“THE GREATEST OF ALL THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF 20TH-CENTURY SCIENCE has been the discovery of human ignorance.” Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell. “OUR IGNORANCE, OF COURSE, HAS ALWAYS BEEN WITH US, AND ALWAYS WILL BE. What is new is our awareness of it, our awakening to its fathomless dimensions, and it is this, more than anything else, that marks the coming of age of our species.” Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Great Silence



Buddha famously said, “I teach only two things: suffering and liberation from suffering.” Accordingly, he was uninterested in metaphysical speculations. There is a moment recorded in Buddhist literature in which a student asked Buddha (Siddhartha Guatama) about survival or non-survival of death. Buddha simply sat quietly and did not answer the question. This has come to be called “The Great Silence.”


Monday, June 15, 2015

Waking Down



I wrote Awakening to the Obvious 20 years ago. Since then I have become more integrated. Even though in the book I make fun of “the stink of enlightenment,” from my present awareness I detect traces of that odor here and there in my essays. If I were to rewrite the book now I would tone down any mystical language, and place even more emphasis on the fact that “The awakeness of the Buddhas is everyday awareness.” 

I happen to be a natural-born mystic, sensitive to energy and prone to out-of-the-ordinary experiences, but most people are not inclined to such experiences—and certainly no one needs to be in order to fully awaken. For example, more than 20 years ago I underwent a spontaneous Kundalini awakening and to this day I continue to have the occasional Kundalini-driven experience—and I can tell you firsthand that such phenomena are utterly unnecessary. When I wrote Awakening I was still attached to feelings of ecstasy, so I sang the praises of what I call “the Signal” (the Holy Spirit, the Current of Life). Now I am released from clinging to the Signal. Now the freedom-clarity aspect of enlightenment has become foreground, so to speak, and the bliss-energy aspect has become background. I recently saw a book with the title Buddha Is the Center of Gravity. I haven't read the book but the title says it all. I have settled. I am here. I am whole. 

I can only say that ordinary happiness is more complete than bliss. People are eager to wake up, but as it happens, I awoke DOWN. Here is an essay from Awakening that expresses such plainness: 

The Awakeness of Those Who Are Awake


A Zen student asked her spiritual guide, “What is the enlightenment of the Buddhas?” (This is the same as asking, “What is the awakeness of those who are awake?”)
“The enlightenment of the Buddhas,” her teacher answered, “is the nature of ordinary awareness.”

What is the nature of ordinary awareness?

  1. Our real nature is not any knowledge that must be learned.
Studying the Pali language, for example, or learning about the “chakra system,” is not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Whatever can be learned (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) is not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature is not anything that is hidden or secret.
Being initiated into a secret practice, a secret mantra, a secret text, and so forth, is not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Whatever can be kept secret and must be discovered or revealed (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) is not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature is not any experience or state that must be attained. Archetypal visions, ecstasies of energy, “rising through the lotus of light,” and so forth, are not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Subtle visions,[1] energies, inner lights and other higher psychic phenomena that may occur (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) are not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature is not any body-mind condition that must be held in place. Manipulating and controlling the body-mind and life-force by intellectual effort, or by celibacy, diet, or yogic practices (such as concentration on energy channels, or continuous prayer, or breathing techniques) are not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Whatever conditions must be maintained through effort (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) are not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature can only be that which is always, already real.
We are not identical to any object or changing state of the body-mind, no matter how subtle or glorious. Our truth must be the ever-present capacity of all possible states of body and mind, “low” and “high.” Our original nature is not bound to time (not a matter of becoming), nor bound to space (not “within” or “without”—indeed, not locatable anywhere). Our reality is the Irreducible Mystery that undermines the seeker and all seeking. It is the awakeness of those who are awake, the nature of ordinary awareness, the timeless conscious being, who stands already free as the Heart, the Real Person, depending on nothing.






[1] A Zen fable goes: A beginning meditator exclaimed to his teacher in a gush of emotion, “I had a vision of the Buddha, seated on a lotus throne, surrounded by beatific beings!” His teacher replied, “Don’t be concerned. Just keep on meditating and such stuff will go away.”

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Knocking on the Door from the Inside




It is natural for human beings to love the Living Presence and Intelligence that we can intuit and sense even when we're not in a state of perfect oneness or wholeness. Bhakti yoga (devotional love-surrender to Grace, upon which "I" utterly depends) is a helpful and genuine path. 

However, bhakti is dualistic—the worship of the Wonderful Other—and unfortunately, nearly everyone stops there (at dualism), because adoring one’s image of the Divine feels consoling. Once the ego feels reassured and no longer afraid, that is usually the end of the deepening of awakening: “God is Good. Everything’s okay. I’m done!”

But if one surrenders to the Divine with the understanding that Source is actually NOT other and that one is relaxing into one’s own Being and Identity, then bhakti can be transformative. Indeed, through such increasingly complete devotional worship of God, many a dualistic seeker has inadvertently awakened to the non-dual realization of ONLYNESS (in which both “God” and “I” disappear in unity). If you read the writings of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic mystics, you’ll see that this awareness of total unity often comes as a complete surprise because, unlike the Vedantic and Buddhist mystics, their seeking does not begin with any notion of non-dualism.

I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door.
It opens.
I have been knocking from the inside!

(Rumi)


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Everything Is Everything


Greater than the visible

I’ve orbited the sun 62 times. How many times have you orbited the sun?

But wait… Shouldn’t we be including the 9 months we spent in our mother’s wombs? Why should the beginning of our lives be counted only from the moment we emerge from the birth canal? 

By the above calculation, I’m already 63. But hold on. Am I only 63? 

The genetic material in my father’s sperm and mother’s egg that fused into my DNA was around long before 63 years ago. In fact, the follicle cells that produced the egg that turned into the zygote that became “Mark” were in my mother’s ovaries at her birth! And what about the DNA in her mother’s ovarian follicles? I must trace my bodily self back to the primordial ooze.

Then again, no cell in the body lasts more than about 7 years, so maybe I’m really quite young. (No wonder I’m immature!) On the other hand, every atom that comprises my body was forged in the furnace of various stars many billions of years ago. All of us are literally made of stardust.  So maybe I’m really as ancient as the starry eons.

This is getting fuzzy and complicated. All I’m trying to do is to determine, precisely, how old this body is.

But that leads me to a far greater problem: Is the body’s age (even if I could determine it) the age of my Self? Am I the body? If I am the body, who was that little tyke back in the 1950s who rode a tricycle and answered to the name “Marky”? That little guy was not me—was not the hairy dude who now types these words. 

Am I the body? If I am the body, then I am a short, wiry human primate that appears in this indeterminate locality of space-time. I notice that “All that appears disappears”—all that is composed decomposes. So will I disappear? Will I decompose? Of course I will—IF I AM THE BODY!

Am I the body?

If I am not the body, what am I? If I am not the body, WHERE am I? Am I located inside the body? Am I situated in the head? In the heart? In the left big toe?

The body appears in and of space and time. If I am located inside the body, does that mean that I am trapped also in space and time? Am I locatable? If I am located in space and time, Where is space, and when is time?


The body appears. Do I appear? If I do appear, what do I look like? In a mirror, I see an aging body reflected. Is that MY appearance? Is that how I look? Vision is limited to the viewing instrument; the human brain can perceive only a tiny fraction of the energy spectrum. Can that visible fraction reveal even what the body is, let alone what I am? If I am not the body, than no mirror can tell me how I look. Not only that, but you cannot see all of me, just as I cannot see all of you, for we are infinitely greater than anything visible.