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The Dangers of a Too Open Mind

Updated on November 8, 2012

Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri)

This article is taken from a talk by Abbot George Burke, abbot of Light of the Spirit Monastery, located in Cedar Crest, New Mexico. He writes at OCOY.org.

Line drawing by Photios Kontoglou
Line drawing by Photios Kontoglou

Beware the "Great Eraser"

“Behold, a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up.…When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart” (Matthew 13:3,4,19).

This is a picture of a great number of people right now in this world. They hear with their ears and see with their eyes much that is wise and holy, but they seem to have a hole in the back of their head (or heart) where it falls out almost instantly! This is because they are “open all hours” to everything, good and bad, and never question or discriminate as to which is which.

“The wicked one” means some one or some thing that is harmful in the sense of being destructive–destroying by wiping out the very thought or memory of what was learned or seen. The world around us, and those enslaved within it, together make up what we can call The Great Eraser. No matter what gets impressed on our minds and hearts, contact with the Eraser will blank it out. This state is “natural” to us, having prevailed for life after life, until we know of no other.

This is why it is such an utter waste of time to deal with many people spiritually, because it does not matter how good the seed may be, nor does it even matter how interested they are in receiving it, for they are open all hours to The Great Eraser. When they are around people who are spiritual, they listen with great interest and sincerity. They respond positively.

An observer may be impressed and think: “Oh, this is wonderful. See how they are being uplifted. This has been a life-changing experience for them.” And those people would no doubt say the same thing, themselves. If the teacher has not learned from experience, he, too, will be elated and feel that he has helped a seeking soul. But the observer, the taught, and the teacher are all of them mistaken.

Kundry from the opera Parsifal
Kundry from the opera Parsifal | Source

Some people are like Kundry in the Parsifal legend. When Kundry is with the Knights of the Grail she behaves virtuously, and when she is with Klingsor the evil magician she behaves evilly. It is as if she is not a person in her own right at all. She is like a crystal that takes up the color of whatever it is near. Such people are spiritual chameleons. When they are with spiritual people suddenly they think and speak in spiritual perspectives, and in that moment they do move forward in a spiritual manner.

But all they have to do is walk down the street and go into anything from a grocery store to a bar and they will be just like the people there–interested only in worldly, foolish, or destructive things. And just as they so readily listened and talked about spiritual matters, so they will listen and talk about those things with equal (or greater) interest and involvement.

Now the religious people would mistakenly say that they are hypocritical, but they are not. Simply put, they have no definition of their own whatsoever, and consequently are not anything–neither spiritual nor worldly. All the windows and doors of their heart and mind are constantly open and all comers can enter. Symbolically speaking, if a jug band comes in and plays jug band music, that’s what you’ve got–jiving jug band music. If a wandering jazz band comes in and plays jazz, that’s what you’ve got–jazz. If a bunch of religious people come in and sing hymns, then you have hymns. This is the state of someone who is a permanent tabala rasa, a permanent blank slate.

Therefore not only do God, saints, and angels have free access to them, so do Satan, evil people, and demons. They give equal time to everybody–and really to nobody, since nothing lasts with them. It does not make any difference what they learn. They can learn the best things from the greatest teacher, but all they have to do is turn around, walk out the door, and have somebody start talking to them about vitamin-rich Soggy Bread and Soggy Bread fills the horizon of their mind.

They bounce from meditation to new cars; from reincarnation to body-building; from serious philosophy to scuba diving. After a while they think that all this stuff is the same thing. A man once told me that he knew his (expensive) classes in “The Eternal Wisdom” were paying off because he had gotten a divorce, remodeled his house, learned to play the saxophone, and was going on a South American cruise.

Once they turn to another subject, higher spiritual life is forgotten. It is comforting to make excuse for these people say that the seed has been planted, and one day in the future it will take root. But it will not, because it is not there to take root. It is gone. When the seed is taken away, it is taken away, not hidden away.

One of the most dramatic cases of this was a woman who came with her family to our ashram one time, stayed for lunch, and talked with us for quite a while. Just a few weeks later we met her and her husband at a meeting in another town, and she said to the others, “You know, sometime we should go to the ashram.” Everyone was astounded. She did not even remembering having done so already. As I say, the back door of forgetfulness is always open, just like the front door of The Present Moment.

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