Thursday, May 5, 2011

Getting off your Spiritual Backside

Yesterday I listened to a young Spiritual teacher on internet radio. 'Advaita speak " and little else. Later I listened to a well known teacher with a large following and a huge "Shanga ". He was asked about how to respond to life under a government he disapproved of, and found went against his spiritual principals. The teacher went on and on with more non-dual parroting and a admonition that one should never resort to anger, but see it all as a "reflection of yourself".

After the disappointment of those two, I encountered a picture and article of the Dalai Lama wearing a USC baseball cap, and seemingly justifying the killing of Osama Bin Laden. It occurred to me to get out of this spiritual "teaching " thing altogether, if this was the kind of "bedfellows " I was to be associated with.

When I see spiritual teachers, especially those who either simply parrot what they have read, or claim some "special " method exclusive to their teaching, I don't doubt why so many quickly build up a distrust of "teachers " of any sort. These teachers will tell you that you are "already awareness ", and that you should just sit quietly every day and "realize " this. They will smile and act blissful, and have a big "Donation " button on their website. Having a donation button on your website is a way of saying"my words are so important that you are going to want to send me money to carry on my valuable work." It is sad. It is silly. And it is a slap in the face to those who live only for this.

As one who recognizes the Christ as one of the greatest of non-dual teachers, I have a different view of non-dual teaching. I will not tell you to sit quietly with a blissful smile on your face, or that you are already "enlightened ". I will tell you to get off your spiritual backside and "take up your cross " and work out your enlightenment. This is the reason I have so few students, as no one wants to hear there is "something to do ". "By golly, there is no "doer", there's nothing to be "done ". "You are already where you want to be." These are the statements of parrots, not those who have struggled the roads of life with fear and trembling. Nisargadatta Maharaj said that it takes great efforts to come to the conclusion that effort is not necessary. Nisargadatta emphasized earnestness. Christ demonstrated earnestness on the cross. If devotees had not looked after him, Ramana Maharshi might have died in his youthful earnestness, sitting in silence as insects ate at his living flesh.

For this is what earnestness is all about; a single minded "effort ". Doing something, even if thatsomething is dying in devotion. In the New Testament in the Bible, a man described as "rich " came to Jesus to ask how he might find everlasting life. After telling the man to follow the commandments, which the man claimed he had, Jesus said he should sell all he had and give to the poor, and follow him. The story goes on to say that the man went away sad, because he had great possessions. This is also a problem today.

Today, especially in the West, many have great possessions. We have not only material wealth, but many posses intellectual, educational wealth. We cling to our cars and our homes, and our "little luxuries " like flavored coffees and a nice meal out. We wear our educations like a badge of who we are. We excuse our little luxuries as things that help us "cope ". Those who tell us we have to "do " something, or question our indulgences are quickly discarded for the "bliss bunny " teachers who assure us that we are already "that ".

You are already that. You are already "perfect ", whatever that means. But you won't "realize " it until you have walked your life and carried your cross. Intellectualizing being "that " is an exercise in imagination, nothing more. If you sit before a teacher who softens the blows and tells you that you do not have to stand up to injustice, or take any contrary or politically incorrect positions, than you will find yourself sitting smiling like a zombie before a liar who has more interest in your money than your soul.

"Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." This is a well known Zen saying. What the hell do you think it means? It means life is living. The enlightenedwork. They don't live some rarified existence where they become entitled to donations simply for existing and sharing a message they don't understand outside their mind. A monk may have his "begging bowl ", but most teachers are not monks and live lifestyles that most in the world would consider luxury, if not opulence. My situation requires me to eat beans every day, and struggle during the winter for wood for heat. But when I think of my brothers and sisters in the third world, I thank God for the wonderful blessings of a full bowl, and a twig to burn.

Gratitude becomes so much more a blessing when it comes from simple pleasures. A beautiful tree, or the warmth of the sun becomes so much more important than a movie or a concert. Yes, there may be no "doer ", but there is "doing ". If you are not "doing "; living on trust and love alone, you will not find enlightenment, awakening, or whatever you call it. You will just dance around the edges of life, ever trying to find an intellectual vision of "bliss " that won't "cost " you anything. You will want to make "enlightenment " your most prized "possession ".

I can't think my "teaching " will have many takers, "followers " if you will, for many will walk away sadly, because they have many possessions. Nisargadatta Maharaj said that only one in ten million will get this. Only when you are ready to walk away from all you believe yourself to be, all you possess, can the door open and freedom be found. Only through effort can effort be cast aside. Fear vanishes for good when you stand naked, asking nothing, giving all.


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