Connection

group sharingOne of the central tenets of the Buddhist philosophy is the concept of interdependence.

The philosophical dimension of this concept focuses on the recognition that nothing has value in and of itself. Everything is composite, and everything is impermanent or transient. Everything undergoes a process of change, most easily evidenced in our own human lives.

We are not today the person we were physically, emotionally or psychologically, five or ten or twenty years ago. Why? Because the notion of “self” is a delusion. “We” are really nothing more than a composite or amalgam of systems and conditions. The “self” that we cherished when we were twelve no longer exists. Therefore, we can say that it had no essential value, since it was actually nothing more than an idea we had.

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Letting Go of Boundaries

boundary_fullMaster Thich Nhat Hanh once observed, “Most of the boundaries between traditions are artificial. truth has no boundaries. The differences are mostly in emphasis.” Letting go of the perception of boundaries can free us to experience a deeper, quieter, and more still version of Truth. In the Buddhist tradition, we call that place of letting go, “calm abiding”.

I’ve often thought it interesting that some Buddhists, especially in the Tibetan tradition are so quick to pontificate that “all phenomena are empty,” and yet they get their uttarasanghas in bunch so easily, decrying this monk’s lineage or that teacher’s orthodoxy! If phenomena are empty, then doctrine and dogma are equally empty, and all wisdom paths ought to be given the same respect.

A couple months ago, I was approached by a number of practitioners, who wanted to know if I would consider reinvigorating the Contemplative Order of Compassion as a centre for wisdom and dharma.  And I agreed to give it some thought, as I took into account many of the areas of my work and practice at the end of the year. It is something I am still giving a great deal of thought.

Some have encouraged me to consider incorporating the order back into an institutional organisation, so that we could have access to greater funding for the projects that impact so many people’s lives.

I’m not sure that will ever be a good idea, as who and what we are arose from the journey out of institutional religion, to a place where post-denominational expression of ancient teachings and new thought philosophy could be unencumbered by dogma and doctrine.

cropped-zenkonweb31.pngOthers have suggested that we formalise the beliefs and teachings in such a way that Zenkondo becomes a spiritual path itself. And I think we’ve done so already, without allowing it to become another institution or religion.

It may be time to explore the possibilities of forming a greater community, possibly even a physical community again. Time will tell.

In the meantime, let’s simply agree to let go of the idea of boundaries, and begin working toward expanding the work of compassionate service to others. And we will be well on our way to rediscovering what the future holds.

By What Spiritual Authority Do I Teach?

DC-Michelangelo-JeremiahThere exists an interesting misconception, in my opinion, about how things in the spiritual realm operate. The notion of spiritual authority is one of those aberrant ideas that illustrate how far from truth our misconceptions can carry us.

This misconception is neither exclusive to the Abrahamic traditions nor to Eastern Thought, and can be found equally among religious fundamentalists, Buddhist sectarians, and even some whom one would expect to be more intelligent than to play this game.

In a most interesting conversation this afternoon, I was asked by a woman (who is notably affiliated with a powerful religious cult, I mean sect, which is fundamentalist and literalist in nature), “By what spiritual authority do you teach?”

She was, of course, attempting to set me up for a debate on how I could be an apostolic successor and Buddhist abbot, but I was way ahead of her little agenda…

I answered that the sole authority by which I teach is my personal experience.

I neither acknowledge nor answer to any spiritual authority, institution, lineage, person, book or tradition, because nothing outside the fullness of personal spiritual experience is capable of bringing about personal and spiritual transformation or awakening.

That said, I have always gratefully acknowledged the lineages from which my teaching is derived, without whose gracious and very generous teaching, I would not have certainly struggled a great deal more in my own spiritual journey. I view my spiritual lineages, as documented backward to the original disciples of some of the Ascended Masters, as the “family tree” from which the download of wisdom was generously imparted to me.

As such, my lineage becomes akin to DNA, rather than being the source of “authority” or “orthodoxy”. DNA establishes us as legitimate human descendants, but doesn’t give us authority over any other beings. And so it is with our “spiritual DNA”, which lend legitimacy to the spiritual paths we travel, but which grant us neither authority nor supremacy over another sojourner.

dharmalineageI don’t believe the answers anyone seeks can be found anywhere but within themselves, and so I am not a spiritual authority myself, nor do I consider myself as being associated with any institution or religion at all, but rather see my role as that of a spiritual “lamp”, whose sole purpose it to help illuminate the way for the seeker, who chooses and creates the path for themselves.

Not a day passes that I do not offer profound gratitude for the gifts given to me by my Root Guru, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati; from the holders of the spiritual lineages from which I have gained so much, including Robert Danza Sensei, Lama Thubten Yeshe, Swami Dayananda, Swami Abishiktananda, Maharaji Neem Karoli, Albino Luciano (Pope John Paul I), Dr. Louise L. Hay, Dr. Kennedy Shultz, and so many others.

But that gratitude arises from the Ground of Experience, not from honouring some paper or oral lineage, recognition by this Lama or that Swami. And it also takes its foundations from seeing the good that has demonstrated in the lives and hearts of hundreds, possibly thousands of my students, over the past three decades.

Just as the goldsmith refines the metal to separate the gold from other elements, the spiritual path allows us to separate that which is non-essential from our True Nature as Pure Awareness.

You need no authority to enter the path, because you are the creator of the path, and the path itself.

For the seeker of liberation and awakening, there is nothing to do, but to open your heart, serve those who are hungry and in need, and be still.

 

Wayseer Manifesto

zen-circle-five-peter-cutlerAs we begin a new year, I want to share with you a video that many of you have seen me share over the past two years. The Wayseer Manifesto resonates deeply with who I am, and with what we’ve taught for the past 32 years. It speaks to who I am and what sets us apart from the masses.

Neurological oppression often prevents us from embracing the Implicate Order, known as the Way. But what if this video were to unlock something within you?

The Twelve Nights of Transformation – My Final Teaching of 2013

This is the time of year, where humanity experiences the transformative power, when light and darkness meet and become unified, leading up to what my teachers called, “The Twelve Nights of Transformation”.

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Recognising the Unhealed Healer

kundalinirising2Healing is a natural aspect of transformation. But healing cannot begin in the hands of the unhealed healer. Upon recognising the presence of the unhealed healer in ourselves, we must begin within.

When we experience someone who is ill, or who has undergone surgery or some other difficult emotional or physiological circumstance, we recognise that our experience of their condition is an opportunity for us to heal something within our own minds.

The wheezing, hacking cough of the co-worker, may be an opportunity to realise there is something we need “to get off our chest”. The emergency heart surgery of a loved one, may represent unforgiven hurts that we’re afraid to let go of. That pain our neighbour feels in her back, may be a reminder of a burden we’re carrying, that’s weighing us down.

This isn’t to say those persons are experiencing their conditions because of us. Their conditions are, for them, an opportunity for them to heal something in their own lives.

My experience of Parkinson’s Disease may be a feeling that I am constricted by rigid and inflexible circumstances, beyond my immediate control. A weakened immune system may reflect that I feel like I have lost my ability to “fight back” in the face of injustice or lazy dharma practitioners. Even the thyroid condition I experience could be a need to address the feeling of complete imbalance in my present experience of life, and the toll I imagine those circumstances to be taking on me.

562058_10150647109752972_204769565_nWhen we come to understand that all of these beliefs arise from the chaotic data, playing on the hard drive of our subconscious mind… that they are, in essence, bullshit… healing spontaneously occurs.

And so we don’t focus on healing another. For pretending to be able to do so is little more than an ego trip. All healing can only occur within.

What’s more, there’s really nothing to “heal”… it’s just a matter of forgiving ourselves, and returning to the present moment.

On the Mythos of the Resurrection

A few years ago, I posted a question on Facebook, and asked how many people believed that Horus, one of the oldest gods of the ancient Egyptian religion — the Falcon-headed Avenger, was a real being. Fifty people commented saying, “Of course not.”

Speaking at a workshop after the film, “The Avengers”, I asked how many people there believed that Odin, Thor and Loki actually exist, 47 out of 49 people said they did not.

But there is a vast disconnect in the intelligence, rationality and spiritual maturity here in the West, where we are all too quick to suspend reason, and demand that the whole world believe a legend that has been shown time and time again, with empirical evidence sociologically, historically and anthropologically to have been an adaptation of the ancient legends of the “man-god” mythos.

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The Master’s Pesach

In Christendom, the story of the Last Supper is a poignant and richly meaningful point in the narrative of Rav Yeshua’s last days, before his betrayal and death.

In the Sacramental Movement it is a time when the tabernacle is emptied, and the Presence Light extinguished, the altar stripped of its linens, and the entire sanctuary takes on the stark and lifeless appearance and feeling of a tomb. For me, this was always one of the most profoundly heart-wrenching of liturgies to perform, and would mark the beginning of the three days of contemplation upon impermanence, death and awakening.

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Mindfulness… Another of Institutional Buddhism’s Casualties

mindfulnessquote-kgs

One of the casualties of this tendency we have to turn the Dharma into an “ism” (i.e., Buddhism), is that the arts and sciences that make up the Dharma often become homogenised into some sort of “religious doctrine”, stripping away all of the freedom and value the practice once had.

Mindfulness is the art and science of bringing our awareness to the moment. It is the practice of experiencing our True Nature, as Pure Awareness.

The Buddha Śakyamuni is said to have advocated the practice of mindfulness in one’s daily activities, as a means of grounding oneself in the calm awareness of the transitory and impermanent nature of all phenomena, one of the key facets of the path to awakening.

But you see, that’s just it… he didn’t say we need to “believe something about mindfulness”. He didn’t even find it necessary to define mindfulness. He simply said we should practice it.

And that’s where the religion of Buddhism fails in a postmodern world.

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Radical Inclusion

diversityAs a spiritual path, one might call Zenkondo “decentralised”, in that there is no singular authority, principality or Being at the core of the practice. We embrace the divine principle as being beyond our concepts, and boundless in its diversity.

In many ways, we see the institutional religions of the past two millennia, and sadly recognise that what anthropologically emerged as an expression of the people, has nearly always become a corrupt and clericalist mechanism of control and manipulation. Religion, at its roots is always a folk-religion, but when it becomes institutionalised, the superstitions, traditions, rituals and dogma are generally “reinterpreted” to give central power, control and authority to one person or group of persons.

We’ve seen the result of this kind of corruption in the predatory behaviour of the Roman Catholic Church, and in the centuries of violence and torture of the Tibetan people, at the hands of the Tibetan Buddhist ruling class.

On this nineteenth day of the Chinese New Year, there is often a celebration of “The Hundred Gods”, particularly among certain Zen and Taoist practitioners. This celebration is intended to remind the practitioners that they are to honour the gods and traditions of other practitioners, whether they embrace or recognise such gods themselves or not.

I could not help but think about how virulently Westerners seem to attack those whose beliefs are not like their own; especially those of us for whom the god concept us unnecessary. In their pathetic attempts to define themselves, they become threatened by anything that doesn’t fit into the convenient little compartments our culture and society has created for such things.

For practitioners of Zenkondo, our spiritual path should not only reflect spiritual diversity, inclusiveness and warmth, but should encourage it.

Buddha was not a Buddhist, nor was Rav Yeshua a Christian. And given that seven of the Roman Catholic Church’s popes were Jewish, it would seem that we need to take a close look at the exclusionary, intolerant, sectarian assholes we may have become, in the name of religion!

There will be those who say that our path is heretical, and they may indeed be correct. That has never been of any interest or concern to us. What is essential is that we inspire compassion, accepting all others, and recognise that we need not disparage the practice of another, in order to justify our own. We shall always be there to lend a hand to the poor, the suffering, the sick and dying, and to those marginalised by society, religion, family or the world.

When we encounter another in need, they become the central figure in our practice — an opportunity to serve the indwelling divine principle, and to recognise our essential oneness.