“Keep death always before your eyes.” (Saint Benedict)
One reason why Christian tradition has always steered me away from preoccupation with reincarnation has not so much to do with doctrine as with spiritual practice.
The finality of death is meant to challenge us to decision, the decision to be fully present here now, and so begin eternal life. For eternity rightly under–stood is not the perpetuation of time, on and on; but rather the overcoming of time by the now that does not pass away. We are always looking for opportunities to postpone the decision. That is the human condition and dilemma.
So if you say: “Oh, after this I will have another life and another life,” you might never live, but keep dragging along half dead because you never face death.
Don Juan says to Carlos Castaneda, “That is why you are so moody and not fully alive, because you forget you are to die; you live as if you were going to live forever.”
What remembrance of death is meant to do, as I understand it, is to help us make the decision. Don Juan stresses death as the adviser. Death makes us warriors.
(by Brother David Steindl-Rast, from “Learning to Die”)
Walking the Narrow Road
It is essential to understand that a new synthesis of knowledge as a New Emergent Worldview (N.E.W.) can only occur if we will continue to hold the problem in our mind’s eye in the spirit of humility and deep openness.
And… something we do not and cannot understand… is doing something we know not what. It is an emergent process.
It is facile (easy) to speak of openness and humility. Words are everywhere in this time. All too often we seduce ourselves and think that to express ideas with words is to point towards ourselves as exemplars of those words. We will need to walk our talk and that is never easy or simple. In fact, it is quite uncommon.
Essentially, in regard to this N.E.W– as the New Emergent Worldview, there are very, very few examples.
Essentially, only the very few ‘get it.’ It is not a static wisdom; but a process of emergent evolution of consciousness. It is not some half eyed, dreamily spoken, warmed over love the mother, ecological, back to the earth, love is the answer, feel good magic mantra that is being sold in the marketplaces of modernity. Blah….Blah….Blah.
However, we are definitely moving into that N.E.W. It is a birthing process that is underway. Life will mature this process if it is allowed and encouraged, watered and honored by people just like you the reader.
“Everyone is invited to become; but mis-direction inhibits our becoming.”
The ‘chosen people’ are those that choose to maintain the sacrifice. What is the sacrifice ?? What has it ever been but the self offering itself up on the alter of the true Self for the benefit of all and everything (as the diety, the God of our understanding, Mind, Tao, the ‘Great Mystery,’ consciousness itself. The name is secondary. What is central and most uncommon is to realize within oneself the connection. Perhaps, that is the great higher meaning for all human beings; and perhaps especially so in this period of huge change and transition.
Our real work is our sacrifice. We finally come to understand that deep within each and every moment of one’s life— within each ‘now~ever’ and forever present moment of one’s life, it is possible to make conscious connection between one’s self and that which is transcendent to it.
It seems to me that it is easy to say. Perhaps this is both the most important and difficult achievement of one’s life. For “Life is short and truth is long.” Thus we choose to walk the narrow road. Thus we choose.
Introductory Remarks on Religion and Religio’
Religio’ is a latin word from which our word, “religion” comes from. The word itself (religio’) means to “re-connect, to re-bind” (with our source). I find it useful to consider that I am speaking to you and serving in the role of an educator by pointing to religio’ as well as religion as a concern and focus for my teaching and your edification. I think this is useful.
It seems to me that ALL religions occur within these two conditions and parameters; (1) at a certain period of time (3,000 y/a (years ago), or 2,500 y/a, or 2,000 y/a, or 1,400 y/a; and, (2) within a certain cultural heritage to give people the wisdom and the tools and techniques to be able to do that. In my way of thinking ALL religions are strongly influenced by this period of time in which they originate, and the culture in which they originate from. They are wisdom teachings that are designed to assist people who are seeking under–standing of HOW to re-connect with source. We could call source as “the God of our understanding.” This allows for great diversity of opinion.
Certainly there is also a central figure from whom the teaching was first introduced or revealed. Historically the examples include; but are not limited to: Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Lao Tsu, The Buddha (which is a title not a name). There is always central teachings by the founder; and there is always a book that follows in which the teaching or revelation is contained. This is where we begin to set the stage for controversy and contention. This is the fertile ground for arguments and religious wars in which everyone loses, in my way of thinking.
It seems to me that (for many reasons historically) we do not remember that. We all know that the religious conflicts go back 1000’s of years and have an enormous body of tragic interactions with others. There are many reasons for this.
In our post-modern frame of reference, even speaking about religion is considered naïve by many. Religion (like politics) can be a very controversial subject for discussion. We will want to avoid that at all costs within the classroom environment.
That is one of the reasons why I suggest to you the following thought: “No one is 100% right, or 100% wrong about anything.” That allows us to step aside from our self-righteous attitudes (a condition we encounter all too often in religious conversations) about our religion vs. other people’s religion.
We seek to listen to each other. If we disagree, we are slow to assert our opinion on top of another person’s belief system, or structure of thought. This is respect and speaks loudly to others about who we are. A little phrase that helps me to remember is the following thought: “Listen twice before speaking.” Think about what that means…. ‘to listen twice before speaking.’ It is a useful idea, I assure you.
Please see me as being a facilitator about religio’ rather than religion. I am interested in your growth as a person. Religion is a primary vehicle in which this development can occur. Other means to augment that in our lives may be thought of as psychological or spiritual methods or principles.
Allow me to suggest to you that there is something in us that seeks to become a better person. The difference is in how we consider that. Some want to be successful, or wealthier, or famous. Regardless there is something in us that is striving for a fuller and more comprehensive you. Something in you is seeking to evolve and emerge into higher levels of awareness, consciousness, understanding. The disagreement, it seeks to me, is in how and with what we are aiming at.
May I say also that I am reluctant to speak about what I refer to as, ‘the diety,’ with the word, God. Some of you may find that odd. Let me explain my thinking and seek to justify this to you. When we use the word God, it is all to easy to think that what I mean when I use that word is also what you mean when you use that word. Also, what are we to do when someone concludes that they do not believe that there is a God (as a Being who created the universe).
That idea is further complicated by the fact that our western science is hugely adverse to that supposition. Science can demonstrate quite nicely to itself that the agency of evolution (in the form of mother nature) over four billion years of trial and error worked it out. So our science is in large disagreement with our fundamental religious teachings. This is not a wise idea for a culture– to have your religion in conflict with each other.
Perhaps that is why many wise elders of other cultures have concluded that our present western culture is so obsessed, so driven, with so much inherent conflict, and lacking in direction. We cannot agree where we are going. We do not agree on fundamentals and foundations that are part of any integrated culture over time.
Nothing and no one appears to be ‘driving the bus’ (a metaphor I am fond of) except want, desire, the search for success and power. Certainly, there are people of great wealth and power who hold great influence; but this influence is self-seeking and in non-accord with the greater good of the culture all too often.
I suggest to you that the early years of the 21st century are marked by the need for direction, and authentic leadership
“I am blind and do not see the things of this world; but when the Light comes from Above, it enlightens my heart and I can see, for the Eye of my heart sees everything.
The heart is a sanctuary at the center of which there is a little space, wherein the Great Spirit dwells, and this is the Eye. This is the Eye of the Great Spirit by which He sees all things and through which we see Him.
If the heart is not pure, the Great Spirit cannot be seen, and if you should die in this ignorance, your soul cannot return immediately to the Great Spirit, but it must be purified by wandering about in the world.
In order to know the center of the heart where the Great Spirit dwells you must be pure and good, and live in the manner that the Great Spirit has taught us. The man who is thus pure contains the Universe in the pocket of his heart.”
(by Black Elk, from the book of Joseph Epes Brown, “The Spiritual Legacy of the American Indian”)
“This is the central principle of meditation: we become what we meditate on.” (by Eknath Easwaran)
Commentary: By contemplation, we create pathways and ‘habit tracks’ first in the biological brain and that in the mind. “Nerves that wire together fire together.” We do become what we think about over time, consistently, and with focus, attention, repetition. This is the basis in the success of prayer also.
17 Tools for Living by the Dalai Lama
(1) Realize that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
(2) When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
(3) Follow the three R’s: Respect for one self, Respect for others, and Responsibility for self and others.
(4) Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
(5) Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
(6) Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
(7) When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
(8) Spend some time alone every day.
(9) Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
(10) Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
(11) Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you will be able to enjoy it a second time.
(12) A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
(13) In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
(14) Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
(15) Be gentle with the earth.
(16) Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
(17) Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each.
Give purity to our minds, Aspiration to our hearts, Light to our eyes.
Out of thy grace and bounty, Give us that which thou considers best. Cure the ills of our life.
(by Ansari of Herat, 11th century, Persian Sufi mystic)