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Great Spiritual Teachers of the East
Flight Towards Freedom
Making Sense of Religion
spiritual journey towards Absolute Truth and awakening to one’s true nature
is a uniquely personal experience. Today, with internet, Youtube and book shops exclusively stocking written works of a spiritual nature, more than at any other time in history people have access to the many paths and approaches to the truth that
exist on this diverse and beautiful planet. It used to strike me as regretfully ironic how the truth is always pointing towards unity, love, and
compassion and yet somehow we allow religion to become a divisive force in our lives
and in the world. Nowadays analysis of right and wrong in terms of the way the world should be seems futile.
Personally, I was brought up with a relaxed Christian background. I believed in God as a benevolent being to whom the greatest respect should be given. God though remained a nebulous figure, for I was deeply suspicious of the pictures painted of ‘Him’ in the Old and New Testament – ‘He’ was too threatening and judgmental to love unconditionally. Ideas of God being jealous of anything or favoring those collectively huddling under a particular banner seemed absurd and insulting. As a kid I remember hearing certain passages from the bible that rang with the sweet perfume of truth , ‘Love thy neighbor’, ‘Let he who has no sin cast the first stone’, and ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. It was obvious that the world would be a vastly different place if we could live by these few gems of advice alone.
resolve these contradictions, I discarded the fear driven stuff of the bible
and formed my own notions about God, and managed to convince myself that
despite great evidence to the contrary there must be some universally loving
and trustworthy Source behind the existence of the universe. But why did this
Source of all things remain so persistently silent amidst the mayhem, injustice
and violence that appeared on the TV screen every night at 6 p.m.?
Great Spiritual Teachers
Mindfulness and Meditation Practice
A Garden of Spiritual Paths
At around 15 I decided to have a look at some doctrines from the mystical, ancient land of India. I began with the Bhagavad-Gita and found it hard going to be honest. The statement, “The power of God is with you at all times; through the activities of mind, senses, breathing, and emotions; and is constantly doing all the work, using you as a mere instrument”, was hard to appreciate at the time. If God was doing all this stuff, stuff that I thought I was doing, including wagging school, smoking weed, and getting a C in math then something was seriously awry. Other gems struck a chord: “The senses have been conditioned by attraction to the pleasant and aversion to the unpleasant: a man should not be ruled by them; they are obstacles in his path.” By now it was pretty obvious that greed and fear were responsible for most of the suffering in the world and this quote nailed that truth as far as I was concerned.
While I was still in my ‘India phase’ I picked up a copy of ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramahansa Yogananda and found it immensely entertaining, replete with tales of mystics who could project their consciousness out of their bodies and return at will. It was this book that sparked an interest in consciousness as a phenomenon with which to experiment. The power of attention and the notable changes in perception that occurred when attention was harnessed and focused was quite a discovery. A swag of books on meditation began to fill my shelves - at this time I was also studying for my high school exams and found the ability to concentrate for long periods very helpful. It was Lawrence LeShan’s, “How to Meditate”, that was of the most practical benefit at that time; a no nonsense overview of various types of meditation.
my uni days I gave my obsession with reading spiritual literature a bit of a
break and immersed myself in academia, girls and parties, soaking up the shamelessly hedonistic lifestyle.
The seeker’s quest began again when I graduated from uni and the reality of office work and it’s intrinsically de-spiriting nature sank in - like a man who sits in a cell and contemplates his sentence and how he will survive it, I pondered what 35 years in suit and tie behind a desk would do to me. And so began my Buddhist Period – first Zen and then Tibetan. I think I used to kid myself how much I really understood when reading Zen in the early days. I liked the sparseness of it and the word Zen itself held an allure for me. The message of Zen masters like Dogen was often deeply encrypted and I arrogantly enjoyed the feeling of Zen being hardcore and not for the soft seeker of the truth. Many of the Zen teachers were indeed hardcore – the wonderful Huang Po didn’t mince words and emphatically stated time and again that all conceptual thought must end if freedom is to be found. It was in Tibetan teachers like Chogyam Trungpa and Sogyal Rimpoche with whom I connected more intimately, with their candid discussions of the workings of the mind and the removing of obstacles that confuse and dim perception.
A girl I was dating at work gave me a book by the curious Indian philosopher, Krishnamurti – I think it was ‘Flight of the Eagle’. I was so impressed by the razor sharp logic with which he approached the subject of freedom that I proceeded to work my way through everything he had written ending with ‘The First and Last Freedom.’ Krishnamurti was unswerving in his rejection of authority figures including gurus, and suggested that the only way of arriving at the truth was through the negation of the false using the powers of attention to observe oneself in relationship with life beyond the veil of conditioning. I was in my early 20s by this stage and could no longer bear the confines of my office job and left for a life on the road, beginning in Mumbai, India.
found myself living in Thailand
years later, I dedicated quite a bit of time to studying and practicing Theravada
Buddhism and have completed several meditation retreats here. I had no idea how
intense they would be - meditating all day and half the night – watching the
mind as a witness and finding no entity there behind the doors of perception. A natural curiosity burned within to investigate what I was not- the body, name, memories, or the
identification with an endless stream of thoughts all vying for attention like
noisy little children. But to turn one's attention to what is behind all of this –
this nameless witness, still and quiet and without judgment – to keep one's attention on that is daunting - a razors edge.
In recent years I’ve found teachers like Eckhart Tolle, Sri Nisargadatta, Ramana Maharshi, Papaji, and Mooji enormously inspiring and offering a valuable perspective on discovering who one really is behind the veil of this dream-like existence. They share a core message which is simply this - not to underestimate the power of attention, to bear witness to life with an open mind that seeks nothing for itself, only to look and see what is there beyond our conditioning, beyond identification with thoughts, beyond I, me, mine.
guess I've been a willing participant of spiritual shopping and have tried on
all sorts of spiritual garb which seemed to fit for a while, and then like
fashion, felt after a time inappropriate, but I think up to a point that this is
just fine. I have learned a lot from the many wonderful teachers along the way.
Why limit ourselves? I
have faith in the counsel of the enlightened that the Divine, God, the Source, Buddha Nature, the Void, the Tao…..appears when one bears
affectionate witness to the world that appears before one, remaining silent
and still within, attaching to no-thing and burning the flame of attention with
relentless persistence. It seems that the dream character or ego will always be denied admission to this eternal playground of pure consciousness.
For some, the search for a metaphysical truth beyond our current knowledge of the
physical universe is not a pressing concern.There's so much to be explored and tasted in this world that to return to the unmanifest is undesirable and premature for many of us. It seems to be suffering that drives us to look beyond the ephemeral and a lot of beings are enjoying favorable circumstances, happily dancing and being part of the ongoing collective act of creation.
Seeing the glaring hypocrisies in humankind’s religious institutions, some cynically reject religion altogether, and that’s a totally understandable position too. Everyone is right from their own standpoint.
More than ever before, quantum physicists and metaphysicians are going down the rabbit hole together in the spirit of discovery, which is very cool, and it will be interesting to see where it leads.