Sunday, June 29, 2008

Doorway to a new life

Courtesy: The Times of India, Mumbai 29/06/08

Doorway to a new life
E Raymond Rock

When everything is taken away from us, we become grounded in reality very quickly. A sage was once asked why he was so happy, he responded, “I have nothing left to lose!” Being grounded in reality happens in that split second when we know all is lost; a moment before the car crash, a moment after the diagnosis.
The reality we then face is quite different from the daydreams of our everyday illusions. The fanciful images that we had previously projected into our idyllic lives melt away when we come face-to-face with certain disaster. There is something we can learn here, because many times, the result of a traumatic experience is that we come out of it a changed person, and the changes are usually for the better. New vistas open up for us, and we find ourselves and our interests somehow strangely altered. We actually become happier. There are times in our lives when we do things and don’t know why, and although these things may appear foolish to our friends, we feel compelled to do them nonetheless. Sometimes these things involve letting go of something very dear to us, and we can hardly believe what we are doing. This can be a crushing experience, yet we do it. Just when things are going swimmingly, there is sometimes an underlying urge to cancel everything out.
In the East, a tradition exists where people pile all of their belongings into a boat, sail out to sea, and dump them every seven years. If one followed this tradition, think of how careful one might be in what one purchased!
In addition, how aggressive would we be in making money? Maybe we would forget about money and do what we love for a change. That would certainly produce some happiness. If our karma is good, however, so good that we are protected from disasters, we might need to become proactive in causing our own disasters—to help things along. Great men in the past have done just that; Christ lived as a homeless beggar; the Buddha left royalty behind to live in rags in the forest for six years, seeking and finding enlightenment. Foolishness? Perhaps, but who has affected the history of the world more than these two men have?
In essence, what the Buddha and Christ were saying is that until the bottom drops out of your life, you will continue to love your life.
True happiness is that Reality we touch when all is lost. Money, love, family; these are all caught within the web of existence; and existence is nothing but stress compared to this Reality.
Existence has three characteristics, three laws of the universe, and they are that 1) everything changes. 2) life is stress. 3) no “self ” stands behind life. Reality, on the other hand, has never been born, will never die, does not come from a previous condition, and has the characteristics of eternity and unchanging ness. The three characteristics of existence are unassailable, and while we remain caught in them, we can never be truly happy although we try to convince ourselves otherwise.
Look into your own heart and see what is true. It is only when life is taken away for a brief moment, when we escape momentarily from existence and touch that reality that we cannot speak about, only then is true happiness possible. The miracle is that just touching this reality for a brief moment is enough to change our experience of life into one of happiness.
Everything that we think will make us happy, all that they tell us to accomplish, to be ambitious about, and to compete for, never does so for long. If none of this makes any sense to you, then you must continue seeking happiness in the things of the world.
If for some reason seeking happiness in the world does not work for you, in the long run, then there are things that you can do to ease yourself into a reality where happiness is assured.
By easing yourself into this reality, you are not required to give things up in a violent fashion; they fall away by themselves. If you ever become serious about real happiness, weary of temporary happiness slipping through your fingers time and again, then go after the missing element.
The missing element is emptiness, and there is a good way, a gradual way, and a certain way to bring this element into your life. Emptiness is the doorway to a new life, and the doorway to emptiness is meditation.


Courtesy: The Times of India, Mumbai, 29/06/08

Concepts of right and wrong are not based upon any specific truth, but upon the perception of the moment, says David Nlmes

Have you ever forgiven anyone? You may quickly say ‘Yes’, which indicates you still remember the issue, which means it is not totally forgotten...and so therefore, it is not truly forgiven. We say we forgive, but we rarely do. We ‘excuse’, we ‘permit’, we ‘look past’, we ‘understand’, we ‘learn to live with’, but we never really forgive. We simply exchange our dislike of an event with the hope of returning to more pleasant times. What then, would you have to do to forgive? Is it possible to forgive while not totally forgetting the problem that created the reason for forgiveness in the first place? How do you forgive? How do I forgive?

To understand why total forgiveness seems almost impossible, or at least, very difficult, we need to ask why we value the concept of forgiveness in the first place. We need to look at what motivates us to either run from it or embrace it depending upon which end of the problem we see ourselves in. Let’s tear apart the whole concept of forgiveness and look at it the way it is.

What triggers the need to forgive or to be forgiven? Having done something wrong, you will experience the sensation of guilt. It might not happen immediately and it may take some time, but once you have done something wrong, the door is open for you to eventually feel guilty about it. The understanding of guilt is totally necessary for you to be on either side of the forgiving exchange. Now, having embraced the concepts of doing a ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ thing and then associating them with guilt, this opens the door for multiple levels of forgiveness to exist. For example, once the wrong deed has occurred, an opportunity suddenly appears for somebody to forgive you, and you can also forgive yourself.

What triggers the sensation of guilt? Somewhere, we were taught that certain things were ‘right’ and certain things were ‘wrong’. Later, we then create connections to events we experience and use our past examples of right and wrong to inform us of whether our actions or the actions of the people around us are proper. In time, we can easily see who has done something wrong and we know they are guilty and should admit to their crime and admit they are guilty. This then opens the door for us to forgive them and for them to forgive themselves. Our society and many religious structures look upon guilt as a mighty and necessary force that is used to help us maintain an orderly society. It can be difficult seeing how our world could exist without us taking turns being either the receiver or the distributor of guilt. What else could possibly motivate anyone to change? What if you were taught about right and wrong, in error? Imagine being in a country where it is ‘wrong’ for a woman to show her face in public. Imagine a situation where it is ‘wrong’ to cross the boundary from one country to another when you are not welcome.

Imagine a moment where it is ‘wrong’ to kill another person. Imagine a moment where it is ‘wrong’ to purposely exceed the speed limit while driving. Imagine being in a country where it is ‘not wrong’ for a woman to show her face in public. Imagine a situation where it is ‘not wrong’ to cross the boundary from one country to another because you are welcome. Imagine a moment where it is ‘not wrong’ to kill another person who is attacking you. Imagine a moment where it is ‘not wrong’ to purposely exceed the speed limit while driving, so that lives may be saved.

These examples clearly show how something that is ‘wrong’ in one instance, is ‘not wrong’ in another instance, which means our concepts of right and wrong are not based upon any specific truth, but solely upon the perception of the moment. With this being the case, ‘being right’ or ‘being wrong’ are totally transient in the eye of the beholder and have no absolute state of being. Truth is eternal and unchangeable, so from an eternal and unchangeable spiritual point of view, this means the whole concept of right and wrong is not real and simply does not exist.

What if you never did anything wrong? If the concept of ‘right and wrong’ is not a solid spiritual truth, since they change with perception, then these concepts are neither seen, nor experienced and they aren’t true. When we say somebody is wrong we are viewing things from an extremely narrow and erroneous perception. So, if there is nothing ‘wrong’ with killing, should we just let the world run amok with violence and terror and do nothing to stop it? In a perfect world, you would not fear that you had to stop it, but likewise, in a perfect world, the concept of ‘wrong’ or ‘fear’ would not exist in the first place and no threats would be perceived. To understand the concept it would be helpful to see that all improper behaviour and events are mistakes that occur due to our perception of an act.

Instead of using the perception tainted variables of to judge ourselves and others, let’s instead look at improper events simply as ‘mistakes’. For example, if I were on a train to Philadelphia and happened to mention to a fellow passenger about how excited I was to be heading for Chicago, it would be obvious to this man that I had made a mistake and had gotten on the improper train. This does not make me bad. This does not require any sensation of guilt and this does not require forgiveness.

All this requires is that I get off that train and get on the proper train. When the fellow passenger informs me of my mistake, he has not judged me, but is simply informing me of an error I have made. Since I have done nothing wrong, there is no reason to associate guilt or fear with what he tells me. Being open for truth, I will not feel attacked and I will feel no need to defend my mistake. Instead, I will be happy and thankful to the passenger for helping me see and undo the mistake.

Truth frees because there is no judgment of any kind and it eliminates the need to be forgiven. Likewise, guilt binds because it is dependent upon judgment and it requires your need to be forgiven.

All concepts and origins of guilt, sin, right, wrong, etc, are of our own making and are based upon fear. Only our mistaken perceptions have created these concepts, which are e not true. They are simply errors of thinking.

To change your course, all you need to do is to be open to see where you may be mistaken and then and it will heal your perception of this world and of yourself. There is really nothing at all to forgive in the first place.