Microcosmic and Macrocosmic Aspects of Peace – Part IV

ZenThe road to peace has been mapped out for humanity by some of its forerunners. For example, historically, the Buddha indicated  one possible road to peace through the eight-fold path of right view, right thinking, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right diligence, right mindfulness and right concentration. These principals have stood the test of time and are as valid today as they were 2000 years ago.

Active individual participation in the promotion of social justice and political decision-making, without the use of violence, in a spirit of tolerance and goodwill, was strongly advocated by Gandhi in the 1900s. He promoted such important concepts as:

  • Ahimsa – non-injury through the renunciation of physical and mental violence against one’s self, others, animals and nature;
  • Advaita – the interconnectivity of all life forms;
  • Tapasya – the willingness to suffer rather than inflict pain on others;
  • Sarvodaya – everyone’s basis needs must be met even if that means that some people must give something up so that others are not left out;
  • Satyagraha – the pursuit of Truth through non-violent action.

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Some thoughts on suffering (part 3 of 3)

In the realms of spiritual authenticity, our worth is not calculated by our monetary Balancefortune, but rather by our actions and the quality of our emotional mind space at any given moment. We are responsible for our perceptions and attitudes i.e. our thoughts and feelings and, therefore, how we experience outer events. We are only partially in control of how those outer events play out. Life on the physical plane is impermanent and relatively random. To resist or deny that reality is madness. The sanest recourse is to accept life as an ever-changing playing field, to find the point of permanence in the inner self and then to live life with a sense of curiosity and playfulness. “A disciplined mind regards all changes as causal and temporary. The balanced does not fluctuate, and does not suffer.”[1] This tantric attitude takes courage and persistent effort, which is why I refer to it as the way of the warrior. Continue reading

Some thoughts on suffering (part 2 of 3)

Light of the soulMy life experiences and contemplations have brought me to the conclusion that without suffering it would be all too easy to remain in mind-dom i.e. in the clutches of the emotional mind. The latter can always keep us entertained with never-ending, theatrical representations of past events or fantasies of potential future happenings. When everything in our lives is going as planned (by the personality), the emotional mind can be a very comfortable place to take refuge. The risk, however, is that we remain stuck there, which means living in the illusion that our rational mind and emotions are our sole identity. Thanks to suffering, we get the gentle push, or even dramatic shove, to move out of contracted mind-dom and discover the fullness of our (divine) identity and consciousness.

Georg Feuerstein provides a Tantric – and I guess also Buddhist – perspective on suffering when he writes: “Many people […] are not in the least aware of their self-perpetuated state of incarceration. But those in whom wisdom has dawned can see that the world, or rather how they experience it, is confining. They also are sensitive to the fact that worldly existence is suffused with suffering (duhkha).[1] Continue reading

Quest for Self-Knowledge

MandalaJoy remembered when she had moved out of the flat with Jim and found herself alone for the first time in many years. She had experienced a severe crisis. Although perhaps outwardly nobody noticed, at night she cried, imploring the Universe – or whatever It was – to show her the way forward, to end the stagnation into which she felt she had fallen. Ever since she had developed a spiritual orientation in life, rejecting the more materialistic approach, she seemed to have struggled. It was as if all her efforts had led to nothing; as if she were no longer in the flow of life; as if she were swimming upstream.

Joy knew that, despite that cry to the Universe all those years ago, she continued to experience only pockets of apparent success in her personal and professional life for a long time afterwards. Nevertheless, she recognised that during those years of difficulty and struggle she had built up her inner strength, and expanded her understanding of the physical plane and its relationship with the non-visible worldContinue reading

Shakti and Goddess Power (Part 3 of 3)

Tantrikas[1] work with goddess energy through the use of: mantras – sacred sounds; yantras – “diagrams for working with the energies of life”[2]; mandalas – “graphic symbol[s] of the universe, specifically, a circle enclosing a square with a deity on each side”[3]; and, also through ritual practice.

To go into more depth on just one of the above-mentioned methods, a mantra can be considered to be: “… an absolute sound, having no conventional meaning, [that] work[s] on the body and the mind by virtue of [its] vibrational quality.”[4] Indeed, I’ve found very useful and profound to follow Sally Kempton’s recommendation of chanting the mantra shrim [pronounced shreem] to evoke what I understand to be the archetypal energies of the goddess Lakshmi.[5] Shrim (or any other mantra) can be spoken or chanted either aloud or silently. Moreover, mantra repetition can form part of a formal daily meditation practice, or it can be used in response to events that occur in our daily lives. For example, whenever my rational mind begins to churn never-ending fearful or self-bashing thoughts round and around in my head like a washing machine, I find silently chanting shrim and connecting with Lakshmi to be an excellent method for bringing the nose-diving personality back onto an even keel.  Continue reading

Anchoring our consciousness in the transrational

Awakening

What we know of human consciousness is likely to be only a fraction of what’s humanly possible. We seem to be mostly aware of the physiological and rational capacities of our human bodies and minds. Yet, I assume we’ve all heard the statistics about the tiny portion of our brains that we actually use, notwithstanding the fact that the remaining parts haven’t atrophied, which would plausibly be the case if they weren’t being utilized in some way – perhaps in a way that we’re not yet consciously aware of. Moreover, Tantra and Taoism suggest that each and every cell of the body has consciousness i.e. our organ of awareness is not solely the brain/mind. In Tantra, we’re encouraged to explore the elements of the human consciousness that are most evident, embodying and transforming our innate drives and responses rather than resisting or denying them; yet, at the same time, we’re asked to open ourselves to those areas of human consciousness that aren’t so readily accessible from the vantage point of ordinary awareness (the day-to-day rational/emotional state). As such, Tantra promotes the integration of body, mind and spirit. It rejects no facet of physicality i.e. Tantra neither negates nor dominates – attitudes that are typical of modernism.[1] Continue reading

Ephemeral inner peace

Inner journey

Despite her gratitude, each morning Joy woke up to a sense of incompleteness, which more often than not followed her throughout the day. Her spiritual practices helped her to gain some kind of perspective on this emotional and mental malaise. Yet, at the same time, Joy was convinced that meditation and contemplation had actually caused the unease to get stronger.

Some spiritual thinkers linked mental and emotional turmoil to the rational mind, saying it was its natural state of being. The lower mind, intrinsically connected with time and space, was always looking back or looking forwards, creating feelings of anxiety, fear, guilt, desire… Joy had found a partial liberation by her gradual recognition that she was not her rational mind, or rather, that her lower mind was only a part of who she was; a part that was pretending to be the whole; a part that was fooling the entire human race by keeping it imprisoned in the mental illusion of separateness, where greed and fear were the normal states of consciousness. Continue reading