Saturday, November 13, 2010

Non-Duality, Poverty and the Cross

I wrote a blog recently regarding the charging of money for spiritual teaching. In that blog, I pointed out that the Spiritual teacher may need to learn to embrace poverty. Without bringing up all that again, a question was asked regarding poverty as a "virtue". While I may not categorize poverty, itself as a virtue, the total acceptance of it, should it come, is a most welcome attitude on the spiritual search.

A point that can't be made too often, is that to "be" awareness, a life must be led that embraces the freedom and the acceptance of whatever that "brings". No matter your religion, or philosophical system, or total lack of either, what these things work in your life is what is felt. You can not say you are free if you still have concerns over worldly security. Lest you think that this is simply a Western, Christian concept, coming from a former Monk, let me quote from the senior lecturer in Religious Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, Kapil N. Tiwari. In his book; Dimensions of Renunciation in Advaita Vedanta, Mr. Tiwari writes:

Renunciation as linked with uncovering Jnana results in turning the concern of man away from external things to the essential inner nature by accomplishing (that by which) which everything else is accomplished. Jnana and renunciation take place simultaneously as one of the Upanisads (The Brhadaranyaka) says:

"Verily, after they have found this soul, the Brahmanas cease from desiring children, from desiring possessions, from desiring the world, and wander about as beggers"

Sankara bases his whole philosophy on this foundation. He quotes the following texts to support the above contention:

"The knower of Brahman attains freedom from all fear." "when all desires occupying his heart, fall off entirely, then indeed, does the mortal become immortal."

Reason itself declares that, the less there is to distract, the more the heart, soul, and mind can dwell in the present awareness. But we fool ourselves. We think we can entertain distractions. Just as I was saying that teachers need to free themselves of the need to ask for donations, the seeker must not fool themselves in terms of thoughts of security. The non-dual teaching requires living it out, not just philosophical discourse, meditation, or study. The life you have, the life you see before you, is the awareness if you are really willing to see it. This takes conviction. Not just a positive attitude, but a willingness to lay down everything and follow. So many stop at the intellectual understanding. They get to that place of nebulous clarity, that place where the only next step is the step off the cliff into the unknown. They know what is required, but the mind comes in and tells them that there is nothing there, that they must keep searching, find a new Guru, read a different text or any number of other reasons not to take that step, that act of total love that will bring them home.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we find this idea played out between Jesus and the wealthy young ruler:

Matthew 19:

16And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

17And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

18He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

19Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

20The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

21Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

22But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

23Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

24And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

25When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?

26But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

"But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions." This is really at the heart of the problem. We have things we don't want to let go of. Not just possessions, or even security (although how many have even done that?), but the need for the mind to have control. We have to face the fact that all we believe ourselves to be must be offered up. We are momentary waves in a universal ocean. We must be willing to give up our "wave-ness" in order to "be" ocean. All this takes is earnestness; that serious, single minded, whole hearted, unwavering willingness; that is surrender.

That brings me to the final part of the title of this note; the Cross. Many people have asked me, in view of Advaita, non-duality, or awareness, how does the Cross fit in. Many are aware that Christ taught a form of non-dual awareness, but do not see the meaning or purpose for the crucifixion in any advaita sense. Whether one is a believer or not, the Cross is significant in that it points to surrender. Whether for a Christian or an Advaitin, surrender is the key that opens the door to understanding. When the mind had reached it's limit of understanding, and surrenders to the heart, a whole new, unspoken understanding floods the open mind and heart. The Cross speaks of complete surrender, acceptance of fear, acceptance of death. The "letting go" needed in advaita is no less. Surrender to this "death" of the mind, and "resurrect" to the freedom you have always had.

Renunciation, the Cross we must bear. To be open to all, we must be free of concern for tomorrow. In response to my note on Spiritual Teachers, I was told that this was why they needed to charge for teaching. My response was that this view shows no trust in the unfolding. To trust in the unfolding is to be part of it. Renunciation frees us, not what we have laid aside. Our peace must not depend on well laid plans, but a willingness to surrender unto death. Non-Duality requires more than talk, but a willingness give up all we hold for all we are.

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