The Dyslexic Dog…
I have started this article by asking “What isn’t God?” Normally people may ask, “What is God?” I thought a good point to come from might be to ask the opposite, to flip the question. When a dyslexic looks at the words,”What is God?”, he or she may see something that has a totally different meaning, it may read ‘What is Dog?’ Thinking it through, all humanity is just as confused as your average dyslexic in trying to understand either question; God is the greatest enigma. The brilliance of dyslexics (if they do not feel overly disadvantaged by not having the world of words sorted) will be in their ability to function comfortably in the world and solve problems in creative ways by looking at situations and finding a solution in a manner where they can wander unnoticed in the world of men and ‘things’ without a fuss. The issue of being able to address / make sense of God properly, is very similar to the dyslexics who, out of necessity have to learn to navigate the world differently; the more we explore the notions of God, it seems like the less capable we are of getting God to fit into a logical view, the crazier it gets.
The Problem with Academics
We could study hard, gather all get all the academics of the world together to write papers on the subject, and still be confused. When I glance across to the Indian Subcontinent to try to make sense of the issue and look for some of the wise men who have lived there, I find that in the not too distant past there was a sage called Ramakrishna, a simple man. Although he and I have very different perspectives, I find him to be of great interest. Often, whenever somebody asked Ramakrishna a question on spirituality, he would say ‘go ask Vivekananda’. Vivekananda was his student, and a scholar, a key figure in introducing some of the Indian Philosophies to the West. Ramakrishna was an experiencer of something sublime and wasn’t overly interested in the intellectual side of things, there was no need for him to be. This scenario gives me a hint, confirms what I already understood, or it is better if I say ‘assumed’ that it is probable that the intellect is not the right lens to look through to see or experience God. Although it is only one man’s perspective; something I have heard over and over again, the analogy of trying to fit the ocean into the bucket is a perfect description of the dilemma we have.
The Hopelessness of Zen
Anyone who has seriously explored the Zen Koan approach to self-transformation would have a deep understanding of not only why the system exists, but the (if I may say so) futility of the quest and trying to resolve the un-resolvable. For those who are unfamiliar with Zen Koans, traditionally in some schools of Buddhism, a teacher would give a disciple (disciple = an horrendous and misleading description) /student a puzzle such as, “Why is a mouse when it spins?”, another example would be,”What is the sound of one hand clapping, out of time?” 🙂 or some other, what would seem nonsensical puzzle to sort. Generally but not always, the teacher or Master would regularly check on the progress of the student (the word Master here means ‘one who has mastered him or herself’, in the same way as Jesus said to Peter, ” I am not your Master” when Peter addressed Him as Master”). My reason for saying that the Master Teacher will not always check the progress is because most students would be out of there (the dojo/monastery) pretty fast, when they started to get a deeper understanding and an inkling of what was going on, that is unless it was natural for them to stay. Someone with half understanding would continue, and half-understanding is not knowledge, it is opinions, suppositions; awareness is not about opinions, it is about perception, the perceiver or experience; although anything is possible it would be seem a rare event for someone who had gone through the transformation process to stay in the environment, unless they were in some way incapacitated, very old, or were the future teacher who would take over the role as the Master, only fools wish to be Master. As I see it, a Master emerges out of the depth of consciousness and has no agenda . Many spiritual aspirants delight in showing how advanced they are spiritually, which in itself tells the world where they are really at. Monasteries and Dojos are for teachers and students, not for free men and women. Religious outfits represent what ones ‘limitation’ is or what one has aligned their thinking with, and is generally not about depth of experience, it expresses the tools that one is clinging to. They are halfway houses.
Believers and Faithers
In the last two paragraphs I have stated that the intellect is not the tool for getting an understanding of what I will refer to as the Sublime Consciousness. Neither by studying the scriptures intensely, nor by the use of reason to unravel an enigma given by a teacher can we arrive at God; this is a strong statement, I don’t mind if you disagree, but it needs consideration, this is serious stuff. So, what can we do? If it is true what I say that logic or attempting through contemplation of ‘a great Teacher’s puzzle’ to resolve what the dyslexic Dog is, is not going to work; maybe we ought to look at faith for a solution. Faith is a fascinating thing, it differs from belief, in some cases it may crossover into being the same, this is a individual thing. But, faith and belief are very, very different. Belief we could get by default from our family, our ancestors, they stamp our bums at birth; we may have fear of damnation and grab on to what we think is the best choice available; or convinced by a good God salesman; we may be even tricked with smoke and mirrors and end up following a shonky guru because his story of the universe sounded fantastic and appealed to our emotions. Faith seems to have a bit more street-cred (credibility), a person could have had some type of deep experience and from it, he or she is convinced and then uses the response to the experience as fuel for motivation. People of faith can come in all sorts of packets, some are zealots, extremists, and others will be the kindest most compassionate being you will ever met, and there are many flavours in between. Believers are different, and a lot of them don’t think too deeply, if they researched the crimes committed by the hierarchies of their religions, they would never go back, their conscious would eat away at them. The thing with faith is it gives us a reminder that ‘something is doing I don’t know what’, a hint that there may be something beneath the surface of every day life. And I am not saying that ‘believers’ don’t have character, there are lots of variations, but I will quite clearly say (and it will sound arrogant) believers are on the surface of religion. They are attached to the ‘story’ of the founders of their religion/Faith, and I am quite comfortable saying “it’s not IT”.
One Word, a Million Meanings
I have added belief to my list; I will be cautious about Faith, and this is because I consider ‘faith’ to be built on something else, it requires a little more thought. But we need to be careful, interpretation is something that needs to be addressed. When we say the word ‘Love’, we all have a different story about it, it may mean something tender to one person, to someone else it could include a mortgage, a white dress, couple of kids, whereas if you discuss it with Shams the teacher of Rumi, or Jiddu Krishnamurthi, you may find yourself in unknown territory, you could easily be entering the doorway of transformation of your whole being. Take the word Jazz for example, what comes to mind to someone may be oompah paaah, to others they may envisage old people eating lunch to the sound of overplayed instrumental musical standards resembling piped elevator music, and there are the hipsters who consider it to be blowing (improvising) over chord changes in a bar where you’d expect Miles lookalikes to sneak down the stairs at any moment. Interpretation is in the limitations of the brain capacity and awareness of the beholder. When we bring something to mind, there is always a ‘story, a history, often we come to a resolve that hasn’t had much exploration. This is the problem with God.
Looking in Another Direction
I like the idea of looking at the questioner, turning it around on oneself. In India, there is a great tradition of Self Inquiry, looking at oneself. The problem we have with traditions is they come with a story, it may be true, it may be false; even if it’s true, something else arises, it’s not ours. It may give us a goal post to aim at but in a world of charlatans where there is is self-interest and self-indulgence, half truths and personal agendas, it is a minefield; as we move down this ‘imaginary’ road, we need to step carefully. We know from experience that even if something looks good, sounds good and is packaged well, it may not be what we think it is. The spiritual road is scattered with refugees, casualties and those who have given their whole being, only to find out they have been duped.
Sorting the Questions
Although the questioner may ask questions, they are endless; it’s not unlike a child who wants to know everything, “Mummy, daddy, what’s that, what are you doing, where are we going?”, there are many valid questions, an anxious fearful mind can find a never-ending stream of them. The mind (or more specifically it is better I say “that which creates thought”) is always pulling up things, stories and ideas, that’s its nature; although the mind-space is essentially empty, there is something in that space, a part of us that loves movement, is always seeking, always reaching outwards, and continues to bring some kind of logical order to things. Let’s look at a way of possibly resolving the questioning in some way, we can break it down to bring the ‘agitated thinker within’ to rest. If we can create some peace and harmony within ourselves, our thinking, it will be easier to deal with the underlying issues and bypass the unnecessary nonsense.
So firstly: Who is the questioner?
Let’s address the age old question of, ‘who am I?’ A cave man, if he was asked, would have answered simply with a few grunts, then gone about his business, club in hand, chasing a bison around a big rock or running from wild beasts of the field who consider caveman a delicacy. He would have been too busy to be distracted and comes into his moment of ‘what is essential’. It would be easy to say the caveman is dumb, he hadn’t developed his brain like modern man, that’s fair, but his intelligence helped him survive; if we turn of the power and communication grid, who will survive now? Tens of thousands of years later we are stuck with the same enigma that billions have pondered over; some have made claims of solving it, some have even said they were God; heretics or Godmen? Yes, humanity has evolved in some ways but many of those belonging to our species are still violent, outrageously self-centred and disrespectful to the world around us. I am also reminded that the old Zen or Chan Masters may have also responded to the question in a similar way , “What is Buddha?” with a reply of “Go eat your rice?’ When we look to both those scenarios, of cave-person and Zen Teacher, the common thread is to ‘Bring back our awareness to where we are.’ Without over complicating it, this for me is a bit of a give away of where the answer may lie. I could roll out a series of quotes from scriptural texts that address the issue but there is really no need to. In essence, we are a point of Awareness, maybe how we name it is not so important. A face is a face whether it has a beard or is wearing make-up, a mask or a helmet, the perceiver at the heart of experience is what is critical.
When we see ourselves as ‘a point of perception’ it allows many possibilities to emerge; the changing worlds may take on numerous shapes or colours, but underneath it, the perceiver sits in silence and the show passes, it rises and falls. The canvas of the Universes are in motion, but we, the ‘supposed me’ or us, is both ‘still’, ’empty’ and also I might use the expression for you to ponder, ‘an ACTIVE observer’ of the show (by this I mean we step into the puppet show of life). This articulation of being dual in nature ‘still and something that changes’, is at the core of all experiences; for me when I dig in, the contrast is defined by Buddha’s teaching of Emptiness and Krishna’s elaborate / beautiful form as perceived by the Gopi’s, or in a way is defined by the life of Jesus as he moved through the world and was a stream of compassion in action.
Secondly -Do we need a religion or a God ?
I love this question and lookin through my window it is easy to answer; my response is not necessarily one that would suit many people, it’s not really a concern, one’s God or no-God is a personal thing. I will be bold and say, “Most Gods are false Gods”; OK maybe I will be softer in my language, “Most Gods are temporary”, or if I say it another way, “I consider most Gods are like trainer wheels on a bicycle”… and that probably gets me back into deep water, it may sound arrogant, but the idea of gradually ‘deepening’ our understanding is fair, as is a quantum leap in consciousness; or better still the combination of the two. The Gods people have are generally small. On such an important issue, maybe we shouldn’t mess around, it’s not a problem if people disagree about God, it is the way we treat each other when we disagree that is important. If God were real, why would God be offended by a questioning humanity? I find it critical to explore and question, we do not need to come to the same conclusions or worldviews; we can ‘deepen’ by getting an understanding of others. I am a Jnana Yogi, but I hang out with Bhaktas (This means I have a perception that we all move in God, whereas my friendly pilgrim neighbours are seeking God).
Will the Real Jesus Stand Up Please
When I look at Jesus, from my window I see the greatest of men, some may call him God or a God, some may say his life was a a lie, a fabrication of the church to control the populace, and others will even say he traveled in Asia in the missing years between thirteen and twenty nine, married Mary Magdalene (who was not a prostitute and was the wisest of the disciples) . When I keep looking, I see an institution that has grown around the name of Jesus, one with many different variations. When I look further into history, I see anomalies, serious flaws, not with the person Jesus, but with what has happened over the last 2000 years. The average man on the street does not know the history of the churches, the crimes against humanity, or where the scriptures came from, nor how they were chosen and complied. If we are honest and look closely at religions and their Gods, the gurus and supposed Masters, we often see that there is a lot of hidden things going on that do not represent the values and ideals of the wise men that the sects have grown from; we are all aware of religious hypocrisy. So what do we do, do we become atheists, skeptics, do we dump God? The question asked earlier was ‘do I need a religion or a God?’ I could say quite confidently, “I don’t need religion, but I do need an inquisitive mind. Answering about God, I will just say, “assuming that God were real, He/She/It will still exist without me, whether I am a believer or not”. This thinking is leading me to a particular point, a resolve, and other questions arise, “If God is real, how do I experience God?”, although worship is important for some, is worship critical? It is not relevant to me, and I am not an atheist . I am not interested in the ‘story’ of God, it is ‘experience’ that is required.
Religion Without God
We know that although Buddhism is a religion, and we often see statues of deity’s and forms of Buddhas, Buddhism is not about God. When you strip it back, its essence is about the Four Noble Truths, these are at the core of the Buddha’s teachings. They are:
the truth of suffering,
the truth of the cause of suffering,
the truth of the end of suffering,
and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.
We see clearly when we look into Buddhism that God is not necessary, and I am not saying there is no God, some type of core primal consciousness. The more I dig around in Buddhism I see it is about how we live my lives which is critical. And although all religions are about ‘how we live our lives’, the focus changes within each religious institution. I will also state that ‘truth’ is something to be cautious of, I see it as a temporary thing and a variable.
Thirdly – What do I need to do to live a Spiritual Life?
We know from experience that people do all sorts of rituals, mysterious types of worship, dunking themselves in rivers, splashing babies with water and making them cry, rolling on the ground with coconuts, hanging from ropes with hooks through their skin, covering themselves in dirt, almost starving themselves, over eating because they call it Prasad, carrying crosses, kneeling for hours, burying themselves in the ground, overheating themselves in hot-houses, going on pilgrimages, wearing ridiculous outfits…. numerous ways of trying to grab God’s attention and showing their worthiness, sometimes even exaggerating their worthlessness to make themselves more appealing, the inverted-ego at its best, a twisted form of wannabe humility. And there are methods which seem more practical such as prayer, meditation, mindful walking and contemplation, various methods for bringing the thoughts to a restful place. There is a smorgasbord to choose from, so how do we choose? What has substance and what is spiritual bling? What’s exhibitionism and what is transformative? So what makes someone ‘spiritual’, supposedly Holy? Is that a worthwhile question?
Fourthly – What Supposedly Makes Someone Spiritual?
I have a problem, no not really, it is better that I say the world of men has a problem. Religion is divisive, spirituality can be incredibly arrogant, elitist; if we are not cautious it can fragment the community. Religious people are often separating the human species into the ‘wheat and the chaff’, the holy and the profane, the saved and the lost; if they are are not doing it out loud, they are doing this in their thoughts, ‘us and them’ mentailty.
If I come back to a basic concept that underlies many religions, there is one God, or even if there is no God mentioned, there is unity at the core. I won’t even blink when I say this but, “if a religion divides the human community into us and them, those congregations need to rethink their values”. When we look at the civilisations that have come and gone, there are numerous gods who have been the centre focus for worship or religious practice; we know the game of ‘MY GOD is better than
your god‘, there are many people willing to argue this point, personally I wouldn’t bother, my response is going to be ‘get informed’, get an education about the various approaches to God and come back in twenty years. The deeper we go into a faith or spiritual practice, the more we notice that the water comes from the same source, the wells are different, but water is the same… we are digging for pure water without the coloring’s or artificial flavors.
What Really Matters?
I was asking ‘what makes someone Holy or spiritual?’ I think it would be better to ask “what makes a glorious human being?”, “What makes our life worthwhile?”, “If there is a God, what would God value?” Or even if there wasn’t a God, “what is it best for us to value?” I remember watching a television series about the Mahabharata; the Mahabharata relates to Hinduism. I am not a Hindu but there was a defining moment when Krishna spoke to eldest brothers of the two warring clans, one was a Pandava (good guy), the other a Kaurava (bad guy). Krishna looked at them both and spoke the words, “although I love you both” and then he turned to the Pandava and said, “I must support you.” For me, most of what I need to know is in that response. I will take the liberty of saying,”if God were to choose something, someone, He/She/It would lean towards that which nurtures, that which brings harmony.” We do know that the worlds we move in are a play of ‘rise and fall’, creation and dissolution, a contrast of light and dark, form moving on formless.
What Are We?
We are feeling beings; this feeling-ness is something that goes way beyond ‘tingles’. Although we can get what I would call ‘false-flag-emotions’, things that seem like something with substance but are really just surface experiences; we have a part of ourselves that echoes wisdom from another place; the feelings, these deep emotions speak to us on how to live, what really has value, and what counts, what has substance. I know from the experiences gathered through my life; empathy, compassion, kindness, detachment, a clear conscience, flexibility, forbearance, honesty are some of the fruits most worth nurturing. If someone asked me how to decide whether their religion or spirituality was working, personally I think they could measure the success of their faith or practice by the growth in these values and whether they are embracing more of a diverse of humanity or if their religion has separated them out as a ‘chosen ones’. When people are tender, vulnerable, at the ‘edge’, that is the time when ‘equality of being’ needs to come to the fore; no-one above or below; our sense of humanity can peep through and it is best we leave our designer Gods at the door; we are in this together, one species moving through space evolving.
The Enigma of Being Human
The original question was ‘What isn’t God?’, we can ponder this deeply and the response will change shape from time to time, the unfolding process is like a tree that spreads out, old leaves and flowers fall off there is new growth; the roots of experience go deep into the ground and the trunk of our understanding becomes firmer. There is an old Zen Koan which asks, “Does a Dog have Buddha Nature?”, this is also a very, very good question, it moves the focus of puzzle away from the individual, it nullifies our sense of ‘I’, the imaginary part of us which is what we believe ourselves to be; and like all Zen riddles, it is answered with our whole being, it is resolved in our transformation. I will ask another pertinent question and it’s one we may ask ourselves each day as the sun rises, or for those of us who prefer to be up later starting the day with coffee and chocolate, “What does it take to be a human being who can add beauty the world, to be somebody who embraces both the religious man and the atheist, someone who has an open heart and leaves a trail of kindness wherever we travel?
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