Undercurrents Can Kill: Choose Yours Wisely

Last night I had a dream.  Actually I dream a lot, quite vivid dreams, often with seemingly coherent plots.  But I’m not here to write a novella, so I’ll stick to the relevant part.  I had left a function at our community hall and was walking along the edge of the nearby pond. A light drizzle had just recently begun, so the trees and bushes were hung with heavy water drops.  Two emerald headed adult ducks and two adolescents, also emerald headed, were setting out from the water’s edge.  In waking life only the mallard drake’s head would wear that shining metal helmet, but the poetic license of a dream cannot be argued with.

Pair of Young White Ducks Swimming in a Pond preview image

They called me to join them, clearly recognizing me as a friend.  Someone else said to me, “Swimming in this weather!” with a “surely not” intonation. I responded from the ducks’ point of view, “They think it’s lovely weather.”  And I considered the possibility of slipping into the water, becoming nearly weightless, with 3 dimensions of movement accessible.  If only I didn’t have clothes on, which would end up heavy, sodden and cold.  And immediately I found myself no long walking along, with a focal point high above the pond, but rather, nestled with my eyes a few inches from the water’s surface, rubbing the top of my head on the bark of an adjacent trunk.  I eyed the water, noticing the thin but perceptible film of greenish scum on the surface.  But once one slipped into the water, the scum would part, and the water beneath, a dim tea green, was translucent and attractive.  It’s true, I could smell a stagnant fragrance, but somehow the fragrance overcame the stagnancy, so to speak.  It was a homely smell, one I recognized.  And I became aware that the reason the ducks recognized me, welcomed me, called me to join them; the reason they had no concern about a clumsy human many times their size splashing awkwardly around them, was because I was now a duck.  Or rather the body I was in, was that of a duck.  I still retained my greater awareness, my ability to understand the human tongue as well as theirs, my ability to stand back and know the difference between myself and whatever body I was currently inhabiting. I knew very well the science of identity, my real nature & my current situation in this world.

Sadly I woke before joining my friends in the duck pond.  Although, in the bigger picture, perhaps it was not sad at all – if I had so dived in would I have made it back to my waking world?  Or would I have become immersed in duck life, forgotten my English, and forgotten my hard own understanding of the difference between myself & this physical body?

This knowledge that I am not this body, that this particular form I am wearing is just a vehicle and tool, that in fact it has no permanent connection with me at all, that I am completely separate from it; this true knowledge from science of identity foundation that I have taken forty years to assimilate to the level of my present understanding, is the undercurrent of my life.  I am clear on the reality of my existence as a non-material spark of life, part and parcel of the Supreme.  And at the same time my vision of the undercurrents of life has increased.  I have been able to choose the undercurrent I wish to be pulled along by, and to ensure that it is a perfect match for me.  So whether I am a good swimmer, or just dog paddling clumsily along, as long as I keep in the right current, I am still going in my best direction.

Actually, what one identifies with is the undercurrent that pulls one along. And undercurrents can be very dangerous.  I think I’m swimming for the shore, but if the undertow thinks otherwise, bye bye beach! And as my identification changes, so changes the current.   Most of us identify with whatever body we inhabit at the moment, whether duck or human.  One person identifies as a male teenager, therefore “he” is dragged by the undercurrents of adolescence.  Whatever his particular society or subculture considers to be the life and activities of a teenager, and whatever the burgeoning hormonal urges and physical demands of his body are, these undercurrents drag him insensibly on.  Another person identifies as a female teenager.  The undercurrents are different.  Someone else identifies as an elderly Tibetan monk and they have their own elderly Tibetan monk undercurrents.  And yet another person identifies themselves a poodle, and is dragged willy nilly by the desires of that identification.

So my thought of diving into the pleasures of swimming with the ducks was not without danger.  In this case, I think it is safe to say I would have woken from my dream, but not everyone escapes so easily.  Life is far more complex and varied than most of us imagine.

This complexity is captured in the bona fide yoga scriptures or sastras which record historical events for the education of the interested.  Some of these records include situations in which the persons involved have remembered experiences from multiple lives.  The particular situation my duck dream brings to mind is that of a living entity who has a very elevated consciousness & position.  Just as the human form is more subtle and elevated than that of ducks, dogs, or dragon flies, what to speak of bacteria who don’t even know we humans exist, even as they travel through our guts, so there are other bodies still more subtle level than the human form.

Continue reading Undercurrents Can Kill: Choose Yours Wisely

Will Being Rich Make You Happy?

“You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.”

Recently this photo and caption of Jim Carrey was spread across all the social media on the Internet.

jim carrey

The fact that Jim Carrey is wealthy enough to make this type of statement raised criticism from many and appraisal from some. Here are some comments from one of the websites.

  • Money isn’t a big deal when you have a lot of it, but when you don’t have any; it’s a very big deal.
  • Honestly, I’d rather have money and not knowing the answer than being broke and not knowing the answer.
  • Money isn’t an answer to life. It just makes it easier.
  • But money could buy me endless travel, which I believe would be more fulfilling than endless desk time.
  • Money might not buy me happiness, but I’d rather cry in a Ferrari.
  • Money can’t buy you happiness. But I’d rather be crying in a Porsche than on the bus.

It is obvious that the people making these statements are convinced that all they need in life is more money, or a Ferrari or a Porsche or endless travel. Having enough money to feed your family, pay the rent, educate your children is infinitely more comfortable than living in abject poverty, of that there is no doubt.

But we must also recognize that in history there are many wonderful examples of people who have experienced in their personal lives extreme wealth which they chose to walk away from and follow the poorer road.

St Francis of Assisi was born into a wealthy Italian family, his father was a silk and cloth merchant and Francis spent his youth living a comfortable life spending money like his friends of the time. At a certain point in his early life he had a vision that God wanted him to begin a new order and he went and lived with common beggars. After this experience he felt compelled to give up worldly things and he put aside all his material goods and became a wandering preacher, choosing poverty as a way of living, and starting religious orders that involved helping the most abject poor and down trodden persons of society at that time.   Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in Christian history and in 1228, he was proclaimed a saint by Pope Gregory 1X.

saint

Lord Buddha also known as Gautama Buddha was the son of a king, a prince, and he was protected by his father from all the negative things in the world. The palace they lived in was surrounded by high walls and the grounds themselves were like a small country. As he was growing up, he never saw anyone sick or infirmed. He saw no suffering of any kind as his father had instructed the servants to always make sure he was kept within the walls of the gated palace and that no-one with any disease or any type of impairment was allowed to go there.

lord buddha

When he was just a young man he convinced his chariot driver to take him outside the palace grounds. When they were driving along the road to the city, he saw a man lying in the road, his limbs misshapen and bent from some affliction. He got the servant to stop and as he was looking at the man he was asking his servant what was wrong with this person. The servant told him that the man had been born deformed and that each day on this road, in all kinds of weather, the man begged for food to stay alive.

Lord Buddha continued on his way and soon they came to a woman who was holding the shoulder of her son and being helped along the road. Her face was lined and she was stooping as she walked. Again Lord Buddha asked his driver what was wrong with this woman and why she was unable to walk on her own. His driver told him she was blind, that she was unable to see and that wherever she went she needed someone to guide her. He also told him that she was old, that her body was wearing down in years and she moved with great difficulty.

They continued on and as they reached the gates of the city Lord Buddha saw a person lying motionless in the dust of the nearby roadside. He again asked his servant about this man and the reply was that this man was dead. That the body lying before them was now void of life. His servant explained to him that ultimately everyone would die all living things would eventually leave the form they were in and would, due to the laws of nature be forced out of their particular body.

Due to his protected upbringing Lord Buddha had never seen any sick or maimed people and he had definitely never seen a dead body. He resolved there and then to give up his princely position in order to solve the problem of life and death. He could see that the body lying before him was no longer animate, he could see the suffering conditions of the people they had passed and as he was standing thinking of these things a wandering mendicant passed by with a simple robe and a begging bowl. He learned that this monk had renounced the world to try and find an answer to the suffering condition of the world and Lord Buddha decided to do the same. His goal was to find happiness and he knew it was neither in the palatial life he had led up to this point, nor was it in the experiences of the people he had seen.

In ancient India there was a type of touch stone called a Chintamani. This stone was able to give the holder of it, anything they desired. If someone had a touch stone in their possession they could ask for gold, jewels, any type of fortune imaginable. Now, there was a man who had heard that a certain saintly person might actually own a touch stone. This man had been searching for a long time and when he happened upon the village that the saintly person was living in, he, after asking directions, hurried to his house. He saw the saintly man sitting outside his house praying on his prayer beads.

beads

He inquired from him as to the whereabouts of the touchstone and if he may be allowed to see it even if it was only for a short period. The saintly man thought for a moment and then he indicated with his hand to an area behind the house and under the trees. He told the seeker that he might find it there. The man rushed over to the area and began sifting around in a pile of old leaves and twigs and general garden refuse. Picking up the touch stone, he held it close to him and was praising his good fortune that he had found it. Then he realized that things were not quite as they should be. He started to wonder why the saintly person kept the touch stone in such an ordinary place. He carried the touch stone over to the saintly man and asked him why he had left such a precious and amazing thing in the garden waste. The saintly person told him that to him it was just the same as an ordinary stone. That the stone was able to give him any temporary item he desired but it could not bring him eternal happiness, that no matter what experience or possession came his way it was only a fleeting phase and soon he would be parted with it, either through loss or death. To him it was neither here nor there that it was a touch stone as there was no comparison to knowing the true nature of the world and all the beings in it and the real source of happiness. The man who had been so eager to have unimaginable wealth, fell at the feet of the saintly person and begged him to instruct him, which he did.

Some people believe Jim Carrey has the right to tell it like it is due to his past, as in these comments.

Jim Carrey grew up dirt poor. He lived in a van with his family. I think he would know if having money really is the answer.

Jim Carrey lived in his car for quite a while he was struggling to make it. The guy knows what it was like to have almost nothing.

If he said this, it seems like a way to tell people he’s unhappy, despite being rich and famous.

It is not only Jim Carrey who despite having a worth amount of $150 million, is feeling that something is missing from his life. Recently Minecraft billionaire, Markus “Notch” Persson, revealed his deep loneliness and sadness despite selling his company to Microsoft for $2.7 billion. He is reported as saying that his former co-workers now “hate” him, and he now has a lack of purpose in life. He is quoted as saying that his money has led to him feeling isolated and that once he had ‘everything’ there was no point in trying for anything else. A sort of hopelessness.

So, the statement that Jim Carrey has made, that wealth is not the answer is very true. It is not the answer. The answer lies in redirecting our misguided love and attention from the things of the world toward the Supreme Person. This is where happiness is to be found and it is the real shelter and refuge. If you want more insights on this topic, you can check this profound article on rest & refuge by Jagad Guru Chris Butler.

Continue reading Will Being Rich Make You Happy?

Give up Anger and Learn to Forgive

‘As I walked out the door toward my freedom. I knew that if I did not leave all the anger, hatred and bitterness behind that I would still be in prison.’

Nelson Mandela on leaving prison.

mandela

“For 20 years, Nelson Mandela directed peaceful, nonviolent acts of defiance against the South African government and its racist policies, including the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People.

In 1961, Mandela, who was formerly committed to nonviolent peace protests, began to believe that armed struggle was the only way to achieve change. In 1961, Mandela orchestrated a three-day national workers’ strike. He was arrested for leading the strike the following year, and was sentenced to five years in prison. In 1963, Mandela was brought to trial again. This time, he and 10 other ANC leaders were sentenced to life imprisonment for political offenses, including sabotage.

Nelson Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island for 18 of his 27 years in prison. During this time, he contracted tuberculosis and, as a black political prisoner, received the lowest level of treatment from prison workers.

For 13 years he had broken rocks from the sunken cliffs every day, the white limestone reflecting direct sunlight and almost costing him his sight.

Some of the worst cruelty to prisoners was the holding back or destruction of their letters, their all-important link to loved ones, and the ruthless censoring of daily news to make them believe their stand against apartheid was for nothing, the sacrifice of their freedom pointless.

An ear-splitting clanging would start up all over the prison at 5am to wake the prisoners. The cells were as cold as fridges, all year round. Prisoners slept on the floors with three blankets and no extra ones allowed, even in winter.

 “Prisoners would be forced to line up naked in the courtyard to be hosed down with cold water by the warders. Racial discrimination even extended to food allowances. Black prisoners had 12 ounces of maize-meal porridge with no sugar or salt in it for breakfast, and a mug of black coffee. The coloureds [apartheid term for mixed race] and Indians had 14 ounces of porridge and bread.

Excerpts from Christo Brand, former guard at Robben Island.

Most of us would be angry if we had been in this situation. In fact we get angry over the most ridiculous things. Someone used the last of the milk, they didn’t put the toilet roll on properly, they were late getting back to look after the children, the neighbors are making too much noise and on and on it goes. We are so intolerant of the people and the world around us. We become angry really quickly and we are always justified in doing so because we are in the right. We know how something should be done and if it is not the way we want it, we feel it is okay to lose our temper, yell, sulk, slam the door and walk out etc.

‘Any fool can start arguments; the honorable thing is to stay out of them.’ Proverbs 20:3

Many people have gone through the most extraordinary experiences that have pushed them to the limits of their sanity and all human reasoning but they have emerged not hating and despising and wanting to harm the people responsible but quite the opposite; they have chosen the path of forgiveness. In the recent movie based on the book ‘The Railway Man’ by Eric Lomax, we follow a journey that begins with the nightmares that remind the main character of enduring abuse at the hands of the Japanese enemy. It continues on to explore the desire to take revenge against the main perpetrator and ends with the understanding that no amount of retribution can pacify the pain of remembrance. And so we see the main character start a process of forgiveness and understanding the truth.
railway man

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life, sorrow and suffering enough to disarm any hostility. H W Longfellow.

Anger can come at any time. We see the instantaneous outbursts of road rage, domestic violence and murder every day in the news , in the newspapers, on social media. Actions that once the cold light of reality has been realized often bring about feelings of extreme regret and disbelief. Why do we do this? Fly off the handle! Blow a gasket! Go off the deep end! Go haywire! Crack up! Lose one’s mind!

If we look a little deeply at our personal situation, we can see that the whole of our existence is centered around what will please us. How can I enjoy, how can I be happy ? What can I do to have a greater amount of pleasure? Who can I make friends with who have a bigger house, car, swimming pool, etc than me? Who will I choose to live my life with? Someone who will do what I want and give me what I want . In general, this is our attitude to the world, the people and things in it. Me, me, me! It’s all about me, and when I don’t get what I want, if things are not going the way I want, then I get angry. My car broke down, my kids are making too much noise, my boss won’t give me a promotion, my wife doesn’t want to have sex, the neighbors are having a party and I can’t sleep. A million things can make us explode. This attitude is based upon one’s feeling of their own self importance, their own worthiness  . They feel that they should be getting more respect.

‘There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.’Plato

Everyone wants to be happy but looking for this happiness in the things of the material world creates frustration and resentment. Happiness can be found by living a spiritual life . What does this mean and what does it have to do with getting angry? A spiritual life means a life in harmony with the Supreme Person, the Lord of everything, God, who goes by millions of names, the Supreme purifier of all our misguided emotions and feelings. While we are in a state of anger we cannot approach God. Lord Jesus speaks of this in the Bible, ‘But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’ Mathew 6.15

If we are angry and hateful toward someone we cannot expect the Supreme Father to forgive us. We cannot pray, ‘Oh forgive my sins against you’, and still hold in our hearts hate and anger toward anyone. Because of our connection to God and all living beings, we can never be happy while we hold onto anger and resentment towards others. To overcome anger, we must learn to forgive.

The key is humility. Lord Caitanya who appeared 500 years ago stated, ‘One should chant the Holy Names of the Lord in a humble state of mind, feeling oneself to be lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than the tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respects to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the Holy Names of the Lord constantly.’

We hear this idea in many philosophies and faiths; humbleness, humility, meekness. How does one acquire this state of being? The advice given is ‘to be more tolerant than the tree’. The example is the humble tree. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, rain, hail, snow, searing heat, the tree stands and accepts it. Someone comes and breaks off a branch or takes to the tree with a chainsaw. We need to become as tolerant as the tree.

rain

And this. ‘Feeling lower than the straw in the street.’ Straw is strewn over the streets in some countries. This straw is dirty with animal droppings, waste, rubbish and all the other types of debris. We are advised to be lower than this. How we become angry at people finding fault in us if we are actually feeling that this is our position? Feeling that no-one is lower than me, everyone is more worthy than me so I offer all respects to everyone.

“If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.” by Epictetus

If we are to make real changes it is advised that we completely and fully give up any idea of ourselves as worthy of respect. It is in this condition of surrender that we can hear the Lord speaking to us within our hearts, to forgive those whom we think have offended us. All of your anger must be given up. It cannot be partial or conditional; I forgive but these are my terms and conditions.

The forgiveness you show to all those who you think have offended you, must be complete and from the heart. It is in this state that you are able to taste love for God, to experience the true happiness we are all striving for a loving relationship with Him and all His parts and parcels, all fellow human beings, all creatures, all living beings. This is our choice; to be flailing around the world being offended by everyone and everything and as such being far away from our spiritual life or we can live a life offering respects to everyone regardless of how you are treated and being in a position of humbleness and receptiveness to the Supreme Person and His love.

‘For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.’
Nelson Mandela