Subscribe to RSS

Nature

“Pale Blue Dot”– An Ode to Mother Earth
~ by Carl Sagan

“There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot,
the only home we’ve ever known.”
~ Carl Sagan
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” .. “The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Sit, be still, and listen,
because you’re drunk
and we’re at the edge of the roof.”
~ Rumi
“Cherish or Perish.
Co-exist cooperatively, or
Co-expire catastrophically.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”.

In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.

“Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs”. . .

“This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”
~ Pope Francis – Climate encyclical message





Introduction.

In 1990, when the Voyager space craft was nearly four trillion (4,000,000,000,000) miles from Earth, beyond the orbit of Pluto, NASA finally acceded to legendary astronomer Carl Sagan’s desperate pleas, and turned Voyager’s camera back toward Earth to photograph our precious planet as no human had ever before seen it.

From that distance, the Earth is just a tiny blue speck illuminated by sunlight.

Video Recitation of Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” message.

In this video, called “Pale Blue Dot”, Carl Sagan eloquently recites a poignant ode to our precious planet, Mother Earth, which he composed while humbly reflecting on that unique NASA photo (text below):



Text of Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” message:

“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”


Concluding Invocation.

In these ecologically critical times, may we together preserve, cherish and honor Gaia, the Earth Mother of all;

As a united global family, may we thereby
– each from our unique perspective and in our unique way –
help Humankind peacefully resolve the unprecedented ecological, political, and economic crises and conflicts now insanely threatening all Earth-life as we have known it.

And so may it be!

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

At my death do not lament our separation …
as the sun and moon but seem to set,
in reality this is a rebirth.
~ Rumi
“I tell you the truth,
no one can see the kingdom of God
unless he is born again.”
~ John – 3:3
“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, Krishna to Arjuna
“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
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


Tree of Life


The Last Supper



The biblical story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection raises crucial issues about life and death – about afterlife and rebirth – and about our true identity and reality.

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.

Physical death is inevitable, but Life is perpetual.

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

For millennia seers, saints, philosophers and mystics have addressed perennial questions of life after physical death and of our true identity and reality. Since the beginning of the 20th century when Albert Einstein revolutionized Western science with his theories of special and general relativity, quantum physicists and other non-materialistic scientists have begun confirming ancient mystical insights.

Raymond A. Moody, Jr., PhD, MD coined the term ‘Near Death Experience’ [NDE] in his 1975 best-selling book “Life After Life”. Since then NDE’s have become widely considered, especially by millions who claim to have experienced them. And some leading-edge non-materialist scientists have cited testimonies about NDE’s and other extraordinary mystical experiences as evidence that consciousness survives physical death.

For example, 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.”


Dr. Kubler-Ross’s writings have inspired many other non-materialist scientists who have followed her lead. Also, of great importance in helping us understand whether spirit survives physical death were the ground breaking scientific studies by Dr. Ian Stevenson, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, who for forty years studied children world-wide who spontaneously remembered past lives. Dr. Stevenson objectively validated and documented about twelve hundred such cases.

What survives physical death?

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 uniquely circumscribed spirit – to another body after physical death.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Hinduism’s most cited ancient scripture, Divine Avatar Krishna instructs Prince Arjuna that:

“The soul is eternal, all-pervading, unmodifiable, immovable and primordial.”; “The soul never takes birth and never dies” but “when the body is destroyed” or when “giving up old and worn out bodies . . [it] accepts new bodies.”
~ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2


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.

Thus 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.”


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

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

But ancient Vedic and Buddhist non-dualism philosophies (“Advaita”;”Advaya”) have 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”… .

“The world, indeed, is like a dream
and the treasures of the world are an alluring mirage!”
~ Buddha

“A wise man, recognizing that the world is but an illusion,
does not act as if it is real,
so he escapes the suffering.”
~ Buddha


Notwithstanding the Buddha’s non-dualist teachings, the Dalai Lama says he practices death and rebirth eight times daily. And, as Tibetan Bodhisattva of Compassion, he intends 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?

Vivekananda and Einstein.

The ancient Eastern 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 for self-realized beings there is no reincarnation, but that reincarnation exists until self-realization – that self-realization reveals this entire world of space/time/causality as illusionary maya or samsara. 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.”


Einstein’s revolutionary non-mechanistic science and unconventional religious ideas were consistent with highest non-dualistic Eastern religious teachings, because they questioned the substantiality of matter, the ultimate reality of space, time and causality, and reincarnation. Like Vivekananda, Einstein 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”

“Concerning matter, we have been all wrong. What we have called matter is energy, whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses. There is no matter.”

“There is no place in this new kind of physics for the field and matter, for the field is the only reality.”




“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.”

“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


Conclusion.

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


“Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu!”


AND SO IT SHALL BE!


Ron’s Explanations and Reflections on Reincarnations and Resurrections.

Dear Friends,

As an octogenarian, I have long reflected upon crucially important perennial questions concerning life, death, afterlife, and rebirth.  And I’ve thereby been blessed to realize that what we call “life” continues eternally after inevitable physical death.

Until my mid-life spiritual awakening, I self-identified only with my mortal body, its thoughts and its story, and I assumed that death of the body ended life. So I had no knowledge, opinion or belief concerning reincarnation or afterlife in ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’, or of an immortal “soul”.

Then in my early forties, I had irreversibly transformative experiences of spiritual self-identity and afterlife: I realized that I was not merely my body, its thoughts and story, but eternal and universal awareness. And I began seeing visions of apparent past lives, and inner and outer appearances of deceased people, including my maternal grandfather and Mahatma Gandhi, my first inner spiritual guide.

So, I began accepting Eastern ideas of reincarnation and transmigration of an eternal soul, while gradually losing fear of inevitable physical death. Then, on meeting my beloved Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, I learned that from childhood he had been preoccupied with two perennial puzzles: “Who am I?” and “What is death?”; and, that at age thirteen, inspired by irresistible inner longing, Guruji had run away from home in search of experiential answers to those eternal questions.

Inspired by Guruji, I developed a deep curiosity and philosophical interest in the spiritual significance of death and dying, reincarnation and karma. Elsewhere, on SillySutras.com I have shared many experiences, essays, quotes and poems on these subjects. (See, e.g., https://sillysutras.com/category/afterlife/ ;https://sillysutras.com/category/life-and-death/; https://sillysutras.com/category/reincarnation/ )

Ultimately I’ve concluded that cosmically there is no death; that “birth and death are virtual, while Life is perpetual”. (See e.g. https://sillysutras.com/know-death-to-know-life-know-death-to-know-that-there-is-no-death/ )
Consequently, I’ve become ever more detached and less fearful about my own inevitable and perhaps imminent bodily death – a great blessing.

Moreover, I’ve become persuaded that from a rare non-dualistic timeless ‘Buddha’s eye view’ all our supposedly separate incarnations, emanations or appearances can be seen concurrently – formed like ink blots in a ‘big bang’ Rorschach test; but that until we become Buddhas we are karmically challenged to live each space/time lifetime as lovingly and skillfully as possible, while ever mindful that we are not mortal separate entities but indivisible formless and eternal Infinite Potentiality.

To encourage our deep insights on perennial questions of afterlife and reincarnation, like “Who am I?” and “What is death?”, I have shared the foregoing writings.

On Easter and every day, may they help us discover within ever expanding fulfillment and happiness during our precious ephemeral lifetimes on planet Earth.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner

I’ve Found A Faith-Based Life.

“The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. …To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”

~ Albert Einstein – The Merging of Spirit and Science




I’ve Found A Faith-Based Life

My life has become faith-based.

I follow my faith,
but I’m not affiliated
with any organized religion or other belief system.

After many years of questioning,
I’ve found faith beyond belief,
beyond dogmas or theology.

I’ve found faith in everything everywhere,
and in the impenetrable Mystery
beyond every form or phenomenon.

I’ve found faith in my Self and in Nature.

I’ve found the faith to follow my Heart.

Mine is not a blind faith based on fear or doubt,
or on inculcated or adopted ideas of others.

It is an abiding inner knowledge,
flowing from a long life
of reflective personal and trans-personal
experience and observation;

An insight arising from – but transcending – reason,
consistent and harmonious with
the highest welfare and unity of all Life.

My life experience has shown that our universe
is a magnificent, marvelous, miraculous and awe-inspiring “reality”;

That immanent in each life-form and in all manifestation
is an ineffable eternal Awareness:

An Intelligence or Divinity
which is the mysterious matrix,
Essence and Source of our reality.

My life experience has thus
indelibly instilled in me
an abiding faith in that Source*

As a purposeful evolutionary impetus in each of us;

A faith that from that Source
we get what we need when we need it,

Assuring that ultimately everything happens for the best,
to promote our evolution;

A faith that we are inevitably evolving toward
harmonious universal expression of greatest good –

As Peace, Truth, Joy, Love, and Compassion.

With such Faith, I am empowered to follow my Heart,
without worry, fear or doubt;

To accept inevitable and inescapable
life difficulties and uncertainties,
and yet to live openly, spontaneously and authentically.

So, without any religious affiliation,
I’ve become a faithful follower:

I follow my Faith;
I follow the Way;
I follow my Heart.

And this above all,

It is my Faith that enables me to be true to my Self.


Footnote.

*Innumerable names – God, Love, Nature, etc. – may be used to signify that Source or any of its infinite aspects. Or as in the Jewish tradition it may be acknowledged that no name can denominate “That” which is beyond conception or expression – since naming limits the illimitable and ineffable Infinite Reality.



Ron’s audio recitation of “I’ve Found A Faith-Based Life”

Listen to



Ron’s 2019 epilogue to “I’ve Found A Faith-Based Life”

Dear Friends,

The foregoing poem explains insights arising from previously unimagined paradigms of “reality” and “self-identity”, experienced following a profound 1976 midlife awakening. It was composed during a post-retirement reclusive period, and first posted soon after the 2010 launching of SillySutras.com.

Since composing “I’ve Found A Faith-Based Life”, I’ve kept experiencing an evolutionary awakening process, and sharing further spiritual insights therefrom. And since then I have continued to be more than ever blessed with a “faith-based life”.

My miraculous survival and healing from a 2014 near death taxicab rundown, has sparked subtly significant attitudinal changes, bringing unprecedented happiness and gratitude for this precious human lifetime, with evolutionary acceptance of Life beyond that described in the above original essay/poem.

With enhanced faith in the Divine, rather than mere belief, I have now given my ‘irrevocable power of attorney” to The Lone Arranger to resolve all worldly problems and sufferings, and to forgivingly ‘adjudge’ all those who ignorantly cause them.

And more than ever before, I now see this world mostly as a Divine play of consciousness – like a marvelous movie, or mental mirage or simulated holographic ‘reality’ – without fear of physical death, and with absolute Faith in its ultimate Divine denouement.

These verses are respectfully offered to inspire our ever expanding
faith-based acceptance of Life, as it is,
With ever growing Peace, Truth, Joy, Love, and Compassion.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner

Awakening to the “Secret of Secrets”

“If you could get rid of yourself just once,
the secret of secrets would open to you.
The face of the unknown, hidden beyond the universe
would appear on the mirror of your perception.”
~ Rumi
“You will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.”
~ John 8:32
“You are “gods”;
you are all children of the Most High.”
~ Psalm 82: 6
“You cannot teach an ego to be anything but egotistic,
even though egos have the subtlest ways of pretending to be reformed.
The basic thing is therefore to dispel, by experiment and experience,
the illusion of oneself as a separate ego.”
~ Alan Watts
“People can’t be talked out of illusions. If a person believes that the earth is flat, you can’t talk him out of that, he knows that it’s flat. He’ll go down to the window and see that its obvious, it looks flat. So the only way to convince him that it isn’t is to say, “Well let’s go and find the edge”
~ Alan Watts
“The individual is separate from his universal environment only in name.
When this is not recognized, you have been fooled by your name.
Confusing names with Nature,
you come to believe that having a separate name makes you a separate being.
This is—rather literally—to be spellbound”.
~ Alan Watts
“Consciousness is always Self-Consciousness.

If you are conscious of anything,
you are essentially conscious of yourself.”

~ Sri Ramana Maharshi


Alan Watts (January 6, 1915 – November 16, 1973)


Awakening to the “Secret of Secrets”

For millennia there has been a tacit taboo or ‘conspiracy of silence’ against disclosing to all Humankind our true spiritual and immortal identity.  

Except for those raised in so-called ‘primitive’ or indigenous societies, or those imbued with Eastern religious philosophy, most people have been acculturated from time immemorial into societies with “an unrecognized but mighty taboo — our tacit conspiracy to ignore who, or what, we really are.” ( Alan Watts: The Book, On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Preface.)

From childhood we are taught to self-identify only with an illusory and disempowering ego image; with a separate name, gender, and story about who and what we are. We are taught that we are each born into Nature as limited beings; but, not that Nature is our nature, or that we are Beings of Light sharing limitless immortal common consciousness with all life-forms.

Nor are we ever taught the greatest “secret of secrets”: that we are not mere powerless perceivers of our “reality”, but also its co-creators – that we co-create our reality with our thoughts, words and deeds; that everything we think, do or say changes this world in some way; and, that this worldly “reality” is dependent upon the awareness with which we envision, experience and co-create it.

To experientially realize that greatest “secret of secrets” is to Know Thyself. And to Know Thyself, is to know the Whole – the Truth that will set us free.

For countless ages sages, seers and mystics have been trying to tell us that we are not what we think we are!  That we suffer from perception-deception – with self-identity and reality not what they appear to be; that it is possible to experientially transcend the inevitable suffering of ordinary human existence through self-realization of and self-identification with an undivided eternal spiritual reality – which is the common essence of all space-time causality reality.

Mystics say that we share common Self identity – as Cosmic Consciousness or Non-Duality Reality; that we are not merely our mortal bodies – their names, genders, features, colors, religions, beliefs, emotions, habits or stories – or the ‘voices in our heads’.  We are non-dual immortal spirit experiencing fleeting earth lives from infinite perspectives in transitory physical vehicles.  But we’re all the same ‘under the hood’.  

Yet until now that greatest secret has been mostly concealed or denied: predominantly by subconscious suppression or psychological inability of humankind to accept or entertain non-experienced facts which contradict or threaten their cherished illusionary beliefs about “reality”; sometimes by institutions and individuals seeking selfish hierarchical exploitation of our precious planet and all its life-forms and resources.

Until now ignorance of our true identity and immortality, has resulted in humanity’s hallucination of separation from Nature, from each other, and from our sole Self and spirit, with consequent destructive insanity, selfishness and suffering.   

But now, facing ominous and enormous ecological, interpersonal and international crises which cannot be resolved from the same levels of consciousness which created them, we are at long last being awakened from our delusion of separateness and powerlessness. Spurred by increasing suffering and awareness of imminent catastrophe, we are finally dispelling the ignorance which has spawned these crises.

And we shall soon reach a tipping point, when a critical mass of Humankind will have awakened to the “secret of secrets”, uplifting all human consciousness and resolving harmoniously and compassionately the critical mess created by our prior unawareness of that “secret”.

Thus awakened, we shall harmoniously, cooperatively and lovingly resolve our common crises for our common good.

And so it shall be!




Ron’s Commentary on why we ignore who, or what, we really are.

The foregoing essay was inspired by Alan Watts’: “The Book, On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are”, ©1966.

Watts was a brilliantly insightful, erudite and articulate UK philosopher, author, and teacher, with post-graduate degrees in Theology and Divinity. After five years as an ordained Episcopal priest, he ‘converted’ to Zen Buddhism and in 1951 moved from the UK to Marin County, California. Thereafter, until his death in 1973, Watts became a counterculture icon, best-known for introducing Eastern philosophical and religious thought to Westerners.

I first learned about Watts’ teachings listening to KPFA Pacifica radio, Berkeley, which posthumously broadcast his lectures on Sunday nights, while I was driving for visits with my aged parents. Those broadcasts helped me to learn about Eastern wisdom and philosophy of spiritual evolution – of which I was previously ignorant.

Only after launching the Silly Sutras website in 2010 did I discover and read Watt’s 1966 essay “The Book, On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are”. By that time I mostly concurred with Watts’ assertions about what causes the illusion of a separate ego self, and how that illusion is central to our ominous and enormous ecological, interpersonal and international crises.

Moreover, I had already learned about how cognitive dissonance can cause subconscious suppression or psychological inability of humankind to accept or entertain facts which contradict or threaten their cherished illusions about “reality”. And how powerful government and corporate institutions and psychopathic individuals insanely seeking selfish hierarchical exploitation of our precious planet and all its life-forms and resources can ‘brainwash’ and propagandize ordinary people into rejecting truth-tellers, and the factual truths which they reveal, by pejoratively ridiculing them as “kooks”, “foreign agents”, “communists”, “socialists”, or “conspiracy theorists” and blatantly lying about their truthful revelations.

So I concurred with Watts’ contentions concerning a tacit taboo or conspiracy of silence against revealing our true identity and infinite potentiality. Thus I have composed the foregoing essay, and endorse Watts’ book “On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are”, linked below as an audio book file.

May these writings (and prior quotes) help us awaken to “the secret of secrets”, and to realize ourselves as uniquely interdependent expressions of ONE universal and eternal reality – a cosmic Self in all life everywhere.

Audio: Alan Watts: The Book, On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.



Other links:
https://binged.it/2E3SoYK
https://binged.it/2GzTYmG

What’s New?

Everything’s NOW,
So nothing is new.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.”
~ Ecclesiastes 1:9 *
“I have realized that the past and future are illusions,
that they exist in the present,
which is what there is and all there is.”
~ Alan Watts
“People .. who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
~ Albert Einstein
Time is how we measure NOW,
and spaces are for places
where we think we are in time.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
Life is NOW or never,
Life is NOW forever.
Life is NOW
Ever NOW
Never then.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings





What’s New?

“There is nothing new under the sun.”*

Everything’s NOW,

So nothing is new.

Discovering is but uncovering –

Timeless Truth.



Ron’s audio recitation of “What’s New?”

Listen to



Ron’s reflections on “What’s New?”

Dear Friends,

The above verses and quotations suggest uncommon answers to a common worldly question, “What’s New?”.   

Since my midlife awakening I’ve often wondered whether past and future are mere mental illusions occurring in the eternal NOW.  And I’ve concluded and written that from a cosmic perspective, Einstein was right about space/time/reality – that

“reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one”; that “the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”; and, that  “space and time are not conditions in which we live, [but] modes in which we think.”


In February, 1977, I spent a miraculous week in New York City, so filled with amazing synchronicities and precognitive experiences, that I became convinced it was possible to mystically transcend serial time perception; but that while on earth we experience our lives serially, even though cosmically there is no time.  (See e.g. An Amazing Experiment With Time)

Since then – while still experiencing serial time – I’ve begun seeing earth-life like a perpetual play of universal consciousness on the world’s “stage” – with continuing repetitions of perennial story plots, only featuring different players, acts and scenes.  And I’m now mostly experiencing this lifetime like a pre-scripted movie, with constant karmic synchronicities.

Inspired by these mystical perspectives, I’ve composed and posted the foregoing verses and sutra sayings.

May they bring us ever growing happiness and peace of mind, with recognition of the world as a play of eternal consciousness.

Thus may we increasingly live moment by moment in the timeless NOW, accepting “what is” in each moment as the inevitable consequence of ever mysterious karmic causes and conditions.

And so it shall be!

Ron Rattner

*Footnote re Ecclesiastes 1:9

The above intuitive explanations of Ecclesiastes 1:9 are inconsistent with most theological interpretations. Those who disagree are free to reject them.


Farewell Carol: Synchronicity Story &
Tribute to an Unforgettable Friend

“May the Lord give you peace.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi
“You are not a drop in the ocean.
You are the entire ocean in a drop.”
~ Rumi


Carol Schuldt, ‘Queen of the Beach’, (6/26/33–12/01/18)


Ron’s Introduction.

On December 1st, 2018 my unforgettable friend Carol Schuldt painlessly left her body at age 85, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and heart failure. Thereafter, on December 8th, her body was interred in a wild nature place overlooking the Pacific Ocean, after spontaneous rituals and stories were shared by Carol’s friends on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

Carol was a a legendary San Franciscan, sometimes known as ‘Queen of the Beach’ or ‘Mother Teresa of the Sunset’. She lived as a life-long nature lover and natural born shaman, authentically, intuitively, generously and spontaneously. (See Carol’s SF Chronicle obituary)

Carol and I had innumerable synchronistic encounters, after we first met in the 1980’s. And we repeatedly shared our many ‘miraculous’ synchronicity stories (a few of which are posted here on SillySutras.com).

Before meeting Carol, I miraculously ‘discovered’ and became a lover of St. Francis of Assisi. And soon after meeting Carol, I regarded her as a ‘female St. Francis’ who constantly communed with Nature, even with the sun, the moon, and many nonhuman lifeforms.

So in tribute to Carol’s transition, I write now about her spiritual history, and to tell how wistfully and intuitively I bid her farewell through our shared synchronistic harmony with St. Francis of Assisi.

Summary of Carol’s spiritual history.

Carol and I first met long ago while sitting at Aquatic Beach on San Francisco Bay (across from Ghirardelli Square), where I walked and where she often came to escape ocean fog and swim in the sun (without a wet suit). Afterwards we exchanged many “miracle” stories about our lives stemming from our countless experiences of synchronicities, or meaningful ‘coincidences’.

I deeply appreciated Carol as an amazingly free spirit with great instinctive wisdom and generosity.  Before we met, she’d already become a ‘living legend’ throughout and beyond her San Francisco ocean front neighborhood. And many stories were written or told about her. For example, an excellent story: “A Benevolent Queen of the Beach” appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on September 25, 2000. And in 2005 Carol was interviewed on film by the SF Public Library, about her history and life in the ‘hippie’ 1960’s.

The Chronicle article told of Carol’s exceptional inner wisdom even from childhood, when at Catholic school she adamantly refused to worship a bloody Christ on a crucifix, and was the only child exempted therefrom by the nuns, who recognized her wisdom.

The article also told how Carol had dedicated her life to helping troubled souls – especially young people. But that paradoxically Carol experienced great family tragedy with all of her three children: her two daughters whose lives were lastingly impacted by drug addiction, and her son Pete who was permanently brain damaged in a childhood car accident. Because of her great generosity, especially toward needy young people, Carol was sometimes known as the “Mother Teresa of the Sunset District”. And as a daily swimmer/surfer she also became known as ‘Queen of the Beach’.

From childhood Carol was an extraordinarily intuitive free spirit. She never knowingly followed any prescribed Western or Eastern religious path, despite attempted childhood Catholic inculcation. Instead, she instinctively followed her own unique spiritual path of communing with Nature while surfing, swimming, sunning, hiking, biking, organic gardening, and helping troubled souls – especially young people.

Carol’s muraled house and organic garden.

Carol’s muraled house and aesthetic organic garden have symbolized her unique lifestyle as a ‘female St. Francis’. Especially noteworthy is an artistically beautiful St. Francis of Assisi “Peace & Joy” mural at her home’s entryway – a delightfully surprising tourist attraction for visitors to San Francisco’s ocean beach area. On Carol’s roof top (above the mural) is an artistic portrayal of ‘Brother sun’, her main deity, and unfurled above the roof is a red Tibetan prayer flag, symbolizing Carol’s respect for the Tibetan culture and Dalai Lama.

Thus Carol’s house has eloquently exemplified her simple inner-directed life of instinctively communing with Nature, often without concern for outer–directed societal standards.

Carol’s St. Francis mural

Ron’s Synchronicity Story: “Goodbye St. Francis”= Farewell Carol

During forty years of living in the same San Francisco high-rise hermitage, my apartment has been adorned with many pictures and portrayals of St. Francis, my favorite saint, and of the peace prayer which he inspired. And until recently St. Francis in a stone statue also presided over my outside deck garden.

But in July 2018, I was obliged to remove everything from my outdoor deck so it could be renovated and repainted. Thereafter, I realized that I could no longer physically maintain my deck-top garden. So I decided to give away the plants and planters blessed by my St. Francis statue. While I’ve been looking for new homes for my plants, the St. Francis statue has been stored in an inconspicuous corner of my bedroom which is temporarily filled with many deck plants.

On December 1, 2018, my long-time neighbor and community gardener friend, Jan Monaghan, came to take pictures of my plants and planters, to help me find a new home for them. While showing Jan the St. Francis statue, I suddenly and inexplicably started crying, thinking and saying “goodbye Saint Francis”.  Thereafter for several hours I remained tearful.

The next day, Sunday December 2nd, I learned (via email) that Carol’s soul had departed her body Saturday evening, and I intuited that while Ron was tearfully saying goodbye to St. Francis Carol’s soul was astrally bidding Ron ‘adieu’.

On Monday morning, realizing that my St. Francis statue needed an appropriate new place to stand, I decided to move it to my my high-rise hermitage view living room, where I spend most indoor waking hours. So I telepathically told the saint in the statue that (on returning from a brief walk) I was moving him to a perfect place on my living room wool carpet, and that I would find an appropriate indoor pedestal for him there ASAP.

Soon thereafter, I took a brief walk on nearby Vallejo street. After walking for about fifteen minutes I noticed an amazing manifestation miracle. Amongst a curbside pile of discarded objects, I saw a perfect pedestal for St. Francis, which I carried home. On returning home, I moved St. Francis to a new perfect place on my living room carpet where he now resides on that miraculously manifested pedestal. And just as Carol’s St. Francis mural appears below a red Tibetan roof-top prayer flag, my St. Francis statue stands beneath a red Tibetan Kalachakra thangka mandala, symbolizing Ron’s respect for the Tibetan culture, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

St. Francis statue on pedestal in Ron’s high-rise hermitage

Moral of the story?

“Synchronicity is choreographed by a great,

pervasive intelligence that lies at the heart of nature,

and is manifest in each of us through what we call the soul.”

~ Deepak Chopra, Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire

“Miraculous synchronicities in time,
are meaningful reminders of eternal Reality
beyond time”.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings

After briefly blessing this world as a female St Francis,
the divine soul we’ve known as Carol Schuldt,
has returned to the Sun,
from where she’ll reappear eternally
for endless new lifetime adventures,
in endless new forms, of
LOVE.

And so it shall be!

Ron Rattner

Carol Schuldt & Ron Rattner, @ Ron’s 80th birthday party, 11/11/’12


Everyday Thoughts For Thanksgiving

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues,
but the parent of all others.”
~ Cicero
“To be a presence of perpetual thanksgiving may be the ultimate goal of life.  
The thankful person is the one for whom life is simply one long exercise in the sacred.”
~ Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB from The Psalms: Meditations for Every Day of the Year





Everyday Thoughts For Thanksgiving

“Be grateful for whoever comes,  because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
~ Rumi

“Thankfulness is the soul of beneficence …
For thankfulness brings you to the place where the Beloved lives.”
~ Rumi

“Join me in the pure atmosphere of gratitude for life.
Join my eyes and soul in their divine applause.”
~ Hafiz

“You have no cause for anything but gratitude and joy.”
~ Buddha

“It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
~ Brother David Steindl-Rast

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
~ Meister Eckhart

“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled  by a spark from another person.
Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
~ Albert Schweitzer

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
~ Buddha

“I thank God for my handicaps for, through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God.”
~ Helen Keller

“O Lord, who lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.”
~ William Shakespeare

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
~ Albert Einstein

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”
~ Aesop

“Gratitude is heaven itself.”
~ William Blake

“No longer forward nor behind
I look in hope or fear;
But, grateful, take the good I find,
The best of now and here.”
~ John Greenleaf Whittier

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”
~ Psalm 100


“When you allow your heart to open to the universe’s flow of love, gratitude comes with that flow. Gratitude for the people that you love, and for those who share your life. Gratitude for the Creation of the beautiful Earth as our home in this great cosmos. Gratitude for the Sun that gives us life. Gratitude for being alive, for just existing, for being in the flow of the wonder of life.”
~ Owen Waters



“Gratitude flows unimpeded from an open heart. When you allow it, gratitude will flow as freely as the sunshine, unobstructed by judgments or conditions.”
~ Owen Waters

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love,
every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God.
For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
~ Thomas Merton 


“The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.”              
~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti

I thank you God for most this amazing day
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky,
and for everything which is natural
which is infinite
which is yes….
I who have died am alive again today
and this is the sun’s birthday;
this is the birth day of life and of love and wings…
~ e. e. cummings

“When we develop a right attitude of compassion and gratitude,
we take a giant step towards solving our personal and international problems.”
~ H.H. Dalai Lama

It’s not our longitude
Or our latitude,
But the elevation of our attitude,
That brings beatitude.
***
So an attitude of gratitude
Brings beatitude.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings

Remember with gratitude,
Life is beatitude –
Even its sorrows and pain;
For we’re all in God’s Grace,
Every time, every place, and
Forever (S)HE will reign!
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings


Happy Thanksgiving Day – Every Day!


Beautiful Gratitude Video




Ron’s explanation and dedication of
“Everyday Thoughts For Thanksgiving”

Dear Friends,

Happy Thanksgiving day! 

I wish you utmost happiness on Thanksgiving, and every other day. May your every day become a Thanksgiving day.

Thanksgiving day became my favorite holiday long ago, when I realized that thankfulness is a universal blessing which uplifts everyone everywhere, regardless of their cultural, spiritual, secular or religious attitudes or beliefs.  

Especially since miraculously surviving a recent near death taxi rundown, I am unspeakably grateful for still being alive, aware, ambulatory and interdependently-independent.  So every day in this precious human lifetime has become a day of thanksgiving – a bonus, with every breath a blessing.  

Thus, I have realized that a state of thankfulness can become a state of Divine Grace – not just during thanksgiving holidays, but constantly.  

Hence to encourage our continuing attitude of gratitude, I have traditionally posted the foregoing  inspiring thanksgiving quotes, together with the above exceptionally beautiful six minute embedded video narrated by Brother David Steindl-Rast, which I gratefully encourage you to view. 

May we deeply reflect upon and become inspired by these treasures of perennial wisdom.  May they guide us to ever expanding fulfillment and happiness on Thanksgiving day and every day.

Always remembering that ‘we reap as we sow’,


May we sow Love,
cultivate kindness,
and harvest happiness –
until ultimately we reap
Eternal Joy.


And so may it be!

Ron Rattner


Life’s in the Balance

“Harmony is the secret principle of life.”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda
“When there is harmony between the mind, heart and resolution
then nothing is impossible.”
~ Rig Veda
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.”
~ Thomas Merton
“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.”
~ Rumi, The Essential Rumi
“As long as you live, you will be subject to change, whether you will it or not – now glad, now sorrowful; now pleased, now displeased; now devout, now undevout; now vigorous, now slothful; now gloomy, now merry. But a wise man who is well taught in spiritual labor stands unshaken in all such things, and heeds little what he feels, or from what side the wind of instability blows.”
~ Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
“As it acts in the world, the Tao is like the bending of a bow. The top is bent downward; the bottom is bent up. It adjusts excess and deficiency so that there is perfect balance. It takes from what is too much and gives to what isn’t enough. Those who try to control, who use force to protect their power, go against the direction of the Tao. They take from those who don’t have enough and give to those who have far too much. The Master can keep giving because there is no end to her wealth. She acts without expectation, succeeds without taking credit, and doesn’t think that she is better than anyone else.”
~ Lao Tzu *





Life’s in the Balance

Our life is in the balance,
Ever < NOW >,

‘Twixt our hopes
and our history,

On a fulcrum of Mystery,

Our life is in the balance,
Ever < NOW > !



Ron’s audio recitation of “Life’s in the Balance”

Listen to


* Lao Tzu, translation by Stephen Mitchell



Ron’s explanation and dedication of “Life’s in the Balance”


Dear Friends,

The foregoing quotes and sutra poem address an important philosophical and practical question: “How can we live a “balanced life”?”

Have you ever considered what it means to live a “balanced life”?  If so, what did you decide?  Have you considered eating a balanced diet, or balancing and prioritizing your time spent with work, recreation, meditation, relationships, rest, etc.?

Each of us is unique with a unique earth life history and perspective.  So there can be no specific answer or definition for each of us about what constitutes “a balanced life”.  Moreover, everything is in constant flux, precluding any unchanging answer.  Yet this is an issue of considerable importance for all of us, individually and societally – pragmatically and spiritually – on which I have reflected since my mid-life inner awakening. 

Since then, I have learned that – just as our bodies naturally tend toward maintaining a state of homeostasis – there is a strong tendency throughout Nature to maintain homeostatic equilibrium, and to energetically compensate for any disruptions or deviations from that balanced state.  And that “Interdependence is a fundamental law of nature.”

Yet it appears that we Humans are the only earthly species responsible for significant ecological imbalances. Forgetting that Nature is our nature; that we are interdependently ONE with Nature; and, that Nature ‘bats last’, we have mistakenly believed and behaved as if we are separated from each other and from Nature.
 
This behavior has resulted in disharmonious cruelty, wars, and insanely unsustainable exploitation of our precious planet, with widespread psychological suffering and unhappiness. Our mistaken self-identification as supposedly separate entities is what spiritual teachers call “ego”.  And most spiritual teachings are intended to help us transcend such limited ego consciousness. They remind us that


“Interdependence is a fundamental law of nature. Not only higher forms of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings who, without any religion, law, or education, survive by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. The most subtle level of material phenomena is also governed by interdependence. All phenomena, from the planet we inhabit to the oceans, clouds, forests, and flowers that surround us, arise in dependence upon subtle patterns of energy. Without their proper interaction, they dissolve and decay.”

~ Dalai Lama

Because we have forgotten the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life everywhere, we have degenerated into insanity – unconsciously committing mass suicide by ecocide, and threatening nuclear catastrophe. So these are critical times of immense jeopardy and suffering, yet immense opportunity.

The human species has developed amazing new technologies, which if wisely and unselfishly used could foster a wonderful new enlightened age. And paradoxically we can advance toward such a new age by emulating past pre-industrial societies.

Isn’t it now crucial that we learn from the wisdom of indigenous people who have lived sane and happy lives by prioritizing sustainable harmony with Nature over it’s unsustainable exploitation; cooperation over competition; respect for prophets over lust for profits; democracy over authoritarianism?

Since Nature is our nature and is in charge of our lives, to live a “balanced life” we must self-identify with Nature, and consciously cooperate with our precious planet’s interdependent ecosystem.  We must behave mindfully without disrupting the crucial homeostatic harmony of our body-minds with our environment.

The foregoing “Life’s in the Balance” sutra poem was composed during an extended period of post-retirement hibernation. May the poem and preceding quotations help us discover innate happiness in our interdependent ONENESS with Nature and all of its lifeforms, and encourage us to give ‘power of attorney’ to Nature as The Lone Arranger of our lives.
 
Realizing that Nature is in charge of our lives, may we learn to leave it to The Lone Arranger in order to live interdependently with all life everywhere in homeostatic balance and harmony. 

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner


Saint Francis of Assisi: His Life and His Prayer

Praying to Brother Sun and Sister Moon
“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
“When we pray to God we must be seeking nothing — nothing.”
“We should seek not so much to pray, but to become prayer.”
~ 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