A devotional song sung by one of my oldest friends, Seth Bartlett, aka: Dhyana Yogi, with me on tabla. Recorded in 1981.
‘To give your sheep or cows a large,
spacious meadow is the way to control them.’
~ Shunryu Suzuki
You might hear a spiritual seeker, or possibly someone who meditates, say, ‘If only I could control my thoughts, stop my thinking, I could find lasting peace and happiness.’
To paraphrase Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki, if you want to control your sheep or cows give them a large pasture. If you want to control your thoughts, give them a vast space in which to go through their magical dance of appearing, lingering, and disappearing.
If you give your sheep or cow a large pasture, they will not try to break through the fence to find something to eat or a place to run free. They will be happy having such an expanse of land in which to graze, play, and rest.
Ultimately, there is no need to control your thoughts. In what do they appear? A limited, confined space? No, they appear in the unlimited realm of awareness. We think our thoughts are confined to the brain in our head, appearing in our mind, but if this were true, with the number of thoughts we have over the course of a day, month, year, or lifetime, our brains would explode!
All experiences occur in awareness, in which no limits have ever been found. All things, that is, all objects, that occur in awareness, including thoughts and feelings, have limits. There is nothing that we know that doesn’t have a beginning, middle, and an end. Except for awareness itself, the knowing element in all experience.
We don’t actually ‘know’ awareness, as it has no objective qualities and is therefore unknowable.
But awareness knows itself – knowing knows knowing. And at our core, this is who we are, who we all are. We think that we are a body-mind made up of a cluster of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions. And this is true on a relative level, that is, in relationship to other body-minds. But this is how all conflict and unhappiness arise – from the belief that we are separate individuals, who must defend our own particular positions and opinions, which are founded on the false premise that . . . we are separate individuals.
In fact, there are no separate individuals, only unique manifestations of awareness. Set aside your temporary attributes that make up your-body mind, as they are, in the truest sense, not real. Settle into your unshakeable self, that which knows all experience, yet itself is not an experience.
The terms ‘Set aside’ and ‘Settle into’ are a bit misleading. It implies that an action or actions must take place in order to be your, our, unshakable self, which actually takes no effort whatsoever. Think more of a raindrop falling from the sky and melting, dissolving, into the ocean.
‘You can lucid dream, in which you know you’re dreaming, but even then, when you’re lucid dreaming, you still perceive the dreamed world from the localized perspective of the dreamed character. It’s just that you realize the whole thing is taking place in your own mind.’ ~ Rupert Spira
Awareness is to the waking state as the dreamer is to the dream state. In other words, just as the dream is nothing other than a manifestation of the dreamer’s mind, the experience of the body, mind, and world is nothing other than a manifestation of awareness.
If you trace our experience of the body, mind, and world back to its source, you arrive at awareness. That is, if you have experienced the infinite and eternal nature of awareness. If you have a limited view of awareness, you believe that it resides somewhere in your body, or perhaps your mind, and with that belief it follows that all seven point nine billion of us have our own personal awareness. But if you look at our actual experience that is not the case. It’s the opposite.
If everything in a dream is made out of the same stuff, the dreamer’s mind, why isn’t it possible that everything in the waking state is made out of the same stuff, awareness?
Just as the dream world, which seems entirely real to the dreamed character, is a product of the dreamer’s mind, the so-called waking state, the ‘real’ world of the dreamer, is the dream world of awareness and only made of awareness.
In the dream state, the dreamed character thinks that it is moving and acting in its own world of people and objects when, in fact, it is moving in a world created solely by the dreamer. There is nothing there other than the contents of the dreamer’s mind.
In the waking state, we think that we move and act in a world of people and objects when, in fact, we are moving in a world created solely by awareness. There is nothing in our so-called world other than a manifestation of awareness.
Waking up to the truth of our existence in the waking state would be similar to lucid dreaming. i.e., we ‘wake up’ in the dream. Just as we know that we are moving and acting in a dream world when we are lucid dreaming, we know that the waking state is nothing more than objects, selves, and experiences made of awareness.
The dreamed character in a lucid dream has a kernel of the waking state mind – it knows that it is dreaming and can act in a way that is possible in the dream world, e.g., it can manipulate the circumstances, breathe in water, fly, etc.
The character in the waking state contains a kernel of awareness, although this fact is often obscured by thoughts, images, memories, feelings, sensations, and perceptions. Even though this knowing presence never comes and goes, the waking character often associates his or her existence with the temporary, and therefore not real, attributes of the body, mind, and world.
But it’s more than that. It’s not that the dreamed character contains a kernel of the waking state mind, or that the waking state character contains a kernel of awareness, because that would be like saying the clouds contain a patch of sky.
The fact is that everything is made of awareness – the contents of the dream, the body-mind of the dreamer, and the world in which they both appear.
There is only one thing going on, awareness, and we are that.
Die to your false identity as an individual self and rest in peace.
How do you do this?
There is no way.
Which is not very helpful.
So . . .
There is one way.
But no one knows it.
We might make fun those who bemoan, ‘Nothing is sacred anymore,’ but when you look at the present condition of our world, nothing is sacred. With every conceivable experience at our fingertips, there is very little, if anything, left to the imagination. Our lives are inundated with endless images of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The amount of information available, regardless of its accuracy, drives one group in one direction, one group in another, creating seemingly insurmountable division. Everything is overexposed, and in the process, can lose its meaning, its essence, its soul.
But if you look more deeply at our experience, we find that it’s not that nothing is sacred, it’s that no ‘thing’ is sacred.
Searching for peace and happiness, we first look at our objective experience for an answer. After all, this is what we have been taught, conditioned to do – seek our bliss in relationship to things in the world.
All things, all objects, though they might provide momentary pleasure and happiness, are ever-changing, temporary appearances in the world. All ‘things’ come and go, and therefore, even though we might hold a thing, an object, special, it is not sacred, it is not of God, the Absolute, the Divine. God, the Absolute, the Divine, is not a thing.
God, the Absolute, the Divine, has no objective qualities. It is ever-present and unchanging, untouched by any activity of the mind, body, or world.
By setting aside all that is temporary, that is, all objects – thoughts, memories, emotions, sensations of the body, and all perceptions of the world – we are left with our essential being: that which exists prior to, during, and after any appearance of the body, mind, or world has come and gone.
And what is this essential being that remains when all appearances are set aside?
‘Nothing’is truly sacred.
You don’t have to do anything to be nothing, which is what we all are at our core. Or, more accurately, we are no ‘thing’ at our core – our essential being has no objective qualities. It is not a thing. Resting in and as no thing, or nothingness, our true nature is revealed as awareness or consciousness, the knowing presence in all experience that is not itself an experience. A knowing presence that is always here and has no boundaries, whose nature is of peace, because it is undisturbed and unchanging, of happiness, because it is inherently full, and of love, because it is indivisible.
‘Once all our beliefs are uprooted, it’s not really necessary to assert what is true . . . even the assertion that consciousness is infinite and eternal should be thrown away.’ ~ Rupert Spira
All has been said.
Not all has been done.
I hope to see you in the marketplace.
And when our eyes meet for a timeless moment . . .
. . . that we share a smile.
And don’t forget to play, sing, and dance!
Peace, happiness, and love to all
. . . in the Now Year!
You are not the pendulum of change:
Thoughts, moods, sensations, perceptions,
Swinging back and forth, this way and that.
You are that which knows the pendulum of change.
Notice this fact, and you are home:
The Changeless One.
‘If one repeats what he hears from others or read in books, he is not spreading Dharma (the teaching), but adulterating it. In the Orient, we call such a person a “three-inch scholar.” He reads or hears, then speaks, and the distance from the eyes to the mouth or the ears to mouth is about three inches. Those who give lectures or write books on Buddhism with no attainment of inner light are working in vain.’ ~ The Iron Flute (p.26)
This can also be said about people who teach or preach Advaita Vedanta, or any other religious, spiritual, philosophical, or materialist tradition.
I measured, and it’s 5 inches from my ears to my mouth, and 4 inches from my eyes to my mouth. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
I can only conclude that I have a big head.
We like to ask questions, such as: Who? Why? How? What? When? Where?
It could be said that our entire lives are driven by asking questions and finding or not finding their answers. Practical questions aside, as they are necessary for everyday survival, we might be slightly curious or even struggle to find our purpose in life and ask so-called ‘serious’ questions.
Who am I? Why is there suffering? How can I find happiness? What is the meaning of life? When will I know I’m enlightened? Where can I find the answers?
Sit for a moment without asking a question, not even ‘why am I doing this?’
Notice the brief moment of stillness, emptiness, before . . .
. . . a thought arises.
Keenly observe the thought as it appears, lingers for an instant, and then disappears.
It’s like watching the night sky when suddenly a shooting star appears out of seemingly nowhere, streaks across the sky, and vanishes into the darkness.
For the sake of inquiry, you might ask yourself (HA!), in what does the thought appear? In what or where does it linger? And to where does it vanish?
Where could anything appear other than in that which knows all experience, consciousness itself? Where could anything linger other than in consciousness itself? Where could anything vanish other than in consciousness itself?
There is nothing other than consciousness.
Can you find anything outside of consciousness, the knowing presence that exists prior to any appearance in the body, mind, or world?
You can’t. It would be like finding a shooting star outside of the night sky.
Consciousness asks no questions because it is the answer.
Set aside all ideas of who you think you are, what you think of others, of things, of the world, of the Universe, and consciousness will give you, we, the gift of peace, happiness, and love.
No questions asked.
We are the Emptiness
In which Silence resides
And from this Silence
Emerges a Sound
A joyful, rich, fulfilling Sound
Lapping on the shore of our Being
A gentle Touch
Crashing onto the shore of our Being
A full and loving Embrace
Then . . .
Dissolving back into
The Silence . . .
In the Emptiness
Words inspired by Beethoven’s Sonata “Hammerklavier” – Adagio
Heard during the Seven Day Retreat with Rupert Spira, Garrison Institute, October, 2021