The Fundamental Space

Whatever appears does so within the space of fundamental reality – “what is”.

In our natural state of knowing awareness, “what is” and “what we are”, are not two.

Likewise, in its primordial state, mind is empty of any contraction or contrivance – sky-like, limitless, and luminous — and yet with no inherent substance, solidity, or self-identity.

When the mind moves, delusion is spawned, in the form of interpretations on the perception of “what is”.

When fantasies of interpretation are superimposed on “what is”, mind chronically tends to imagine and then confirm an independent and enduring person – a separate subject in opposition to the objects projected by mind.

This apparent separate self-identity manifests in time as a limited and limiting identity-story which then must be preserved, enhanced, satisfied, and defended.

In this way, complications proliferate and multiply, further obscuring the simple innocence of “what is”.

Those who pay attention to the useful hints from the wise may be subsequently inspired to investigate this apparent self and its compounded narrative of “me and mine” in order to determine if it is real, or merely a phantom creation, a mental fabrication.

While investigating the mind, attention can be turned around to that which is investigating.

When nothing is seen, one can relax right there.

In that conscious process, delusion is spontaneously self-liberated without resistance or conceptual meddling, allowing “what is” to be appreciated as the fundamental reality, innocent and transparent, empty and full.

Regardless of whatever has seemingly appeared and vanished within the space of fundamental reality, we have never actually departed from the innate sublimity of the natural state, the clear light of knowing awareness.

By letting the mind rest in and as the basic space of the natural state, “what is” and “what we are” are revealed to be none other than the radiant display of the Great Perfection Itself.

All praise and homage to That!

Light of Knowing Awareness 2

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Meditating on Death

As noted in the authoritative Buddhist online archive “Access To Insight“, the standard Buddhist Meditation on Death is given by Buddhaghosa in Chapter VIII of the Visuddhimagga (“Path of Purification”), summarized in the quote: “Now when a man is truly wise, his constant task will surely be the recollection about death . . .”

In the classic text, it is suggested that “one should go into solitary retreat and exercise attention wisely thus: ‘Death will take place, the life faculty will be interrupted,’ or ‘Death, death.'” Indeed, one famous Western Zen teacher, Phillip Kapleau, remarked that the old masters recommended that the word “Death” be stamped on the disciple’s forehead, to keep them always focused on that unavoidable eventuality. A famous saying of one Buddhist school suggests that, if one does not meditate on death in the morning, the whole morning is wasted, and if one does not meditate on death at noon, the afternoon is wasted, and if one does not meditate on death at night, the evening is wasted.

Again, according to Buddhaghosa’s text, there should always be a sense of urgency in that contemplation, in order that no time on earth is wasted by indulging in frivolous activities. The correct program of mortality contemplations should include recollecting death in eight ways: “(1) as having the appearance of a murderer, (2) as the ruin of success, (3) by comparison, (4) as to sharing the body with many, (5) as to the frailty of life, (6) as signless, (7) as to the limitedness of the extent, (8) as to the shortness of the moment.”

As the commentator at Access To Insight explains, “Some of these terms are not quite self-explanatory: thus (3) means by comparing oneself with others — even the great and famous, even Buddhas, have to die; (4) means that the body is inhabited by all sorts of strange beings, ‘the eighty families of worms.’ They live in dependence on, and feed on, the outer skin, the inner skin, the flesh, the sinews, the bones, the marrow, ‘and there they are born, grow old and die, evacuate, and make water, and the body is their maternity home, their hospital, their charnel ground, their privy and their urinal.’ (6) means that death is unpredictable, (7) refers to the shortness of the human life-span.”

Indeed, many Buddhist teachings indicate that the best use of this life is to manipulate it in such a way as to attain an even better birth next time around, in order that one may accumulate beneficial merit and thus continue to advance further and further on the Buddhist path, eventually attaining enlightenment, and consequently eliminating the need to be born again as a human. Just so, the classical literature is full of admonitions to be aware of the inevitability of death, and that we are in a most precarious and dangerous situation because our life can end in any moment. For one example of a contemporary Buddhist take on the topic, see here.

Certainly, there are all sorts of variations which Buddhist teachers historically have offered on this theme, and I do very much admire and respect many of the brilliant insights Buddhism shares with us in the conscious process of recognizing our true nature, but perhaps it would be expedient to more deeply inquire into our own approaches and attitudes on the subject of enlightenment and death.

For example, is there is really an actual person who courageously climbs some esoteric ladder from life to life until finally, on one grand and auspicious day, they arrive at transcendental enlightenment? Subsequently, does this newly acquired state then cancel the requirement to keep returning to one tiny, harsh, and dangerous outpost at the edge of one mid-sized galaxy in the midst of billions, fraught as it is with primitive traps and poisons of every kind, which in turn necessitate that we keep learning endless lessons which we then forget the next time around, while relentlessly busying ourselves neutralizing old karmas, even as we are creating new karmas in the process? Yikes!

I have already addressed the issue of human enlightenment concepts in some depth in my essay The Myth of Enlightenment, but in this current consideration I would like to elaborate on what I have learned from my own investigation into death and its aftermath, which varies significantly from the fear and threat model that tends to infect virtually all human religious belief systems. Again, I have shared in some detail about this subject in my essay Notes from the Other Side (among a number of other related articles), but I feel there is a bit more to ponder on this topic, particularly vis a vis the commonly expounded Buddhist position. I could have just as easily dwelt on the more simplistic Abrahamic model of hell and damnation (although Buddhists also have their own concepts of hell realms), but if one is reading this blog, it is unlikely that particular dogma of sin and eternal punishment at the hands of a wrathful parental deity figure is given much currency.

In any case, from the broader angle of vision which yields access to universal knowledge via expanded consciousness, we might be startled to recognize that only One Actor is playing all of the many roles which we formerly assumed represented countless individual sentient beings. Some roles might portray a virtuous and disciplined Realizer, for example, while others a lazy slacker. Of the two, which one is real? Neither of them! They are roles, after all – creative vehicles for the self-expression of Spirit, just as we express ourselves in dreams at night. When morning dawns and we awaken, do we worry about the character we imagined ourselves to be while we slept – whether he or she was wasting time and not properly focused on waking up from the dream?

In my humble experience, I’ve learned that life is good, and death is also good. It’s pointless to assign hierarchical value to either, since they both are expressions of pure divinity. Emphatically, there is nothing to fear about death. This I have seen first-hand, and all my decades of research, including the testimony of intimates, has confirmed that direct recognition.

Everything is now, and always will be, perfectly OK. It is not that someday we will awaken and then everything will be OK. Whether we are “awake” or not, everything is already totally OK. What stands in the way of us allowing that to be the case? Each of us can inspect our own lives and beliefs for an answer to that pointed question.

Essentially, what I have discovered is that we came here to be whatever we are, just as we are, in a similar way in which we might try on a particular role in a theater presentation, because its possibilities for self-expression intrigue our immortal Spirit. Of course, we are not the person depicted in the role. It is a production of story lines, lighting, costumes, and stage sets in which we immerse ourselves for the sheer experience, as long as it lasts, and which is made even more impactful by the amnesia we assume, allowing us to momentarily forget that we are actually the audience.

When the curtain comes down, so to speak, the experience of death merely clarifies our true identity, while also providing us with the opportunity to share our recent adventures with those who have been traveling along with us through infinity, all within the unconditionally loving Heart-Mind of Source.

Therefore, it may be fine to urge folks to practice the Buddha Dharma, but employing threats and instilling the fear and apprehension of death is really not so skillful at all. Most of those who have had NDEs will affirm that there is nothing to fear about the transition, and moreover, there is no such thing as “wasting time”. Time itself is a mental construct of the human persona, and death is simply dropping off a worn-out costume and gradually re-integrating into our natural spirit state – described by many experiencers as a blissful home-coming.

Moreover, it is rather presumptuous to designate any life as “wasted”, just because it does not meet a certain conditional religious criteria (which itself was established by humans), since as long as we are fitted in these bio-vehicles we do not have access to “the bigger picture” of the soul’s journey, and so are not at all qualified to pass such judgment.

Since we are here to be precisely what we are, as we are, whatever additional qualifications or complications one feels compelled by their favorite belief structure to superimpose on that innocent simplicity is really just like adding another head to the one we already have. The limitations we habitually impose on ourselves are simply based on various thoughts — imaginary constructs in which we have invested a provisional reality, because we are by nature creative, and enamored of the things we can dream up in our infinite playfulness. When we take them seriously, however, we tend to get stuck within our own design, and then embark on a search to escape our own self-imposed dilemmas. Maybe we feel like we should meditate and get more “spiritual” now, in order to free ourselves from our own contraptions? Maybe we should try Buddhism?

On the other hand, there are plenty of people who have never heard of the Buddhist Dharma, and yet report transcendental Near Death Experiences or similar spiritually transformative events which include realizations about the nature of consciousness as profound as that of any would-be spiritual authority, regardless of whether that teacher has spent decades sitting in a cave and chanting invocations, or done a million prostrations to their deity of choice, or refrained from sexual contact, ate only organic vegetables, and mastered long secret texts in their original obscure language.

Again, in my opinion, we no longer need religious superstitions based on fear and threat in order to motivate us to awaken to our true nature. Truly, have we ever? My sense is that the great volume of NDE reports flooding the collective consciousness now is pointing to that much-needed change in the spiritual paradigm.

One has look within oneself to see how any message resonates — that is, does it stimulate a response of love or fear. If fear, then it should be discarded, regardless of the purported spiritual authority from which it issues. Moreover, concern for some future event and the possibility of inferior rebirths has the typical effect of distracting one from What Is. Of course, if pondering death is perceived as a useful way of spending one’s time, who am I to argue otherwise? Perhaps a good question one might ask oneself, however, is “What dies?”

Furthermore, from the viewpoint of expanded consciousness (though contrary to the preachers’ claims), there is really nothing special or dramatic in need of being accomplished, no great prize to be attained other than being here already, just as we are! Showing up is enough – just breathing, and not avoiding the abundance of gifts each life generously provides, by hankering after more, or better, or different.

Of course, if someone believes there is an ascending path that they must walk, then let them walk it to their best ability, but not expect that they are going to end up acquiring some mystical state that is not already true of them from the beginning. This is why those who finally get the humor of trying to become what we already are end up laughing out loud!

Obviously it is pointless to attempt fashioning a fixed philosophical position out of such a view — unless it is directly recognized, that game is just more head tripping. That’s OK too, though not very satisfying. Relaxed and care-free philosophers aren’t too common. More often, they look pretty intense, with furrowed brows and clamped mouths.

So, what is to be done? Well, first of all, we can relax. Let go of all plans, schemes, and strategies. Let go of all cares and preconceptions. Keep letting go. Enjoy releasing it all, and enjoy what remains when all is released. Stop resisting the inconceivable Love that is pouring down on us right now in the form of What IS. That would be a good start, it seems to me, and a lot more fun than pondering the 80 families of worms dining on our innards!

  • Be Yourself

See also:

Time Is On My Side

School of Life, Play of Light


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Lest We Be Judged

FB judge


Spiritual adept or life-long failure, saint or sinner, accomplished practitioner or bumbling fool – no life is what it seems, and yet all lives are of equal value, a value beyond measure. There are no better or worse lives, higher or lower, more or less advanced spiritually. It’s not that everything has to be brought to a state of perfection at some triumphal point in the far distant future, but rather that it always already is. Every life, just as it is, is already perfect. As is said: “This is Perfect. That is Perfect. From the Perfect springs the Perfect. Take the Perfect from the Perfect and only the Perfect remains.”

There is just this all-pervading equal-ness. However, that is not what most of us have been taught, and so we might ponder how that can be – such equality. Perhaps a metaphor here can clarify. When the actors remove their theatrical masks, when the persona skins are shed, what’s revealed is the same God who has been playing all the roles, living all these apparently individual and separate lives. Call it God, Big Mind, Supreme Source, Shiva, the Ground of Being, the Self, the Absolute, the Basis, the Sub-stratum, the Heart, Dharmakaya, Primordial Potentiality, Shunyatā, Clear Light, Universal Intelligence, or don’t even bother with a label. Say it is the Un-sayable, the Un-nameable. There is only That. All are the manifold expressions of that One.

It is the same One who is living us now, the One without a second. Yes, we are being lived. There is no independent autonomy, despite appearances to the contrary. All appearances are the creative display of that One. That One is the doer, we are the vehicles, the dreamy creations that populate the Sky of Mind. Moreover, there is not now, nor has there ever been, any distance between ourselves and the Divine, so any talk of a path is moot. Where would that One go to get to Itself?

Believing or not believing makes no difference. Is purple more spiritual than yellow? In fact, adding “spiritual” as a qualifier to life is just superimposing an artificial appendage, like painting legs on a snake. If someone wants to adopt a Sanskrit name and do a lot of esoteric practices, believing they are on some progressive path to enlightenment, fine. If another wants to spend their life trout fishing in mountain streams, without the slightest concern for acquiring some strategic means to become what they already are, equally fine too. It doesn’t really matter, except in our provisional interpretations on perception, which are themselves constantly being modified by all sorts of factors, most of which lie beyond our limited human comprehension.

Fundamentally, all lives are equally precious and valuable, however they might seem to work out or fail to work out. Each one is its own perfect expression of Spirit, which cannot become more spiritual, regardless of the verbal trappings by which we might limit it in our confused efforts to establish some artificial hierarchy of being.

The point is, it is all experience, and that is why we are here, to partake in and appreciate the experience of being human, in whatever form that might take. These various lives that ensue from the prime impulse to experience Itself are among the infinite ways the Divine enjoys Itself, in the same way we might enjoy a movie in which we so identify with the main character that we momentarily forget we are the audience. In that sense, we are all the stories God tells Itself, and no story is better or worse than the next, neither higher nor lower, neither more or less profound or worthwhile.

When the wise say, “Just be”, that’s it — just be whatever we are. How hard is that? The innocent simplicity of our appearance here is actually an amazing and unfathomable mystery, the fact that there is beingness at all in the midst of vast emptiness. The embodied human intellect can’t really account for a tiniest fraction of it, and yet we act as if we are qualified to judge the worth of any particular life, usually based on borrowed opinions. That is an astounding bit of presumption, isn’t it — to suppose that we have some special knowledge of what any of this is all about!

Nevertheless, we humans continue to spend a lot of time and attention judging and categorizing each other, separating each other into denominations, clans, tribes, contrasting social groups, while assigning hierarchical values to each based on our conditional interpretations and biases. However, if we really understood the mechanics of that conceptual activity, we would also understand why this realm is so often characterized as a war planet, on both the individual as well as the macro level, and also why it need not be that way.

Perhaps if we would pause for a moment in the midst of timeless infinity and honestly self-reflect, we might realize just how preposterous our charades of knowing actually are, along with all the judgements we make regarding the ways of others that might diverge from our conditioned fantasy of what is “right”. Almost all of us indulge in opinionated speculation about what other people should be doing with their lives, even though we ourselves are often more like sleepwalkers stumbling through our own. Indeed, how many of us, while embodied in human form, have the capacity to access Universal Knowledge and see the bigger picture, in terms of any soul’s evolutionary journey?

However humbling it may be to recognize our fundamental ignorance, to that degree we just might move closer to the heart of the great matter – appreciation and sincere gratitude for this incomparable gift of conscious sentience, of living, feeling, moving, seeing, speaking, hearing, smelling, touching, thinking, imagining. Of loving and being loved. Of being born and dying, even though, as shards of Source Energy, we are forever, and utterly beyond both birth and death.

When we are able to recognize how our judgments tend to distract us from paying attention to our own process in life and relations, we can release them and thus reduce the burdensome complication they impose on the simple matter of ordinary life – life which is actually not so ordinary at all, but a rare and magical mystery tour beyond description that even the angels might envy!

“Every time you stand in a grassy field playing catch with your dog, a hundred thousand souls gather to watch in envy from above. For they not only wish to smell the sweet smell of the flowers and the wind that carries the scent of soil and grass, but they wish to experience that wind on their face. They wish to experience the trickle of rain on their heads, and feel the warmth of the sun upon their skin. They wish to be the family pet that digs its paws into the dirt as it loses itself in that playful moment, free from concern, sorrow or regret. They wish to be the ball that flies through the air and summons the dog to race and jump. They wish to be the butterfly that lands on your shoulder and captivates your attention for a fleeting moment by its elegant beauty and intimate physical interaction.

They envy you for you have not only witnessed, but you have experienced all of these things simultaneously, intimately and interactively. The flowers. The grass. The wind. The soil. The rain. The sun. The dog. The ball. The butterfly – are all perspectives, are all values, and are all relationships you have experienced intimately in that transitory moment. Just as you have influenced the ball that flew through the air, and the dog that ran to chase it, all these intricacies influence one another to similar effect. Try to perceive the value inherent within each, by placing yourself as each of such things, that you may better understand yourself and your own value outside of who, what, and where you are presently.”

~Sparrow, from The Value of Physical Embodiment


“The land of natural perfection
is free of buddhas and sentient beings;

the ground of natural perfection
is free of good and bad;

the path of natural perfection
has no length;

the fruition of natural perfection
can neither be avoided nor attained;

the body of natural perfection
is neither existent nor nonexistent;

the speech of natural perfection
is neither sacred nor profane;

and the mind of natural perfection
has no substance nor attribute.

The space of natural perfection
cannot be consumed nor voided;

the status of natural perfection
is neither high nor low;

the praxis of natural perfection
is neither developed nor neglected;

the potency of natural perfection
is neither fulfilled nor frustrated;

the display of natural perfection
is neither manifest nor latent;

the actuality of natural perfection
is neither cultivated nor ignored;

and the gnosis of natural perfection
is neither visible nor invisible.

The hidden awareness of natural perfection
is everywhere,

its parameters beyond indication,
its actuality incommunicable;

the sovereign view of natural perfection
is the here-and-now, naturally present
without speech or books, irrespective
of conceptual clarity or dullness,
but as spontaneous joyful creativity
its reality is nothing at all.”


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We all bring so much fear into our core belief systems, and more often than not, our religious/spiritual concepts are also subtly or not so subtly infected with it, regardless of our nominal affiliation. The preachers traditionally warn that death is lurking just around the corner, and could strike us down at any time, so we must put on our serious costumes and get straight with God, Tao, the Universe, Shiva, Dharma, or whatever programmed concept we employ to insure we stay clean and sober in the face of our inevitable death and potential afterlife destination.

“I’m not worthy, I haven’t done enough, I’ve accumulated more karma than I can possibly balance out, I’m a sinner, I’m a poor practitioner, I’ll never measure up, I’m unenlightened, etc…” are all conditioned notions which we tend to fixate on and then habitually reinforce as we ponder our fate. The proposition that life is a wonderful gift to be lived, appreciated, and enjoyed, rather than some sort of uphill path that must be traversed, a race to be won by the high achievers, or a struggle to be endured, is still a rare attitude in this realm.

Even the lamas and zen masters who one day proclaim that everything is perfect, just as it is, will turn around the next day and warn of dire consequences unless we keep our nose to the Dharmic grindstone and practice their prescribed method to achieve liberation from all this supposed perfection.

Truly, it’s fear that forms the emotional contraction at the heart. Most of us humans are implanted with the seeds of that fear early on, and carry the resulting contraction in life and relationships throughout the length of our sojourn here. The more we investigate our core motivations, the more we come to recognize that we tend to be driven by fear in our thoughts and behaviors.

Moreover, it is that contractive fear which keeps the full enjoyment of life’s adventure so out of reach. Even our greatest joys are tinged with the intuition of inherent evanescence, and so we tend to grow increasingly desperate as we sense some cosmic sword hanging over us, ready to drop without warning. It is also that same fear which interferes with any genuine sense of gratitude, even though such gratitude is the only truly effective antidote to the emotional contraction at the heart.

Real gratitude is a living, graceful expression of a love that is without conditions, the love that isn’t based on some needy clinging, nor is granted as a pay-off in exchange for services rendered. Gratitude is not only an expression of unconditional love, but by alleviating our fearful contraction, creates the space for an ever-fuller embodiment of such love.

Indeed, as we observe our human condition, we can notice something very interesting. That is, the more we tend to be fearful and complain about the way things seem to be, the more we will be given to complain about. Alternately, the greater our sense of gratitude, the more we find  within our lives that for which we can be grateful. When we are grateful, we are no longer fearful, and without that fear, the rationale for all the greed, envy, and hatred that chronically plagues this realm is no longer ruling us. Even our subconscious sense of lack is neutralized by gratitude, as is our conditioned intolerance for those who appear different than us in their life orientations.

Moreover, gratitude also gives birth to a powerful sense of trust in the functioning of the totality of the universal manifestation, and so even death is not feared, but accepted as part of the natural rhythm of things. It is not perceived as an end, but simply another door that opens in time and invites us to partake of new level of consciousness and appreciation.

When we live life as the gift that it is, then those with whom we come in contact are also affected by the fear-free frequency, and because of our natural connectivity, their own vibration is lifted accordingly. It is such a joyful practice, because its fruits are immediately recognizable, and requires no exotic rituals, complex text study, physical stamina, or revered master teacher.

As we humbly commit ourselves to the practice of gratitude, the circuitry of thought which registers our consciousness to the vibration of love, the vibration of our spirit connection, is increasingly enhanced. This joyful circuitry is established throughout our cellular and consciousness memory, connecting and reinforcing pathways of positive energy communication between our neural processes and physical body functions, resulting in an increasingly positive field of love’s energy abundance.

Essentially, we all know what it is like to be grateful, but by unconscious habit we have allowed fear to have its way. Once we begin to see how that fear has come to dominate our life, we can stop fueling it, refuse its seductions, and instead allow our natural gratitude to return to the forefront. We are not victims, we are not in any real danger, we are immortal spiritual beings of the highest order. Moreover, we have been blessed with exactly what we want, which in this case is life itself (even though at times it may not seem like such a gift, due to the veil of amnesia which accompanies human birth).

Gratitude is the real joy that is present in our being, regardless of what appears to transpire in the dreamy play of causes and conditions. The more that life’s inherent beauty and perfection is seen and appreciated, the more our capacity for such appreciation grows too. Even the very simple things, the little parts of life that we tend to overlook or take for granted, shine with a luminous luster when we pause to allow them to reveal themselves – the gently falling autumn leaf, the soft summer breeze, the freshness of a bright spring day, the majestic silence of falling snow, the smile of a child, the happy bark of a playful dog, a lover’s touch – all are gifts that are abundantly being showered on us, a feast for the soul that we must learn to value, if we are to realize our true potential for happiness.

Indeed, to immerse ourselves fully in the human experience is the very reason we came here, so we can see in that light that there is really nothing to fear, but only gifts for which to be thankful. Even our difficult challenges are gifts, because their experience permits us to appreciate the full range of life, its sorrows and difficulties, as well as its triumphs. They also bestow on us a level of humility, empathy, and deeper intimacy with our fellow beings, whose lot is often fraught with suffering and tears.

Yes, we can even be grateful for our tears, because they are a beautiful benediction in themselves. The more of this vibrational circuitry of gratitude we create and can access, regardless of the apparent circumstances we encounter, the easier it becomes to maintain a more naturally positive state of mind, body and spirit in this life, and the more of a blessing we become to all with whom we encounter.


“The root of joy is gratefulness. It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful. Look closely and you will find that people are happy because they are grateful. The opposite of gratefulness is just taking everything for granted.
Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefulness, and gratefulness is a measure of our aliveness.
We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart. Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more.”

~ David Steindl-Rast


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Sadness – The Wound of Love

tear 1

Perhaps as we grow in sensitivity to our actual feeling/experience within this dream-like Saha world, a realm where all sentient beings are enduring some form of suffering, stress, and dissatisfaction, our own heart may begin to shed its accumulated armor and awaken to a humble vulnerability and tenderness. In its manifestation, this open tenderness might also be characterized by a certain quality of sadness. The late Buddhist author and teacher Trungpa Rinpoche described it this way:

“If you search for awakened heart, if you put your hand through your rib cage and feel for it, there is nothing there except for tenderness. You feel sore and soft, and if you open your eyes to the rest of the world, you feel tremendous sadness. This kind of sadness doesn’t come from being mistreated. You don’t feel sad because someone has insulted you or because you feel impoverished. Rather, this experience of sadness is unconditioned. It occurs because your heart is completely exposed. There is no skin or tissue covering it; it is pure raw meat. Even if a tiny mosquito lands on it, you feel so touched. Your experience is raw and tender and so personal.”

There are some salient elements we can notice as we investigate this wound at the heart. For one thing, we can observe that the poignancy of evanescence, of impermanence, accompanies every experience. We soberly recognize that there is nothing which we can really claim as ours, nothing that we can grasp for long, nothing that we can cling to and possess, despite our most passionate ambitions and efforts.

The body itself comes with an expiration code, and even getting plenty of exercise and taking organic supplements, eating a vegan diet and thinking calm thoughts, is not going prevent old age, sickness, and death. Even the most beautiful day will eventually include a sunset.

Indeed, for a majority of humans currently on this planet, suffering in the gross forms of physical pain, hunger and thirst, injustice, warfare, and so forth are only infrequently interrupted by all-too-fleeting moments of pleasure and respite. The living standards for many in the burgeoning developing world are little improved from centuries ago, and in some respects, perhaps even worse due to environmental degradations and over-population.

For those whom we might consider relatively free of those traditional scourges, sorrow still takes its toll, often in the form of thwarted desires and expectations. The industrialized countries have witnessed an alarming increase in a wide variety of mental afflictions — the disturbing legacy of societies which have seemingly lost their moorings and drifted into pervasive anxiety, confusion, and hopelessness about existence itself.

Fear of the future and contagious discontent, antagonism and division among economic, religious, and political sectors, and distrust of corrupt and uninspiring leadership (among other factors) has led to more and more jaded attempts at escape via drugs and the media-fueled exploitation of every manner of distraction. One glaring consequence of such a breakdown is found in the suicide rates which continue to climb dramatically, especially among the young and disaffected.

Beyond all of that, however, and as dismaying as it all may be, there is something else to be recognized as we delve into the heart of this existential sadness. That is, even if our life and relations might appear to be functioning relatively smoothly, and even if our survival needs are well met and no longer a concern, and even if all the standard markers for a “happy life” are in place, there is still a core contraction that subtly dominates our consciousness and experience, remaining stubbornly untouched by all our efforts to eliminate it.

Indeed, as long as we are swept up in the kinds of challenges that most humans must face in their struggle to just get by, or alternately are just complacently going along to get along, we may not even be aware of (much less be willing to inspect) this more fundamental knot in the being. Nevertheless, it is actually the very source of all of our suffering itself — the clench or fixation generated by the sense of separate and limited identity which we typically imagine constitutes who and what we really are.

Truly, until the emptiness of our personal constructs is directly recognized, we will remain in a drowsy trance of mistaken identity, at the mercy of conditioning programs that keep us bound to the wheel. In such a state, we are little able to actually appreciate the rare and remarkable gift that sadness of the order being spoken of here represents. We are too bound up by self-interest, and cannot see beyond our fabricated concerns to the bigger picture. Our own complaining makes it impossible for us to hear and respond to the cries of the whole world.

Moreover, contrary to the glib happy talk bantered about by the preachers on the spiritual circuit, even seeing through and releasing all such fixated identities, me-stories, and contracting self-images does not “cure” the sadness inherent in our born condition. There is no such remedy, nor would we want one, if we were to genuinely become intimate with the kind of empathetic sadness being pointed to in this consideration – the living wound at the heart which ushers the Unconditional into the conflicted realm of human life and relationship.

Indeed, it is that very sadness which we have come here to deeply and thoroughly experience, all the way down into the cells of our feeling being. We want that because it represents our blossoming into a vividly compassionate relationship with existence that accompanies awakening at the heart. One might even say that such an awakening is the true purpose of all authentic spiritual systems, because only then is love able to reveal itself in its full potency, even transcending at last the provisional distinctions of self and other that ego-mind projects out of hope and fear.

Furthermore, this all-embracing tenderness arises simultaneously with both humility and gratitude. For example, the more gratitude which emerges as a vibrant quality or attribute of this unity consciousness, the greater is the circuitry of vital energy connectivity which allows the vibration of love to flow abundantly throughout the whole being, reinforcing pathways of pure grace.

Love is the most efficient conduit for energy exchange and transference there is. The greater our capacity to give and receive love, the deeper will be our immersion in the luminous essence of life itself. In this way, sadness is not so much transmuted into joy, but rather is revealed to be not other than joy in its infinite radiant fullness.

Such a seeming paradox may confound the mind of logic and reason, but is utterly obvious to the heart which bears the wound of love, the wound that heals all other wounds, As such, it represents both crucifixion and ascension. It brings down the Divine into this material sphere, and likewise elevates the human into its true Divine nature. As the great Persian poet Rumi once wrote: “The grief you cry out from draws you toward union. Your pure sadness that wants to help is the secret cup. Listen to the moan of a dog for its master. The whining is the connection. There are love dogs no one knows the name of. Give your life to be one of them.”

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Religion, Part 2

“What is religion? A cloud in the sky. I live in the sky, not in the clouds, which are so many words held together. Remove the verbiage and what remains? Recorded religions are mere heaps of verbiage. Religions show their true face in action, in silent action. To know what man believes, watch how he acts. For most of the people service of their bodies and their minds is their religion. They may have religious ideas, but they do not act on them. They play with them, they are often very fond of them, but they will not act on them. Christianity is one way of putting words together and Hinduism is another. The real is, behind and beyond words, incommunicable, directly experienced, explosive in its effect on the mind. It is easily had when nothing else is wanted.”

~Nisargadatta Maharaj

Is there anything more subject to manipulation, modification, and misdirection in this realm than belief systems? In fact, nearly every person alive is ruled to some extent by conditioning programs based on manufactured beliefs. Reality descriptions are implanted as soon as one develops the cognitive capacity to be influenced, and that process never really ceases until the body-mind expires.

Moreover, people tend to be divided by their beliefs. Such is a convenient and often-employed tool for the controllers, the belief system engineers, who know all too well the power of fabricated beliefs. There is a very good reason for so much disinformation in this day and age. It is a sort of black magic based on a long-cultivated knowledge of how the human herd reacts to certain signals.

Currently, with the advent of media technologies that provide them with unprecedented control options, the powers of this realm have more ability and resources to fashion opinions and misdirect attention than at any other period in history, as well as marginalize any threat to their information control from the few voices that still speak out.

One of their favored modus operandi is setting up various competing religions, and using those beliefs to get people to attack, torture, and kill those who oppose the corrupted belief system. Various competing political and financial systems are also utilized for comparable purposes, but it is still hard to top religious belief as a prime vehicle for the manipulation of humans on this planet.

Religious belief in general is a mental and emotional superimposition on our felt experience of life and being. Borrowed fantasies of interpretation, based on cultural filters, are added to perception. These notions are then grasped onto as unchallenged and self-confirming propositions, for which we are even willing to sacrifice the lives of others, as well as our own, in their presumed defense.

Indeed, much of the violence perpetrated on humanity by humanity throughout history has religious belief structures at the root. Some might even argue that ethnic cleansing agendas went hand in hand with the inception of the Abrahamic religious cults that were eventually institutionalized into what are now considered “major world religions”, and that the monotheistic principle itself was in reality symptomatic of the human proclivity for totalitarian empire-building.

In any case, when the fundamentals of religious laws were initially implanted in human societies, it more than likely entailed a process similar in purpose and design to the various behavioral conditioning programs that are employed in the training of young children. In other words, religious concepts served as socialization vehicles and control structures aimed at achieving and then maintaining consensus views and corresponding standards of conduct in the fledgling societies springing up across the planet.

It was important for the evolution of these societies that individuals learned to distinguish appropriate versus inappropriate forms of relationship and activity, and considering the infantile level of developmental maturity of the species, certain fearful punishment consequences (i.e. hell realms) were strategically associated with failure to comply with the established rules.

These rules were eventually codified as religious dogmas requiring belief and allegiance, and many might argue that they are still necessary at our current level of global maturation, and so the overwhelming majority of humans are still kept in the dark. It’s never so dark as when we close our eyes, and yet most of us persist in keeping them shut and just going along with the herd.

In that regard, a large portion of humanity is still convinced that a male parental deity figure dreamed up by primitive nomadic peoples thousands of years ago is still worthy of worship and fear, and moreover relies on its followers to uphold its status by subduing and even exterminating unbelievers. To that end, a startling percentage of those deluded humans espousing such beliefs are willing to wage war with each other to confirm that their particular version of that deity figure is superior.

Just so, the alarming rise of violent Islamic extremism in the world today is not to be seen as an aberration, but simply business as usual when humans take their religious beliefs seriously (particularly within the Abrahamic sects, though certainly not exclusively). There is currently a surge of fundamentalism in the overall collective consciousness because humans who rely on conditioned belief to confirm their existence are deeply anxious about the future, and so wish to roll the clock back to a more comfortable time – a time when the earth was flat and the sun traveled around it, their favorite god ruled from his throne on high, women knew their subservient place, and there was plenty of enthusiasm about burning fellow humans at the stake or consigning them to the pits of hell if they dared to offend the consensus reality illusion.

The sage Nisargadatta Maharaj made a good point about belief itself in this regard when he noted: “We believe in so many things on hearsay. We believe in distant lands and people, in heavens and hells, in gods and goddesses, because we were told. Similarly, we were told about ourselves, our parents, name, position, duties and so on. We never cared to verify. The way to truth lies through the destruction of the false. To destroy the false, you must question your most inveterate beliefs. Of these the idea that you are the body is the worst. With the body comes the world, with the world — God, who is supposed to have created the world and thus it starts — fears, religions, prayers, sacrifices, all sorts of systems — all to protect and support the child-man, frightened out of his wits by monsters of his own making. Realise that what you are cannot be born nor die and with the fear gone all suffering ends.”

In any case, when we start to come clean of our fascination with and dependence on second-hand dogmas, and begin to shed our conditioned religious identities, we may find ourselves in a silence of mind that can at first seem extremely uncomfortable. After all, we are programmed and accustomed to having something there, something we can fall back on — “our” beliefs — and now they are either suspect, or have gone missing altogether.
We find ourselves cast into a vast and intimidating unknown, with no crutch or familiar landing place. Nevertheless, if we are able to resist the temptation of trying to fill the gap by replacing obsolete beliefs with newer and shinier versions, we will find ourselves opening into the transparent aware spaciousness of our own original innocence.

No frame of reference, no reference to frame — this transitional state of utter insecurity and not knowing is in fact the womb of real awakening. Many people tend to think that the “dark night of the soul” refers to a period of depression or psychological distress, but what is being pointed to here is not that. It is a state which pertains when all previous identity supports and anchors of belief are surrendered, and is thus a necessary stage prior to, and even coincident with, authentic awakening. It is often called a death, because it represents the end of clinging to old self-images.

By simply persisting there, while discarding the motive to add some further mental fabrication (i.e. belief) to our present aware spaciousness, what is is allowed to reveal itself, without artifice or force. It is the indescribable bliss of our own true nature, and it has never been elsewhere. It’s just that we have been too distracted by our beliefs and notions to see what has been present and radiant all along.

However, when we attempt to apply some conditional structure/meaning to it, so that the mind can wrap itself around it and plant its flag of identity in a staked-out position (belief), we’ve immediately separated ourselves from the essence of what is, even though it is only by directly experiencing the very essence of it that we will come to true peace.

Certainly, employing the intellect to inquire into the nature of any particular subject has its own value and utility. However, we often tend to over-complicate things by relying solely on reason and logic, and thus hold back from fully letting go and plunging all the way in to the heart of life and relations. Hence, another way to consider the matter might be like this:

There is an ocean. There are those who have heard that there is an ocean, have read many testaments about it being there, but have not actually seen it for themselves, much less plunged into it. These people might ponder the ocean in their minds, and derive various interpretations about its nature. Still, until they actually go to the ocean and get into it, their understanding will remain in the realm of belief and fantasies of interpretation.
Even those who do enter into the ocean are unable to fully appreciate its totality, since there are depths that are difficult to penetrate, but at least they have the direct experience as far as they go.

Just so, if one actually sees for themselves that the ocean is real, then there is no need to speculate about it, or even to doubt it. There is not even any need for faith, since one has found out on their own. Otherwise, one will constantly vacillate between faith and doubt, which is why religions and philosophies appear — to indulge people who do not have direct experience of the ocean.

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.

The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, and forgiveness.”

~ Dalai Lama

See also:

Religion, Part 1

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There is a certain meme floating around in the collective, suggesting that guilt is a kind of positive influence, as opposed to shame, for example, which is portrayed as negative. The sense of taking personal responsibility for an offense, and the accompanying feelings of remorse, are considered to be the beneficial and desired outcome of the assumption of guilt. Judges in the penal system, for example, look to see if the criminal has accepted a sense of personal guilt for their crimes, and exhibits the necessary regret required to be returned to society after serving their sentence.

However, I would offer that there is a difference between recognizing unskillful behaviors, and granting reality to a self-image in the form of some self-imposed blame, which is my understanding of the concept of guilt. It may seem a matter of semantics, but no matter how we slice it, psychological guilt still amounts to a fixation of identity. In other words, a target must be present for guilt to land, but if there is no target, nothing can be attributed to it — positive, negative, or neutral.

A “guilty conscience” requires an owner. By projecting a sense of solid and enduring self, we then have a narrative story, the story of “me”. “I have sinned, I am guilty, I must change, I must improve my-self, I must become enlightened, redeemed, saved, blah blah blah . . .” A war with oneself is established, and moreover, it is a war which can never be won, despite the claims of the neurotic self-mortifiers down through the ages.

Alternately, if instead of perpetuating the ambivalent story of the “me project”, we begin to seriously question the whole premise of the story itself, then we may eventually find that it is fundamentally empty at the core — a bundle of thoughts and memories with no basis for the establishment of an actual guilty “person”. Indeed, we may discover that all of our fuss and bother, all of our self-concern and busy efforts to modify, blame, forgive, and perfect ourselves, has been based on a case of mistaken identity. The direct recognition of the emptiness of the personal self is a great relief, liberating us from the endless “me-project” that has so occupied our life and infected our relations with its insistent demands for confirmation and feeding, praise and blame.

Such a direct recognition will typically have a profound effect on behavior, by greatly loosening the contraction in the being centered around any identity fixation. If we stop and inspect the sensation that arises in the body with the experience of guilt, we can recognize immediately that its influence is contracting. Alternately, we can experience a sense of liberating expansion with the release of guilt — a genuine relief and even an immediate renewed availability to life and love.

Of course, the religionists may fear that such a recognition — the emptiness of the imagined self — would create an amoral personality, a sociopath in other words, and indeed there is the possibility of aberration if one stops and clings to just half of the equation: “Form is empty”. One may indeed fall into a kind of imbalance. It is rare, but it has happened. Witness, for example, the kinds of atrocities sanctioned by certain Japanese Zen Masters, as documented in the book “Zen At War”, by Brian Victoria.

However, for those who also are able to realize the other half of the equation — that “emptiness is also form” — a higher synthesis will then pertain in which spontaneous compassion is born, and “doing the right thing” is not a matter of fulfilling some man-made dictum, but simply a natural result of the liberation that comes with recognition. Whatever is in need of change in life and relations will happen spontaneously, without the superimposition of a make-believe doer to complicate life’s flowing functioning.

Indeed, it is only by seeing through and surrendering all of our previous identifications with the body-mind-self (as well as its need for validation, preservation, and perpetual enhancement) that we are finally able to relinquish the internal war with ourselves and be changed by the universal intelligence which is our true nature, love itself.

“One of your biggest misdirected energy focuses in physical life is self-judgement and guilt. Guilt, while it has its uses, is a very destructive energy which seeds deeply into the soul. Instead allow yourself the love, compassion and freedom to make mistakes; to be imperfect; to do bad things which later illuminate who you truly desire to be. You are a child of the universe, allow yourself to be one.”


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