One 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.
Today, I choose to shift my focus from resentment toward forgiveness. I recognise that forgiveness is a gift I give to myself. It is an opportunity for me to release the energy that holds me hostage, and distracts me from growth. As I forgive myself, it becomes easier to forgive others.
Each moment is an opportunity for me to release a limiting belief or fear, and to forgive myself for holding me back from experiencing the full potential of that moment in the past.
I know that my experiences are the result of my thoughts. And without a need for blame, I recognise that there are times my thoughts take a less productive turn. And that’s alright, because it’s part of the experience of learning. But I also realise that I am free to choose new thoughts.
And so today, I choose thoughts which free me from the decisions of my past… which bring new possibilities and reinvigorate my journey, rather than distracting me from it.
I let go of resentment I have felt toward those who have let me down. I release the need to punish those who have hurt me. I know they were doing the best they could, and their mediocrity and lack of commitment is their business… their lesson to learn… not mine.
I am limited only by the barriers I create in consciousness. And so I release those barriers now, and recognise my essential nature as Pure Awareness.
Today, I allow ease and compassion to guide my thoughts and energise my actions. I celebrate the limitless potential that exists in the present moment, and choose to mindfully turn my awareness to that moment… to live from that place alone… which is the source of my power and potential.
I forgive myself and others effortlessly, and let go of the old stories that held me captive.
The wisdom of the Buddha points out that holding onto anger is like holding onto hot coals, but hoping that the other person is the one who feels the pain. It’s like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die from it. And so it’s time for me to let go of these foolish endeavors and resentments.
I’ve allowed another to hold the pen that was writing my story. Today, I choose to write a NEW STORY, in my own hand…
And as that story unfolds the joy and abundance that are my birthright begins to express in every experience… every turn.
Forgiveness comes easy and release gently follows.
On the Formal Practice, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche writes:
You can experience that dreamlike quality by relating with sitting meditation practice. When you are reflecting on the breath, suddenly discursive thoughts begin to arise; you begin to see things, to hear things, and to feel things. But all those perceptions are none other than your own mental creation. In the same way, you can see that your hate for your enemy, your love for your friends, and your attitude toward money, food, and wealth are all part of discursive thought.
In Buddhism, we recognise that this aggregate of systems and senses we imagine is our “self” is merely an illusion. One of the principal benefits of this practice is that it restores a sort of gentleness… a soft, comforting reminder of what our True Nature, which is Consciousness, or Śunyata, or Love, or if you prefer the primitive metaphors, God(dess), etc., already knows. It’s about the process of rediscovering truths that we already possess, which might have been obscured by the dreamlike state.
Everything that appears in your experience is a manifestation of your mind. And it is also a reflection of something within you that needs your attention.
While we dream, the events in our dreams seem really to be happening: we find ourselves in another location, conversations takes place, we experience pain or pleasure, fear or calm. Anything can happen in your dreams. All the appearances are there. But despite these appearances, no such events have really occurred while you slept. And so it is with what we imagine to be our “waking state”, which is but another level of dream-consciousness.
The first instruction is very simple, yet profound. We should not lay the blame for anything on others. Now, as simple as it sounds, I know that there will be, for many of my readers, a momentary rolling of the eyes, because this sounds rather absurd on the surface. After all, if someone attacks us on the street, why would we not say that they were to blame?
We must recognise that every experience begins in our minds. And if that is true, and if our perception of this “self”, which is really nothing more than an aggregate of senses and systems, then it is also true that we are responsible for bringing forth the misery in samsara from beginning was time. To the degree that we continue this self-cherishing, self-cleaning attitude we will experience suffering and harm in this lifetime.
Now it’s also very important, to understand that we don’t mean instead of blaming other people, we blame ourselves. Our objective, is to take a closer look at what blame feels like altogether, and then to guard ourselves against the temptation to engage in that hurtful, meaningless, and immature practice.
When you really think about it, it takes so much energy to place blame. I believe that most occurrences of placing blame have their roots in fear. When we are afraid that someone is taking something from us, doing something that will hurt us, making us look less important, less honorable, less “good”, then the ego self, begins the process of pointing fingers.
The very moment that we begin to take 100% responsibility, when we begin to say, “I have chosen this experience, these are the seeds I planted, and now I am reaping the crop at harvest time,”everything changes. When we realise that the ordinary mind throws responsibility on someone else, and that the perception of the other is an illusion, we return to the point of power within ourselves. Pure Awareness.
I like to end this section of the commentary by sharing something Albert Einstein wrote, which might have just as easily been written by a great Dharma master:
A human being is a part of the whole, called by us, “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 to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
Nothing exists independently of consciousness or mental designation, therefore it becomes easier, and in fact, essential, that we release the need to place blame.
Master 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.
Others 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.
Join us for a special re-broadcast on World AIDS Day, as we talk with survivors, community servants, and honour some of the greatest activists this generation has ever known. My special guest for this show is Swami Anjani Jaya Hanuman, of Kashi Ashram.
I wanted to share my thoughts on the visit of Pope Francis to the United States, because I think there is a message relevant to every spiritual path, including those of us who are non-theistic and secular humanists.
This past week brought a lot of “religious discussion” to the forefront of social media, owing in no small part to the Pope’s visit to the U.S. For many, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, the experience was something of a ‘retreat’ experience — reminding us of our essential unity, the need to serve the sick, poor, and dying, our responsibility as stewards of a planet facing global warming and other environmental issues, and of the need for peace and compassion. That ‘retreat experience’ ended last night, when Francis boarded the plane for Vatican City. We often refer to what follows as “the fourth day” experience… that experience of “what now” after an intensive three day retreat.
It occurs to me that what Pope Francis really did was to serve as a mirror for us. That exquisite Inner Light, which is compassion or love, Pure Awareness, as I prefer to call it, which some acceptably anthropomorphise into the “god concept” and all its various legends and myths, was reflected in his eyes, his words and his admonitions.
He reminded us that how we LIVE our religion (or spiritual paths) is far more important than what we SAY about our religion or spiritual paths.
Now it’s our turn to take action, and own the POSSIBILITIES for healing to begin.
There is an expression in the Taoist tradition, known as “fire feeding upon fire,” which explains why practitioners of that tradition, like the Buddhist, Hindu and Zenkondo paths, value participation in a community of practitioners, or sangha.
While wood (or another substance) might burn and produce a fire, there is nothing which produces the intensity of energy and illumination that occurs when the fire feeds the fire itself.
Take a single candle, and you can illuminate a room. But bring the wicks of two candles together, that the intensity of the flame grows exponentially.
And so it is with the Dharma path. When we engage our spiritual practice, and begin serving others, with the intention of alleviating suffering and the causes of suffering for ourselves and for all sentient beings, we fill the space around us with illumination — Sacred Light or Pure Awareness — the unquantifiable energy that Einstein refered to as “zeropoint energy” from which all matter arises.
And so the work of the solo practitioner serves the world well.
But when we come together and practice as part of an intentional community… When we serve with fuller, more open hearts, because we have united in purpose, in truth and in awareness itself… the space around us, which becomes illuminated is exponentially larger, and we literally fill the multiverse with that Pure Awareness and Light.
The focus of fire feeding fire is not assimilation, but rather integration. Each bringing that which is uniquely their gift to offer, but forgetting the self, and allowing the common good to be served without losing sight of our individual responsibilities, paths, and insights.
The sangha is an opportunity for bring that insight to the table, where we can offer it freely and with pure love, not out of an egoistic need for recognition, but rather as a simple offering… a spiritual tithe, if you will, to be used by the whole community as fuel, or what Ram Das calls “grist for the mill”.
My Root Guru, Ma Jaya, would tell us that the key to longevity of spiritual practice was to learn how to “drink as you pour”. And that metaphor is simply another metaphor for the Taoist “fire feeding fire”.
“Purify your mind,” Ma would tell us, “with your heart of love.” And when we come together as sangha, that is what we do… We purify our minds, and become One Heart of Love.
There is a Taoist insight that tells us that something is never truly yours until you let it go. And that has, over the years, seemed to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for students I’ve taught.
One of the things the feral wisdom tradition has always included was the experience of the teacher challenging the student’s attachments, in what often appears (to the student) to be an attempt to take away those things they most cherish.
Sometimes, it occurs by appearing to chastise the monastic, who spends more time in front of the TV or their computer, playing, than they do serving the poor, studying the Dharma or engaging in meaningful spiritual practice.
Other times, it involves asking a student to step outside their comfort space, and to undertake a new project with focused intensity, which might mean less time for doing the things they’re accustomed to doing with their spare time.
And then there are times when the opportunity to make a financial commitment to support the Dharma work, or take care of someone in financial need presents itself as that challenge, because it means less money for happy hour, that bag of weed, or the latest tech toy or shopping spree.
And it’s often disappointing to see that when students and monastics, who will always occupy a precious place in the heart of the guru, refuse to let go, and many times, simply walk away from the teaching, or in more extreme and self-sabotaging cases, to sever their connection with the teacher entirely, pretending the teacher was too demanding, or not respectful of their unhealthy, unwholesome choices and lacklustre commitment to personal and spiritual development.
Imagine if you were that you lived somewhere in Middle Earth, as an apprentice to a wise and powerful wizard, who possessed the secrets of the universe, and the key to your never suffering again.
Imagine that this wizard told you that all you would need to have a happy, satisfying and meaningful life was contained in the little silk pouch, he was about to entrust to you.
When you returned to your home, deep in the forest of Spiritual Practice, you opened the pouch, and discovered in it were a handful of seeds, and small piece of paper with the words, “It’s not yours until you let it go…” emblazoned on it.
Now you have a choice…
You can cling to that pouch, containing the greatest and most powerful magic in all the land, and you can hide it where no one else will see it… You will know that you possess the secrets of the universe, and the key to universal happiness. It’s yours. The wizard gave it to you.
You can then go on with your mundane existence, buying things, over-indulging in food, sex, drugs, or whatever, never acknowledging that the only reason you’re doing those things is to either seek some external form of happiness or to avoid having to deal with something you perceive as painful and unpleasant.
And in so doing, you will, in reality, possess nothing.
Or you can do what very few have the wisdom and courage to do…
You can read that scroll of paper, and awaken to the simple truth that in order to truly possess the secrets of the universe, and manifest real happiness in your life and the lives of others, you have to let it go…
You have to drop that handful of seed into the fertile soil of the Dharma, and then nourish it with sunshine (meditation), water (spiritual study with a qualified master) and tend to the soil itself (serving those who are suffering). Only then will those seeds become anything of real value, and provide you with the secrets of the universe.
Fortunately for us, it doesn’t matter if we’ve lost that bag of magical seeds, or somehow betrayed or rejected the qualified teacher, who entrusted them to us. When the time has come for the student to re-engage, and to take their practice to the next level, a truly compassionate and qualified Dharma master will always welcome them back.
So ultimately, as with all things in this life, the responsibility and point of power is within YOU. When you are ready to possess the secrets of the universe, that realisation is within your grasp. You need only be serious enough to get your priorities in order, and be ready to let it all go.
Don’t worry, letting go doesn’t deprive you of your precious recreational time. The television will still be there. And you will have time to watch it. Your bars, your bong and your other recreational diversions will still be ready for you to indulge, if you so desire. Those things will not have changed… But YOU will have changed…
…and that is where the MAGIC begins.
Note: You can plant that first seed by showing your appreciation for and support of our work among the poor, the marginalised and the hurting, by making a donation here.
During the time of spiritual attack or psychic oppression, it can be helpful to call upon the Universal Mind in the form of mantrayana, to restore balance.
Each of us is an energetic being — an expression of the One, Beloved, the Ek Ong Kaar — and as energetic beings, our thoughts take the form of energy.
If you find that a person or persons are consistently directly negative energy your way, creating what is called a spiritual attack or psychic attack, this mantra is a simple, but powerful way to reflect that energy back upon the one or ones from whom it originates.
“Alak Baba Siri Chand Di Rakh”
Yogi Bhajan would teach us that this mantra calls upon the assistance of Baba Siri Chand, who was the son of Guru Nanak, the first Guru of the Sikhs. Baba Siri Chand was a devoted yogi who renounced the world in favour of spiritual practice. I have always had a special affinity for Baba Siri Chand, from my teens onward.
He would accompany me (in my heart)on my walks around the ashram during the periods between 2 AM and 3 AM, when I would begin Kali puja on the Mother’s Path. He would sit with me in my heart when I sat in the Gurdwara and chanted the Mul Mantra on Kashi’s sacred grounds.
Mindful of what’s taking place around me and mine tonight, I lift my voice and chant, “Alak Baba Siri Chand Di Rakh!”