On Feb 9, 2010 Bill Miller wrote:|
This is the one principle of Eastern metaphysics (or our Western mis-interpretation of it) that I've always found puzzling, even depressing - this whole "dissolution of the self" concept.
In the instance of this article, how can love exist without a lover and a beloved, a relationship, and an action between them as independent personalities? Can love exist in a vacuum? Would it not be like a song without a singer or an audience? Even if such a thing could exist, what would be the point?
Many religious philosophies are so eager to denigrate the self and existence in the material world, yet why would such an elaborate phenomenon be created if the goal were merely to throw it away? On the contrary, I've come to believe that whatever powers that be, that are responsible for our existence, they *depend* on us being here, living, loving, doing, being - and generally making divine principles into actual, manifested realities. Otherwise, these principles would just remain in the realm of abstract potential, as archetypes or Platonic forms. As Meister Ekhart observed centuries ago, God needs us as much as we need God.
I'm told that the mathematical definition of "zero" is "the sum of all positive and negative integers". In other words, zero is not "nothing", in fact it can be thought of as *everything*. I believe a similar principle holds regarding the perfect unity of all things. I see it as moving in the opposite direction to that described in the article. Rather than the elimination of all personality and identity, it is the full completion and integration of all personality - on a cosmic scale! Whenever I eventually get to be fully realized, I will not only fully know who I, "Bill" am, but I will also equally know the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of Pancho, Nipun, Viral, Pavi, Somik, Aumatma, Guri, Chris, Toys, Hashida, Dinesh, Vijay, ... and on to infinity.
I don't want to live in an eternity that consists of abstract principles, floating around in a sea of blissful nothingness. I want to be with all my "Buds" - and infinitely more of them!
On Feb 10, 2010 Chris wrote:|
Most religions say that we are all one, also, do unto others as you would be done to. To be told that we are all one and that the ego does not really count is daunting advice that flies in the face of perceived reality. However, one morning I awoke with a new paradigm which helped to clarify this. It takes a little imagination and belief; but it works.
You must have heard of the idea that there are parallel or multiple universes? Imagine – just imagine – every person in the world that is, that ever was and that ever will be, is you. You, are everything that is. You have split in time, space and dimensions. What you are now perceiving is the experience of this body. You are experiencing existence everywhere else, but you can only register existence through this body just now. You can see you struggling or you being successful in other bodies. And they (all the other you) can see you struggling in yours. They (you) are all different because they (you) were all born to different parents, under different circumstances and were life programmed by different events, influences, intentions and energies.
Now imagine that by some miracle everyone at once (all of you) suddenly had this same realization. Everyone stopped and walked out onto the street in wonder and started asking, “Are you me?” “and are you me too?” How would the conversations go on? Perhaps, “how can I help you? Did I do that to you? Sorry.”
Everyone is you: the lover, bank manager, check-out girl, policeman, beggar, bully, sage, idiot, prostitute and accountant.
Imagine all of you, the whole world smiling up at the sky and all shouting, “Hey, we got the trick, we’ve sussed it at last, the game’s up. Now can we finish this fragmentation lark and all get back together as one in heaven?”
So next time someone’s bugging you, look through their eyes and smile into them. It’s you in there again isn’t it?
Just a thought...
On Feb 11, 2010 Somik Raha wrote:|
I found this passage very deep. But first, a caveat. When experiences of enlightenment or realization are described, they tend to throw us off-track, into assuming these are supernatural moments. I have found that such a frame is unhelpful, for I can only understand what is natural. So my comments follow from an entirely un-supernatural perspective.
It was funny that this week, I hung out with a monk who always talks about the unity of all existence. He used a lovely metaphor to make the implications clear. Imagine a mother on a beach, watching over two children playing. One of them builds a sand castle. The other comes over and destroys it. The builder is devastated, and fights and then starts crying, asking the mother to intervene. The mother does so - she gives compassion and love, and with great interest, tries to guide both children toward better behavior. She might even scold the one who broke the sand castle. But while she is completely checked-in to the world of the children, talking to them on their terms, her perspective is much larger than those of the children, and she is not disturbed within.
I found this metaphor so fascinating on so many levels. Our usual tendency when we see other people fighting is to start throwing high philosophy at them. A mother who truly sees her children, also sees the need to speak the other's language - in other words, become one of them and then guide. It requires a lofty perspective (which mothers have all the time in such situations), but it also requires complete identification with those who are suffering, the part where the mother is "checked-in" and talks the language of the children out of great compassion.
Total dissolution should not be misinterpreted as losing oneself, as Bill so articulately points out. It is not about committing suicide. Rather, it is about opening up and seeing a much larger reality.
The funny thing about the monk who shared this story is that every time I am in his company, something happens in my heart. His purity of service inspires me to serve more and love more, and the rest of the day, I am a different person. This happens also on several occasions where something someone in CF says/does triggers a deep sense of impersonal love, and I am firmly convinced that everyone experiences this many times in their life, more so when coming in contact with people who serve selflessly. In this state, I have several observations. First, when someone is angry with me, it does not bother me at all. Rather, I feel so compassionate (and I'm not even thinking about being compassionate) and so sorry for the other person's anger. Second, the anger or confrontation never lasts for more than a few seconds. Something shifts in the other person's heart and melts it almost instantly.
Where Adyashanti's words hit gold is this - it is my blunder in thinking that this state is something I get into only through meditation and good company. An even bigger blunder is to start hankering for these completely natural experiences. My observation is that it leads to anger and impatience with people for "spoiling" my peace, and I act in ways that are regrettable. In short, I leave the real lesson in the experience of impersonal love behind, and compartmentalize personal relationships as something that I have to "deal with."
Upon deeper reflection, what I'd call "love" in the personal sense becomes almost distasteful - it has so many expectations linked with it. The impersonal love, on the other hand, makes me feel like a giant - it is as though the strength of the universe is behind me, and I can see through the other person, that their anger, their words, their actions - they are all irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. We are connected and at this moment, I feel it, and I understand what love means. The fact that I am able to write all this shows how uniquely my mind processes something that is the simplest, non-supernatural experience, and how much work lies ahead in trying to get out of my own way.
I loved Neil's opening comments. He shared the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That triggered the other metallic rules - the Platinum Rule, "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them," and this one which hasn't been assigned a metal yet, "Do unto others as their loving mother would do unto them." In my research with public safety, a police officer told me that they are trained on the ethic, "Do unto others as you would want them to do unto your mother." These last two rules are very high standards, very admirable.
Neil also talked about mirror neurons, where we're physiologically wired to respond to each other's stimuli - we are like the same organism separated by our skin (or really, our minds). That is a fascinating notion that confirms most of what spiritual seekers have already found.
Finally, Neil talked about his biggest learning in the Phd program, which was to let go of his ego and understand that those giving feedback want the best for us. It is about practically dissolving ourselves and seeing a much larger reality. I completely echo this reflection. That has been my learning too - my research was much harder when I was trying to do it. When I gave up trying to be the actor, I received so much help - it was incredible to see how things improved so fast, and I wasn't even sweating.
Neil's reflections really helped drive home how passages like this are incredibly practical in our daily life and work.
I loved Ripa's telling of her experience with Amma (the hugging saint) in New York. She related how she spent the night waiting for her turn, falling asleep but waking up every time to see this indefatigable woman continuously hugging people with love. Finally, after receiving her hug, she was surprised to see that there was no supernatural energy behind Amma - it was Amma's presence, in a simple, natural and beautiful form. After being touched by it, walking back to her apartment, Ripa could see how the morning had turned into a beautiful morning, how the previously dirty streets now looked beautifully dirty (I believe she even felt this way about the garbage cans!) :).
Santhosh's stories are such charmers - I wish she'd write a book about her 3-year old who is also her teacher. She related a story of how her daughter fell down in the mud, and took a while to ask for help. When the call for help came, she went over. And after that, she was touched that her daughter thanked her for the help - made her wonder if she expresses gratitude that often. Something for all of us to think about.
A dramatic comment came from Dinesh uncle, where he turned the frame around in a very powerful way. He shared that the hand cannot know that what it is connected to, until it develops its own separate identity. How are we to know what we are, unless we deliberately become "not we?" This is a very powerful thought that points to the ultimate freedom that is behind life - we choose our personal relationships as a medium of learning. Only through the personal can we be encouraged to go toward the impersonal. The question may then arise - if we were in that impersonal love space to begin with, why play this whole game? Why come out of it? From's uncle's point, the answer seems to be - "it gets boring!," resonating with some of the other comments (like Bill's).
Nipun shared some deep reflections on the Buddha's comment to his disciple Ananda, that wholesome company (kalyan mitra) was very important - not 50% of the path but a 100% of it. Yet, elsewhere he did say that "I take my refuge in Dhamma" and that was more important than "Sangha" (or company/organization). There are many perspectives, and it all depends on what we're looking at.
Guri shared closing comments on her 10-day experience, where she wondered why the fish in the pond (in the retreat) were all clustered together when there was so much space, only to realize that so were all the meditators around the pond.
It was great to have Auntie sit in the circle and I hope she joins again. Moreover, although I have written only about some of the comments, there were many more insightful ones, and many contributed with silence and love, which I don't know how to capture online :).
On Feb 14, 2010 Asish k. Raha wrote:|
Is there any inherent contradiction in the concept of Adyashanti that in order to set love free of all boundaries one should let one's view get so vast that one's identity disappears? Bill Miller finds this Eastern metaphysics truly puzzling that love can be thought of when self is dissolved. Somik, however, attempts to deal with the issue from a practical perspective, allegorically from the higher dimension of a mother vis-a-vis that of a child, rather than from metaphysical perspective.
While on Miller's reference to puzzling Eastern metaphysics on love, it may be pertinent to narrate an anecdote from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, a well known ancient philosophical text of India. This concerns Yagnavalkya, one of the most learned and realized sages of his time (Mahabharata era), imparting the lesson of immortality and love to his wife Moitreyee.
The sage explained the mystery of love thus: the husband loves his wife & vice versa or parents love their children not because they find something likeable in them, but because they connect them with self. In other words, love for them emanates from love for self. When we connect others to self with a sense of belonging, attachment or gratification, we love them. The sage then instructed his wife to connect her self or soul to the whole of the universe in order to create universal love within her. When the self is expanded beyond the physical boundary so as to connect with every living entity, love transcends its self-centric physical limits.
The above phenomenon finds elucidation in the Bhagavadgita (6.32 and 13.28) where Krishna says: "That yogi (one who connects self with the supramental) is the greatest who identifies himself with all others in their happiness and sorrow." and "One who sees God everywhere cannot injure the Self by the Self." By way of a logical corollary, such a person would love every living being as he/she finds self in every living being. Thus, when we talk of universal love, we do not think of dissolution of self, but expansion of self beyond limits. Here zero becomes 'everything' (Purna in Indian philosophy) and not 'nothing' (Sunya), as Bill rightly points out. Besides, the Eastern concept of finding self in every living being is somewhat analogous to the Western concept of empathy.
On Feb 15, 2010 Pancho wrote:|
My family calls me Pancho and I'd like you to know that I love you all...
Last Wednesday was another incredible Wednesday, and yes, very special. Mama Harshida joined the circle (she usually stays in the kitchen) and, of course, the sharing had a special power. We all hope to see the kind couple (she and papa Dinesh) joining the circle like that more often.
Please Take a look at brother Somik's comment where he describes some of the magic that happened last week. As he mentioned, brother Neil opened the circle with 3 inspiring points that summarized, from my perspective, the depth and profoundness of the passage. These were the 3 points that he shared with us:
1. The Golden Rule.
2. Mirror Neurons.
3. Reducing ourselves to Zero.
1. The Golden Rule.
"Do onto others as you would wish them do onto you." The foundation of all religions and secular humanism, a simple rule that is hard to follow because many times we are violent to ourselves. The main message of Gandhi while touring India to organize the people to achieve a nonviolent Independence was this: the violence of the mind shown in violent thoughts, emotions and feelings is worse than open physical violence. It follows that the most important part in nonviolence is inner nonviolence, and this can only be achieved through fearlessness.
I understand the so called Golden Rule in the following way: No one likes to be treated rudely, to be rushed or belittled or ignored. Everyone appreciates patience, kindness, forgiveness and respect.
2. Mirror Neurons.
Linked to this pragmatic idea is the scientific explanation of the Golden Rule, or nonviolence for that matter: mirror neurons or as VS Ramachandran calls them: Gandhi Neurons :-)
When we attack someone (physically, emotionally or psychologically) we are harming ourselves. Aren't we the ones who say that we are ONE?
[When we were coming back to Berkeley that night, in the carpool, sister ShanShan, Kye and I had a pretty insightful conversation about this topic. We were (and are!) so inspired that we are thinking about writing a short paper about nonviolent direct action and mirror neurons. Stay tuned, we'll share it soon. The preview is that we can instantaneously affect other people with our attitudes and intentions, it is some sort of magnetic feel... ;-) I _love_ Wednesdays!]
Brother Neil talked also about how he understood during his examinations that it is not worth to take the feedback from professors an/or colleagues personally. After all, he said, my thesis is just a (pragmatic) idea. In other words, he felt how useful was to to reduce his ego to Zero. That's also one of Gandhi's (and many other mystics) great teachings. If the aspirants to obtain a PhD had the consciousness level as brother Neil, those titles would really mean something because today we have enough PhDs, what we now need is some PhDos like him! ;-)
3. Reducing ourselves to Zero.
Nipunbhai-ji hasn't post his insightful comment yet, but we love him as he is ;-) Instead we have Albert Einstein to remind us the interconnectedness of all life and service (beautifully encircling the 3 points):
“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.