Be Calm & Follow Your Bliss

The world into which I was thrust made absolutely no sense to me. I was solemnly informed that there was a God who had created the world, but, even as a child, I considered this arrant nonsense. God, I was further told, was pure Love, which made me even more dubious about the authenticity of this wisdom. If God was pure love, I wondered, how in sweet hell could he have created a world so full of ignorance, misery, hatred and suffering? Did it give him perverse pleasure to watch babies starving, men being blown to bits in senseless wars, innocent brides burned to death for lack of a larger dowry, monstrous inequities in wealth, and a myriad other forms of implausible wickedness?

Soon I discovered that pleasure could be derived from this same world simply by indulging one’s senses and using one’s talents to become rich and famous. Yes, one could enjoy a variety of entertainments, sparkling if fickle companions, terrific parties, sex, drugs, and rock & roll. But why did a feeling of pain and emptiness invariably follow indulgence in these so-called pleasures? Instead of waking us up, I discovered too, this hollowness often drove humans to chase new forms of pleasure, which also ended up in the same dreary hell—which is why, I supposed, insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Continue reading

Two Great Truths of Absolute and Relative Reality

SHIVA AND SHAKTI TANTRA

In my volatile teens, I was struck by the poignant beauty of an ancient metaphor (contained within the Mundaka Upanishad) that speaks of two birds perched on the branch of a tree: one bird eats the fruit of the tree while the other watches.

The first bird represents the individual self/soul; distracted by the fruits (signifying sensual pleasures), she forgets her lord and lover and tries to enjoy the fruit independent of him. (This separating amnesia is known in Sanskrit as maha-maya or enthrallment; it results in the plunge of the individual into the ephemeral realm of birth and death.) As for the second bird, it is an aspect of the Divine/Self that rests in every heart—and which remains forever constant even as the individual soul is bedazzled by the material world.

This teaching implies that it is ignorance of our true nature that creates a vicious cycle: the individual, being blinded by the illusion of existing as a separate entity, has no option but to act—and therefore fresh misery is piled on the old. But the Absolute is whole and free of illusion; performing no actions it is not bound by karma.  Continue reading

Mahamudra, The Great Seal – Samsara’s Seven Flavors #3/12

mahamudra-sealEtymologically, Mahamudra is a combination of two Sanskrit words: maha, or great, and mudra, translated in this context as seal. In ancient times, minus the ease of communication that we take for granted, seals were the only way to confirm the authenticity of, say, a royal command. If an old world monarch sent an order to an outlying province to execute a corrupt minister before sundown, that message would have to bear his personal seal in order for it to be obeyed. And in the context of samsara or relative reality, Mahamudra is that seal of authenticity, for its characteristics are ubiquitous even in the tiniest aspect of samsara.

Samsara, our guru defined as the condition of being forced by the power of one’s own karma to repeatedly take on an impure body and mind; in other words, the minds and bodies we currently wear are the sole creation of our personal karma created over thousands of lifetimes. It’s okay to have a mind-body system, he’d say with a laconic grin, but not one that is forced on you. Continue reading