Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Doorway to Freedom

A great sheikh has lost two sons, yet he is not weeping. His family and his wife wonder at this lack of grief.

“Do not think that I am cold and uncompassionate.
I don't weep because for me they are not gone.
The eye of my heart sees them distinctly.
They're outside of time but very close by here playing and coming to hug me.
As people sometimes see dead relatives in dream,
I see my sons constantly in this waking state.
I am even more deeply with them when I hide for a moment from the world,
when I let the sense-perception leaves drop from the tree of my being.
I weep for those who have ungrateful souls.
I weep when boys throw stones at dogs.
I weep for dogs who bite for no reason.
Forgive the harm that anyone does.
We are here to be a forgiveness door through which freedom comes.
I weep when I ask that the door not be shut.”………….Rumi – A translation by Coleman Barks

Today we celebrated the Holy festival of Eid ul-Fitr.

Early today morning, I happened to be talking to an Youngman who had lost his father last week due to a very sudden Cardiac arrest. Death was so swift that no one, who were close to his father, could realize what was happening. This young man I could console by saying that it is only the bodily absence we have to live with for no one dies but we come back. For which he replied “Yes I strongly feel his presence every moment of the day”
About four hours later my niece asked me “what happens to the soul after we die?” This is the same question which Nachiketa asks Yama in Katha Upanishad. In the afternoon I was browsing a compendium of Rumi’s poems by Coleman Barks when in the first page I opened the above verse popped out. It was then that I thought that I will post this little article.
The subtle message of rebirth or reincarnation can be seen embedded at an esoteric level in all sacred scriptures including the Holy Koran.

The renowned Lebanese mystic Mikhail Naimy, biographer of Kahlil Gibran, wrote: “In Al Koran clear hints (on rebirth) are found which orthodox Islam brushes aside as meaning something else than reincarnation.”
Take the following verses:

“How can you disbelieve in GOD when you were dead and He gave you life, then He puts you to death, then He brings you back to life, then to Him you ultimately return”......Sura 2:28
Orthodox meaning given is that there are two births and two deaths. But the meaning is clear that until our soul attains the Divine attribute it cycles through birth and death in a process of purification.

“As the rains turn the dry earth into green thereby yielding fruits, similarly God brings the dead into life so that thou mayest learn.”............. (Chapter 8, Sura Ira, Meccan Verses 6-6-13).

“And He sent down rains from above in proper quantity and He brings back to life the dead earth, similarly ye shall be reborn.” ......................(Chapter 25, Sura Zakhraf, Meccan Verses 5-10-6).

“[Those who doubt immortality] are dead and they do not know when they will be born again. Your God is peerless and those who have no faith in the ultimate have perverse hearts and they want to pose as great men.” .............(Chapter 14, Sura Nahel, Verses 2-12-8).

Imam Jafer, a well-known authority in the Islamic world, said that "rebirths must be undergone before entering the Heaven world," referring to the text, "Surely they will be reborn and this law is perfect but people who do not possess wisdom do not comprehend it.".................. (Chapter 14, Sura Hahel Verses 4-0-10).

Rumi captures the essence so beautifully.

Eid Mubarak

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Esoteric Interpretation of Matthew 7:6

"It is unkind to point out the Obvious to those who don't want to see it.
But it's worse to point out the Invisible to those convinced it doesn't exist."
This is why Jesus said: ""Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces."...................Matthew 7:6
My friend on Facebook Malcolm asked this question “Lets assume we saw this for the first time without interpretation - what does it mean?”
Many sayings of Christ are veiled in hidden and deeper meaning. It depends on who is seeing. If one is a literal Scripture interpreter that person comes under the categories of people who believe that there is no other meaning except the literal. They either do not want to see it or simply negate any other interpretation.
But to one who is inclined to deeper study of the esoteric content of the Bible, this saying in Matthew means that esoteric teachings are not meant for all. Christ had two levels of disciples. He had those who operated through pure faith and devotion like Peter, Andrew and most of the other followers and He taught through deeper dialogue with John, Thomas, Mary of Magdala, Nichodemus (who was a theologian) and Lazarus.

The Christian Gnostics (it should be noted that according to St. Clement of Alexandria, Christian Gnostic is a Christian who had attained the deeper teaching of the Logos) emphasized spiritual knowledge rather than blind faith as the road to salvation. They indicated that they possessed secret knowledge (i.e., “gnosis” in Greek) concerning the hidden meaning of the “resurrection.” This was a part of the secret teachings of Jesus handed down to them by the apostles. This special knowledge was restricted to people who were given the public teachings of Christianity before qualifying to be initiated and receive the secret teachings.

The dogs and pigs are in the animal kingdom whose consciousness are not evolved to the same level as those of humans especially in the process of accessing spiritual insights in the evolutionary journey. The common man rooted to worldly existence and those who are in the Karmic journey of ascendance from a lower level of existence cannot be given the esoteric content of Christ’s message.

This is very clearly explained in Vedic philosophy. The two paths are classified as Bhakti Yoga and Jñana Yoga.

“The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: " 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”…………Matthew 13: 10-16

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Modality of Contemplative Prayer

“Examine yourself to see whether you have within you a strong sense of your own self importance,
or negatively, whether you have failed to realize that you are nothing. This feeling of self-
importance is deeply hidden, but it controls the whole of our life. Its first demand is that
everything should be as we wish it, and as soon as this is not so we complain to God and are
annoyed with people.”………….. Saint Theophan the Recluse

Bishop Theophan the Recluse was born in Russia in 1815 and after a period of academic brilliance and being a Bishop for only seven years he retired to a life as recluse.
What reasons induced Bishop Theophan, full of strength, to leave his diocese and retire into solitude? Various are the characters and gifts of men. It was difficult for him in the midst of the world and those demands to which one must yield as a consequence of human corruption. His unlimited goodness of heart, a meekness like that of a dove, his trust of people and indulgence of them-all this indicated that it was not for him to live amidst the irreconcilable quarrels of vain worldly life. It was very difficult for him to be a leader, especially in such an important position as that of bishop. His trust could be abused; he could never give necessary reprimands. Besides this, he felt the call to devote all his energies to spiritual writing. As for himself personally, he wished to give up all his thoughts to God alone, Whom he loved so absolutely. He desired that nothing might disturb the complete communion with God that was so dear to him. And he left the world to be alone with God.

As seen from his saying this chosen life was not an escape in to an easier life style but a constant endeavour to control his self importance and realize the greater self that was innate in himself to establish a union with the Divine.
Negating one’s self worth in reference to our worldly and materialistic existence is the preparation that is necessary to start an uninterrupted communion with God.

In a Homily on Prayer which he delivered on 21st November 1864, he says:
“Let me recall a wise custom of the ancient Holy Fathers: when greeting each other, they did not ask about health or anything else, but rather about prayer, saying “How is your prayer?” The activity of prayer was considered by them to a be a sign of the spiritual life, and they called it the breath of the spirit. If the body has breath, it lives; if breathing stops, life comes to an end. So it is with the spirit. If there is prayer, the soul lives; without prayer, there is no spiritual life……….. Thus, going to pray, in the morning or in the evening, stand for a moment, or sit, or walk, and strive in this time to focus your thoughts, casting off from them all earthly activities and objects. Then call to mind the One to Whom you are praying, Who He is and who you are, as you begin this prayerful petition to Him. From this, awaken in your soul the feeling of humility and reverent awe of standing before God in your heart. As you stand piously before God, all of this preparation may seem small and insignificant, but it is not small in meaning. This is the beginning of prayer and a good beginning is half the work.”

In his second Homily delivered on 22nd November 1864 he gives the following guidance:
"Here are three means, other than the prayer rule, by which one can teach the soul to ascend prayerfully to God: first, dedicate some time in the morning to the contemplation of God; second, turn every action to the glory of God, and third, often turn to God with short prayers. When contemplation of God goes well in the morning, it leaves a deep inclination toward thinking about God. Thinking about God makes the soul carefully order all of its actions, interior and exterior, and turn them to the glory of God. At the same time, this sets up a state in the soul that it often will be moved by prayerful cries to God.

These three: contemplation of God, doing all to the glory of God, and frequent short prayers are the most active weapons of mental prayer and prayer of the heart. Each of them raises the soul to God. He who decides to practice these quickly attains the habit of ascending to God in his heart. The labour put into these leads to the heights. The higher one ascends on a mountain, the freer and easier he breathes. Thus it is also here: the more one does these exercises, the higher his soul ascends, and the higher the soul ascends, the more freely prayer can act in it. Our soul by nature is the abode of the higher divine world. Our soul should always be in this world by thoughts and feelings of the heart. But the baggage of worldly thoughts and passions leads and pulls the soul down. These methods separate the soul little by little from the earth, and then completely pull it away. When they have completely pulled the soul from the earth, then the soul lives in its own region, and will happily live on high. Here in heart and mind, and later in actual substance it will be vouchsafed to be before the face of God in the choirs of the angels and the saints."

May God grant this to all of you through his grace.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wagon Wheel and the Shadow

"All experience is preceded by mind Led by mind Made by mind. Speak or act with a corrupted mind, And suffering follows As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox. All experience is preceded by mind, Led by mind, Made by mind. Speak or act with a peaceful mind, And happiness follows Like a never departing shadow…………… The Buddha ~ The Dhammapada

There is a fundamental difference between the two comparisons.
Let us take the example given by the Buddha regarding the wheel of the wagon and the oxen which draws the wagon. There is a person who is defining the direction the wagon has to travel. The wagon, its wheels and the oxen are only objective tools who do not in anyway contribute to the direction setting. The thought process, resultant speech and the action are all stages of progression in a mental process of any individual. If the mind is corrupted then what follows in thought , speech and action are also corrupted in nature. This is the reason the Buddha gives the wheel and the Oxen example when narrating the nature of corrupt mind.

But when he talks of the peaceful and undisturbed mind and the resultant happiness, he uses the example of the ‘never departing shadow’.

Peaceful mind means, a mind which devoid of attachments. Attachments results from a dualistic nature where one stands apart from that which he is observing. This position leads to degradation in relationship as the true nature of the observed is compromised to suit that of the observer.
If one understands that the shadow has no separate existence apart from the self, he would never feel alienated and identify the shadow with any other attributes apart from one’s own. It is the light which is external to oneself which is casting the shadow and the resultant duality. Once we are endowed with this understanding, the shadow becomes an extension of the self. This knowledge is the happiness which the great Sakyamuni talks of.

The Lankavatara Sutra, which is another important sutra in the Zen tradition, says it this
Way (answers of the Buddha to Mahatmi, the
bodhisattva-mahāsattva ambassador of King Ravana):
“What is meant by nonduality, Mahatmi? It means that light and shade, long and short, black and white, can only be experienced in relation to each other; light is not independent of shade, nor black of white. There are no opposites, only relationships. In the same way, nirvana and the ordinary world of suffering are not two things but related to each other. There is no nirvana except where the world of suffering is; there is no world of suffering apart from nirvana. For existence is not mutually exclusive.”
The two examples given by the Buddha says volumes. The corrupted mind is the result of disjointed entities like the wheel which follows the hoof of the Ox. This is a chain of causation which at any moment can lead to separation and suffering but the shadow and the self are inseparable relationship whose duality is only due to an external projection.

A peaceful mind is one that is rooted in non-duality and which enjoys an inherent state of happiness and satisfaction.

Love to you all.