exact nature of the punctum, the ‘pain’ we feel when we are grabbed, held and moved by an art object.
Photographs then , or more accurately the experience of them, are created, like other forms of communication, from what the viewer brings added to what the artist provides. That is we ‘read’ a work of art with a combination of what is there, objectively, and what we subjectively bring.
It makes sense to refer to a) the affective resonance as compared to b) the cultural provision by the particular art work. Or the punctum and studium as per Barthes.
‘Resonates’ seems apt because it is a kind of shaking or spasm or feinting – depending on the surprise and depth of the aesthetic experience. We say, “It resonates with me, or “It didn’t resonate with me.” When there is a perfect alignment between the elements of the art object and our subjective self we are ‘swept away’, ‘riveted’, ‘the earth moves’, ‘we cease to exist’ (at least as a reasoning objectifying entity), we are stunned, speechless etc.
Of course the artist/photographer had his/her own co-equivalent to the punctum – the germ and urge to en-form some movement of spirit.
In narrative terms the above picture by Gerhard Richter sets up a host of possibilities – is she reading exam results, a newspaper story, a letter from a friend…… But that is not what takes us in the first place nor we return from the unitive experience of our first encounter is it such possibilities that are the really interesting philosophical payoffs.
For me it is that we are reading, just as she is reading, and it is the intensity of the focus in her reading – the set of her mouth and jaw that creates the power of the piece.
We are also on the edge of intrusion, in the tension of personaal and social space. That’s the punctum for me, that’s where the resonances are. Where are they for you?
Spirituality is how we relate to the unknown and unknowable – to Ultimate reality – and the meaning and motivation we derive therefrom.
Our worldview, as a consequence, is how we ‘read’ the world. Our worldview includes that of which are conscious, plus that which derives from enculturation. Becoming more fully conscious of Oneness, and acting accordingly, is our purpose.
Religion is the agreed set of relationships, teachings and customs held in common with any religious group of which one has membership.
Progress in spirituality is measured by regularly bringing oneself to account – in relation to the standards of your spirituality, world-view and religious group/s (if any).
The English word “religion” is derived from the Middle English “religioun” which came from the Old French “religion.” It may have been originally derived from the Latin word “religo” which means “good faith,” “ritual,” and other similar meanings. Or it may have come from the Latin “religãre” which means “to tie fast.”
Doing your own research:
A very good starting point is provided by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. See HERE
The definitions I like best from this source are;
George Hegel: “the knowledge possessed by the finite mind of its nature as absolute mind.”
Paul Tillich: “Religious is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern”
The Religious Tolerance group tell us that David Carpenter has collected and published a list of definitions of religion, including:
Anthony Wallace: “a set of rituals, rationalized by myth, which mobilizes supernatural powers for the purpose of achieving or preventing transformations of state in man or nature.”
Hall, Pilgrim, and Cavanagh: “Religion is the varied, symbolic expression of, and appropriate response to that which people deliberately affirm as being of unrestricted value for them.”
Karl Marx: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
Don Swenson defines religion in terms of the sacred: “Religion is the individual and social experience of the sacred that is manifested in mythologies, ritual, ethos, and integrated into a collective or organization.”
Paul Connelly also defines religion in terms of the sacred and the spiritual: “Religion originates in an attempt to represent and order beliefs, feelings, imaginings and actions that arise in response to direct experience of the sacred and the spiritual. As this attempt expands in its formulation and elaboration, it becomes a process that creates meaning for itself on a sustaining basis, in terms of both its originating experiences and its own continuing responses.”
He defines sacred as: “The sacred is a mysterious manifestation of power and presence that is experienced as both primordial & transformative, inspiring awe & rapt attention. This is usually an event that represents a break or discontinuity from the ordinary, forcing a re-establishment or recalibration of perspective on the part of the experiencer, but it may also be something seemingly ordinary, repeated exposure to which gradually produces a perception of mysteriously cumulative significance out of proportion to the significance originally invested in it.”
He further defines the spiritual as: “The spiritual is a perception of the commonality of mindfulness in the world that shifts the boundaries between self and other, producing a sense of the union of purposes of self and other in confronting the existential questions of life, and providing a mediation of the challenge-response interaction between self and other, one and many, that underlies existential questions.”
My final question – “Why are there so many religious intolerance groups?”
To read the full article by the Religious Tolerance group go HERE
True achievement, success and happiness lie in being fully and positively human –
through our caring our creativity and our criticality –
developed via service to the communities to which we belong.
All postings to this site relate to the central model in the
1) Like your lives my life, (in a modest way), has (for the last 45 years), been dedicated to;
‘the advancement of education in the consideration of the basic unity of all religions, in particular by the provision of courses to provide an understanding of the relationship of man to the universe, the earth, the environment and the society he lives in, to Reality and to God.’
and right now the global and local opportunities, and dangers, strike me as unparalleled.
2) The great challenge seems to me to concern ‘the how’ of getting wider acceptance of Oneness and oneness as in Perennial Philosophy and the The Golden Rule – raised consciousness that will positively affect decision-making in all of the vital arenas of human concern.
3) A great shift in consciousness is taking place.
The great shift in consciousness is evidenced by two events.
Firstly in just the last few years what was esoteric is now open and freely available to to all.
Secondly millions are responding – in some way shape or form.
I have in mind especially the work of Ken Wilber, Karen Armstrong and most recently Eckhart Tolle.
Tolle’s writing is highly accessible – in the UK most Sun and Daily Mirror readers could handle it.
Of course functional literacy and level of consciousness and not directly correlated! But eleven million had by Week 3 tuned in to Tolle’s course run by Oprah Winfrey – see HERE
….. Oprah went further with Eckhart Tolle than she has ever gone with a previous author picked for her book club. She chose to present, with Tolle, a 10-week series of “webinars” – online seminars – with one chapter of the book (which she puts on the bedside table of all of her guest rooms) discussed each week. In the first webinar, transmitted on 3 March, Tolle led Winfrey and the millions of viewers who logged on in several different countries in silent meditation; viewers were then encouraged to submit questions to Tolle via Skype. By the third week, 11 million people were logging on.
This surely has no parallel in the whole of humankind’s spiritual history. The course is HERE
Not only are ‘the books open’ but there is more than Maslow’s 2% willing a new earth.
The question is how can their energy be harnessed and focused for the common good – or do we have to wait until the first nuclear war, simply because those who ‘know’ can’t find ways and means to influence those who actually ‘do the doing’ and make our world as it is.
4) We need to be thinking ‘outside of the box’. The old ways may not be sufficient. Keeping the candles of light and hope and truth is something that the precious few have done down through the ages, but now the challenge is to shift up to a larger stage.
For example inter-faith dialogue may well be effete (and for some cunning PR) compared to the people who really operate at the ‘hot interfaces’ – e. g. diplomats and business-people.
5) Absorbing and responding to this fact seems to me to be the challenge that might bring forth balm for suffering being borne by untold millions.
A sufficient proportion of America has said ‘Yes we can’ but even more critical than the decisions Obama will be making over the next 4 or 8 years is how can the light of Oneness be brought into the darkened hearts of religious haters and racists. That Oneness is the Tipping Point. The
‘tipping-point’ is realization of that Oneness – and it needs more than abstract assent.
6) My personal experience has led me to realize that individuals need something real and living and breathing through which to connect with ‘foreign’ wisdom traditions.
I believed in the oneness of religions long before I came across
a) Jane Clark’s article on Ibn al-Arabi – which created for me a living connection to Islam – and
b) the Bhagavad Gita Chanted in English HERE using a text of the Bhagavad Gita in English HERE
NB Try listening to the chanting whilst reading the text – wonderful! – transporting!
These gave me a living connection to Hinduism.
7) Starting points:
Perhaps looking very closely and deeply at ‘reverse fundamentalism’ is the way to generate programmes of positive action.
Karen Armstrong as you probably know is being given the opportunity to raise up the principle of the Golden Rule via her ‘Charter for Compassion’ campaign see HERE
Perhaps making celebratory programmes free to all on the internet…..
Perhaps Golden Rule materials free online for Heads and school…….
Perennial philosophy and the ‘federal’ Golden Rule – the ‘world language’ to be taught, in addition to their own religions, so that all can communicate with those of other faiths ……
What do you think?
We who have striven to keep the candles alight have to contribute to ways and means of reaching a sufficiently wider audience to get established some of the foundations for a new earth.
All blessings on the further development of your work.
The campaign Charter for Compassion are asking for contributions for the final charter. Here is my first draft contribution;
Compassion and Peace: ten ways to bridge and transcend racial and religious hatred
1 See the Golden Rule as the equivalent to a language in addition to your own – “My ‘mother tongue’ is Islam/Christianity/Buddhism etc but I also speak ‘the Golden Rule’ – so that I can be a sister/brother to peoples of all religions and none.
2 Implore people like Barack Obama to spend money on deepening cultural understanding – say 10% of the military budget switched to Arabic/Islamic, Chinese and Russian studies. Generate an ‘open data-base’ of experience learned.
3 Encourage all countries to massively increase exchange programmes. Send everyone with a ‘We’ve got these problems how are my host country dealing with them’ pack – and require a thorrough de-briefing upon return to home country – we must see that the most important problems are held in common, and that we must pool answers.
4 Use the knowledge as a data-base for university and school respect for other cultures courses – instead of allowing our societies to continue falsely claiming that the mad fundamentalist minority = the reality of the whole communuity.
5 Get celebrity goodwill ambassadors for the GR – include business people , they have more interchange with ‘foreigners’ than any other group. Get pop groups talking and singing about it.
Get Barack Obama talking about it – and Nels Mandela, and Archbishop Tutu etc.
6 Start teaching the Golden Rule – one school at a time – everywhere.
7 Generate badges, widgets and bling for websites, windows, clothing that conveys messages such as – ‘I speak oneness and diversity’. ‘We support the GR’, etc (Get some adverstising agencies working on it).
8 Support studies of fundamentalism – focus on ways and means antidotes and prophylactics. The best writers on fundamentalism may not be in obvious academic fields – the best I have found is
9 Look for ‘out of the box’ solutions such as brilliant comedians such as Omid Djalili and Shazia Mirza.
If you don’t like strong comedy don’t go – but I suspect that Omid, and the others have ‘lanced more religious boils’ for the general population than all of the politicians and academics put put together!
10 Support ways and means for deeper applications of the Golden Rule – we need courses from nursery to university epecially based on the brilliant writings and work of a) Eckhart Tolle, b) Ken Wilber and c) Karen Armstrong.
An interesting interview of Ram Dass by David Jay Brown and Rebecca McCLen Novick is available online HERE
David Jay Brown : I see that you have Bob Dole on your altar. That’s a nice touch.(laughter)
Ram Dass : I take the person who most closes my heart and I watch my heart close as I look at their picture.
David : What was it that originally inspired your interest in the evolution of human consciousness?
Ram Dass : I’m inclined to immediately respond – mushrooms, which I took in March 1961, but that was just the beginning feed-in to a series of nets. Once my consciousness started to go all over the place, I had to start thinking it through in order to understand what was happening to me. It wasn’t until after I’d been around Tim Leary, Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts, that I started to reflect about issues like the evolution of consciousness.
David : Was there a common denominator between what drew you to study psychology and what drew you to spiritual transformation ?
Ram Dass : I am embarrassed to admit what drew me to psychology. I didn’t want to go to medical school. I was getting good grades in psychology and I was charismatic and people in the psychology department liked me. It was as low a level as that. My whole academic career was totally out of Jewish anxiety, and issues surrounding achievement and adequacy. It was totally socio-political. It had nothing to do with intellectual content at all.
David : You talk about that time in your life as if it was a period of simple bad judgment, but wasn’t it also a necessary part of your evolution ?
Ram Dass : Well, that’s different. I was, after all, teaching Freudian theory. Human motivation was my specialty, so I thought a lot about all that stuff. That served me in very good stead because it’s an exquisitely articulated sub-system. If you stay in that sub-system, it’s very finite and not very nourishing. But when you have a meta-system, and then there’s the sub-system within it, then it’s beautiful, it’s like a jewel – just like with chemistry or physics.
But when I was in it, it was real. When I was a Freudian, all I saw were psycho-sexual stages of development, and as a behaviorist all I saw were people as empty boxes.
Rebecca McCLen Novick : You seem to be able to incorporate and apply some of the things you learned as a psychologist to this larger understanding of the human condition.
Ram Dass : Everything I learned has, within that relative system, validity. So, if somebody comes to me with a problem, they come to me living within that psychological context. I have incredible empathy for their perception of reality, partly because of what I’ve been through in it. You’ve got to go into the sub-system to be with the person within it, and then create an environment for them to come out of it if they want to. That seems to me to be a model role for a therapist.
It’s also showed me a certain kind of arrogance in Western science. Here was Western science really ignoring the essence of what human existence was about and presenting it as if concerns about that were some kind of bad technique.
In the context of discussion with contributor ‘Patrick’ I offer a contribution to the issues I raised concerning the brilliant Eckhart Tolle. I do this via a beautiful poem that describes, with exquisite simplicity, the mystical experience of non-duality, or oneness. The poem is by the renowned Chinese poet Li Po;
The birds have vanished into the sky,
and now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountains and me,
until only the mountains remain.
Li Po (701-762)
1 Clearly for Li Po there was, to start with, on that occasion, duality.
2 I’m assuming that Li Po returned from non-duality, back in to duality – unless he sat there until his bones turned to dust. I assume he returned in order to do the laundry, chop wood, carry water. Of course he would now do them on the bed-rock of enhanced consciousness derived from his mystical/aesthetic experience of non-duality. Both wings of being human would be beating – as he scrubbed and carried and chopped. Enlightenment is now – if we let it.
In this world – the contingent world, the world of duality, the ‘Kingdom of Names’ – the complementarity of duality and non-duality is the key. Duality is not a curse, or a failing. When in dynamic inter-relation with non-dual experience it is heaven and perfection. Without non-dual experience it is hell, including the hell of relativity. The purpose of life is not just transcendence and timelessness – it is also immanence and being in time, moment by moment. Complementarity is the key.
3 The non-duality or mystic state is the same as the state of creativity (or the truly aesthetic experience). We are ‘taken out of ourselves’ as we say in modern parlance. Art and ‘religion’ are not similar, they are the same – as Coomaraswami says. It is the forgetting of self, a loss of ego boundaries, a letting go and letting God etc. But the artist as well as the mystic comes out of the non-dual state back into the dual state. – and s/he becomes someone who lives with what s/he has created. What s/he has produced might even be a bit of a shock – a bit like the dumb panda who jumps when she sees that something is moving on the floor beneath her i.e the cub to which she has just given birth. The artist becomes nurturer/appreciator/critic – more or less. They in duality are the left-brain evaluator (criticality mode) to complement their non-dual right-brain creativity mode. Complementarity is the key. One mode, and only one mode is in the foreground at any one time. Duration is from milliseconds to hours in the case of non-duality.
4 The question is are both states normal, desirable and, if the term is acceptable, God-given, i.e. both part of the life’s teaching-machine from which we are supposed to learn. Or is one state bad, immature, to be got rid of, so that we can be non-dual 24/7?
5 Intellectuality is not the same as intellectualism, just as individuality is not the same as individualism. In both cases the first is normal, healthy, proper, desirable. In both cases the second is excessive, unbalanced, undesirable and pathological. The same difference incidentally exists between sexuality and sexual-obsession. Tolle IMHO makes the mistake of not distinguishing between ego and the egotistic. He also can give the impression that he is trying to invalidate mind per se instead of distinguishing between true mind and the neurotic egotistical mind, trapped as it is by attachment.
Awareness, raised consciousness, is true mind. True mind is ‘xin’ heart-mind, interiority bathed in the light of the intellect and the warmth of true love, without attachment to forms – derived from the complementarity of the modes of duality and non-duality. ‘Without attachment to forms’ doesn’t mean without love of forms. Forms are the means (the only means) by which we can come to understand the essentiality of formlessness.
True love as Tolle says is realization of oneness – complementary to which is the glory of diversity.
God loves our celebrating diversity with Him as much as wanting us to realize oneness.
The one who is awakened is a one as well as a not-one – the Buddha was not non-Buddha – at least as a gateway, a pointer.
Spirituality or transcendence or consciousness is not increased by a diminution of intelligence, or more correctly a diminution of intellectuality. The intellect as enlightened heart-mind is the human spirit. Enlightenment comes from realization of the true Self, as opposed to self, that is the eternal. Unlimited Whole, the Silent One, God the Father, God without Name, the Nameless One etc.
Complementarity is the key. Yin is lovely only in the balanced presence of yang – and vice-versa.
6 ‘Before all else, God created the mind.’ (Koranic tradition) The intellect is the supreme gift of God to man, the pinnacle of the way in which we are made in His image – providing we realize that all rivers flow back to the one Ocean, from which those parts also have their origin. Complementarity is the key.
7 The fear and misunderstanding of the term ego. The ego is simply the part of the self – the dimension or mode – that deals with immediate reality. As such it is neutral – like the heart or lungs or kidney. Whether it is healthy or diseased – now that is a different matter. The ego is as much part of the enlightened one as with the crass self-obsessive.
God celebrates His Creativity in the uniqueness of me, as well as in His Creation of our species.
We believe what we believe – some we choose to believe, some is ingrained.
The happiest of worlds is one where we can believe different things without feeling an obligation to kill each other! Complementarity is the key.
The ultimate sickness is to know who you are through knowing who you hate.
A thoughtful respondent stimulated me in to raising a few more issues re Eckhart Tolle, so here they are.
Is Eckhart Tolle in his teachings anti-intellectual – or at least might he be playing into the hands of anti-intellectualists?
My perspective is from within a Perennial Philosophy and Universalist world-view, as is Wilber and Tolle.
So, in my understanding:-
‘Tolle does not speak of ‘non-duality as everything’. But he speaks of duality and our relationship to it often.’
The ‘it’ that relates to the non-duality I am arguing is part of the design – not just a deficiency on our part!
Does he celebrate duality as one of the two wings of being human, in this world with others. Or does he say, or imply, that the non-dual is not just desirable but the only goal – to such an extent that a newcomer might think, “I’m not good, I’m not normal, I’m not a true Tolle-ist (God forbid – but I bet it happens) unless I experience complete non-duality 24/7.”
I guess my question is, “Would God’s Creativity have failed if for all humans there was 24/7 non-duality?”
I want to argue that non-duality is the goal and indispensable to unity, peace, stability, conflict-resolution, an end to suffering etc. BUT being in duality is also normal, beautiful, testing, the source of compassion and empathy etc. It is more than just the darkness to the realization of the beauty of light.
I don’t underestimate the collective pain-body and collective insanity that continues to rule our world.
Duality is THE means of all growth and development – up to the need to realize non-duality. It’s the name of the game in this world. My understanding is that babies don’t immediately realize that they are separate beings from their mothers – although the birthing process and daily experiences get that process going pretty quickly!
My point is that although duality is not the goal – it is the means, and a means without which we would neither realize the essentiality of non-duality nor would we have the means to accomplish the realization of it. We have to feel separate to realize at-one-ness. If this is the case then both non-duality and duality are part of the game – and part of God’s great teaching ‘machine’.
So in my view we come to realize that we need (at least in this world) two wings – not one wing and a useless stump! To change metaphors – the purpose of life is for the drop to lose itself in the Ocean – not all the time but sufficiently deeply and sufficiently often to become the conditioning bedrock for all of our living within duality. The dynamic is where knowledge comes from – and duality is not just a design fault or sin!
I have the same problem with an even greater ‘genius’ Ken Wilber. God speaks via duality as well as non-duality, He speaks via subjectivity as well as objectivity AND He speaks via mind and reason as well as their opposites.
A separate, but vitally connected subject concerns the nature of the pain-body and how it relates to mind and thought. The great Tolle also gives the impression that the mind is virtually the same as the pain-body. I would say the the ‘egoic-mind’ = the pain-body – or more accurately the pain-body is the habituated shadow-self created in us via our egoic responses.
He should be ‘condemning’ the egoic-mind not the mind! The mind free of the egoic pain-body = a ray of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think because I’m sinful, I think because I am made in the image of God! Tolle is at risk of giving the mind and thinking a really bad name, whereas they are, when free from the egoic pain-body, first in Creation – the very purpose of Creation.
I have the same problem with (possibly) an even greater ‘genius’ Abraham Joshua Heschel.
‘When a person is not in the now, it is natural to ask where they should be, because there is an inner sensing that they are not where they belong.’
The ache you refer to is when we haven’t realized that we already have enlightenment, and that it is simply a matter of ‘letting go and let God’. When we have had experiences of non-duality, and re-cognize them and re-alize them, the wood chopping is in the enlightenment and the enlightenment is in the wood chopping!
‘When you are not in the now, God continues on. Your presence in the now, or not, has no effect on God.’
Yup! The sun shines whether I choose to face it and reflect it or not.
‘Duality is not ‘not non-being’. Duality is the natural state of the world of form. Seeking an understanding of ‘non-duality’ is not the only thing to do in life, but understanding ‘non-duality’ gives one a profound foundation for all of living.’
Yup! – Beautifully put.
‘All knowledge comes from consciousness, and you are consciousness. So when you behold, or categorize, the inter-play between duality and non-duality, you, that is consciousness, has created knowledge.’
Ah but what is ‘you’?
For me your term ‘inter-play’ is the key – it indicates the dynamic between experiences of duality and of singleness: me-not me, me and ‘the greater whole of which I and all other phenomena are emanations’ etc.
The explanation that works for me goes like this. I ask of my Spirit a question. My Spirit answers, and lo the light breaks forth. The ‘I’ of course is the egoic self and the Self, ultimately, is God within. But it is more then the pain to which I am addicted – it is God’s Creativity via difference (diversity) – complementary to His/Her/It’s creativity via sameness.
Ultimately I suppose I’m arguing that to deny God’s Creativity in His creation of difference is to deny some aspect of Him/Her/It that cannot be denied. I, and you and him and her and them, are important outside of complete self-abnegation in non-duality! Hooray – vivre la difference – I want dia-logos from you as well as silence, I gratefully acknowledge the dia-logos within me as well as the speechless silence of complete self-abnegation!
The ‘me’ is vital – along with experiences of non-duality – for God to perpetually continue His Creation-emanation. The film projected needs a screen. Every lily of the field is different or unique as well as belonging to the same species.
If you accept the temporary naming of the un-nameable both are part of God’s teaching machine. Difference as well as sameness reveals. The uniqueness as well as the sameness of each of us ‘reveals’ – to us and to others. It is ‘me and non-duality’ that gives rise to development in consciousness, which gives rise to the kind of knowing to which you refer.
This ‘knowing-that-comes-through-raised-consciousness’, comes to us as a ‘gift’ without book-learning and academic study. It is the majority of what we know.
An Islamic (hence Arabic terms) and Bahá’í distinction helps (me) here;
SOURCE: Two words for knowledge, but very different kinds of knowledge. Ilm can be acquired by education and training and through the exercise of reason. Irfan is higher knowledge, or gnosis, that can only be acquired by, first, education, and then contemplation under the guidance of a master. The guidance would include spiritual training in zikr, music (sama) and meditation. Ilm is expected to lead to the sober contemplation of God as both Creator and Judge—his awesome power– whereas irfan may lead to ecstasy as a person is simply overwhelmed by God’s immense beauty and falls in love with that Beauty. SOURCE
The sheer weight of emphases in Tolle might give the impression that mind and thinking = bad. Whereas although the soul is infinite because it is ultimately God, and the mind is finite, the two are essential – from our perspective. Religions can suffer from anti-intellectualism as well as what a friend calls ‘adminology’ in which the essential heart is set aside in favour of jurisprudence and nit-picking.
I am wondering if Tolle, understandably, started from the (to me erroneous) Western view that separates heart and mind, as opposed to the Chinese view of heart-mind – ‘xin’.
I don’t think Tolle is anti-intellectual but I wish he would celebrate a bit more the other wing of being human – duality, without which non-duality would not be.
May the Nameless One, who some call God, finish raising up the Self-actualized 2% , the yeast for the bread of humanity!
Maybe He/She/It already has and they are just really badly organized!
“How does the energy generated by Tolle actually get transformed into social action and social transformation?”
I also wrote a short introduction to the Dictionary of Concepts in development on a sister site allied to this one. The latter in part answers the questions. The introduction to the Dictionary reads;
Everything here on this site, and its allied sites, is about how we have to balance the myriad parts of life, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the Whole – from which everything emanates, including us.
But our interest in concepts needs to be balanced with interest in the Whole from which all things emanate and take form, and to which they return – in the formless and infinite.
The Whole is nameless because it cannot be conceptualized. In terms of our experience we can briefly lose ourselves in the non-duality of the infinite Whole. This is beyond the logic-chopping of religions (and the illogic-chopping!) . ‘God has no religion’. God is no-thing. We can only point – and be silent. Silence is the language of God.
On the site there is a place you can go, to take you beyond concepts HERE. Let the few words dissolve as you realize the oneness of the light, and the silence that, embraces others all around the globe, who also rest right now, in the now, and the silence – and let go their egoic forms.
The greatest need humanity has is for all peoples to realize that they are the cells of a single body. That realization comes as we learn to live in the now, and the silence beyond all concepts – that is to feel the Whole. This has been the mystic teaching, the perennial philosophy, to be found at the heart of all of the world’s wisdom traditions – but so often obscured by the dust of human egotism.
But for those who love chocolate, and beautiful landscapes, and sailing and beautiful bodies we have, during our time in this world, to fly with the wing of ‘duality’ – as well as our experiences of non-duality. After enlightenment the comes the water carrying and wood chopping. After the water carrying and wood chopping – enlightenment. The two are complementaries – at least in this world. Hooray! Hallelujah! Amen! Om! Pass the chocolate!
The Credit Crunch and Managing Motivation: goal-set to motivate your success through ‘singing’ your ‘uni-verse’
In my work as a life-coach I energize people to get from where they are at, to where they want to be.
Getting in tune with your self and your life’s purpose is central to such achievement and success. Getting in tune with you self and your life’s purpose is a matter of harmonization.
Chinese wisdom places great emphasis on harmony. Inner and outer harmony are both important.
Outer harmony depends on inner harmony.
Inner harmony depends on being, doing and having in relation to our life purpose – i.e. getting alignment.
We need to get alignment between head and heart, and between the activities of our inner and outer lives. Then we get ‘flow’ – when we are able to function in energized harmony – like an athlete ‘in the zone’. Episodes of silence are vital.
If we are in a situation we don’t see as getting us toward our dream then ‘see it differently’ – that is see it as a stepping stone, as opposed to a mill-stone!
Decide on your life’s purpose – don’t worry it will evolve via experience – and further reflection.
Just DECIDE and START! (‘Ready. Fire. Aim!)
Set your goals – and work your goals day by day. How? – here’s one way great way.
For every day draw 4 circles. 1st circle = My Lifelong Dream,
2nd circle = My Year,
3rd circle = My month,
4th circle = My day.
Keep the 4 circles of your personal universe in harmony via working to your daily goal-setting.
The ‘universe’ as Wayne Dyer reminds us means ‘one song’.
Live your life singing your single, harmonised, song and you will succeed.
Harmony here is what enables us to be focused, and motivated.
Plan and work every day to achieve toward your monthly goals – etc.
Periodically adjust them all according to each other, so you have the motivation of always operating in a single, harmonized universe.
Keep the dream sharply visualized.
Don’t be afraid of adjustments – think of life as a ship’s journey – course corrections are inevitable and necessary.
Occasionally remind yourself of these two quotations;
1 “If you don’t think about the future, you won’t have one.” Henry Ford
2 “The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke’s statement takes us even deeper by telling us that we create our future by what we are. The current master of ‘being’ is Eckhart Tolle.
Have fun singing your song. Keep the dream – even if a ‘credit crunch’ means you have to do stuff that is a temporary delay.
Sometimes just surviving is the biggest step you can make that particular day – but that day in the future will be seen as being just as important – because you didn’t give up!
NB This article was inspired by Steve Chandler’s brilliant ‘100 Ways to Motivate Yourself’, one of my Top 10 Personal Development texts.
He has impacted on my life as he has on millions of others. In addition to his general spiritual illumination of our lives and of reality I am interested in how he can illumine specialist areas of life including teaching, parenting and management. However this first post is an attempt to separate what he is doing and saying from what he isn’t. Why? Well take a look at the cistern of hate and mis-representation that has poured out from ‘Christians’ and others on YouTube and elsewhere.
1 He is not a religionist.
2 He has not started a religion.
3 He is not speaking from the point of view of inter-faith but meta-faith or pan-faith and beyond.
4 He doesn’t speak from within a religion, or about others’ religious beliefs.
5 He avoids religion, and thereby teaches the purest heart of religion.
6 His life has been in three stages.
7 Before the age of 29, there was extensive ‘dark-night-of-the soul’ experience.
8 At the age of 29 he had a transformative experience.
9 The subsequent 35 years, his life’s work, has simply been a commentary on that transformative experience.
10 The 35 years is itself split into two phases, the first of which was 30 years processing the experience – via reflection, study and articulation.
11 The writing of his few books, has been over the last half decade, and the meteoric rise in their and his popularity over just the last year or two.
12 He is a Universalist, and one who most of the time avoids the trigger words that set off fundamentalists and ‘exclusivists’ and other professional haters. (That hasn’t stopped a rag-bag of fundamentalists and ‘exclusivists’ and other professional haters from attacking him, especially since Oprah gave him a platform!)
13 He is existentialist by tone and direction.
14 He is not a theologian (thank God), but he is closest theologically to panENtheism.
15 He avoids scholarship (thank God) as one of many ego-traps that potentially ensnare any of us.
16 He is quintessentially the doer as opposed to the talker – but via talking about non-talking and non-duality!
17 He is quintessentially a Universalist.
18 He is directly in the tradition(s) of all of the great mystics.
I haven’t decided on the 18th and 19th – which ones would you add to the list?