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Living on ‘borrowed time’? ~ Ron’s Memoirs

“We mark birthdays annually,
but celebrate Life constantly.
For birth and death are virtual,
while Life is perpetual –
a perpetual  blessing.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings

Hariharanda Giri.



Introduction.

Growing up I rarely thought about the mystery of inevitable bodily death.

Not until a transformative midlife awakening to self-identity as eternal spirit, followed by inner visions of apparent other lifetimes, and meeting my Guruji, who taught about death, dying and beyond, did I begin experiencing deep reflection about the mystery of inevitable bodily death.

And eventually I even began wondering whether our lifespans might be karmically predetermined upon birth. That reflection was triggered over thirty years ago when I received a memorable Vedic astrology prediction that I would die “at age 84”, based upon my precise time and place of birth.

Here is what happened.

Story of death prediction.

After Guruji returned to India in 1980, I met and learned from many other spiritual teachers, in addition to Guruji’s successor, Shri Anandi Ma, while always maintaining my heartfelt inner relationship with Guruji – above all other teachers.

Especially after my 1982 pilgrimage to India, for many years I considered myself a “born-again Hindu” and was especially attracted to Indian spiritual teachers. Thus in August 1986 I attended programs given by Sri Hariharinanda Giri, a self-realized Kriya Yoga initiate of renowned Master and Vedic astrologer Sri Yukteswar Giri and of Swami Yogananda Paramahansa, who continued a spiritual lineage beginning with “Mahavatar Babaji” – an etherial being who apparently I beheld at the 1982 Kumbha Mela in Allahabad, India.

Inspired by Sri Yukteswar, Hariharinanda Giri [affectionately known as ‘Baba’] had become an expert Vedic astrologer, and offered optional readings to those receiving his Kriya empowerments. So on August 10, 1986, I had a private astrological reading with Baba in which he interpreted my Vedic chart – which I called a ‘karmic map’.

In Vedic astrology or Jyotish, the ascendant sign is often deemed the most defining element in the chart. Both my Vedic and Western astrology charts show Libra – which is ruled by the planet Venus – as my ascendent or rising zodiac sign.

And so in his reading Baba emphasized this significant aspect of my chart. But in his Indian English he unwittingly mispronounced the name of my ruling ascendant planet, Venus. In a tape recorded session, two or three times he approvingly told me: “Your Penus is rising”. And he lovingly offered enlightened advice for my skillful spiritual behavior under that auspicious rising sign.

On conclusion of his reading Baba showed me my written chart, and asked if I had any questions. I pointed to a notation at the top, and asked him what it meant. Whereupon Baba turned off the tape recorder and replied: “That shows when you will die.”

Until then I had never heard that Vedic astrology could determine time of death from a chart based on planetary configurations at time of birth. Nor had I begun to think about my time of death. So in response to this surprising revelation, I simply exclaimed, “Oh!”

Whereupon, without my asking him, Baba voluntarily told me: “You will die at age 84”.

Post-prediction death reflections.

After Baba’s surprisingly specific death prediction, I continued to reflect on death and gradually discovered persuasively apt writings about esoteric ancient Vedic philosophy, astrology and prophesy, as well as about Einstein’s revolutionary relativity science. And I found credible quotes from non-dualist masters suggesting that that not only one’s lifespan but our actions, and even our thoughts, are predetermined by natural laws of causality until we transcend the ‘wheels of karma’. [See Einstein’s Mystical Ideas About God, Death, Afterlife, and Reincarnation; and Indian Astrology, Free Will or Fate? ~ An Amazing Synchronicity Story ]

On my recent 84th birthday anniversary (on November 8, 2016) I completed a full 84 year Uranus cycle, of exactly 1008 months. So since then I’ve been wondering how much time is left for Ron Rattner; whether he is ‘scheduled’ to very soon say “bye-bye” to this twenty first century.

Conclusion.

Life is eternal, but human lifetimes are ephemeral. So as an 84 year old octogenarian, not knowing when this precious lifetime will end, I have decided to soon conclude my memoirs by augmenting an earlier chapter about Dealing With Death and Dying with discussion of my changing views and questions concerning physical death – a profoundly important spiritual subject.

Thereby I hope that we will soon be sharing reflections and questions about inevitable physical death which can help us live ever happier lives in the Eternal NOW.

And so may it be!

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Einstein’s Mystical Ideas About God, Death, Afterlife, and Reincarnation

“I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, …Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism.
~ Albert Einstein, as quoted in his New York Times Obituary, April 19, 1955)


Albert Einstein



Albert Einstein was not only a great scientist but a wise philosopher and a pragmatic “true mystic” … “of a deeply religious nature.” (New York Times Obituary, April 19, 1955)

Einstein did not believe in a formal, dogmatic religion, but was religiously and reverently awed and humbled with a cosmic religious feeling by the immense beauty and eternal mystery of our Universe.

He often commented publicly on religious and ethical subjects, and thereby he became widely respected for his moral integrity and mystical wisdom, as well as for his scientific genius.

In an essay collection entitled The World As I See It, first published 1933, Einstein explained his reverence for God as Eternal Universal Intelligence. But he rejected prevalent religious ideas of individual survival of physical death, reincarnation, or of reward or punishment in heaven or hell after physical death. He said:

I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavor to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature. [The World As I See It]


On learning of the death of a lifelong friend, Einstein wrote in a March 1955 letter to his friend’s family:

“Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”


Einstein’s rejection of afterlife contradicted many religious teachings and credible experiential accounts of individual afterlife and reincarnation. But it was consistent with Einstein’s revolutionary scientific paradigm and with highest non-dualistic Eastern religious teachings, the most ancient extant of which is Hindu Advaita Vedanta philosophy.

Einstein revolutionized Western science with his 1905 groundbreaking special theory of relativity that “mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing”; that there was an equivalence between all matter and energy in the universe, quantifiable by the simple equation e = mc2. On his arrival in New York in 1919, Einstein summarized his theory of relativity in the single sentence: “Remove matter from the universe and you also remove space and time.” Clark R.W., Einstein: His Life and Times (1973)

Though Vedic rishis or seers had anticipated Einstein by millennia, their teachings were largely unknown in the West until shortly before Einstein revolutionized Western science. The ancient Vedic Advaita teachings were first brought to large Western audiences by Swami Vivekananda – who came to the West as Indian delegate to the 1893 Parliament of World Religions.

Vivekananda, who was principle disciple of nineteenth century Indian Holy Man Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, eloquently explained that according to Advaita philosophy this impermanent and ever changing world is an unreal illusion called maya or samsara; and, that “all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream”…

In an eloquent New York City lecture called “The Real and the Apparent Man”, he equated maya or samsara with “time, space, and causation” and presciently predicted scientific confirmation of the ancient Vedic non-dual philosophy of One Infinite Existence. He said:

“According to the Advaita philosophy, ..this Maya or ignorance–or name and form, or, as it has been called in Europe, time, space, and causality–is out of this one Infinite Existence showing us the manifoldness of the universe; in substance, this universe is one. So long as any one thinks that there are two ultimate realities, he is mistaken. When he has come to know that there is but one, he is right. This is what is being proved to us every day, on the physical plane, on the mental plane, and also on the spiritual plane.

“What then becomes of all this threefold eschatology of the dualist, that when a man dies he goes to heaven, or goes to this or that sphere, and that the wicked persons become ghosts, and become animals, and so forth? None comes and none goes, says the non-dualist. How can you come and go? You are infinite; where is the place for you to go?

“So it is with regard to the soul; the very question of birth and death in regard to it is utter nonsense. Who goes and who comes? Where are you not? Where is the heaven that you are not in already? Omnipresent is the Self of man. Where is it to go? Where is it not to go? It is everywhere. So all this childish dream and puerile illusion of birth and death, of heavens and higher heavens and lower worlds, all vanish immediately for the perfect. For the nearly perfect it vanishes after showing them the several scenes up to Brahmaloka. It continues for the ignorant.”

“Time, space and causation are like the glass through which the Absolute is seen. In the Absolute there is neither time, space nor causation.”

“Science and religion will meet and shake hands…When the scientific teacher asserts that all things are the manifestation of one force, does it not remind you of the God of whom you hear in the Upanishads? Do you not see whither science is tending?”

“…this separation between man and man, between nation and nation, between earth and moon, between moon and sun. Out of this idea of separation between atom and atom comes all misery. But the Vedanta says that this separation does not exist, it is not real.”

“Your own will is all that answers prayer, only it appears under the guise of different religious conceptions to each mind. We may call it Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, but it is only the Self, the ‘I’.”

~ Swami Vivekananda – Jnana Yoga


Einstein’s non-mechanistic science was very difficult for Western materialist minds to comprehend because his mystical view questioned the substantiality of matter and the ultimate reality of space, time and causality. Like Vivekananda, he said:

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”


“Our separation of each other is an optical illusion of consciousness.”


“Space and time are not conditions in which we live, they are modes in which we think”



“That which is impenetrable to us really exists. Behind the secrets of nature remains something subtle, intangible, and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion.”



Thus, Einstein’s rejection of prevalent religious ideas about God and individual survival of physical death and afterlife was consistent with his revolutionary science as well as with Eastern non-dualistic teachings explained by Vivikenanda that apparent separation between subject and object is an unreal “optical illusion of consciousness.”

Did Einstein’s psyche survive his death? Was he surprised on his demise?

Though Einstein didn’t believe in individual survival of physical death, he may have been surprised on his demise. Conservation of energy is basic to physics. So Einstein must have realized that his subtle energetic essence was indestructible and could only be transformed from one state to another. But we don’t know how that knowledge may have influenced his opinion about what happens on individual death, or his experience thereafter.

Except for very rare Buddha-like people who transcend all desires, it is probable that all humans survive physical death as psyches or mental bodies, irrespective of their beliefs. So the Dalai Lama has said:

“[Physical qualities] cannot be carried over into the next life.
The continuum of the mind, however, does carry on.
Therefore, a quality based on the mind is more enduring. …
So, through training the mind, qualities such as compassion, love, and the wisdom
realizing emptiness can be developed.”
~ H.H. Dalai Lama, from Practicing wisdom: the perfection of Shantideva’s Bodhisattva way


Thus, Buddhists say that Gautama Buddha experienced countless incarnations over eons of time before ultimately transcending the cycle of birth and death. And the Dalai Lama has said:

“We are born and reborn countless number of times, and it is possible that each being has been our parent at one time or another.  Therefore, it is likely that all beings in this universe have familial connections.”
~ H. H. Dalai Lama, from ‘The Path to Tranquility: Daily Wisdom”.


But, rather than wondering if on demise of Einstein’s physical body and extraordinary brain, his subtle mental body survived – with its unfulfilled desire to find a single simple “unified field” formula explaining phenomenal reality from perspective of ‘the mind of God’ – let us honor his immense evolutionary accomplishments and take inspiration from his compassionate social activism, and pragmatic wisdom.

And thereby let us learn to live ever more peacefully, harmoniously and skillfully, in this ever changing phenomenal world of space, time and causation, as together we evolve out of the darkness of ignorance and into the light of Eternal Awareness.

And so may it be!


How I See the World – PBS  Documentary Film About Einstein:



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Death? Afterlife? Rebirth? ~ Easter Reflections on Resurrections.

“I tell you the truth,
no one can see the kingdom of God
unless he is born again.”
~ John – 3:3
“I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as a plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was man.
Why should I fear?
When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as man,
To soar with angels blest;
But even from angelhood I must pass on …”
~ Rumi
At my death do not lament our separation …
as the sun and moon but seem to set,
in reality this is a rebirth.
~ Rumi
death, as men call him, ends what they call men
–but beauty is more now than dying’s when…
~ e. e. cummings
“The dewdrop belongs to the sea.
Separated, it is vulnerable to the sun and wind and other elements of nature;
but when the droplet returns its source, it becomes magnified in oneness with the sea.
So it is with your life.  United to God you become immortal.”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda
Eternal Life is gained by utter abandonment of one’s own life.
When God appears to His ardent lover the lover is absorbed in Him,
and not so much as a hair of the lover remains.
True lovers are as shadows, and when the sun shines in glory
the shadows vanish away.
He is a true lover to God to whom God says,
“I am thine, and thou art mine! ”
~ Rumi


The Last Supper



As countless millions reverently commemorate the rebirth and resurrection of Jesus following his physical death by crucifixion, let us contemplate the deep significance of that story.  Whether we regard it as historic or metaphoric, the story raises crucial issues about life and death – about afterlife and rebirth – and about our true identity and reality.

After birth, death of the physical body is inevitable and unavoidable. “No matter how we strive, no body leaves alive.” Uncertainty exists only about time of death, and about whether there is life after physical death.

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, respected scientist, author and pioneering authority on death and dying, believed in survival of spirit after physical death, and used butterflies as symbols of the death process. Soon after World War II, she visited the children’s barracks at the Maidanek concentration camp in Poland. There, amazingly, she observed hundreds of butterfly images drawn by the inmate children on the walls, even with pebbles and fingernails. Spellbound by the sight of butterflies drawn on the walls, she wondered why they were there and what they meant. Twenty-five years later, after listening to hundreds of terminally ill patients, she finally realized that the imprisoned children must have known that they were going to die and intuitively were using butterflies as images of the physical death process. Dr. Kubler-Ross thus explained in The Wheel of Life, A Memoir of Living and Dying:

“They knew that soon they would become butterflies. Once dead, they would be out of that hellish place. Not tortured anymore. Not separated from their families. Not sent to gas chambers. None of this gruesome life mattered anymore. Soon they would leave their bodies the way a butterfly leaves its cocoon. And I realized that was the message they wanted to leave for future generations. . . .It also provided the imagery that I would use for the rest of my career to explain the process of death and dying.”

But if – like snowflakes – each of us manifests as an absolutely unique physical form, what is it about us that can survive death of that unique form, and be “born and reborn”?

“Reincarnation” is often understood to be the transmigration of a “soul” – viz. apparently circumscribed spirit – to another body after physical death. Though in Buddhism there is no concept of separate soul or individual self that survives death, Buddhists believe in rebirth. Like most mystics, Buddhists say that in addition to our physical body, we are enveloped by subtle astral and mental bodies, which survive death of the physical body and become consciously associated with successive physical bodies.

A detailed and compelling description of afterlife can be found in “Autobiography of a Yogi”, by Paramahansa Yogananda, Chapter 43 – The Resurrection of Sri Yukteswar .   There Yogananda credibly recounts a long discussion with his physically deceased Guru, Sri Yukteswar, who – like Jesus – resurrected to explain to his disciple Yogananda many details of afterlife.  [You can read that extraordinarily fascinating story at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Autobiography_of_a_Yogi/Chapter_43

The Dalai Lama says that:

“We are born and reborn countless number of times, and it is possible that each being has been our parent at one time or another.  Therefore, it is likely that all beings in this universe have familial connections.”

Many psychics say that on physical death “we” survive and enter different realms. eg. http://www.victorzammit.com/Whenwedie/whatdoeshappen.htm

But ancient Vedic non-dualism philosophy (Advaita) has for millennia taught that this impermanent and ever changing world is an unreal illusion called maya or samsara; and, that “all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream”… .

These ancient non-dualism teachings were first brought to large Western audiences by Swami Vivekananda, principle disciple of nineteenth century Indian Holy Man Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, at and after the 1893 Parliament of World Religions in Chicago.

In an eloquent New York City lecture called “The Real and the Apparent Man”, Vivekananda equated maya or samsara with “time, space, and causation” and presciently predicted scientific confirmation of the ancient Vedic non-dual philosophy of One Infinite Existence. He said:

“According to the Advaita philosophy, ..this Maya or ignorance–or name and form, or, as it has been called in Europe, time, space, and causality–is out of this one Infinite Existence showing us the manifoldness of the universe; in substance, this universe is one. So long as any one thinks that there are two ultimate realities, he is mistaken. When he has come to know that there is but one, he is right. This is what is being proved to us every day, on the physical plane, on the mental plane, and also on the spiritual plane.”


“What then becomes of all this threefold eschatology of the dualist, that when a man dies he goes to heaven, or goes to this or that sphere, and that the wicked persons become ghosts, and become animals, and so forth? None comes and none goes, says the non-dualist. How can you come and go? You are infinite; where is the place for you to go?
 
“So it is with regard to the soul; the very question of birth and death in regard to it is utter nonsense. Who goes and who comes? Where are you not? Where is the heaven that you are not in already? Omnipresent is the Self of man. Where is it to go? Where is it not to go? It is everywhere. So all this childish dream and puerile illusion of birth and death, of heavens and higher heavens and lower worlds, all vanish immediately for the perfect. For the nearly perfect it vanishes after showing them the several scenes up to Brahmaloka. It continues for the ignorant.”


“Your own will is all that answers prayer, only it appears under the guise of different religious conceptions to each mind. We may call it Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, but it is only the Self, the ‘I’.”

~ Swami Vivekananda – Jnana Yoga

Revered 20th century Indian sage, Sri Ramana Maharshi – who was a renowned exponent of non-dualism – taught that self-realization reveals that this entire world of space/time/causality is illusionary maya or samsara; but that reincarnation exists until self-realization. Thus, responding to the question: “Is reincarnation true?”,  he said: “Reincarnation exists only so long as there is ignorance. There is really no reincarnation at all, either now or before. Nor will there be any hereafter. This is the truth.”

But the Dalai Lama says he practices death and rebirth eight times daily. And, as Tibetan Bodhisattva of Compassion, he’s planning to return until all sentient beings are liberated from suffering.

If you had the option of a one-way exit pass to ‘heaven’, would you volunteer as a Bodhisattva to come back to this crazy world?

Whatever our ideas about death, afterlife or rebirth, may we – in this life on our precious planet – realize together our common dream for a better world, where everyone everywhere is happy.

AND SO IT SHALL BE!


Ron’s Commentary on Easter Reflections on Resurrections:

Easter Reflections on Resurrectionshttp://sillysutras.com/death-afterlife-rebirth-easter-reflections-on-resurrections/…

Posted by Silly Sutras by Ron Rattner on Saturday, March 26, 2016

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Life Is Perpetual; Happiness Is Optional

”Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it.
What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi
“Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.”
~ Chuang-Tzu
“The soul is eternal, all-pervading, unmodifiable, immovable and primordial.”
“The soul never takes birth and never dies at any time
nor does it come into being again when the body is created.
The soul is birthless, eternal, imperishable and timeless
and is never destroyed when the body is destroyed.
Just as a man giving up old worn out garments accepts other new apparel, in the same way the embodied soul giving up old and worn out bodies verily accepts new bodies.”
~ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2



Life is perpetual;
Happiness is optional.

God gives Life eternal.
Humankind makes it sublime or infernal.

Timeless delight,
or endless night:

However we choose it,
we never can lose it.



Ron’s audio recitation of Life Is Perpetual; Happiness Is Optional

Listen to



Ron’s commentary on Life Is Perpetual; Happiness Is Optional

Life Is Perpetual; Happiness Is Optionalhttp://sillysutras.com/life-is-perpetual-happiness-is-optional/Dear…

Posted by Silly Sutras by Ron Rattner on Friday, February 19, 2016

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Free Will or Fate?

“Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end,
by forces over which we have no control.
It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star.
Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust,
we all dance to a mysterious tune,
intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.” . . . .
“Human beings in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free but are as causally bound as the stars in their motions.”
~ Albert Einstein
“The assumption of an absolute determinism is the essential foundation of every scientific enquiry.”
~ Max Planck
Q. “Are only the important events in a man’s life,

such as his main occupation or profession, predetermined,

or are trifling acts also, such as taking a cup of water or

moving from one part of the room to another?”

A.  “Everything is predetermined.”

~ Ramana Maharshi 
“[T]here cannot be any such thing as free will; the very words are a contradiction,
because will is what we know and everything that we know is within our universe,
and everything within our universe is moulded by the conditions of space, time, and causation.
Everything that we know, or can possibly know, must be subject to causation, and that which obeys the law of causation cannot be free.”
“The only way to come out of bondage is to go beyond the limitations of law, to go beyond causation.” . . . .
“This is the goal of the Vedantin, to attain freedom while living.”
~ Swami Vivekananda – Karma Yoga
“In Hinduism, the very idea of free will is non-existent, so there is no word for it.
Will is commitment, fixation, bondage.” . . . .
“To be free in the world you must be free of the world.
Otherwise your past decides for you and your future.”
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
“There is only one central issue, crisis, or challenge for man,
which is, that he must be completely free.
As long as the mind is holding on to a structure, a method, a system, there is no freedom.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
Ultimate freedom is not freedom of choice,
but freedom from choice.
Ego is free to choose,
but is never free.
Self does not choose,
but is ever free.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Every Cause has its Effect;
every Effect has its Cause;
everything happens according to Law;
Chance is but a name for Law not recognized;
there are many planes of causation,
but nothing escapes the Law.”
~ The Kybalion
“Every action, every thought, reaps its own corresponding rewards. 
Human suffering is not a sign of God’s, or Nature’s, anger with mankind. 
It is a sign, rather, of man’s ignorance of divine law. . . .
Such is the law of karma: As you sow, so shall you reap. 
If you sow evil, you will reap evil in the form of suffering. 
And if you sow goodness, you will reap goodness in the form of inner joy.”
~ Paramhansa Yogananda
“It is true that we are not bound. 
That is to say, the real Self has no bondage. 
And it is true that you will eventually return to your Source. 
But meanwhile, if you commit sins, as you call them, 
you have to face the consequences. You cannot escape them.”
~ Ramana Maharshi
“Nothing perceivable is real. Your attachment is your bondage.
You cannot control the future.

There is no such thing as free will. Will is bondage.
You identify yourself with your desires and become their slave.”

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
“Free-will is a non-entity, a thing consisting of name alone” . . . . .
“The will of man without the grace of God is not free at all, but is the permanent prisoner and bond-slave of evil since it cannot turn itself to good.” . . . .
“For grace is needed, and the help of grace is given, because “free-will” can do nothing.”

~ Martin Luther – The Bondage Of The Will
In the mind there is no absolute or free will; but the mind is determined to wish this or that by a cause, which has also been determined by another cause, and this last by another cause, and so on to infinity.
~ Baruch Spinoza 
“The only difference between a human being and a stone rolling down a hill, is that the human being thinks he is in charge of his own destiny.”
~ Baruch Spinoza
“There is no such thing as chance;
and what seems to us merest accident
springs from the deepest source of destiny.”
~ Johann Friedrich Von Schiller
“There are no mistakes, no coincidences,
all events are blessings given to us to learn from.”
~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“Not my will but Thy Will be done.”
~ Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42
“God alone is the Doer.
Everything happens by His will.”

~ Ramakrishna Paramahansa
“We must believe in free will, we have no choice.”
~ Isaac Bashevis Singer
“Man plans, God laughs” (Mann traoch, Gott Lauch)
~ Yiddish proverb






Q.  Do we have free will, or freedom of choice, or is our life pre-determined or fated?

A.  Our experience of apparent freedom of choice or of pre-destiny depends on our evolutionary history and perspective.

In space/time causality/reality, most “normal” people experience freedom of choice, and make decisions and plans about ostensible options in their lives. And most people have the apparent option of determining the attitude or state of mind with which they experience life. Because each person is unique, each experiences life and apparent free will differently, depending on their unique evolutionary perspective and personality. Such apparent free will increases as powers of self awareness increase.

But according to mystics, our belief in free will is illusory. For example, both Albert Einstein and Ramana Maharshi have asserted that every detail of worldly life “is predetermined.” And Swami Vivekananda told us that “free will” is a self-contradictory concept; that with worldly will there can be no freedom, which is always constrained by the universal law of cause and effect. Similarly, Vivekananda’s master, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, taught that
“God alone is the Doer. Everything happens by His will.”

Enlightened saints, sages, shamans and mystics for millennia have reported attitudinally transcending this ever impermanent reality, and experiencing it as an illusory play of consciousness, sometimes called ‘samsara’ or ‘maya’. Such masters no longer mentally self-identify only as mere mortal embodied beings, but as non-dual universal intelligence or spirit which is the Source and essence of this ever impermanent world. 


They report realizing experientially – as Albert Einstein explained scientifically – that: “reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one;” [that] “space and time are not conditions in which we live, they are modes in which we think”, and that our separate self-identity “is an optical illusion of consciousness.”  They define “freedom” as a timeless non-dual spiritual Reality beyond thought or ego – beyond human comprehension, imagination, description or belief –
which can only be known experientially, not rationally or mentally.

Since free will implies separation of one who wills or chooses from the objects of his/her will, there can be no free will or free choice without an imagined or conceived doer or chooser separate from objects of his/her actions or choices. And without time there can be no destiny of any supposedly separate doer or chooser.

Thus, in space/time causality/reality, as long as we self-identify as supposedly separate entities distinct from the apparent objects of our perceptions, choices or intentions, we have apparent freedom of choice, until we transcend separate self-identity and experience existence as universal choiceless and timeless awareness, or consciousness without an object.  [*See footnote]

But, our exercise of apparent freedom of choice creates karmic causes and conditions which can keep us believing in the “optical illusion” – that we are separate entities rather than ONE universal intelligence. And with the law of karma we reap as we sow. According to Swami Yogananda,
“If you sow evil, you will reap evil in the form of suffering. If you sow goodness, you will reap goodness in the form of inner joy.”

With Self realization there is transcendence of illusory separate self-identity; whereupon there remains only Being – only emptiness – with no separate someone to will or intend or separately experience anything in time.


Thus, upon total transcendence of separate entity identity, there is no free will or free choice,

nor is there time in which karmic fate or destiny unfolds –


Only thoughtless, timeless, choiceless, non-dual Awareness,


ever



NOW!

*According to Eastern philosophies, Karma is universal law of cause and effect applied at subtle levels to everything we think, do or say during repeated reincarnations as supposedly separate beings. A similar concept is implicit in Western teachings that we reap as we sow [e.g. Galatians 6:7-9]


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Saint Francis of Assisi: His Life and His Prayer

“All the darkness in the world can’t extinguish the light from a single candle.”
~ Francis Of Assisi (The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi)
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
~ Francis of Assisi
“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”
~ Francis Of Assisi
“Vi volglio tutti in paradisio!” [ “I wish all in heaven!”]
~ Francis of Assisi
“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”
~ Francis of Assisi


Praying to Brother Sun and Sister Moon

Saint Francis of Assisi
September 26, 1181 – October 3, 1226 [*See footnote]


Saint Francis of Assisi is one of history’s most beloved saints. For almost eight hundred years since his canonization by the Catholic Church (in the year 1228), he has been remembered and revered not only by Christian denominations, but by countless others world-wide, who have been inspired by his life of universal love, his teachings, and his oneness with Nature. More than three million people come every year to his tomb in Assisi.

He is patron saint of Italy and of many other places, like San Francisco, a city blessed with his name, his spirit, and a national shrine including the Porziuncola Nuova, the only papally declared holy place in the USA. Also, he is patron saint of birds, animals and ecology. Francis loved peace, communed with all living creatures, and lived a life of kindness, simplicity and poverty in contrast to the wealth and apparent corruption of the Church. He was the founder of the Franciscan order of the Catholic Church, and inspired founding of the Poor Clares order for women, and a third secular order for laity sworn to peace.

After living a worldly life of youthful revelry for the first half of his short lifespan, Francis volunteered to fight in a war between Assisi and neighboring Perugia. He was captured during a bloody battle at Collestrada, and was imprisoned and chained in solitude for a year in a dark Perugian dungeon, until ransomed by his wealthy father. Beginning during this time, and thereafter, he suffered a period of protracted physical and psychological illness, remorse and reflection. After fervent prayer, deep introspection, and profuse tears, Francis ultimately decided that money and worldly pleasures meant nothing to him, and as a traumatized battle survivor he came to abhor war. Whereupon, he devoted his life to solitude, prayer, helping the poor, caring for lepers, and promoting peace. Seeing himself as God’s troubadour or fool, he lived in absolute poverty, patterning his life after the life of Jesus and dedicating himself to God.

On returning from a pilgrimage to Rome, where he begged at Church doors for the poor, Francis received a mystical message from Jesus while praying in the ruined church at San Damiano outside of Assisi. There while he was enchantedly gazing at the painted wooden crucifix – a Byzantine image of the crucified Christ still alive on the cross – the silent voice of Jesus telepathically ‘spoke’ to Francesco, instructing him: “Francesco, Francesco, go and repair my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.” Thereafter, he devotedly began rebuilding San Damiano and other ruined churches.

Though Saint Francis took literally that mystical message from the crucifix, its true meaning was metaphoric and profound. And by the end of his short lifespan, Saint Francis and his orders had by their example inspired a renaissance of the Catholic Church.

Francis’ exemplary lifestyle inspired and attracted followers who joined with him in his in his Divine mission and life of poverty. Clad in ragged, gray robes with rope belts, they went out barefoot in pairs to spread the Gospel. When they needed food or shelter, they asked someone for it. It was against their rules to “own” anything. Thus, they were known as the “begging brothers”.

In 1209 Francis received permission from Pope Innocent III to form a brotherhood, a religious order of the Church called the “Friars Minor,” (littlest brothers). As “friars” they worked in communities, actively preaching and helping residents, as distinguished from “monks” who then usually lived alone in isolated places. They soon acquired the name “Franciscans”, proliferated and today remain important international symbols and instruments of Francis’ legacy.

The Franciscans’ first headquarters was a simple, tiny chapel near Assisi which Francis received from the Benedictines, and personally restored, naming it “Porziuncola” [“a small portion of land”]. The Porziuncola became Francis’ most beloved and favorite place. Because of his presence and prayers there, it was and continues to be one of the world’s rare holy places. Here, Francis lived, fervently prayed, wrote his rule, created his order of friars minor and consecrated his friend Clara (Chiara), who became Santa Clara, founder of “the poor Clares”, a female religious order dedicated to Franciscan ideals of holiness and poverty. Francis so loved this little place that he chose to die there.

In 1216, while Francis was fervently praying in the Porziuncola, a light filled the chapel and he beheld above the altar a vision of Christ, the Virgin Mary and a company of angels. They asked him what he wanted for the salvation of souls. Francis replied: “Vi volglio tutti in paradisio!” [I wish all in heaven!] And Francis then asked that all those persons who shall come to this church, may obtain a full pardon and remission of all their faults, upon confessing and repenting their sins. The request was granted based on Francis’ worthiness, and the indulgence was later officially confirmed by Pope Honorius III, and became known as “The Pardon of Assisi”.

Francis was extremely democratic and humble. He referred to himself as “little brother Francis” and called all creatures “brothers” and “sisters”. He loved Nature and pantheistically considered it to be the “mirror of God on earth.” He spoke of “Sister Water” and “Brother Tree” and in one of his writings, he referred to “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon”. There are legends about sermons he preached to trees full of “Sister Birds” in which Francis urged them to sing their prayers of thanks to God. And it is said that rabbits would come to him for protection.

In another legendary story, Francis spoke to a wolf which had been terrifying the entire village of Gubbio, scolding “Brother Wolf” for what he was doing. That wolf not only stopped his attacks but later became a village pet, and was fed willingly by the same villagers, who missed “brother wolf” after he died.

Francis was determined to live the gospels and was strongly influenced and motivated by Jesus’ teachings. “Give to others, and it shall be given to you. Forgive and you shall be forgiven” were his frequent teachings.

Also as a traumatic battle survivor and war hostage Francis cherished peace. So, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” ~ Matthew 5:9 and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” ~ Matthew 5:44 were often recited by him.

According to a recent biography, Francis was “the first person from the West to travel to another continent with the revolutionary idea of peacemaking.” On a mission of peace, Francis journeyed to Egypt in 1219 idealistically hoping to end the 5th Crusade by converting the Egyptian leader – Sultan Malik al-Kamil – to Christianity. Though his visionary peace mission did not succeed, it proved nonetheless a miraculous portent and important symbol of potential reconciliation between Christians and Muslims and others.

At a time when most Christians demonized Muslims as enemy “infidels”, Francis regarded and treated Muslims with respect, never echoing the negative comments or conduct of his contemporary Christians. Moreover, in Egypt Francis – a devout and gentle peacemaker – was appalled by the crusaders’ sacrilegious brutality.

Francis arrived in Egypt during an ongoing violent and bloody conflict at Damietta, an important city on the Nile, besieged by the Crusaders. There, in the midst of horrible bloodshed, Francis miraculously crossed battle lines totally unarmed and vulnerable, and was able to reach the Sultan’s encampment unharmed and welcomed. Moreover, Francis was admitted to the august presence of the sultan, who was nephew of the great Saladin who had defeated the forces of the ill-fated Third Crusade.

The Sultan was a wise and pragmatic devout Sunni Muslim, influenced by Sufi mystical teachings. He was ready to make peace, and reciprocated Francis’ peaceful and respectful attitude. For at least several days Kamil hosted and dialogued with Francis as an honored guest, before having him safely escorted back to the Crusader encampment. The Sultan – who was amenable to philosophical conversation, but not to conversion – probably noted and honored Francis’ sufi-like appearance and peaceful demeanor, and his regular greeting – “may the Lord give you peace” – uncommon for Christians, but similar to the Arabic “salam aleykum” greeting.

Reciprocally, Francis was deeply impressed by the religious devotion of the Muslims, especially by their fivefold daily call to prayer – call of the muezzin.

On returning to the crusader camp Francis desperately tried to convince Cardinal Pelagio, whom the pope had authorized to lead the 5th Crusade, that he should make peace with the Sultan. But the cardinal who was certain of victory would not listen. His eventual failure, amidst terrible loss of life, brought the barbaric age of the crusades to an ignominious end.

In 1224, near the end of his earthly life, according to legend, Francis became the first saint in history to miraculously receive crucifixion stigmata. It happened after he had been taken to Mount Alverna, a wild nature place in Tuscany, to be in solitude for a forty day retreat.


Though already in a very feeble state, he fasted and prayed intensely with deepest longing for God. In the midst of his fast, while he was so praying he beheld a marvelous vision: an angel carrying an image of a man nailed to a cross. When the vision disappeared, Francis felt sharp pains in various places on his body.

In locating the source of these pains, Francis found that he had five marks or “stigmata” on his hands, feet, and sides—like the wounds inflicted with nails and spears on Jesus during His crucifixion. Those marks remained and caused Francis great pain until his death two years later.

On October 3, 1226 A.D. Francis died in a humble cell next to the beloved Porziuncola, his favorite holy place where the Franciscan movement began. He was blind from trachoma, suffering from malaria and other illnesses, emaciated and racked with pain from the stigmata and other wounds. As he lay dying, the brothers came for his blessing. They sang “Song to the Sun”, a song which Francis had composed.

Sometime before he drew his last breath, he said, “Let us sing the welcome to Sister Death.” Francis welcomed ‘Sister Death’ knowing that “it is in dying that we are reborn to eternal life”, the concluding line of a beautifully inspiring and best known peace prayer mistakenly attributed to him. (**See Footnote)

In conclusion, we offer that prayer in grateful tribute to his blessed life and legacy. May he ever inspire countless beings to become instruments of Divine peace and love, in perfect harmony with Nature and the kingdom of heaven.

“Vi vogliamo tutti in Paradiso”; “We wish ALL in Heaven”.


And so it shall be!

Prayer Of St. Francis Of Assisi **

Beloved, we are instruments of Thy peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
despair, hope;
darkness, light;
discord, harmony;
sadness, joy;

Divine Mother/Father, grant
that we may seek not so much
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving, that we receive;
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying – to ego life –
that we are reborn to Eternal Life.

 


Footnotes

* This narrative is based on Ron Rattner’s intuitive interpretation of many disparate and sometimes conflicting historical accounts of the life of Francis of Assisi. The reader is free to accept or reject any part of it.

**This inspiring peace prayer does not appear in any of Saint Francis’ known writings. According to researchers, the first appearance of this prayer was in a French language magazine, La Clochette, in 1912; it was probably then first written by a forgotten Catholic Priest, Father Bouquerel. Later, the prayer was translated into English and widely distributed on cards with a reverse side picture of Saint Francis, without any claim that he wrote the prayer. But, because of his picture and because it invokes his spirit, the prayer thereafter became commonly known as the Prayer of Saint Francis. The foregoing version of the prayer has been edited by Ron Rattner.



Ron’s audio recitation of the Prayer of Saint Francis Of Assisi

Listen to


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Afterlife?

“In order to know through experience what happens beyond death,

you must go deep within yourself.

In meditation, the truth will come to you.”

~ Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas
“It is crucial to be mindful of death —
to contemplate that you will not remain long in
this life. If you are not aware of death, you will
fail to take advantage of this special human
life that you have already attained. It is
meaningful since, based on it, important
effects can be accomplished.”
~ Dalai Lama – From “Advice on Dying: And Living a Better Life” written with Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D.
“It is in dying to ego life,

that we are reborn to Eternal Life.”

~ Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (edited by Ron Rattner)




Q: Is there an afterlife?

A: After-life is NOW.

Q: Is there life after death?

A: There is no death – only Life.

Q: Then, what is it we call death?

A: A vacation:

Eternal life-force vacating a transient vehicle.


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How Can We Become Immortal?

True happiness cannot be found in things that change and pass away. Pleasure and pain alternate inexorably. Happiness comes from the Self and can be found in the Self only.
Find your real Self .. and all else will come with it.
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
What is birth? Is it of the “I-thought” or of the body?
Is “I” separate from the body or identical? How did this “I-thought” arise?
Is the “I-thought” your nature? Or is something else your nature?
The “I” of the wise man includes the body but he does not identify himself with the body.
For there cannot be anything apart from “I” for him.
If the body falls, there is no loss for the “I”. “I” remains the same.
If the body feels dead, let it raise the question. Being inert, it cannot “I”.
“I” never dies and does not ask. Who then dies? Who asks?
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi


Sri Ramana Maharshi


Q. How can we become immortal?

A. To become immortal,

BE more than a mortal.

Consider:

What lives? What dies?

What exists? What persists?

Observe:

That every thing and every phenomenon
that arises and appears on the screen of our consciousness

Is but a fleeting mirage projected in space/time,
by and within the Light of Eternal Awareness;

That nothing is permanent in the ever changing universe,
where all that appears, disappears.

Be aware:

That only Eternal Awareness
exists and persists beyond time.

So, to be immortal, don’t just be a mortal –

BE Eternal Awareness –

NOW!

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Evolutionary Impetus?

“I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as a plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was man.
Why should I fear?
When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as man,
To soar with angels blest;
But even from angelhood I must pass on …”
~ Rumi
“Consciousness is the basis of all life
and the field of all possibilities.
Its nature is to expand and unfold its full potential.
The impulse to evolve is thus inherent in the very nature of life.”
~ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
“Man’s highest aspiration – his seeking for perfection, his longing for freedom and mastery, his search after pure truth and unmixed delight – is in flagrant contradiction with his present existence and normal experience. Such contradiction is part of Nature’s general method; it is a sign that she is working towards a greater harmony. The reconciliation is achieved by an evolutionary progress.

 Life evolves out of Matter, Mind out of Life, because they are already involved there: Matter is a form of veiled Life, Life a form of veiled Mind, May not Mind be a form and veil of a higher power, the Spirit, which would be supramental in its nature? 

Man’s highest aspiration would then only indicate the gradual unveiling of the Spirit within, the preparation of a higher life upon earth.”
~ Sri Aurobindo
“Our separation of each other is an optical illusion of consciousness.”
~ Albert Einstein
“Cosmic consciousness is infinite evolutionary impetus in each of us.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Every adversity is an evolutionary opportunity
for everyone, everything, everywhere.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings


toward the Source

Q. Is human spiritual evolution possible? If so, is it optional or inevitable?

A. Humankind are self conscious integral aspects of a conscious, orderly and harmonious universe.
As part of such conscious cosmic order, there is an evolutionary impetus in each of us for ever expanding universal consciousness to experience itself.

We are all “pre-programmed” to transcend ego’s “optical illusion” of seeming separation as body forms from all other forms (and so from the universe), by evolving from this separation illusion to experiential realization of cosmic Oneness of all forms and phenomena as undivided Awareness.

Our universe is an ever oscillating and vibrating energy “reality”.
So, our evolutionary pre-programming involves subtle vibratory vortices – or chakras – each potentially resonant with ever ascending vibratory levels of Awareness.   As evolutionary energy – sometimes called kundalini – is awakened and activated in each being it gradually purifies and eventually opens these subtle energy centers, until ultimate transcendence is attained.

Everything that happens to us until we transcend ego’s “optical illusion” is in our best interest, because it affords an opportunity to evolve.

Although our evolutionary “pre-programming” assures that such transcendence is ultimately inevitable, our progress pace is optional,
depending on what we think, do and say – individually and collectively – while misidentifying ourselves as separate.

For example, compassionate words, thoughts and deeds hasten spiritual evolution, while selfishness deters it.
But, cosmic consciousness will eventually provide life experiences leading to transcendence.

Paradoxically, life’s most painful and difficult experiences often prove the best evolutionary opportunities, and biggest blessings,
because they most challenge and motivate surrender of ego misidentification and provide greatest transcendence incentives.

So, human spiritual evolution is inevitable, but pace of evolutionary progress is optional.

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Mind Your Mind: You Will Take It With You

“[Physical qualities] cannot be carried over into the next life.
The continuum of the mind, however, does carry on.
Therefore, a quality based on the mind is more enduring. …
So, through training the mind, qualities such as compassion, love, and the wisdom [of] realizing emptiness can be developed.”
~ H.H. Dalai Lama




My friend Konrad’s beloved mother used to say:

“If I can’t take it with me, I refuse to go.”

Despite her protestations – like every other person in the history of humanity – she was obliged to leave this world without taking with her anything fiscal or physical.

But her wonderful sense of humor survived her departure.

In this phenomenal world, everything’s energy; our worldly life-forms are but gross and subtle energy vortices in a field of universal awareness.

As the Dalai Lama observes, our subtle mental forms survive the death of our dense physical forms. So when we leave our physical body, our mind persists – and we will take it with us – somewhere.

Thus it’s wise for us to prepare for future ‘mind trips’ by training and stilling our mind to cultivate compassion, love and wisdom, with a wonderful sense of humor –

NOW.

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