This month's contents:
The Grand Work of the TAT Society (part 1 of 2) by Richard Rose | East & West: Interview with Anima Pundeer and Sharad Borle | Can We Care for Others as Much as Ourself? by Bob Fergeson | Wake Up by Gary Harmon | Some Things I Think are True by MRJ | Poems by Shawn Nevins | There is Not Black or White by Shawn Nevins | The Recent Tragedy by Bob Cergol | Humor
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It has been my privilege to know, at different times in my life, three enlightened people. Besides those three, I know of several more whom I did not meet, but became aware of their depth of Spiritual awareness or their claim to have reached enlightenment, by writing to them.
I found a common denominator in my association with all of these people, and that was that we could not work together. I considered Spiritual Work to be the most important human function, and I am sure they did also. But privately all of them knew that we could not find a common language, nor could each find a common ground for working together in what appeared to be necessarily highly individualized systems or paths of teaching, and sometimes we could not even find a good method of just keeping in contact and exchanging ideas.
This knowledge made me feel very desperate and determined to do something about it. After all, are we not all working for the same goal, which is Truth, which is God if God is found through the search for Truth, or for the Absolute, if the Absolute is found through a search for Truth?
There are millions of people looking for the Truth through established religions, and they profess that they are equating Truth with God. And the world is continually dismayed to find religious wars by millions who profess to be killing for the "true God." They do not KNOW that they are killing for the "true God," they merely believe or have faith. And we can probably write off their isms, noting that they will not get anywhere until they quit believing and start seeking.
But there are hundreds of thousands who have turned away from blind faith, and have joined some esoteric, metaphysical or occult group in hopes that this group will be recognized (by its fruits) as a bona fide method of searching and seeking. And in this smaller group of people we find that it is really a loose conglomerate of many cults, smaller still, each of which has a language and method peculiar to itself. Divisiveness is the chief denominator of these groups also. Some of this divisiveness is caused by financial competition, or the campaign for membership that sometimes involves one movement stating its claims in such superlatives that any future demonstrations for tolerance by its leaders or writers for other movements would imply the other movements might be worthwhile.
We go on to the highest form of Spiritual Work, the Realization of the Essence of Man. The final definition of man. And with this definition,—the realization of ultimate and absolute definitions of the nature of everything visible. This last sentence is included in this level of work because of the testimony of those who claim to have reached self-definition. The claim is that self-definition brings with it the definition of all things, and a realization of the Nature, or Absolute, or God, behind all things.
And in this third category, whose membership involves no more than one in a million, if we are to believe Richard M. Bucke [Canadian M.D., friend of Walt Whitman and author of "Cosmic Consciousness" —Ed.], there is likewise no harmony between its members. The Tower of Babel casts its shadow on all levels. We are dissembled and mute.
Over a period of many years I tried to do something about this Spiritual Babel. I traveled back and forth across the country visiting people, temples, ashrams, and prelates of established churches. Everywhere I met the same smiles of patient condescension that indicated that I had just not reached their level of understanding yet. I received this attitude regardless of the level from which the person came. They did not bother to ask me about my level,—each felt that there was only one church,—one spiritual path,—and one level, and that was the one with which they identified themselves.
I did not give up. In 1956 I placed an ad in a magazine that was published for people of occult interests. I received hundreds of answers, and almost each represented a different tangent from the others. It was discouraging, but I still learned a lot from those letters.
For instance, I have just named the three major categories of seekers. The first might be called the Believers. The second group, which numbers in the hundreds of thousands, might be called the Investigators. This second group are really trying to use their heads. They are very sincere, usually, but they spend entire individual lives in a single investigative search, such as Magic, Astrology, Trance Work, Yoga, astral projection, or in the examination of any or all of the gimmicks that come out of the East packaged as holy merchandise.
The third category we might call the Becomers. These people go in for ways to find the Truth by processes which usually involve a change of state of mind and this in turn leads to a change of being. Those who have reached enlightenment (the word being synonymous with Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi, an attainment of an Absolute state or ultimate trip) all equate that acquisition or realization with a necessary change of being. Man does not discover the Truth. He becomes the Truth.
I learned that you cannot just put people into these categories and pigeon-hole them securely. They infiltrate different levels and tend to convey naiveté if they are reaching upward into a group beyond their complete understanding, and they convey unwarranted encouragement if they reach down to a group that may use their name and reputation to further the aims of a lesser group.
But the most unfortunate thing that I learned was that truly enlightened people are still confused about the proper communication with those on lower levels, and this communication uses such poor systems or vehicles for conveying their instruction as to proper methods for attaining the higher consciousness,—that the general inquirer often winds up doubting that the person is enlightened at all because of the latter's preoccupation with what is often a waste of time.
Paul Wood was one of the men who I met that convinced me that he was truly enlightened. However, his system was discouraging to almost everyone he met. He insisted upon having people repeat and study the Lord's prayer. Now the Lord's prayer is basically part of the structure of organized Christianity, which is identified as being in the group called the Believers. Now the strange truth is that Paul himself came upon his Realization while clinging to the Lord's prayer for counsel and guidance. He had an opening of the mind as a result. It seems only fair to assume that if Paul is going to transmit, it will be done by the same leverage that was used upon him. But this is not true; each man blooms from a different catalyst. The only thing that the enlightened men have in common is that which they find. So that it is better to encourage an inward search, without demanding to find for the student an exact formula or discipline. Likewise, we are saying that we should pursue the search, which process may be helped by creating conditions that will help anyone regardless of their unique catalysts. These conditions include the conscious effort to bring people together, and to provide retreats or ashrams for meditative purposes.
~ Continued in the November 2001 TAT Forum
Forum: In I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, a questioner asks: "What is it that brings me again and again to India? It cannot be only the comparative cheapness of life here? Nor the colorfulness and variety of impressions. There must be some more important factor."
Nisargadatta answers: "There is also the spiritual aspect. The division between the outer and the inner is less in India. It is easier here to express the inner in the outer. Integration is easier. Society is not so oppressive."
You've been in the West for several years now and have a comparison to your native country. What would you say are the major differences that you've found?
Anima: The first thing that hit me when I moved to the West was that I felt people are so lonely. It was as if each individual has a big burden of living alone. Relationships are within certain parameters. Sharing is less. A small example is if you are traveling in a train in India and the passenger next to you is eating, then 99% of the time he or she will offer you their food. This was really a shock to me when I'd see my classmates eating their lunch without even looking at me let alone offering to share.
I realized that the big contrast between East and West is that the West is very individualistic whereas the East is collective. I think an individual "I" is much weaker in the East, which makes surrender easier. I think because of this Indians usually have a more devotional path. People are more believers than questioners. And most of all I feel we are not in a hurry for anything. Enlightenment can be postponed easily for another lifetime. In fact I have never met anybody who questioned or doubted what gets written [in the scriptures].
Also I think ours is a very have-not society which makes it harder to have higher desires, when you are struggling to meet your basic needs. In fact I think my friends in India are more materialistic. Not even a single one has any spiritual aspirations. Maybe I just hung out with this crowd.
Anyway, I think East is East and West is West and even if they don't meet ... it is all right, because one is not better or worse than the other.
Sharad: One of the differences that I see between India and the U.S. is that I get a sense that achieving enlightenment is pursued as a goal here, and when I use the word goal I use it in the sense just like achieving let's say the goal of making a million dollars. In India I never felt this kind of urgency on the part of people. Maybe it's the fatalistic cultural attitude.
I came to respect and admire all the sayings of saints and enlightened people in India only after coming here to the U.S., so that is one big thing that this country has done for me. In fact, in India I never got inclined to question me about myself.
Fatalism is a big difference between here and India; so many things are left to fate in India. I did not understand what Nisargadatta meant when he said that people in India are the same outside as they are inside. I, on the contrary feel that in the average Indian population there are a lot of hypocrisies hidden and that so many people live their lives in conformity of some accepted social traditions or taboos.
A sage advised a seeker that "You have only one thing to do: care for others as much as you care for yourself." Is that good advice?
Bob Fergeson replies:
To see that there is only one Man, and that all personalities are merely different collections of the same set of patterns, gives a sense of compassion when one sees one's fellow men trapped in the sense of ego. The world spins furiously along, and to be captured by the illusion of one's body/mind brings a sense of loss and angst, a mad vertigo, from which it is nearly impossible to escape. To return to the stillpoint in the center frees us from our sense of 'me' and thus enables us to have true compassion for our brothers still spinning in illusion. They and we are the same, but for the veil. Until we ourselves are free, we can't dare afford to let go long enough to reach out for others in a truly unselfish manner.
Dear dreamers within my dream, something occurs to me.
In the first, one is still stuck in the dream, subject to the rules
Discern that you exist as a dreamer.
The only things in life worth striving for are things of spiritual value, which is mostly done indirectly. The soul grows through mundane experiences and constant effort and terrors of just trying to survive or make any progress. The essence of wisdom extracted from the experience becomes part of one's soul or individual self, and is carried from life to life. The only thing you "take with you" is not money but changes made in one's soul.
One's soul is his ray of individuality from the great ALL, from Spirit, from Parabrahman, the totally impersonal Principle or misnomered "God" in the exoteric religious sense—which is totally beyond and incapable of "caring" for anything or anyone in the personal sense. One would have better chance of results by sending his prayers to Winnie the Pooh. While prayer produces no results, Aspiration does. One must aspire in his personal self for a connection with his soul, to become his soul, his inner self, through inner efforts or outer good works. It is a one-way effort. One must aspire to his soul and spirit for his own salvation, it does not aspire to you. Persons who never do this, and never do this over life-times, lose their connection with their source, become a ray broken from the Absolute, a "lost soul." There are many.
The sensation of and connection with one's real self is in the heart region of the body. One should strive to be perpetually centered here and live from here. It is the source of true sanity, wisdom and peace and all latent knowledge of past experience. Centered in the Self one can be in peace in an earthly hell, and without it one may be in a hell while in an earthly paradise. Life is a constant battle and paradox between the soul's need to work and seek experience and develop in the outer world, while the result of this effort is a constant attack on one's ability to stay centered in the Self. One is always "riding the horns of the paradox."
I am not bliss.
Listen for the sound of no wind.
The rooster crows in mid-morning,
Though sometimes we will kill to live,
Our stuttering steps of progress
In this place of joy and pain
So join hands in love and leaving,
Shimmering heat rises and distorts the land.
By the clear, cool lake waters,
Always we are moments away from drowning—
Like the hunter who walks silently,
From far across the green hills,
There is nothing wrong with living,
Now, on my hill
There is not black or white.
There is no color, yet we are creatures of color.
Look into the sun, and you are blinded. Extreme light is perceived as darkness.
Light is analogous to the source of existence.
The sun is within your mind.
The body is the mind and is the tool for searching. The mind knows only the mind until the light reflecting back toward the sun equals the light emanating from the sun. At that point, you See for the first time and all becomes Light.
Turning your attention within reflects light toward your source.
To ache is to want the Truth. To no longer ache, yet want the Truth, is determination.
The Truth is all you ever wanted and all you don't want. You are a satisfied dead man who returns to life.
You are the dead man walking, who struggles and laughs at his struggles, a hollow man filled with all.
You have a destiny, but it is like the wind that blows a ship rather than a road which one walks.
Destiny is for material objects.
Why does the full moon at night look so lonely, yet so appealing?
To look at nothing is to stand on the edge of everything.
The words of another give you strength, while your words sound faint when alone.
Even barbaric yawps are swallowed by silence.
Truth does not emanate from things or people—it resonates from within.
The presence of the teacher only reveals that which is in you.
Like you, the teacher is a facade. Reality dances between your stone-like figures.
You sculpt life out of clouds that becoming too heavy, fall into the sea.
You breathe that salt water that was always a part of you, yet in breathing it you die.
To die is to burn and plunge into the water, only to discover you are wetness itself. By dissolving
into essential wetness, you become vast and real.
Do not feel sad for the painting that burns. Its place in time is eternal and eternity is wrapped in the comforting folds of the Absolute.
It is warm inside your fiction. Your layers of lies only delay the creeping cold.
You rise up and every motion is meaningless, but meant to be.
As if an arrow with no purpose were released a thousand years ago
And all the earth waited for this moment when it pierced your breast.
No one was there, nor ever was.
I am speaking to an empty room.
Regarding the recent bombings I can't help but think that the reaction is based on the universal denial of death. Death is a tad hard to deny when 6000+ die all at once in such a public, sudden and dramatic way—not hidden away in the invisible nooks and crannies of singular lives, dying one-by-one, across a span of time—as if even one of these 6000+ were not destined to die! Of course everyone is moved by the effect the tragedy has on relationship—countless relationships, each one its own tale of love. That tale of love resonates with and evokes the love at the core of each individual witness and so all who witness are moved.
These tales of love are what moves me. The deaths do not impress me. It is the ever present theme of Love manifesting in human relationship and all life that I find overwhelmingly poignant. And I don't need death to make me aware of this pervasive presence. I am surrounded by it every day, every waking moment. I see it expressed in countless ways in the mundane affairs of life around me. At times I have to hold it at bay so that I am not overcome and break down weeping at the intensity, the unconditional-ness, the utter impersonal-ness, the unrelenting-ness of this Love—of which countless human stories are but an echo.
Some students of human nature might say that their experience has brought them to a high level of skepticism, wherein they interpret most human behavior as merely the manifestation of egos trying to carve out happiness and self-satisfaction. To them I would say: From where precisely does this urge to "carve out happiness and self-satisfaction" emanate? Sure, the body imposes a whole set of conditions—BUT, this trying to carve out happiness and self-satisfaction seems to far exceed the needs of the body. I think looking at this directly is the same as the "Who am I?" question, and the struggle is a manifestation of the inner man's "gone-awry" attempt to find his way home. It is the struggle for self-definition and self-affirmation by a being who feels empty and incomplete in its identity of separation. The message being acted out is, "I do believe in ghosts. I do believe in ghosts. I do, I do, I do believe in ghosts."
The very fact of the struggle is proof of the inner imperative. In spite of the egocentricity of the body-identity, individuals cannot seem to avoid reflecting the Love of the inner man. Even the apparent absence of it, or its apparent opposite behavior can be seen as an affirmation of this Love—by contrast, and by the individual's futile attempts to escape the inescapable inner pressure—the "hound of heaven."
It would be wrong to judge harshly anyone who is running from the acceptance of the fact that all they take themselves to be—their very identity itself—is every bit as much an inanimate object, "out there," as the chair or table in a room at which they sit. And to anyone judging themselves harshly, that harsh judgment is itself an expression of something to face directly—another asking of "Who am I?" Nisargadatta says, "That which you are, your true self, you love it, and whatever you do, you do for your own happiness. To find it, to know it, to cherish it, is your basic urge." (From the last paragraph of "Awareness is Bliss," #46 in "I Am That.")
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