Aristotle Tells It Right

April 27, 2010

Aristotle said, “Contemplation is the highest form of activity.”

I agree with him, though I do not know the context in which it was said. However, I do know that the highest activity of a human being is awareness of God. This activity alone liberates a person from the bondage of mundane life.

You might object and say that awareness is not an activity, and you’d be right. But the activity is found in the returning again and again to awareness itself until the mind is finished and it collapses into its source.

You may also question my use of the word “God”. God is. Not as a belief or a concept, but as life itself. To become aware of the is-ness of life is to become aware of how divinity permeates everything, everywhere and exists as everything, everywhere.

This kind of contemplation may start with wondering about the form of God as an embodied deity, or it may begin with a contemplation of your own inherent divinity. It may begin with an awareness of you emotional states or intense mental considerations about the nature of life. There is no set path.

But continued, relentless inquiry will lead you to deeper and deeper appreciation of the cosmic order in life. A physicist or biologist will come to the same conclusion – that with each deeper level of creation there is more order and power.

This contemplation on the order in life – its perfection – will lead you to recognise your own order and perfection. Life is already magnificent and divine. The highest form of activity is contemplation on this truth, because in time you will realise its truth and the truth will set you free.

Let me give you an example. This week a friend of mine from high school died in what appears to be a self-induced event. Apparently he was depressed. From a localised point of view it is not a happy situation. But from a cosmic point of view there is no mistake.

“You grieve for those for whom there should be no grief, yet speak as do the wise. Wise men grieve neither for the dead nor for the living.” Bhagavad Gita 2.11

The cosmic point of view frees us from fear, doubt and the mistaken notion that something is wrong. Yes, it is true that suicide is a sad situation, but it is also true that if you resist any happening in life then you will remain resentful, bitter, confused, fearful or numb until you make your peace with it.

The Fruit of Maya

April 25, 2010

Questioner: What is the fruit of Maya?
Ramana Maharshi: That it fruitlessly vanishes into nothing, is its fruit.

Warren Buffett’s Spiritual Secret

April 23, 2010

Warren Buffett’s son, Peter Buffet, has written a book called Life is What You Make It-Find Your Own Path To Fulfillment. Here is part of a review:

For me one of the most touching observations that the author makes about his dad, was that he witnessed how he would sometimes go into an altered state, a “trance,” emerging with “an almost saintly calm.”

He has also likened his father’s endless hours of financial analysis to a rabbi or monk studying religious writings.

In these examples of profound influences on his life, we learn how the degree of our worldly successes greatly depends on the depth of our inward journey, and that what he calls “making life” means getting to the depths of your own creative potential so that people want to touch the work you make because the truth is irresistible.

Sitting in the Middle of the Seesaw

April 21, 2010

Following on from my post in December about values, I’ve been thinking about how we judge others according to our own values.

For a long time I looked at others through the lens of my spiritual values. If people weren’t seeking the “Kingdom of Heaven within” then I felt they were wasting their lives – selling a diamond for the price of spinach – and mentally I condemned them.

Over time I decided that my point of view was reasonable (I’m sure everyone thinks their view is reasonable!) but my attitude was wrong. There is no need to condemn anybody, no need to be self-righteous.

Frequently, I meet people who judge me according to their values. It is only natural and I don’t blame them – I do it myself. But now I see the pain that judgement brings – the duality of success/failure, rich/poor, fat/thin, intelligent/stupid. It instantly creates a life of boundaries and fears for the person who sees life this way.

When we say this is good and that is bad, then we create the tendency to run away from bad and chase good. The problem is that just by making these distinctions we make our lives divided, troubled and restless. The knowledge of good and evil takes us out of the Garden of Eden.

So what do you do if you are faced with something you don’t like? Like alcoholism in yourself or another, or criticism, or the shape of your ears? Simple. Dr D. says to write a list of 20-1000 reasons why the thing you don’t like benefits you. Write why it supports your highest values. You may be thinking that there are no benefits, but there are. There are always benefits.

There are many people who will say that the best thing that ever happened to them was being fired or a heart-attack or being dumped or beaten-up. It’s just a matter of getting a helpful perspective. You don’t have much choice in the matter. Either see it in a good light or be bitter and resentful. How do you want to feel?

So how do you want to feel about your cauliflower ears? Writing out a few benefits will quickly change your attitude. Perhaps your ears makes you less judgemental of others, more compassionate, less vain, makes you look beyond appearances, challenges you to learn how to accept things, shifts your focus to more important things in life, lets people know about your interest in rugby….

After a few reasons you’ll think that they’re not good or bad, that they just are. But if you write lots of reasons you’ll become grateful – so grateful that you will feel blessed and wouldn’t want it any other way.

This method applies to any aspect of life that we resist. It takes time and effort, but it is worthwhile. Being able to see the good in the bad and the bad in the good will neutralize any polarity. And when you are no longer bound by these dualities, then you will find a freedom that you have never known before.

Serving Makes You Happy

April 16, 2010

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve. – Albert Schweitzer

I really like this quote. And a few thoughts came to mind about it recently. A person who is self-righteous will not see the value in serving others except for their own benefit. They will look down upon those whom they seek to serve, with pity, and see them as inferior. Such a person who overvalues him or herself will be distrustful, contracted and independent. They will be cynical and pessimistic.

A person who is the opposite, self-wrongeous, will minimise his or herself and will see more value in others than they see in themselves. They will support and promote others while neglecting their own needs and desires. They will trust others too quickly, be too open and quite dependent. They will see others as superior and feel a lack of self-value in themselves. They are prone to fantasy and unjustified optimism.

The balance is someone who feels equal with others – neither above nor below. They recognise that the traits of others are their own traits too, no matter how good or bad those characteristics may be. They will look at a vile person and know, “In some way I am vile too and in equal measure.” To a kind person, “The kindness I see in them is a reflection of my own self.” Such a person knows that you can’t see qualities in others that you don’t have yourself.

To find all the characteristics of humanity in yourself is to be able to relate to other people; without fear, judgement, resentment or infatuation. To relate to a child you must be familiar with the child-like part within you, to relate to a violent person you need to own your own violent tendencies.

Being able to truly serve others is thus a matter of equality. Looking down upon the people you wish to uplift only reinforces the inequality. Many attempts to serve others are in fact tinged with self-serving. Altruism has its roots in shame and guilt – a void in ourselves that we try to fill with good-doings. Notice how your altruistic tendencies only extend to the matters that are meaningful to you in some way. You may have a soft spot for homeless people, but not give a stuff about saving whales.

When a person is in balance and is not trying to fill the deficits in their personality, instead of trying to purchase a good feeling by giving something for nothing, they look for fair-exchange – a trade between equals that is mutually empowering. Their motives arise from the natural desire of the soul, rather than from personal limitations and a desire for self-gratification.

Balanced service comes from a state of fullness overflowing. When your heart is full and your mind is poised and your vision is balanced you may be inspired to serve in some way – whether that is actively participating in some cause or quietly demonstrating an enlightened life. Either way you will know that the world is not waiting for you to save it (it is not about you) nor is the world lacking divine order.

Notwithstanding the above, no matter what rotten subconscious motives there may be, any kind of service to others is a worthy and admirable action and, as Mr Schweitzer says, it will make you happy.

Pow! Right Between the Eyes

April 13, 2010

Nisargadatta dishes out the facts about reality:

We dream that we are awake, we dream that we are asleep. The three states are only varieties of the dream state. Treating everything as a dream liberates. As long as you give reality to dreams, you are their slave. By imaging that you are born as so and so, you become a slave to the so-and-so. The essence of slavery is to imagine yourself to be a process, to have past and future, to have history.

Maharishi on the Absolute

April 12, 2010

This is one of my favourite videos of Maharishi in which he explains the difference between the absolute of Vedanta and Purusha and Prakriti of Samkhya. Fascinating.

Transformation: A Loser’s Game

April 11, 2010

I am continuing to suffer from what the French call “esprit d’escalier” or staircase wit. This phase has its origins in the apartment blocks of France in which residents would pass each other on the stairs and exchange remarks only to think of a clever reply after the moment had passed and they were further up the stairs.

My two-and-a-half hour conversation with Dr John Demartini fits this description. As he described his conceptual model of life – that life is a continual process of transformation – in my mind I heard him describing what is called in Vedanta “Parinamvada” – the theory of transformation. Dr Demartini says that life is an ever-continuing movement between being and becoming. He says that as soon as you sort out your problems and see the balance, more come along, knock you off balance and motivate you to continue growing.

As far as life appears, I consider this to be an accurate theory. However, I told Dr Demartini that I considered it to be a loser’s game. It’s a game you cannot win. My afterthought to illustrate my point is the old carrot and stick. You are always enticed by the carrot and encouraged by the stick. The carrot represents our belief that life will somehow be better with change – ie in the future. But just because life has transformed, doesn’t mean that it is better.

Dr Demartini realised that as a chiropractor he was not taking people’s pain go away. He was just shifting the pain from their spine to their finances or to some responsibility that their injury had freed them from. Life doesn’t get better, it just transforms and positives and negatives are always balanced.

Let me ask you, if you owned a business that had $100 million in revenue and $100 million in losses – how would you feel about it? You’d feel elated if you only saw the gains or depressed if you overstated the losses. If your perceptions show anything other than perfect balance then you enter a lie – and corresponding emotions follow.

According to Dr Demartini when we balance our perceptions and see that losses and gains are equal, then we get promoted to a new level of problems. Eventually we get a business that is making $200 million profit and $200 million in losses. Are you better off? Has all the work and effort been worth it? Is life better, or just transformed?

In my mind, there is little difference. It is like asking which is worth more: $1000 worth of gold or $1000 worth of toothpaste.

In the Vedanta school, once we have become disillusioned with ceaseless, profitless, treadmill transformation, then we open ourselves to the opposite, balancing view: that life is not fulfilled by transformation, but by knowing its origin – the changeless Self.

This direct view is called Vivartavada in Vedanta. I described it in an essay I did at university. [The snake and the string analogy is this: imagine walking into a room and out the corner of your eye you see a snake, but on closer inspection it is only a piece of string and the snake was only a mistaken perception.]

This process of creation, of transformation and evolution, is called Parinamvad. It is the theory that Reality is found by growing from a lower level of awareness to a greater level of awareness. Parinamvad is a principle that is true from the point of view of an individual with a “localized, partial memory.”

Parinamvad is superseded by Vivartvad. “Vivartvad is the principle of seeing the reality.” In the famous Vedic analogy of the snake and the string, Parinamvad declares that the snake is real and it emerged from the string in a sequential and scientific way. Virartvad says that the snake is entirely unreal and at no time did it ever exist.

The statement “Manifest diversity is unmanifest – there is nothing else” is explained by the theory of Vivartvad. It is equivalent to saying, “The snake is not real – there is nothing but a rope.”

One may object and say that reality is different at different levels of consciousness. But this is as true as the snake. All the theories and proofs in the world declaring the reality of the relative aspect of creation are equivalent to declarations that the snake is real and has its own independent reality. All such theories belong to Parinamvad. Parinamvad has an infinitude of truths that validate it, each according to the innumerable contexts that they may presented in. But Vivartvad is ultimately the real truth and is not dependent on any context. Ultimately, there is one truth and one state of consciousness – Brahman Consciousness.

The kicker is that most people are not fit to look directly at the snake – they’re so convinced that it is real and that the fear and anxiety are justified. For such people, therapy is recommended: mantra, meditation, exercise etc to purify the mind enough so they have the presence of mind to look directly at the “snake”.

Anyway, back to Dr Demartini. The problem with eternal transformation is that there is no real rest and no realisation that life is ever-unstarted.

After Dr Demartini described his ever-changing model of existence, I asked him where the ever-unchanging was. He is a smart man and pointed to the fact that the transforming nature of life doesn’t change (ie everything changes except the fact that it is changing). I’d heard this point before – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi pointed it out to a depressed existentialist. It wasn’t until I was further up the staircase did I find words to rebut Dr Demartini’s observation.

Yes, there is the ever-changeless aspect of the ever-changing world, but this is more like an adjective than a noun – it is like a principle that describes an actuality. I was pointing at opposite to the actuality. The opposite to the actuality of ever-transforming life (and its dynamic play between the manifest and unmanifest) is the never transformed, never started, never related, unknowable Nirguna Brahman as described by the sage Ashtavakra in his final verse:

“There is no being or non-being, no unity or dualism. What more is there to say? There is nothing outside of me.” 20.14

The advantage of knowing the changeless outside of the changing is freedom from the changing. This is the winner’s game. If you don’t know the unchanging, then you remain bound to the changing. This is a kind of infatuation – a belief that it has something to offer you – a dependency if you will. It is a dependency on the Matrix, divine order and on God.

Nirguna Brahman is freedom from everything. But that doesn’t mean life goes away – you still have to brush your teeth and eat your porridge. It’s just that life is viewed from an entirely different perspective.

The Lips of Hermes are Closed

April 9, 2010

The following exerpt is taken from The Three Initiates commentary on The Kybalion – an ancient Hermetic text that can be downloaded here.

There is one more matter of which we desire to speak in this lesson, and that comes very near to an invasion of the Metaphysical field of speculation, although our purpose is merely to show the futility of such speculation. We allude to the question which inevitably comes to the mind of all thinkers who have ventured to seek the Truth. The question is: “WHY does THE ALL create Universes?” The question may be asked in different forms, but the above is the gist of the inquiry.

Men have striven hard to answer this question, but still there is no answer worthy of the name. Some have imagined that THE ALL had something to gain by it, but this is absurd, for what could THE ALL gain that it did not already possess? Others have sought the answer in the idea that THE ALL “wished something to love;” and others that it created for pleasure, or amusement; or because it “was lonely”; or to manifest its power; — all puerile explanations and ideas, belonging to the childish period of thought.

Others have sought to explain the mystery by assuming that THE ALL found itself “compelled” to create, by reason of its own “internal nature” — its “creative instinct.” This idea is in advance of the others, but its weak point lies in the idea of THE ALL being “compelled” by anything, internal or external. If its “internal nature,” or “creative instinct,” compelled it to do anything, then the “internal nature” or “creative instinct” would be the Absolute, instead of THE ALL, and so accordingly that part of the proposition falls.

And, yet, THE ALL does create and manifest, and seems to find some kind of satisfaction in so doing. And it is difficult to escape the conclusion that in some infinite degree it must have what would correspond to an “inner nature,” or “creative instinct,” in man, with correspondingly infinite Desire and Will.

It could not act unless it Willed to Act; and it would not Will to Act, unless it Desired to Act; and it would not Desire to Act unless it obtained some Satisfaction thereby. And all of these things would belong to an “Inner Nature,” and might be postulated as existing according to the Law of Correspondence.

But, still, we prefer to think of THE ALL as acting entirely FREE from any influence, internal as well as external. That is the problem which lies at the root of difficulty — and the difficulty that lies at the root of the problem.

Strictly speaking, there cannot be said to be any “Reason” whatsoever for THE ALL to act, for a “reason” implies a “cause,” and THE ALL is above Cause and Effect, except when it Wills to become a Cause, at which time the Principle is set into motion. So, you see, the matter is Unthinkable, just as THE ALL is Unknowable.

Just as we say THE ALL merely “IS ” — so we are compelled to say that “THE ALL ACTS BECAUSE IT ACTS.” At the last, THE ALL is All Reason in Itself; All Law in Itself; All Action in Itself — and it may be said, truthfully, that THE ALL is Its Own Reason; its own Law; its own Act — or still further, that THE ALL; Its Reason; Its Act; is Law; are ONE, all being names for the same thing.

In the opinion of those who are giving you these present lessons, the answer is locked up in INNER SELF of THE ALL, along with its Secret of Being. The Law of Correspondence, in our opinion, reaches only to that aspect of THE ALL, which may be spoken of as “The Aspect of BECOMING.” Back of that Aspect is “The Aspect of BEING,” in which all Laws are lost in LAW; all Principles merge into PRINCIPLE and THE ALL; PRINCIPLE; and BEING; are IDENTICAL, ONE AND THE SAME.

Therefore, Metaphysical speculation on this point is futile. We go into the matter here, merely to show that we recognize the question, and also the absurdity of the ordinary answers of metaphysics and theology.

In conclusion, it may be of interest to our students to learn that while some of the ancient, and modern, Hermetic Teachers have rather inclined in the direction of applying the Principle of Correspondence to the question, with the result of the “Inner Nature” conclusion, — still the legends have it that HERMES, the Great, when asked this question by his advanced students, answered them by PRESSING HIS LIPS TIGHTLY TOGETHER and saying not a word, indicating that there WAS NO ANSWER.

But, then, he may have intended to apply the axiom of his philosophy, that: “The lips of Wisdom are closed, except to the ears of Understanding,” believing that even his advanced students did not possess the Understanding which entitled them to the Teaching.

At any rate, if Hermes possessed the Secret, he failed to impart it, and so far as the world is concerned THE LIPS OF HERMES ARE CLOSED regarding it. And where the Great Hermes hesitated to speak, what mortal may dare to teach?

But, remember, that whatever be the answer to this problem, if indeed there be an answer — the truth remains that: “While All is in THE ALL, it is equally true that THE ALL is in All.” The Teaching on this point is emphatic. And, we may add the concluding words of the quotation: “To him who truly understands this truth, hath come great knowledge.”

One Over Infinity

April 8, 2010

During our discussion on reality, Dr Demartini introduced me to this mathematical concept:


I understand this to represent limitless fractions. Using my own rudimentary interpretation, I consider it to be a relative statement. Just like the spinning top in the previous article it ranges on a spectrum from very slow to very high spinning speeds. The point is that fractions are on a spectrum that is relative to other points on the spectrum. All fractions are relative concepts. Reality is better described with absolute concepts.

How do we make the quantum jump from the relative to the absolute? Basically by denying the appearance and affirming the truth. For example, we see the Sun rise in the east and set in the west everyday. The relative point of view is that the Sun moves across a spectrum. The absolute point of view is that the Sun does not move at all.

The absolute view requires that we deny our senses and the opinions of all casual observers and affirm what were know to be reasonable and right. This is not a leap of faith. It is a process of looking very carefully at your own subjective position to determine that you are moving, not the Sun.

Questioning your own subjective experience to find the absolute reality is called self-inquiry in the Vedic tradition.

In terms of the ‘one over infinity’ example, the absolute values are 0 and 1. The fractions lie in between 0 and 1 and approach, but never reach, the absolute limits. Since we do not have two infinities, the 0 takes precedent (ie we have no infinity) and trumps the value of 1. So we are back to the idea that 0 (the Sun doesn’t move) is real and 1 (the Sun moves) is neither real nor unreal, but just an appearance.

Dr Demartini tried to tell me that people do not get enlightened – meaning to a point in which everything is finished. He says that people only get glimpses but then continue on their path of transformation. I agree and disagree. He is right to the extent that dis-identification is an ever-deepening process. But I don’t think he really meant it like that.

I think his point of view is more like the one-over-infinity, sun-moves-across-the-sky relative point of view. Yes, the Sun comes out from behind the clouds from time to time on its daily walk and gives us a glimpse of the Source, but in my mind the knowers of reality know the truth about the Sun regardless of the time or weather – for them it is constant, not an experiential, localised, personal glimpse.

The enlightened point of view is heliocentric rather than geocentric.