Sunday, 15 April 2018

Perspective #10: What's It All About?

This Perspective is essentially my own life testimony. However, I hope you do not read into this that I am some kind of saint as, physically at least, I am subject to the same laws and temptations as anyone, and my crude thinking has at times led me to do some foolish things. Such thinking has caused me great anguish at times, but I realise also that the past is the past and one has to move on. I hope that I have learnt enough so that such behaviour issues do not re-occur.

But underlying my life's experience there has been a curiosity and an inward sense that the conscience should play a big part in how life is lived. Living purely or mainly for the purpose of gaining wealth has never been an attraction though I admit to allowing myself to be carried along for a time by its mystique.

Not so long ago I read a passage in a significant book that took me back 60 years. When I was 12 or 13 much of my life was lived as a ' loner', but I did not mind as I used to find great solace in reading and also thinking. In fact, I now realise that my thoughts entered a metaphysical plane and to such an extent that one day (at the dinner table) I asked my Father, "What is it within me that looks out on the world? What is it that motivates me to do things? Why am I in this body and not another [body]?" My Father looked at me, unsure whether to accuse me of talking rubbish or to try to give answers. He did neither. I did not get any answers and so I stumbled on wondering whether I was mad for thinking such things.

When 17, an older friend introduced me to a 'Gospel Tabernacle' and for awhile there I was happy in finding an outlet to my inner feelings, until my Father curtailed my activities in that area after a remarkable debate with him that lasted 12 hours! In those days parents possessed more control.

And so I went on to stumble through life, unsure about what to do ... except to throw myself into whatever came across my path. In the refreshing years of the 60s, I found a great number of friends, and enjoyed sports and music of various kinds, and rather fell into a career in the then new computer industry. Everything was working fine ... except inwardly I still felt uncertain.

I hitch-hiked around Europe for a time and then stumbled into marriage. Materially things blossomed for several years until it all fell apart under bizarre (illogical) circumstances. That event and how it happened literally took me back 20 years and the questioning that I had raised when I was a youngster. There were unanswered questions to resolve, questions about the inner self, and what was life really about.

Many 'coincidental' things started to happen. I would be searching for an answer to a particular question and suddenly while out walking I would be ushered into some cult or other that thought it could provide the answer to what I was seeking, whether it was the "Moonies" (the Christianity of Sun Yan Moon) or some other inner development group, such as the followers of Gurdjieff. By this time I had become aware of the Sufis, but did not know of their connection with Islam for some while. But it was when I did find out the connection that I started following the outer structure of Islam (the Sunni path) to find the inner (the Sufi path). Without me knowing at that time, it was a Sufi mufti who inducted me into Islam.

Amidst all this was a series of meetings with remarkable people, and experiencing life in greater depth - particularly in discovering more about giving service - though I was still not pure in mind.

In time, after much travelling around the UK and experiencing Sufi and other meetings, I realised that that path, also, seemed inappropriate for me. And then, partly through marriage, I entered the Shia Imami branch of Islam, an Islamic way that attunes itself according to the times without forgetting the essential teaching. The Aga Khan is their spiritual leader and I once had the experience of being in his presence at Olympia, London. And it was an experience; something occurred then that had an impact. From a distance, he glanced in my direction and his eyes seemed to penetrate my mind, and I am certain to this day that he directed a message of foreboding to me - I now believe the message was to say that the way of the Ismaili Shia was not one I would continue with. And I didn't.

For some time afterwards, I was in no-man's land again. Many earthly issues had to be dealt with, but when they subsided a little the same old inner questions came back.

Then, when in absolutely dire material straights, there was some illumination. And it was at that time, some 20 years ago, when I came to see that all religious paths link towards one entity; one God. And the medium of that message was Sri Sathya Sai Baba. My way since then has been defined by his teachings, and I now seek answers from nowhere else.

It's mainly since that time that various 'miracles' occurred to alleviate the material downturn that I had seemed to take myself into. Recently, quite unexpectedly and just at the right moment, I received a cheque for £5,000 which in one swoop got rid of most of our debts! I shan't say how that came about as it's a long and tedious story (nothing to do with gambling or lotteries!), but I was certainly not expecting it. The fact that it arrived just when we needed it puts it into the class of an Act of God as far as I am concerned. A similar kind of thing happened to us about 12 years ago when over £1,000 suddenly appeared from nowhere! And other - smaller - incidents, but profound incidents nevertheless.

When I think back on it I've had a lot of what is ordinarily termed luck, particularly over the last 60 years - and always when it was just needed. It's fascinating to me how those events occurred. In 1967, for example, I was getting ready to be married to my first wife when we were both working in summer jobs on the coast, with no money whatsoever. Twelve months later we possessed our own (nearly new) house! And more followed. I could never properly explain those fortunate scenarios.

Importantly, 50 years after I had raised those youthful and innocent questions of my physical Father, the questions were answered. "What is it within me that looks out on the world" is the Atma, the everlasting spirit. The questions of what is it that motivates me to do things and why I am living in this body and not another, have also been answered.

But life is not just about philosophy: it's very much about living it in accord with the philosophy that you espouse. Life is for living experientially, to know from experience what is what. The world says that knowledge is power when the reality is that character derived from experience is the real power.

Thank you, Dear Lord. I have learnt that life is for living, not for planning for retirement. And that death is a continuation of life.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Perspective #9: To Summarise

This series of Perspectives has been written purely as my humble attempt to paint a broad picture of the real state of things as they are on planet Earth: that we are led to believe that we need something and that the 'something' is material - some need that is going to make our lives happier. But do material possessions really make our lives truly happy?

There is the alternative suggestion that there is a Way that we can all recognise (no matter what our religious or philosophical perspective happens to be) that can lead to real happiness, and not something that is transient. And that it has become more important to now seek out that 'Way'. The key to all personal and world issues is essentially through finding out about Love and what it really is, and applying it to our way of life, at home and at work and wherever we might be.

Love is a word that we all have the ability to understand, and we all have the ability to apply it in our lives. But for some, it is a hard road to go down for all manner of reasons but which is usually due to ego, or possibly out of resentment for how we were treated at some stage in our lives. How to forgive is quite an art.

But all the great spiritual leaders of mankind, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammed, and others, have all spoken in detail about our responsibilities in relation to God and other people. The essential theme of all such teachings is the same, and towards a unity of purpose.

In Perspective #1, I said:
... even in the west there are quite a number who are genuine 'have nots', and live day-to-day simply trying to make ends meet. And youngsters on that end of the economic spectrum tend to get drawn more into gangs, drugs and crime. More understanding governments try to stem that tendency by funding the provision of better social services, but then other governments decide we can't afford that and withdraw the funding, leaving the deprivation to look after itself. Or claim that the economy will pick up and will pay for these "extras". Meanwhile the rich get immeasurably richer and the poor stay poor.
And continued:
The great messenger we call Jesus told us that there are two laws we should heed. One is to love the Lord our God; the second to love our neighbour as ourselves. I believe our "neighbour" is each and everyone across the planet Earth. I believe we need to reconcile ourselves to all peoples and also the Earth itself, and all other lifeforms.
Perspective #2 went on to say:
... by focusing on 'The Way', Love will prevail. Wars and other severely detrimental aspects that exist in the world now - and which include increasing mental issues that have evolved in modern society - would ultimately fade away once mankind was to see their real selves and the futility of choosing ego over Unity. 
The world needs a new perspective. I would even suggest that leadership should come from the bottom up - in other words not to allow ourselves to be led by those suffering from delusions and myopia. Let us live by right actions so that the collective consciousness is raised to make bad leadership impossible. We cannot leave things to others; we all have to play our part.

May the world and all life be happy! Let us open the door to our consciences to help others live in peace and without unnecessary suffering.

Thank you for reading this humble series which only provides a rough idea about the topic. Next week, Perspective #10 will be the last of the series and will relay my own testimony of experience.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Perspective #8: The Greater Significance Of Easter

The significance of the Easter period is, of course, well known to all Christians, and it really should be a time for reflection on what suffering means and the magnificent hope that can be born of the outcome of that suffering. If Jesus's extreme suffering can be successfully negotiated, then what right have we to complain of our own often small sufferings by comparison to that experienced by Jesus.

But how well do we Christians really understand what happened, and the depth of its meaning?

The fact is that although Jesus is perceived by most Christians to have been born as the Son of God (and sent by his Father), there is an alternative proposition. That is that Jesus was a noble soul, born a man, who evolved over numerous lifetimes in the process of reincarnation that all souls undergo. Further, that in his last earthly lifetime, Jesus evolved into the spirit that raised him into being a son of God. This remarkable achievement was to demonstrate to those that understood that "the way" to being a son of God is there for everyone. It is the process as taught by the Vedas, Upanishads and other great scriptures from time immemorial.

"But", say the doubters, "how and when did Jesus go through this period of spiritual development that raised him to such a stature?" Well, the Bible speaks of virtually nothing of what happened to Jesus after the age of 12 until he was about 30, so what happened in those intervening and mysterious 18 years?

The story is pretty well fully told in a book entitled "The Jesus Mystery" by Janet Bock (1980). In it, she explains how a certain Nicolas Notovitch travelled to Tibet in the late 1880s and (eventually) was shown a document held in a monastery there telling the story of the visit of a certain Issa (the Asian equivalent name of Jesus). The document he found opened with the words: "The earth trembled and the heavens wept because of the great crime committed in the land of Israel. For there was tortured and murdered the great and just Issa, in whom was manifest the soul of the universe." The document then goes on to explain about the travels that Jesus undertook, including Egypt, India and Persia, while undergoing his spiritual development. during the period between the ages of 12 and 30. Fortunately, some years later a Hindu guru visited Tibet and saw the same document and verified its authenticity. In addition, there is the book called the "Aquarian Gospel Of Jesus The Christ" by a man named Levi and published in the early 20th century. Levi apparently searched what is called the "Akashic Records" - the spiritual repository of all things that have happened - to write down the story of Jesus, and this book expands on the document found in Tibet by Notovitch.

These accounts equate very closely to the knowledge of Jesus and the spiritual processes he negotiated as confirmed by a number of Indian spiritual beings. The India guru Vivekananda was, it seems, sent to America in the late 19th century to remind people there of the true teachings of Jesus.

One can only assume that the early pre-Christian gnostics knew of these accounts, which were later suppressed when formal Christianity developed from the 4th century onwards.

Hope, therefore, remains eternal that by following the true teachings of Jesus the world's problems can be solved.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Perspective #7: Action And Its Consequences

It is noteworthy that the world appears to be mostly led by people whose prime approach is that material gain is the way to happiness and that anything else is secondary. Our educational systems seem to be devoted to that way of thinking; whereas going to university was once thought to be a matter of learning wisdom more than anything, it is now predominantly a machinery for people to simply make better material lives.

One has to ask when this madness is to stop. Individually or communally we gain nothing from material advancement by itself and the world has been made to suffer by this approach. If there was suffering before it is now being made worse by the way man treads on everything in sight or digs it out of the ground.

Do we not have a conscience? Do we not realise that what we do has consequences? Do we not remember that for each of us this mortal life is a mere sojourn on planet Earth and that we cannot take any material gain with us on our exit?

In ancient traditions, it has been taught that "We reap from that which we sow" and there is the common awareness that "Everything that goes around comes around". This is a reality and is known in Hinduism as karma - that actions (physical or spoken or even thought) have their consequences on the future of the human soul performing the action. We are individually totally responsible for what we do - we cannot blame others as we should know (via our conscience) right from wrong. We have to suffer the consequences of our actions in this or the next life. In fact, some karma from a previous life may be affecting us in this life!

In other words, we are talking of karma and its inter-action with reincarnation. What we do in this life has its effect on our next life. Christians will often not pay heed to this "Eastern" view, but the matter was not written out of official Christianity until the 5th c. AD: until then it was an accepted philosophy, in conformity with every other spiritual tradition then in existence. Why was it written out of the Christian message I wonder? To my mind, this was clearly a way by which official religion could take greater control over the minds of its followers.

To be truly conscious not only of God but the reality of our individual connection with Him and our responsibility in that partnership we really do need to wake up. There is one God Creator and all humans are of his creation in order to perform our tasks with responsibility and through the medium of right thinking - through Love. The purpose is for our souls to evolve, and the only way to achieve that is to put aside materialism as our reason for living. There is nothing wrong in making a legitimate living, but once our way of life becomes out of kilter with the spiritual then we are bound for trouble, and more karma to negotiate.

Happiness can be achieved. As it was put by the Indian avatar, Sri Sathya Sai Baba in 2003:
May you fill your heart with the sacred ideals ... Pain and pleasure, sorrow and happiness follow one another. One should treat them with equanimity. May you give up hatred and all differences. May you live in peace and harmony!

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Perspective #6: The Curious Computer

In relation to the topic of the preceding Perspective here's a charming story, attributed to Hugh Brecher, an American psychotherapist:
Once upon a time, there was a little personal computer, who, unlike all other computers, experienced curiosity about itself and the world. It wanted to know who and what it was, where it came from, why it was here and what was the meaning of its existence.
Being a very curious little guy, he sought the answers to his questions as best he could. Sometimes, he would link up with giant mainframe computers and ask them, "What am I?"
Some wise mainframes said, "You are your hardware." Others said, "You are your programs." Some even said, "You are the sum total of information in your data banks." Once, a cynical micro-computer said, "You are just a machine; buttons on your keyboard are pressed and you respond by running programs and processing date: you are hardware, housing software and data. A machine is what you are and nothing more."
Starting to feel a bit hopeless, the PC inquired, "But how did I get here; where did I come from?"
The mainframe responded, "Your existence is just an accident, the result of a series of random events in the universe." PC queried, "But don't accidents and events themselves have causes?"
The big computer replied that he honestly didn't know.
The little computer could see that there was some truth in what he was told, but he felt that something was missing from the explanations. The notion of accidents and randomness wasn't satisfying, as he had observed that effects always have causes - which themselves are the effects of prior or simultaneous causes. He could see that effects were causes and causes were effects.
One day, as a Friendly User was between uses, the little PC, feeling courageous, flashed a message on his screen, "What am I?" he asked.
The User, being appreciative of past services well performed by the little computer, responded, "You are my computer, my friend in need - you are my friend indeed."
"Yes," replied the little computer, "but is that all that I am - hardware, a screen, a keyboard, some transistors, a data bank and programs? Am I just a machine that automatically responds to button pressing? What am I here for? What is my purpose in being? Where did I come from?"
The Friendly User was moved by the sincerity of the PC's desire to know the truth of his existence. He smiled, and after a while, he responded, "Your true basic nature is that of the energy, the electricity, that animates both your hardware and software. Yes, you are the life force that can become aware that it inhabits the hardware and motivates the software to function. Because you - the life force, the electrical energy, exist - you as personal computer, exist." He paused a moment and then continued, "Your hardware, screen, data banks and central processing units are collectively a machine. Your material aspects exist so that you may use them: first, to realize your own true nature; and second, that you may serve others in your world. All forms are simply different manifestations of the same truth that is your own nature. You are here to serve them so that, sooner or later, they may come to this same realization."
The little computer's screen remained blank for quite a while as he reflected on these words of wisdom. Finally, he displayed on his screen, "Understanding your words led me to turn my attention inward rather than to my keyboard, hardware, software or data banks. My deepest experience is just that, plain and simple: I AM. In the silence of my central processing unit, I experience my basic nature as awareness itself. For all my life, when 'on', I have been seeking the truth of my identity from all that has been added to my identity, and from all that my true nature enlivens, activates and gives form to. Now, I realize that everything that was added to my identity was simply a surface expression of my own true self."
The Friendly User was very pleased with the little PC's understanding and said, "Very good, little guy. You got it. Now, do you know who I AM?"
"You are God," replied the little computer.
"Yes, my child," said the Friendly User, "and so are YOU!"

More to follow...

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Perspective #5: I Am

We continue with the theme of how much we need Planet Earth and how much the planet needs us, and what corrective action is required. We are at a crossroads on how we might approach this mutual dependency. These Perspectives suggest that we should order our lives in order to gain wisdom to stimulate the way to help the world steer clear from the selfish route we have hitherto taken. As a people, we are the ones responsible for where we are at, and by changing ourselves we can have a profound effect on those around us and thus the entire nation, and the world. We should stop feeding the selfish world order that we are part of and live more intelligently.

It's a direct and harsh statement to make, but what other option is there?

The title of the previous Perspective was "Who Am I?" Well, on reflecting on this we can now say "I am". But this phrase is not to be taken in a simple everyday physical sense: it is key to the understanding of what each of us is in his/her essence. As we are made by God then we have a vital and actual link with God, would we only recognise it. It is only from God that we obtain true inspiration: scholastic education alone is not the answer.

Over 40 years ago, in 1975, I came across a wonderful book by an American spiritual philosopher, Walter Starcke, which contained (for me) a remarkable insight into spirituality, and a view that I have since found repeated in all the major Eastern spiritual paths.

Walter Starcke wrote (in his book "The Gospel of Relativity"):
When Jesus tried to tell the password he said, "There is only one way you can enter the kingdom." He said, "I AM the way," but mankind didn’t hear. They thought he was saying that Jesus, the man, was the way, but he was saying the password, "I."
That’s it. That’s all. Just "I." So simple, but so very, very complicated. For "I" cannot be spoken; it can be felt and experienced, but not thought. Any thought about "I" carries with it the seeds of ego, separation and defeat. “I” is the most sacred of all words because it can be comprehended only in silence, in an inner silence.
We have missed the secret of life because we have spoken it. In fact, we have spoken it more than any other word, and every time we have said "I" in a finite way we have desecrated the word. Whenever we have said, "I feel depressed" or "I feel sick," "I need this" or "I need that," we have closed the door on ourselves. We have misused the password.
Whenever we have called any man on earth our father, any guru, any mate, any effect, we have shut the door on "I." Those who know I AM will never have to look to man whose breath is in his nostrils for anything. They can travel anywhere in the world without money or protection. Every­thing will be provided from the "I" within.
But we must not speak "I." We must hear it. "I" must enter the heart, it must be in the soul, it must be felt rather than reasoned or thought; only then do we dwell in the secret place of the most high. And it says to us, "Know ye not that I am God? ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ I in the midst of you is mighty, and I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” ...
I is the invisible presence within you. I is the invisible presence that goes before you to make the way clear, is always with you as your protection if you call upon it and hear its voice. "Listen to ME, I, look unto ME, the I of your own being. Don’t look to effects. Your body is only the temple of ‘I’; I made it in my image and likeness, of my substance. I knew you before you were conceived in the womb. I formed your body.
"I am the way, live by Me. Do not live by the way of the world, do not live by form. I am your high tower. Put up your sword; don’t live by the physical or the mental. Live by the recognition of I always with and as you. I in the midst of you is ordained. ..."
I, LOVE, and YOU are all the same word. Your capacity to love is your capacity to experience the I of another. Supreme love is when you see another as your own I, when you see yourself in another because you have gone beyond form and know I. When you love another and see your I as his I, you have become total: all is one.
But to truly be able to recognise the tenor of these words, we should change ourselves in how we look at the world. My own experience bears witness to that when I was, for a number of years, employed in a modern industry and was successful in the then fledgeling computer software sphere. Just when I was at the point of probably accomplishing very significant material success my marriage broke down with the consequent break-up of the family. Not only that but a strange phenomenon was experienced. That situation caused me to re-think and re-evaluate what I was doing with my life and where I was headed. But it was not everyday religion that I sought as my solace but how I should live every detail of my life to put it back into balance.

The following is an extract from a website text that expresses the matter in a nutshell, and is a text that I would like to have had shown to me when I was a young man, or at least received the kind of education that would have helped me think in a better way:
Because of selfishness and greed, some nations have prospered, and some individuals have accumulated inordinate material wealth – the Earth’s riches are not justly shared. There is exploitation. But the so-called victors have lost their peace; it has buried them in ignorance of who they are and what the true purpose of their lives is. Their endless pursuits have taken a heavy toll on their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
Man is not protected from the law of cause and effect – the natural consequences of his excesses. One need only look around today and bear witness to the havoc that Nature is causing as a consequence.
Of course, there are enlightened people who understand the mutual interdependence of all creation, and they live accordingly. Sadly, in many instances, their voices have been drowned out, and not enough people listen to them. 
We need to live simply again, knowing that a life lived honestly and lived well, free from the inner enemies of greed, lust, attachment, anger, ego, jealously, etc. – which rob us of our humanity – provides true self-satisfaction. The removal of our inner enemies makes space for the purity of heart and mind needed to live in God’s Will, where real peace and happiness is found.
It is time to give up false notions about where to find peace and happiness and know that by living in God’s Will we actually live true to our inner selves. We need not seek peace and happiness, these will come naturally when we live in this way.
When we live simply, we inevitably tread softly, move reverentially, and utilise gratefully. Nothing is taken for granted; everything is seen as a gift from God, for all. We switch off what we don’t need, we consume only what we need, we don’t kill to satisfy our palate, we walk and benefit from the exercise, and we utilise public transportation. By these simple steps, we learn humility and gratitude.
When the cravings of the mind and senses are stilled and the ego is diminished, we actually experience our interconnectedness to everything around us. This will nourish the sense of responsibility towards the Earth and all living beings, including animals and plants.
We in the west predominantly think of ourselves as Christian, but do we understand, properly, what the teachings of Jesus were? It is probably the time to re-think what we mean by being "Christian" and it may help to read this dialogue between a young Greek Christian and Sri Sathya Sai Baba (who is referred to here as Swami):
Swami asked me many things about my daily life in Greece and my spiritual practice. At one moment He asked me: “What is your religion?” I answered “Christian, Swami.” Then He asked me: “What is the meaning of the Cross?” I was well prepared, because I had read so many books of Swami and heard so many of His discourses. So I answered without any delay: “Swami, the vertical line is the I (ego), and the straight line means that one has to cut across the ego.” Swami was very pleased and turning to the boys that were sitting around, He said: “You see, very good answer!”
So, there we have it. It would seem that the main issue that needs addressing in this world is man's ego. Not to do so may have huge negative repercussions, for what goes around comes around. If each of us were to be more circumspect in how we treat the world and others and recognise that we are one spiritual whole, we will be contributing massively to the well-being of God's creation. Not only that but we will, by God's Grace, find our own personal salvation and also lay a better foundation for our children.

Please consider passing this link onto others.

To come: more on the soul and about karma.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Perspective #4: Who Am I?

It is so easy to be carried away by financial, academic or other success and thus think that "I am that which I have become in this world". Some become so obsessed with this thought that they believe that what they have accomplished is down purely to their efforts. They then tend to see the world purely in material terms and expect the world to listen to their advice on what is needed for a better world.

Not all such persons, but quite a number. And when they utter their doctrines they speak down to others who have not "made it" as though they are not worthy; that they take the view that persons of low material achievement have remained low in the social order because of something inherently wrong with their attitude and they should, therefore, receive little or nothing in aid.

That there are persons who do not make much of an effort is not questioned. It is the assumption by a number in powerful positions that all persons of low material worth are of that character.

The fact is, however, that a society (if it is to be successful) requires the cooperation of all its members, rich or poor, and as any good business manager knows, his staff will respond much better to fair treatment than to harsh treatment. Is not balanced love better than hate or disrespect?

But for the better success of society, all its members would benefit much more if they came to understand themselves better and also themselves in relation to the rest of the world and even the universe. To live and operate successfully we should learn that we are mutually inter-dependent, not only to other persons but to our entire, larger, environment and even the universe. That we must live within universal laws.

Science is coming towards being in agreement with this view. This webpage's headline (click on the link) states: "Scientists Discover That Humans Have A ‘Magnetic 6th Sense’ To Detect Something We Can’t Even See!". Now this is not something new, but science thinks it is as they have just 'found' it! But it has been known to exist for countless eons. It is known by all mystics. Did not Jesus say (in the language of the time) that the body is a temple? What was he inferring there, that we should simply pray and that God 'out there' might answer our prayers? No! I believe he was saying that by our sincere prayers (and meditations and mantras) we create a 'something' that communicates with our surroundings - a psycho-magnetic link with hidden elements which, in turn, link to God.

All life is interwoven with a greater whole which is only partly visible. But the human mind has become fickle as we have been feeding it with worldly tendencies. How can we stabilise it? By firstly seeking to find out who we really are: by going within to "seek and thou shalt find". Silence is golden.

So, what to do?

A young man came to a sage one day and asked, "Sire, what must I do to become wise?" The sage vouchsafed no answer. The youth after repeating his question a number of times with a like result, at last left him, to return the next day with the same question. Again no answer was given and the youth returned on the third day, still repeating his question, "Sire what must I do to become wise?"

Finally, the sage turned and went down to a nearby river. He entered the water, bidding the youth follow him. Upon arriving at a sufficient depth the sage took the young man by the shoulders and held him under the water, despite his struggles to free himself. At last, however, he released him and when the youth had regained his breath the sage questioned him:

"Son, when you were under the water what did you most desire?"

The youth answered without hesitation, "Air, air! I wanted air!"

"Would you not rather have had riches, pleasure, power or love, my son? Did you not think of any of these?" queried the sage.

"No, sire! I wanted air and thought only of air," came the instant response.

"Then," said the sage, "to become wise you must desire wisdom with as great intensity as you just now desired air. You must struggle for it, to the exclusion of every other aim in life. It must be your one and only aspiration, by day and by night. If you seek wisdom with that fervour, my son, you will surely become wise."

As Freke and Gandy wrote in their book “Jesus and The Goddess”:
…it is clear that Christianity was not always the safe, pre-packaged, off-the-shelf religion it has become. The Christian Way was once travelled by philosophical adventurers who proclaimed life to be an opportunity for self-discovery, for spiritual creativity, for living our own myths. Christianity…..began as a movement of mystical enthusiasts with a beautiful vision of the meaning and mystery of life.
But the overall object is towards Unity. The late Indian avatar Sri Sathya Sai Baba made the following statement of hope and inspiration to us in these days of doubt:
If there is righteousness in the heart there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home there will be order in the nation.
When there is order in the nation there will be peace in the world.
Dag Hammarskjold, former secretary-general of the United Nations in his book “Markings”, asked:
Do you choose yourself?
Body and soul contain a thousand possibilities out of which you can build many ‘I’s. But in only one of them is there a congruence of elector and elected. Only one – which you will never find until you have excluded all those superficial and fleeting possibilities of being and doing with which you toy (out of curiosity, wonder or greed) and which hinder you from casting anchor in the experience in the mystery of life, and the consciousness of the talent entrusted to you, which is your I.
That "talent", if properly nurtured, leads to "beauty in the character".

Next: more on the soul, and on karma.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Perspective #3: Fundamentalism Is Dead

For one moment, let us again think of why the study of spiritual philosophy - which some say is the real study of man - is essential. And to help to remind us of the issues, Albert Einstein described the prevailing condition in society in 1954:
When considering the actual living conditions of present-day civilized humanity from the standpoint of even the most elementary religious commands, one is bound to experience a feeling of deep and painful disappointment at what one sees. For while religion prescribes brotherly love in the relations among the individuals and groups, the actual spectacle more resembles a battlefield than an orchestra. Everywhere, in economic as well as in political life, the guiding principle is one of ruthless striving for success at the expense of one’s fellow men. This competitive spirit prevails even in school and, destroying all feelings of human fraternity and cooperation, conceives of achievement not as derived from the love for productive and thoughtful work, but as springing from personal ambition and fear of rejection.
In my view, he could have said the same thing in 2018 and it would have equal validity though perhaps the problem has been exacerbated by misguided direction from governments, and by both unfairness and greed. For some years we have been seeing the worst of selfish excesses and a solution is probably now more important than ever as climate change and other conditions worsen.

Einstein went on to say: "There are pessimists who hold that such a state of affairs is necessarily inherent in human nature". He continued: "it is those who propound such views that are the enemies of true religion, for they imply thereby that religious teachings are utopian ideals and unsuited to afford guidance in human affairs."

To illustrate his point Einstein then referred to the philosophy of the Pueblo Indians. "Under the hardest living conditions, this tribe has apparently accomplished the difficult task of delivering its people from the scourge of competitive spirit and of fostering in it a temperate, cooperative conduct of life, free of external pressure and without any curtailment of happiness." Studies done of the Hopi Indians have identified similar traits and the Maya have a very deep wisdom.

But of course western life is no longer as simple. But to think western life is civilised in view of the events of the last two decades would surely be wide of the mark. Conditions are such that a number of wisdom sources have firmly suggested for some time that we should rethink how we live and identify what is sustainable. There are more people 'out there' doing that very thing; more people than we might imagine as all we see and hear about is bad news: good news (until now) does not sell well! But all may well change very soon, as we know that crisis usually brings out the best in people.

The underlying formula of a successful and harmonious society starts with the individual, for an individual on the right track then influences the family and then the community and then the entire world. That is the ideal, of unity leading to peace and happiness. And the medium is via Love, implanted during the nurturing period in the family and then at school. The problem today is that parents often ignore the need for practical spirituality, pander to peer pressure and demand (or are led to believe in) an educational system specifically geared to providing their children with the best means to what is called "a good living" - along materialistic and competitive lines, as Einstein pointed out. That system all too frequently leads to broken families and fragmented societies. And a world at conflict. The educational system has surely lacked a sense of values.

People might object that religion is equally to blame, but we do need to reflect on what a true religion is supposed to achieve. Einstein referred to "true religion", which I call the Essential Teachings, as discussed in Perspectives 1 and 2: those teachings that promote a system of Human Values based on Universal Love towards our fellow man and towards the environment. This is a key issue. Einstein said of himself: "I try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value".

How would a system of Human Values be transmitted? Oscar Wilde said: "Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught." But "education" these days is not much more than a data collection exercise. In ancient times, and even in the presence of a guru or sheikh, it was not and is not like that.

While technical, academic or professional education is all very good to acquire a good living, it is the experiential life that is the true teacher. The acquisition of that form of learning is often best achieved by taking some considered risks with one's life: at least to question what is happening around us. However, to do so is riskier if the objective is not a pure one or if harm is done on the way. In fact, challenges unexpectedly arise often in the ordinary course of life and they present the best opportunities to learn: but to learn from such situations requires them to be met head-on. To be successful, the individual should not wilt in a disaster or simply claim 'foul' or blame others. As Kipling wrote (in 'If'):
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
So, we have come around again to the individual and the issue of "Who am I?" Am I a body, which is perishable, or is there an essence that I am supposed to know and actively evolve into a higher state? For me, the latter answer must be true. For if it were the body that defines who we are then we only have death to look forward to. That idea does not make sense to me; if it were the Truth then for what purpose did great teachers such as the Buddha and Jesus experience such great sacrifice and suffering? Not only they but many others too, many of whom are not recorded. Surely a good evolution of man can take place only if we attempt to transcend our earthly condition?

There must be many who feel that there is something more than the body but cannot express their ideas about it, or (not finding an answer in ordinary religion) simply try to put it aside and conform to what society views as normal. That happened to me, as when I was just entering teenage life I had the question rise up as to what it was that looked through my eyes to see and comprehend. I asked questions of my parents, but they could not answer, and I could not seem to identify any other way by which that question could be answered. It took me another 20 years of just living my life, in the way that others did, to come again to that question. The question was brought on again by a critical personal issue and a strange occurrence as part of that issue. That experience then set me off on a search, at the age of 30, and within two years I gave up a lucrative career to go away and find answers.

Answers to problems of any kind do not always come easily, and though my awareness developed as time went by, I was conscious of how easy it was to be ensnared into some railway siding (as it were) when in fact the path is long and narrow - as the scriptures say. But despite trying to be 'of service' I did sometimes get 'ensnared' and I did not come very close to an answer to my original question until I was in my sixties. I did not stop learning at that point either. I still haven't. But I feel more at peace and have a sense of a spiritual direction that I am happy with. I now envisage a Unity in Diversity.

My overall understanding can be summed up in the phrase: “Truth is one; sages call it by various names”. This is a statement in the Hindu scriptures, the Rig Veda. I can now (only recently) also reconcile to the statement made by Ghandiji that:
Only that one is a true worshipper of God, who is not jealous, who is generous to everyone and without any egoism.
Who can bear heat and cold, happiness and harm equally, who always forgives, is constantly satisfied, whose decisions are firm and whose mind and soul is surrendered to God.
Who does not cause any evil, who is not afraid of others, and who is as free of excitement as of worries and fears, who is pure, efficient at work but yet not touched by it, who gives up all the fruits of his acting, the good ones as well as the bad ones, who treats friends and enemies in the same way, who stays untouched by respect or lack of respect, who is not pampered by praise but also not depressed if people talk badly of him.
Who likes the silence and the loneliness and who has a disciplined mind.
The yogi is the one in whom all these capabilities are reflected in his life and who in the midst of a furious storm still sees the sun, who faces the difficulties and the death, who with a balanced quiet mind walks over a battlefield or goes to the executioners, and whose spirit is so joyful that even thunder puts him to sleep.
Whoever has attained Ghandiji's vision, on any spiritual path, must surely be at peace. I believe that vision is the culmination of the ancient path taught by sages thousands of years ago and demonstrated and thus ratified by the Budhha and (probably more significantly) by Jesus. I see the message of Muhammed as putting the same ideal within a social context, but fundamentalism threatens the integrity of Islam as well as Christianity.

Fundamentalism is dead. Long live Life! With help always but invisibly at hand, action of a certain kind is required; there are no shortcuts. The spiritual path is not just a self-obsessed issue with the only beneficiary being the seeker. The Love of a truly enlightened one always benefits all that is around him (or her).   The message from all spiritual quarters is to seek the Light and make it shine. Although this is not specifically a Christian view I will quote Jesus as he is made to state in the Bible, at Matthew 5:16:
You are like light for the world;
Your light must shine before people
so they will see your good things you do
and give praise to your Father in heaven.
Perspective #4 will look more at the topic of Karma and other aspects of the Soul..

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Perspective #2: I Was A Hidden Treasure

In Perspective #1, both the Bible and Albert Einstein present a picture of Unity, that all Creation is One. And, as a collorary to that, there is the Islamic tradition that God (as Allah) said:
I was a hidden treasure and wanted to be known.
This statement is referred to by Sufis and the Bahai faith, but there are Islamic commentators who question the authenticity of this statement. There are, however, others who say it is substantiated by a verse in the Qur'an (51:56) - a generally accepted revelation from Allah:
I created the Jinn and humankind only that they may worship Me!
Accordingly, since all human beings were created in His image (as self-aware consciousnesses evolved in a physical body), all human beings are also hidden treasures to each other. And all have this deep desire to be known. And to know One-ness.

If we were to accept that we are all (in reality) "self-aware consciousnesses [created by God]", does this not indicate that we are all linked in a mysterious, spiritual, way as brothers and sisters; that we are all, in reality, one whole? That when Jesus spoke of "loving thy neighbour" he was referring to that mysterious and spiritual link connecting us all - that we are all the same - inwardly, in essence. That it is our outward upbringing and acts that differentiate us, not our inward (and essential) reality. They say that "what goes around comes around", which infers that some action done has a potential rebound. That can include harm done to another.

The key question is, "should not we be making greater effort to realise our innate state and seek to find One-ness in order to try to put right the various serious ailments in the world today?"

And if we - regardless of the religion we are born into - are all One and relate to One God, why do certain religions (sects of Christianity and Islam in particular) seek to convert others to their form of religion? Why do members of these religions seem to think that other paths are inferior? Why, indeed, do members of these religions seem to think that their path is superior?

A number of people say that Jesus came and to save us. It is the ultimate truth for those who wish to believe that. Yes, in one sense, Jesus did have a saving message, but has that message been accurately interpreted? The usual interpretation may be because of there being a lack of a message 
in the Christian Canon (compared to other spiritual paths) about self-work, although those who were willing to be isolated in cloisters took that route in former eras. But, of course, the Canon was an eclectic compilation put together some 300 years after the passing of Jesus. The discovery of the so-called 'Nag Hammadi Library' and other discoveries throw rather a different light on what the Church has been saying since the time of Constantine. However, St. Augustine wrote:
That which is called the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and never did not exist, from the beginnings of the human race until Christ came in the flesh, at which time the true religion, which already existed, began to be called Christianity.
In my humble view, Jesus came as a living proof of the ability of all people to rise to a station of gnosis, Jesus even showed us in vivid detail that to arrive at that exalted state trials and pain have to be overcome. St. Augustine's statement seems to prove that the foundations for gnosis were being put in place before he (Jesus) came to us, but that Jesus's life created the conditions for everyone to attain gnosis, and not just a few, as there had been before. Hence the need for Jesus to openly illustrate the Way needed: not just to a fortunate select few, although his disciples must have been told more. 

But one of the greatest mysteries is that concerning Islam. For if Jesus was the 'proof' of The Way, what was the function of Prophet Muhammed, who came 600 years later? And it is noteworthy that all the prophets of the Abrahamic tradition - including Jesus - are accepted by the Qur'an. In fact, Jesus is as exulted in the mystical elements of Islam as much if not more than so-called Christianity! Even in the exoteric Islamic forms of the Sunnis, Jesus is hugely respected. It's the form that Christianity frequently takes and its wish to absorb all others that causes a massive obstacle towards understanding between the two ways. In fairness, that view applies also to the Sunni notion that as Prophet Muhammed is stated as being the last prophet, then the Islamic teachings (as the Sunnis understand it) should be taken as superior to all Christian teachings.

But what's perhaps even more interesting is that a number of the greatest men of Western literature - including George Bernard Shaw - were very attracted by the ways of the Islamic faith, and particularly by the character of the Prophet Muhammed. They saw him as the epitome of a wise and great leader of people and man of peace. For me, Islam (as Prophet Muhammed taught it, and as taught by the Sufis and other esoteric groups, please note) represents the kind of practical framework that most people would need to work within to attain the mystery that Jesus gave to the world. A similar framework exists in the Hindu teachings and which was established thousands of years before Judaism and Islam.

I see the same essential message in the core of all religions, whether it be Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian or Bahai. That is, the inference that we are not really the body; that there is an essence within that requires our primary attention.  But some religions speak in more detail on this topic. Here is just one relevant statement in the Chandogya Upanishad of the Hindu scriptures:
When in the body (by thinking this body is I and I am this body) the Self is held by pleasure and pain. So long as he is in the body, he cannot get free from pleasure and pain. But when he is free of the body (when he knows himself different from the body), then neither pleasure nor pain touches him'.
This quotation, by implication, rejects the notion that we can be saved from our spiritual plight by simply belief. It also implies that religious ritual does not, in itself, have great relevance. There is the suggestion that to be born into a religious practice should be considered beneficial (that it lays a foundation) but that it is undesirable to leave it at that. To achieve anything worthwhile, work is required: spiritual work. That work (if approached with a pure heart) is a kind of work that leads to permanent joy for the reason that all teachings (in their original form at least) taught that the soul lives on; it does not die. What the soul moves onto depends on what we have done during the Earth-bound opportunity.

The kind of work that is called for by what I call the Essential Teachings are directed to the individual, for it is only when the individual attains a certain level that he can be of real benefit to society - his "neighbours" - by progressively working on ego and giving service out of Love, obtaining joy therefrom. 

Interestingly, Oscar Wilde, in The Soul Of Man (1891), stated:
For it is through joy that the Individualism of the future will develop itself.  Christ made no attempt to reconstruct society, and consequently the Individualism that he preached to man could be realised only through pain or in solitude. ... The evolution of man is slow.  The injustice of men is great.  It was necessary that pain should be put forward as a mode of self-realisation.  
But what is the way forward from that "pain" or suffering that is talked of here? How do we obtain "joy"? We come back to the subject of Love. In  the thirteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul states:
If I speak the languages of men and angels, but have no love, I am like a resounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have no love, it earns me nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love has no envy; love is not puffed up; love has no pride. It does not behave itself unseemly, it takes no thought for itself; It is not made angry, It thinks no evil. It takes no pleasure in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, has unshakable faith, hopes fully, endures all things. Love never fails.
It would, therefore, appear to be the case that self-work was always top of the agenda as the real path, The Way to success in religion is the "know thyself" process to find "the hidden treasure". In Islamic and Hindu teachings about "self-work" there is little pressure on the need to live out of society to undertake that task, though some traditionalists still cling to that approach. However, to achieve anything of spiritual substance, the individual must loosen his worldly ties; his attachments.

It should follow, therefore, that by focusing on The Way, Love will prevail. Wars and other severely detrimental aspects that exist in the world now - and which include increasing mental issues that have evolved in modern society - would ultimately fade away once mankind was to see their real selves and the futility of choosing ego over Unity. 

You may say this is idealistic talk or that it is just an opinion. But what else makes real sense?

Perspective #3 will talk more about the Soul.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Perspective #1: The State Of Things

Most of us here in the UK and the rest of the western world sit reasonably comfortably in our homes thinking of their immediate family and wanting the best for them. But because of that (admittedly) time-consuming occupation, we tend to watch what is happening in the world with some indifference, though we might sometimes be appalled by suffering - particularly through drought and war.

But I feel it is time to express some harsh truths.

Our attention all too often becomes more concerned about whether we can afford a holiday, a new car or build that extension to the house. Or if not worrying about expenditure on that scale,  being overly concerned that our children are supplied with all the things that they believe they are supposed to have by some divine right.

Not all people fit into that description, but a good many do. But even in the west there are quite a number who are genuine 'have nots', and live day-to-day simply trying to make ends meet. And youngsters on that end of the economic spectrum tend to get drawn more into gangs, drugs and crime. More understanding governments try to stem that tendency by funding the provision of better social services, but then other governments decide we can't afford that and withdraw the funding, leaving the deprivation to look after itself. Or claim that the economy will pick up and will pay for these "extras". Meanwhile the rich get immeasurably richer and the poor stay poor.

No, I'm not jealous. I just believe that by living the way we do we are funding even more evil by letting the wealthy do what they do, often by funding drug companies to develop products that are often harmful to us. Meanwhile, they tell us that homoeopathy and Ayurveda and Chinese medicine is all hocus-pocus. Are they?

For those who are in a happier material situation and who do not already reflect and think about themselves in relation to society and the greater world of true reality, I suggest it is time to start getting real about ourselves and to try to take a broader view of our existence, and thus influence the direction which we are taking. Climate change, wars, hunger and pollution seem to be increasing: perhaps we are feeding this situation by the way we live and by letting our leaders take us in a direction we don't really need?

And there's another reason. The way of life that many of us live is just not what was intended. And if we knew what it is that is really intended then I am sure we would tackle life differently.

I will come back onto that theme, but for the time being it is probably sufficient to emphasise that ourselves and our immediate families are not the be-all-and-end-all of everything. All humans breathe, feel and love (and hate), and therefore it is not difficult to understand the thinking of other peoples, even though they may live much more simply than ourselves.

The great messenger we call Jesus told us that there are two laws we should heed. One is to love the Lord our God; the second to love our neighbour as ourselves. I believe our "neighbour" is each and everyone across the planet Earth. I believe we need to reconcile ourselves to all peoples and also the Earth itself, and all other lifeforms.

Thus, in Genesis 1:26 English Standard Version (ESV), it says:
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
But this is not just Christian teaching. This theme pervades all spiritual teachings.

And, as Albert Einstein once said:
A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Perspective #10: What's It All About?

This Perspective is essentially my own life testimony. However, I hope you do not read into this that I am some kind of saint as, physicall...