beyond belief

IMG_4118POSTCARD #131: Delhi: I received this photo of a plane journey on my phone from M, my 11-year-old Thai niece. She was on a night flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. All our devices are connected so I get her photos, downloaded images, screenshots, kiddie’s apps and have to subscribe to an increased GB storage plan due to these thousands of ‘cute’ digital items, increasing daily. I read in Google somewhere that the number of mobile phones exceeds the population of the world, due to users that own multiple devices. Let’s say there are trillions of images all around the planet… whatever, there’s just this sense of vastness. Like the stars seen through M’s downloaded pic of the plane window. More than that; a quick look at Google tells me there are 200 billion galaxies out there, a Universe filled with a septillion: 1024 planets –on ‘the short scale’ (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) and 1042 on ‘the long scale’.

Changing from the Macro to the Micro, each star that can be seen from the plane window out there looks like a micro particle – wiki tells me that ‘point-particles’ are zero-dimensional. So it doesn’t take long to start thinking about transparency, lightness, non-being:

You are boundless space.
You are nothing that you appear to be.
You are the fathomless ocean, forever flowing.
The waves do not affect you.
Nothing affects you, for there’s no you.
[Robert Adams]

(reblogged from: Known is a drop, Unknown is an ocean

It’s just that everything I’ve been taught as a child is the received perception that’s passed down through generations of those with the same mind/body organism as I have. Most of us hold on to creationist belief systems, “God” – the ‘Big Bang’. But what caused the big bang? What came before that? A lot of people I know spend most of their time in contemplation, one way or another  – meditation or focused thought, and seeking a way of living that allows for this because it’s possibly the most important thing you can do with your life.

Advaita Vedanta talks about Brahman being the cause, and the world is the effect. Without the cause, the effect is no longer there. What that means is the ‘World” is real when seen with Brahman but it’s false when seen without Brahman. So basically Brahman is the original cause and those of us who see without Brahman are seeing the World as an illusion. Sounds like the sky is blue, the grass is green because the human sensory system creates it like that, and there’s no way to prove this is ‘real.’ That’s how it seems to be, in a manner of speaking – the sense there’s something missing… Brahman/Pure Consciousness/Reality? Not seeking, just considering the question. I like what cabrogal says: ‘Pure consciousness has no object’ – this has become like a kind of koan for me.

The Buddha didn’t agree with the external, eternal creationist idea:

“As far as the suns and moons extend their courses and the regions of the sky shine in splendor, there is a thousandfold world system. In each single one of these there are a thousand suns, moons, Meru Mountains, four times a thousand continents and oceans, a thousand heavens of all stages of the realm of sense pleasure, a thousand Brahma worlds. As far as a thousandfold world system reaches in other words, [the universe], the Great God is the highest being. But even the Great God is subject to coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be.” (Anguttara-Nikaya X 29)

It’s like saying these are all concepts and true reality is not a concept – words cannot reach that far. I received another picture from M, her painting of a beehive, done after she got off the flight and back in school again. It’s a natural hive in the forest. When Jiab asked what the bee outside the hive was doing there, she gave it some thought and said it was counting the stars – a created answer, sort of an on-the-spur-of-the-moment thing…

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Note: I Googled the title of this post after I’d set up the thing for publication and discovered in Amazon it’s the title of a book: ‘Beyond Belief’ by Elaine Pagels about the “secret” Gospel of Thomas. The idea that the Jesus Teachings were changed by Churchianity. Jesus was saying he was the son of God but we are all the sons and daughters of God, no difference. We can all be enlightened. I was wondering if anybody had read this book and should I order it from Amazon?

thralldom

IMG_0388bPOSTCARD #39: Chiang Mai: Coming up to Chiang Mai from Hat Yai was done in two stages, with the stopover at Bangkok, as we did going down. It was the same thing, the other way round. Everything already seen, but occuring in reverse order and the hassle and stress we experienced on the way down got cancelled out on the return journey. Like a video on fast-rewind, it stops at the beginning not the end and the memory of ever having gone or been away is erased.

A short trip, six days only. The point of it was to visit Jiab’s youngest brother and his wife and their new-born baby – a truly amazing child with a wonderful smile. It was a bit like the Three Wise Men following the star to the stable where the baby Jesus lay in the manger – not really like that… there was Jiab and her sister, me and M, who is 9 years old and dismayed by lack of internet, sadly playing the same old games on the iPad and not interested in being in a rubber plantation, with its curious waftings of latex smells. I was quite blown away with the experience of being surrounded by rubber trees – I knew that rubber came from trees of course but it was sort of bizzare somehow… trees made of rubber?

Now back here in Chiang Mai and friends have sent pics of the monks blessing everyone for the coming year. These quiet humble events are meaningful in a way I’ve not seen in the Church and all the gusty hymn singing, great heaviness of acoustics and out-of-sync organ suggesting a fearsome power and immensity. What my Sunday School teacher taught me was that “God made the world,” and I wrote that down in my little exercise book but had absolutely no understanding of it; an imponderable, a Zen koan: God made the world…

But who made God? The world and God are two separate things, one of them made the other, therefore seeing this from a place created in the mind for the purpose of looking for God and finding only a complexity of half understood truths. In the end, I stopped worrying about it; there is no God (in that way of thinking) and decades later the whole thing vanished – with it went the concept of ‘self’. Liberated from ‘the thralldom of the senses’. Quite an ordinary epiphany, like one might be sitting in a quiet room with furniture and objects and light coming in through the window then suddenly a letting-go moment takes place and ‘I’ no longer have the burden of ‘my’ thoughts about ‘me’. Released from the subject/object duality. God is not ‘out there’, but ‘in here’. God is subjectivity, conscious awareness.

Conscious awareness is everywhere. In the blogging world, for example,  it’s what we’re talking about or describing all the time, one way or another, in our different locations, circumstances and in our various states of mind and body. Sometimes there’s an instant understanding of what conscious awareness means but it’s beyond words. Sometimes  awareness is there but I think I can’t see it. Thinking I can’t see it, is another mind moment that exists temporarily in awareness. The mind doesn’t create awareness, mind is contained in the awareness. Other times there’s the simple knowing of it and a feeling of quiet purpose in every step, every move.

IMG_0389‘Only by liberating oneself from the thralldom of the senses and the thinking function – both of them servants and not masters – by withdrawing attention from “things seen” to give it to to things “unseen” can this awakening be accomplished.” [E. F. Schumacher, “A Guide For The Perplexed”, p.79]

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Excerpts from an earlier post: Being here

maya & christmas

IMG_0220POSTCARD #36: Chiang Mai: Going around town in a tuk-tuk, seeing all these new shopping areas getting built and a huge shopping mall opens here soon called MAYA – a Sanskrit word meaning illusion. In Thailand the word maya is applied to the lifestyle of movie stars who have everything money can buy and their lives are thought to be unreal. In an intelligent way, everybody knows what maya is and what ‘reality’ is. But in the shopping mall context maya is presented as an attractive idea; it’s appealing, even though it’s an illusion, we’re partly agreeing with it; complicit in its being there. We might say well, okay it’s an illusion, but what’s wrong with that? Nobody wants to see it as calculated corporate planning to create a market for consumer goods… that would destroy the pretty illusion. Nobody wants to know that the local population, sons and daughters of rural/urban migrants, and naïve hill-tribe folk are likely to be swept away in the wave of purchasing choices. Unseen, built-in strategies contained in an imported Western model that doesn’t suit this culture… and we’re not willing to say there’s anything wrong with it because we’re all in some way compromised.

A kind of tacit approval of consumerist schemes embedded in our lives that has resulted in our losing so much of our inherited cultural traditions. The Christmas festival is layered over with the maya of santaclausisms and the Jesus Teachings are nearly lost in it. It’s as if the essential part of our spiritual Truth got forgotten along the way and consumerism came along in its place. It’s a mystery really, why it should be like this, but for some reason the early Church disapproved of the gnosis (knowledge) part of the teaching. Out went the pragmatic instructions on seeing the constructed nature of appearances and the stepping-through to discover the non-duality between ourselves and God. ‘His disciples said to him, “When will the kingdom come?” 
<Jesus said,> “It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying ‘here it is’ or ‘there it is.’ Rather, the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it (113).”’[Nag Hammadi Manuscripts].

After an extended period of study and contemplation, one simply ‘wakes up’ to the Truth of it; the reality that surrounds us all the time; Brahman, the Oneness, the God state that’s here and now. You’ll notice I’m presenting the Jesus teachings as an instance of the Advaita experience, sourced in the Upanishads [I wrote another post about this, link to: Jesus and Advaita Vedanta]. I’m also including the Jesus Teaching in a oneness of spiritual teaching centred in that geographical region where the three Abrahamic religions arose: Christianity, Judaism, Islam and the connection with Brahmanic religions and Advaita Vedanta. Others related to this include Buddhism and Jainism. That region, from North India through to Israel and the Mediterranean, a distance of about 3000 miles, say from New York to San Francisco? I see it like a highway of knowledge, wisdom and information. All of it coming and going along the route many centuries before Jesus was born and many centuries after. All the world’s religions arose here.

Somewhere in this context lies the actuality of our Jesus experience; only traces of it remain – enough to know there is this huge feeling of goodwill towards all beings in the world and the universe.

Merry Christmas friends and fellow bloggers ~ Christmas 2013

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Excerpts from: meta-narratives

Low Headroom

East Anglia: Here in the cottage and wide awake at half past three. There was a full moon shining in the window of my little room like a headlight in the clear sky and it woke me up. Came downstairs and got a fire blazing in hearth. The last of last years logs in the shed covered in cobwebs. Nothing has happened here for a year except the neighbour coming in to clear the junk mail once a week. Cold, quiet and that alone feeling; fields all around. I must be the only one awake in a radius of some miles, except for party-people and the night shift down at the Quay. I’m in this wide-awake condition, alert and ready to get on with the day, ears buzzing with the absolute silence of the English countryside.

In this 200 year-old building, the main door is very low, 5ft 6 inches; duck your head to enter and exit. Sometimes the rising up occurs too early and the head collides with the door frame.

I know it well, it’s happened a number of times and thus I have this bruised head and resulting consciousness of the head situated at the top of the body that reminds me of Douglas Harding’s idea of Headlessness. I met him once at his house near Ipswich, not very far from here. He was my neighbour but I never knew him, met him only that one day when Jiab and I went to visit with two bhikkhus. We stayed for the meal and after we’d eaten, did the thing with the paper cylinder that Douglas used to demonstrate the headless reality. What I remember was seeing his cheerful pink-cheeked face at the end of the cylinder he and I were holding and the distinct fragrance of lunch. Sad to think he’s gone now. Douglas Harding passed away in 2007 at the age of 98. The photo above was taken in 2005.

After that I ordered his book: ‘On Having No Head’ on amazon and delivered here by Parcelforce, a company that sounds REALLY assertive. Looking at this now and the description of his visit to the Himalayas and that moment when he discovered he had no head: ‘…what I found was khaki trouserlegs terminating downwards in a pair of brown shoes, khaki sleeves terminating sideways in a pair of pink hands, and a khaki shirtfront terminating upwards in—absolutely nothing whatever! … this hole where a head should have been was … a vast emptiness vastly filled, a nothing that found room for everything—room for grass, trees, shadowy distant hills. I had lost a head and gained a world.’

The ‘headless’ condition he describes at length is something I’ve considered many times. Now seated here at the desk upstairs on revolving office chair, yellow vinyl floor surface, facing the small window, no curtains, dark black outside, the window glass reflects the interior of the room and back of desktop computer. I find the Douglas Harding Quotes page.

‘The lost Gospel according to Thomas, discovered “by accident” in an Egyptian cave in 1945, couldn’t have appeared at a more opportune moment in history, or with a message that speaks more directly to our condition and needs.’ [Link to: Douglas Harding Quotes]

Birdsong… sun is coming up and I see a flat landscape; low lying sunbeam illuminates a few remaining cornstalks in the harvested field, they are a golden colour. Blue sky, it’s a new day, clear away all the shadows of night and I’m pondering the evidence that all and everything is in the space where the head used to be. Is this what Jesus was really teaching? [Link to: Nag
 Hammadi Manuscripts]

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‘… your humanity is like a disguise, an incarnation you have taken on to be here in this world. Inwardly you are God, outwardly you are a person – a unique person with a special contribution to make. Instead of thinking you are just that person, that appearance, you are awake to the Power behind you, the Safety within you, the Source of inspiration and guidance at the heart of your human life. This enables you to be yourself even more so.’ [Douglas Harding Quotes (link above)]

Main Photo, left to right: the Author, Catherine Harding, Douglas Harding, Ajahn Dhammiko and Ajahn Visuddhi