Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Living Accordingly - Life as "Practice"

"You cannot be half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all".

- Therese of Leisieux

When St. Therese wrote those words, she was not declaring herself a "saint", or saying that we can "become" saints, but pointing out that we must strive to reach the top of the mountain, and not be satisfied with half way up. In Spirituality there can be no half-way measures.

Therese of Leisieux knew from an early age that loving God, either thorough direct worship, or through service to "others", had to be a whole hearted endeavor. She gave her life very early to the singular worship and service to God. But it's not only Christian Saints who recognize that full devotion to the "task at hand"; the seeking, the longing for "closeness" to the source, is what is required. Similar to Paul's call in Philippians 2 to " out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you", the Buddha said “Be a lamp unto yourself. Work out your liberation with diligence.” Diligence, like Nisargadatta Maharaj's often used word; earnestness is at the heart of the spiritual search, and a constant in the Spiritual Life.

What does earnestness in the Spiritual Life mean? What does it mean to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling? Earnestness and diligence are both words that speak of constant, serious attention. That's all. This sounds simple until you look closely at another passage from the Bible; Mark 12:

"The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."

"All thy heart". "All thy soul". "All thy mind" "All thy strength". That's it. That's what is required for "salvation" or "liberation"; Loving "God" in "thyself" and in thy "neighbor", and consequently in all things, sentient or otherwise.

The "fear and trembling" mentioned in Paul's letter, refers to the inability of the mind to understand the workings of the heart. I go into this in another blog: Nebulous Clarity ( ), but to put it simply, nebulous clarity refers to the state of acceptance of understanding, without the ability to articulate it to others or yourself. This "living without understanding" is the heart of sacrifice and acceptance. It is here, in the fear and trembling, that the conviction is tested. Do you live and move with the conviction that you are Love itself? Can you let the mind live in fear and trembling long enough for it to trust the heart? This is where earnestness and fearlessness come in. A single minded attention to the reality that you are is essential.

The Buddha, Nisargadatta Maharaj, and Saint Therese had many things in common, but among the foremost was their single minded attention to the "reality" that they were. They did this, not by simply meditating, or engaging in recollection or prayer, but by living a life that was an integrated whole with their "spiritual understanding". Your "spiritual life" cannot be a separate life from your "daily life". Just as Therese says "you can not be half a saint", you can't be half in and half out of the spiritual life. You are either in it or not. The lives of these three "saints" of spirituality were a living testimony to their words. They all were of different "faiths" or "paths", but they were one in devotion, "earnestness", if you will forgive me one more time!

Living a life in "non-duality" does not require leaving behind the life you have. That would be duality. What is required is "integration". No matter how "non-spiritual" your life may seem, the Absolute, "God's" Love is all around you, flows through you, is you, and is available at all times and in all things. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, a Carmelite Monk, is described in his famous work "The Practice of the Presence of God" as having an "aversion" to kitchen work, but used his work as a way of loving the Lord:

"So, likewise, in his work in the kitchen (to which he had, at first, a great aversion), having accustomed himself to do everything there for the love of God and asking for His grace to do his work well, he had found everything easy during the fifteen years he had been employed there. He was very well pleased with the post he was now in. Yet, he was as ready to quit that as the former, since he tried to please God by doing little things for the love of Him in any work he did. With him the set times of prayer were no different from other times. He retired to pray according to the directions of his superior, but he did not need such retirement nor ask for it because his greatest labor did not divert him from God."

Living the truth; living as if we believe what the sages tell us is a great start. Nisargadatta says: "'If you trust me, believe when I tell you that you are the pure awareness that illumines consciousness and its infinite content. Realize this and live accordingly." Live accordingly! This little statement, almost tacked on at the end, contains the method, the "practice" recommended by Nisargadatta. He goes on to state that if you don't believe him, you should engage in self inquiry and the "I am". But the "live accordingly" remains. Whether you trust the Guru, or find yourself on "your own", the living out the realization, is the realization.

A life of sacrifice need not be a life of pain or suffering, although that too will come, but it is a life of rejection of "personal" wants and desires in favor of universal Love. It is living in acceptance of nebulous clarity, and constant service to the reality that is beyond your mind's conception. The courage to live "as if" you understand, "as if" you always are "ready", always in the flow, is what is required for that "understanding", and even that "courage" to happen. For the "potential energy"; Love, to flow, there must be a connection to the truth, and a means to "express" it. The truth is in the expression, as that is all that exists in reality. We must give all we have. We must disappear, as must the "other", be it God, man or world, all that matters is the expression; the loving. The living.

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