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Self Inquiry

Asking The Ultimate Question: “Who Am I?”

“The essence of all wisdom is to know the answers to ‘who am I?’
and ‘what will become of me?’ on the Day of Judgment.”
~ Rumi
“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.”
~ Lao Tzu
“Know thyself – The unexamined life is not worth living.”
~ Socrates
“Give up all questions except one: “Who am I?”  After all, the only fact you are sure of is that you are. The “I am” is certain. The “I am this” is not.”
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
“Ask and it shall be given; Seek and ye shall find.”
~ Matthew 7:7
“You will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.”
~ John 8:32
“Who am I?
The quest is in the question.
 
The question is the answer.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“An ‘identity crisis’ can be life’s greatest opportunity,
because it raises life’s most crucial question – “Who am I?”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“That which permeates all, which nothing transcends and which, like the universal space around us, fills everything completely from within and without, that Supreme non-dual Brahman — that thou art.”
~ Shankaracharya
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

~ Dr. Seuss
“What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
“So the question Who am I? is not an idle one.  How you answer the question will determine how you live the rest of your life.  It will determine the quality of your life.”
~ Neale Donald Walsch





Asking The Ultimate Question: “Who Am I?”

Introduction.

Have you ever deeply wondered about your true self-identity or urgently asked yourself, “Who Am I”?

Most of us, never inquire about our true self-identity, but we assume ourselves to be mere mortal physical life-forms with unique histories, separate from everyone and everything else.

Not until age forty two, did I ever ask myself or wonder “Who Am I”? Until then, I assumed that I was only my physical body, its thoughts and its story; that I was a middle-aged secular Jewish litigation lawyer, married, with two kids, born in Chicago and living in San Francisco.

But on New Year’s Eve 1974-5, these assumptions were severely shaken. At a ‘pot luck’ dinner party, after unwittingly eating a large piece of cake laced with marijuana, I had a dramatically unforgettable out of body experience.

From a bedroom ceiling, I saw my body lying face down on a pillow, and saw each of my thoughts originating outside the body as a vividly colored kaleidoscopic form.

These perceptions seemed very real – not dreamlike or hallucinatory. And they irresistibly raised for me an unprecedented urgent new question: “Who or what am I?”

I reasoned that if I was on the ceiling of the room, while my body was face-down on the bed, I couldn’t be the body; and that if I was on the ceiling of the room, while my thoughts were appearing below me, I couldn’t be the thoughts. And if not my body and not my thoughts, “Who or what am I?”

Thereafter, irresistibly and persistently I began pursuing this previously unexamined enquiry, with intense longing for an answer. This process proved an enormous blessing which changed my life forever. It convinced me that “Who Am I?” can be the most important question that anyone can ever ask; that by deeply reflecting on our true self-identity and persistently inquiring: “Who Am I?” we can ultimately experience a profound, life-enhancing psychological transformation process.
[See “At Mid-life, a Rebirth to a New Life ~ Ron’s Memoirs”]

Historical overview.

Throughout history saints and sages of every tradition and culture – East and West – have counseled us to “Know thyself.” In the West, this fundamental injunction was attributed to the Greek oracle consulted by Socrates and carved into the Temple of Apollo as: “Gnothi Seauton”.

Eastern saints and mystics for millennia have taught that there is an ultimate goal of life – an ‘enlightened’ state of spiritual awareness bringing permanent happiness and freedom from all worldly bondage. Swami Yogananda Paramahansa, who brought Eastern wisdom to the West in the 20th century, called this spiritual goal “self-realization”.

Who is this “Self” that we are counseled to know or realize?   How can we follow the advice of the saints and sages to “Know thyself”, and so experience “self-realization”?

One of the principal methods to “Know thyself” suggested by mystics and sages is to inquire: “Who am I?” For example, ancient Indian sage Shankara said that spiritual “Knowledge cannot spring up by any other means than the inquiry: Who am I?”.

In Hinduism, such self-inquiry is chiefly associated with Advaita-Vedanta, the oldest extant school of Indian Philosophy. Advaita means non-dualism and its teachings are essentially the same as those of Mahayana Buddhism. Both are aimed at experiencing non-dual Reality.

The ultimate answer to the question “Who Am I?” cannot come from intellect. We can know or realize our “self” only by intuitive experience of “Who Am I?”. However, in the Hindu and Buddhist non-duality paths, powers of discrimination are used to transcend intellect and to reveal the Self via self-realization.

Conclusion.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Ask and it shall be given; Seek and ye shall find.” Thus, if we persistently ask “Who Am I?”, the answer shall be given. And in seeking our true Self, we shall find our true Self – as Eternal Peace beyond understanding, and as timeless Joy beyond suffering.

And so it shall be!


Ron’s explanation and dedication of “Asking the Ultimate Question”.

Dear Friends,

For millennia, seers, saints and sages have counseled us to “Know thyself”; and, to ask persistently the supremely crucial question – “Who am I?”.

But few Westerners have been inspired to pursue this perennially advised investigation.  

Until mid-life, like most other Westerners, I unthinkingly self-identified only with my physical body, its thoughts and aggregate experiences. Then, following an extraordinary out of body experience, I irresistibly began wondering “Who am I?”.  Finally, at age forty two, (unaware of any apt spiritual teachings) I was given the answer to that question, and realized my true self-identity as pure awareness, rather than as my physical body, its thoughts and aggregate experiences.  Whereupon I experienced a profound and unforgettable mid-life spiritual awakening and rebirth.

Thereafter, I began having numerous unprecedented mystical or psychic subtle energy experiences, and became infused with so much vital energy that for several months I hardly needed to sleep. Only then did I begin learning about teachings of Eastern mysticism, including non-duality. 

Afterwards, I synchronistically met my beloved teacher, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, a venerable Hindu Guru then 100 years old, from whom I received shaktipat initiation.  Guruji lived until age 116, and has remained my teacher since his mahasamadhi transition in 1994.  After shaktipat initiation, I learned from Guruji and others that the evolutionary purpose of spiritual ‘practice’ is to reveal experientially that there is no separate ‘practitioner’; not that the practitioner is in some way a separate, special person with special powers.

But I also learned that – unlike  Guruji and other rare Buddha-llke beings – on realizing my true self-identity as pure awareness, I had not yet become ‘instantly enlightened’.  Rather, that this realization had triggered an evolutionary process of awakened kundalini life-force energies which were manifesting via  spontaneous physical, mental, or emotional experiences [ called kriyas]  and thereby purifying the body and nervous system, thus allowing increasing experience of subtler states of consciousness.

Ultimately, I realized that this evolutionary kundalini purification process was gradually undoing or eliminating eons of accumulated subtle karmic impressions or seeds [samskaras or vasanas]  causing unconscious habitual behaviors and emotional patterns, and precluding or inhibiting spontaneously skillful behaviors.   

Soon after this revelatory discovery I declared myself to be an ‘uncertain Undo’ [rather than ‘born-again Hindu’] and began writing whimsical sutras like:


“On the path of undo we’ll never be through
’til we’re an undone ONE.”


Today, over forty years since realizing my true self-identity as pure awareness  (rather than as my physical body, its thoughts and aggregate experiences),  I’m still not fully ‘undone’, and ego attrition continues.  But as I continue to more and more self-identify as spirit rather than as physical body there seems to be ever more Ram than Ron in my life. 

Thereby after many years of questioning, I’ve found faith beyond belief, beyond dogmas or theology.    And I’m happier and more grateful for this precious lifetime than ever before.  (See https://sillysutras.com/ive-found-a-faith-based-life/)

Thus, from inner and outer experience, more than ever before I regard “Who Am I?” as a  supremely crucial question to be persistently investigated for those with spiritual aspirations.  So today I have posted the above  important quotations and brief essay.

If ever you have wondered or aspired about spiritual evolution, I encourage your deep consideration of today’s posting.

May it help us live  happier lives by consciously participating in an irresistible evolutionary process which is leading us to expression of one Life – one LOVE – amidst the infinite diversity of ever changing ephemeral energy forms.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner

Knowing The Unknowable

When the mind is completely empty – only then is it capable of receiving the unknown.” “Only when the mind is wholly silent, completely inactive, not projecting, when it is not seeking and is utterly still – only then that which is eternal and timeless comes into being.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
“Since no one really knows anything about God,
those who think they do are just 
troublemakers.”
~ Rabia of Basra (first female Sufi saint)
The less we think we know,
the more we really Know.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“The world is so unhappy because it is ignorant of the true Self. Man’s real nature is happiness. Happiness is inborn in the true Self. Man’s search for happiness is an unconscious search for his true Self. The true Self is imperishable; therefore, when a man finds it, he finds a happiness which does not come to an end.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi






Knowing The Unknowable

Knowing is bliss;
ignorance isn’t bliss
– it’s suffering.

Knowing’s not mental,
– it’s existential.

If we think we Know,
we don’t.

Knowing’s not thought,
and knowing’s not taught.

Knowing’s never then or how;
Knowing’s always here and now.

So, Knowing is this:

It’s Being —
Bliss —

NOW!


Ron’s audio recitation of “Knowing The Unknowable”

Listen to



Ron’s explanation and dedication of “Knowing The Unknowable”

Dear Friends,

In space/time duality reality we can never express ineffable Truth, but only point to it. The forgoing poem, “Knowing The Unknowable”, paradoxically alludes to our ever mysterious shared purpose as apparent Earthly incarnates.

We’ve appeared on the ‘Earth branch of the great Cosmic university’ as spiritual students, to learn from experience our true Self-identity as eternal Love. Knowingly or unknowingly we all long for LOVE – which is our common spiritual essence and Source. And we’re here to find it, by consciously and conscientiously living our lives.

As unavoidable earthly evolutionary incentives, many of us need to suffer painful experiences. Inevitably we thereby learn that knowing divinity comes not from fearful or divisive egoic efforts or thoughts, but from totally surrendering to The Lone Arranger and letting go of all ideas of being separate from each other and Nature, with opened hearts and stilled minds.

May today’s quotations and poetry help encourage and inspire us to thereby realize our deepest evolutionary aspirations of so “Knowing The Unknowable”.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner

Tuned Out, To Turn On

“The world is so unhappy because it is ignorant of the true Self.
Man’s real nature is happiness. Happiness is inborn in the true Self. Man’s search for happiness is an unconscious search for his true Self. The true Self is imperishable; therefore, when a man finds it, he finds a happiness which does not come to an end.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi





Tuned Out, To Turn On

Once, I found an artesian well
of bubbling bliss
deep down – within;
way below what I knew
before I found it.

Like a Divine bovine udder
it had several spigots.

Spigots for tears, for laughter,
for songs, and for sutras.

It flowed from different spigots
at different no-times,
but never at no no-time.

I often drank and bathed at that well.

Then Bush* was [s]elected.
What a turn-off!
What a spigot stopper!

I was looking for a turn on –
a spigot restarter.
Any spigot would do.

Then, Eureka! I found it!

I tuned out Bush, and it turned on bliss;
bubbling Bliss
from deep down – within.

Now, I’m a blissful old man

[or am I?] .

 

Ron’s recitation of “Tuned Out, To Turn On”.

Listen to



Ron’s Explanation of “Tuned Out, To Turn On”.

Dear Friends,

On the 17th anniversary of the notorious September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, I have posted the foregoing metaphorically whimsical spiritual poem, “Tuned Out, To Turn On”, inspired by those events.

On 9/11/2001 I was living a reclusive life without any TV, computer, or daily newspaper, while praying and meditating in my ‘high-rise hermitage’. Hence, I was one of very few Americans who didn’t then witness the disturbing TV images of utter destruction and disintegration WTC twin towers, killing over 3,000 people. So I wasn’t as psychologically traumatized as most others.

However, as a constitutionally trained social justice attorney, I’d already become distressed and angry about the egregiously unjust and unprecedented US Supreme Court selection of George Bush jr. as 43rd US president, after the Court arbitrarily and prematurely ordered cessation of the official Bush-Gore Florida vote recounting, which would have confirmed a Gore victory.

Only after later going online with my first computer did I synchronistically begin carefully investigating the true facts concerning 9/11/2001 terrorism. Thereby from indisputable factual evidence I became (and remain) irreversibly convinced that our government had intentionally misled its citizens and covered up the truth about alleged Moslem 9/11 terrorism; while such alleged terrorism became the primary false pretense justifying severe civil liberties deprivations and insanely incessant wars that have followed 9/11. And, moreover, the name “Bush” became for me metaphorically emblematic of a corruptly unrepresentative US two party political system characterized by little democracy, but much hypocrisy.

Yet, while deeply concerned with worldly planetary crises and suffering arising from insanely undemocratic official decisions, spiritually I gradually began seeing this space/time ‘reality’ like a mostly pre-scripted movie and play of incarnate Cosmic Consciousness. And I longed to BE free, as Oneness/Awareness, beyond inevitable world suffering – even beyond bliss.

With such longing (though not realizing Oneness/Awareness), I frequently found inner peace and happiness. Whenever (with a silent mind) I tuned out “Bush” and deeply focused on ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’ within, I often experienced inner Bliss – even ecstasy.

From that experience, (long after 9/11/2001) I was ultimately inspired to compose today’s whimsical poem about such “discovery” .

I offer this poem as a reminder for all of us that we can help solve critical world problems by behaving from inner loving and compassionate levels of consciousness, beyond those which have created such problems.

May we thereby transcend all fearful, vengeful or judgmental behaviors, knowing with faith that all “sinners” reap as they have sown through unerringly mysterious karmic causes and conditions, and that thereby all “sins” are divinely and justly redressed.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner

Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present

“Life can be found only in the present moment.
The past is gone, the future is not yet here,
and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment,
we cannot be in touch with life.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
“The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their minds.”
~ Albert Schweitzer
Ordinary human consciousness is conditioned consciousness;
it is pure Awareness conditioned by conceptions.
And our conceptual conditioning determines our condition.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“If the doors of perception were cleansed
everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”
~ William Blake

 

Marc Chagall – The Praying Jew


Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present

Mystics and some scientists say that our thoughts or beliefs about our ‘reality’ and self-identity determine our earth-life experience; that those thoughts or beliefs originate unconsciously with very subtle mental impressions (sometimes called in Sanskrit vasanas or samskaras) which through reincarnation are carried by the soul from lifetime to lifetime; that we can radically change our lives and behaviors by changing our thoughts about who or what we are; and that we can become “enlightened” only by transcending all mental conditioning.

Thus, according to twentieth century Indian sage J. Krishnamurti,

“Our problem is how to be free from all conditioning . . When the mind is completely unconditioned then only can [we] experience or discover if there is something real or not. . [A] mind . . filled with beliefs, . . dogmas . . assertions ..is really an uncreative mind; it is merely a repetitive mind.”

Our mental conditioning operates our physical body, like computer software systems operate computer hardware platforms. And, like computer software systems, all mental conditioning comes from the past – from this or prior lifetimes.

But, habitually abiding or operating with beliefs or tendencies from past experience, or projecting them into the future as fear or worry, prevents us from living spontaneously and authentically in the present moment – from fully being here NOW.

Past is history and future’s mystery, while Life is never then – it is only NOW.

“Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Thus, Buddha taught that:

“There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now.” . . . . .
“That which is timeless is found now.”

Only by wiping the slate clean from past conditioning and resulting thoughts or concerns, are we are fully freed to live in the present –
in the eternal NOW. Thus our spiritual evolution is furthered by any activity or practice which helps us live moment by moment in the precious present, spontaneously and authentically without mental pre-conditioning.

My life experience following a dramatic midlife spiritual awakening confirms these teachings. As gradually I have recognized and eliminated or changed beliefs and paradigms which no longer seemed valid or useful, quieted my mind, and more and more self-identified as spirit, my life has become more spontaneous and magical, and I’ve experienced ever more happiness, peace of mind, and gratitude for this precious life-time.

For me, it has been a process of mindfully witnessing inappropriate or obsolete behavioral patterns with intention of changing or eliminating them through grateful remembrance that I am not merely a separate mortal entity but universal spirit experiencing a blessed human life.

The more that I have gratefully and mindfully self-identified as spirit – as Universal Awareness – the more I have experienced fulfillment, insight, empathy, and creativity and the less I have manifested unhelpful habits and reflexive behaviors.

I have found that this transformative process of mindful spiritual self-identification has been accelerated through meditation and other universal practices of perennial wisdom traditions which help clear mental conditioning. So I’ve dedicated SillySutras.com to exploring and sharing universal wisdom principles and practices which can help us all live happier lives, as they have helped me.

During Jewish High Holy days, I am reminded of certain practices other than meditation, which may help free us from past conditioning:

1. Non-judgmental forgiveness or atonement of supposed transgressions or ‘sins’ by or against us [see “Forgiveness And Atonement Of ‘Sins.’”] ; and,

2. Annulment and rescission of obsolete and unhelpful personal intentions, resolutions, or vows.

The Jewish High Holy Days are ten days of religious introspection and repentance, concluding with Yom Kippur [“day of atonement”]. During services, congregants communally repent past “sins” while repeatedly acknowledging that

“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins,” [ Ecclesiastes 7:20 ]

The Yom Kippur observance begins with “Kol Nidre” (“All Vows”), a powerful prayer with a hauntingly beautiful melody which is chanted and recited in ancient Aramaic, and which for many Jews is the religious highpoint of their year.

When I attended Jewish services, during adolescence and later irregularly as an adult ( before I became a “born-again Hindu”), the Kol Nidre ritual was for me emotionally memorable, even though I don’t recall knowing the meaning of the prayer until much later receiving a translation in an email message.

So, on ultimately learning the translated meaning, I was quite surprised and puzzled to learn that Kol Nidre enigmatically purports to disavow and annul until the next day of atonement all past and/or future communal or individual oaths or vows, viz.

”Let all our vows and oaths, all the promises we make and the obligations we incur to You, 0 God, between this Yom Kippur and the next, be null and void should we, after honest effort, find ourselves unable to fulfill them. Then may we be absolved of them.”

Since Judaism emphasizes the honoring of promises and obligations to others, I wondered:

“Why does the holiest of Jewish high holy days begin with a communal disavowal of all oaths or vows, which in Jewish tradition are regarded as ethically important?”


Also I began wondering why the Kol Nidre prayer has been so emotionally powerful even when its meaning is largely unknown. After reflection and research I concluded that:

Kol Nidre applies only to personal vows to oneself or God, not affecting promises or obligations to others; it is not an unconditional request for Divine absolution from guilt for dishonored vows or obligations to others.

Many people – not just Jews – make resolutions or vows concerning their intended future behavior which are unfulfilled or become inappropriate or unhelpful as times change. And often they feel consequent frustration or guilt.

Rather than harboring guilt or frustration for this, Jewish tradition recognizes that it is best to wipe the mental slate clean. Thus, observant Jews can be spiritually uplifted and mentally cleared by communal participation in High Holy Day rituals of forgiveness or atonement of “sins”, and rescission of unhelpful personal resolutions.

And I believe that Kol Nidre has been especially powerful for even those unaware of its meaning, because subtly or subconsciously it invokes Humankind’s universal – yet paradoxically impossible – aspiration to be in this world beyond inevitable human frailty and suffering, beyond “sin” or ‘missing the mark’.

So, perhaps Kol Nidre and its haunting melody, invoke an Eternal inner voice which reminds us of our true nature – ever immanent Divine Love – with which we are ultimately destined to merge.

Concluding Invocation

On holy days and every day, may everyone everywhere be blessed to remember their affinity and identity with Divinity; and, may we thus wipe clean the slate of past behaviors or attitudes which impede living in the precious present.

And so, may everyone everywhere be eternally happy –

NOW!


Ron’s Commentary on Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present

Dear Friends,

In lunar equinox seasons of major theistic religious ‘holy days’ – Jewish (days of awe); Moslem (Eid Al-Adha); Christian (Feast of St. Francis); – we are often reminded that central to all major theistic religions is the goal of psychologically returning to “godliness”. Moreover, all major religions – Buddhist-Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish – teach a common message of Love as the supreme “unifying principle of Life. . . . the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate Reality.” [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] 

Yet, often in the name of religion, our world remains rife with discrimination, violence and killing which must be transcended for survival of Human life as we have known it.

Whether or not we are ‘religious’, we are all experiencing a mythological perennial process of returning to a psychological state of self-identity and “at-one-ment” with Universal Awareness, our ultimate Essence and destiny – an evolutionary process of gradually living more and more in and as the timeless NOW.

The above essay, Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present, encourages our harmony with this crucially important perennial process.

As gradually we mindfully observe and change behaviors, beliefs, and paradigms which no longer seem valid or useful, and as more and more we commonly self-identify as ONE Eternal spirit, which is Love – not just as separate mortals – our lives become more spontaneous and magical, enabling us to synchronistically experience ever more happiness, peace of mind, and gratitude for this precious human lifetime.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner

What Are Illusions?

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
“Space and time are not conditions in which we live, they are modes in which we think.”

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


“The distinction between past, present, and future
 is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

“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.”



~ Albert Einstein

“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions,

that they exist in the present,

which is what there is and all there is.

~ Alan Watts
“Time, space and causation are like the glass through which the Absolute is seen. In the Absolute there is neither time, space nor causation.” “…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.”
~ Swami Vivekananda – Jnana Yoga
“The world, indeed, is like a dream
and the treasures of the world are an alluring mirage!”
“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
“The less we’re illusioned,
the more we’re illumined.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings






What Are Illusions?

Q. What are illusions?

A. Illusions are false ideas, conceptions, or beliefs,
accumulated and aggregated in the memory bank
that we call the “mind”.

Illusions are projections from the past
which obscure or obstruct our experience of the present.

We can’t live fully in the present,
when we are living partly in the past.

Illusions are mental obscurations.
They cloud or conceal our insight into
That which is Real.

But, as we clear the ‘mirror of our mind’
of old illusory ideas and paradigms of
who and what we think we are,

We can and shall become ever more present,
insightful and illuminated –
about what we really are.

So let us choose to lose our illusions.

For, the less we’re illusioned,
the more we’re illumined.



Ron’s audio recitation of “What are Illusions?”

Listen to



Ron’s explanation of “What Are Illusions?”

Dear Friends,

Have you ever wondered: “what are illusions?” and “what is “real?” Spiritually, these are crucial questions.

According to dictionaries, “illusions” are misperceptions or misconceptions of reality, fact, or truth. Whereas “reality” is that which factually exists.

For millennia, non-dualist Buddhists and Vedantists have taught that our entire space/time ‘reality’ is a mental mirage or illusion, and not true Reality; that what we perceive and believe to be ‘real’ material forms in space and time, are mentally projected misperceptions from misconceptions of our conditioned ego-minds, which see “through a glass darkly”.

We assume that we are independent human beings, separated from each other and Nature, and acting based on our own free-will. But according to non-dualist mystical philosophies, all of this is mere illusion – samsara or maya. Even our supposed free will is an illusion, because we are inseparable from Nature which determines all we experience, via mysterious karmic causes and conditions. Thus, perceived worldly events or phenomena are always determined by invisible cosmic forces which are as yet unknown to our conditioned ego-minds. (see e.g. Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, verses 60-61)

A century has passed since Einstein’s revolutionary relativity theory revealed that “reality” can’t be reduced to objects or entities in space/time. Since then, quantum science has confirmed that everything in space/time is energy (e=mc2); that all forms and phenomena are merely vibrating and radiating immaterial energies endlessly and inevitably appearing (from unknown causes and conditions) out of and disappearing into an ineffable matrix of mystery.

Thus, Western science has more and more shown what ancient shamans, seers, and indigenous societies have known throughout history:

That there is a cosmic web of life connecting everything and everyone in Nature from the greatest galaxies to the tiniest sub-atomic particles; that we are each an integral inter-connected and interdependent part of Nature’s web of life – not separate from it; and that, as Einstein observed:

“Our separation of each other is an optical illusion of consciousness”; “reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”; “space and time are not conditions in which we live, they are modes in which we think”.


Inspired by Einstein, I have composed the foregoing poetic Q & A essay titled: “What Are Illusions?”, as preceded by apt quotations.

May these teachings help us find relief from belief,  bringing us ever expanding life fulfillment and happiness.

From seeing everyone and everything as discrete, and separated by apparently immutable boundaries, may we increasingly realize that all forms and phenomena are ever-changing energies appearing from a common matrix of immutable Awareness – our true Nature, which is LOVE.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner


What is “Enlightenment”? ~ Quotations

“Knowing others is wisdom,
knowing your Self is enlightenment.”

~ Lao Tzu
“There is no such thing as
enlightenment,
the realization of that fact is
itself enlightenment.”
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj




What is “Enlightenment”?

“Personal entity and enlightenment cannot go together.”
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

“Strictly speaking there are no enlightened people,
there is only enlightened activity.”
~ Suzuki Roshi

“There is no enlightenment outside of daily life.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

“There are many paths to enlightenment.
Be sure to take one with a heart.”
~ Lao Tzu

“Knowledge is structured in consciousness.
The process of education takes place in the field of consciousness;
the prerequisite to complete education is therefore
the full development of consciousness — enlightenment.
Knowledge is not the basis of enlightenment,
enlightenment is the basis of knowledge.”
~ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

“According to Vedanta, there are only two symptoms of enlightenment, just two indications that a transformation is taking place within you toward a higher consciousness. The first symptom is that you stop worrying. Things don’t bother you anymore. You become light-hearted and full of joy. The second symptom is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life, more and more synchronicities. And this accelerates to the point where you actually experience the miraculous.”
~ Deepak Chopra (Synchrodestiny)

“The word enlightenment conjures up the idea of some superhuman accomplishment, and the ego likes to keep it that way, but it is simply our natural state of felt oneness with being. It is a state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible, something that, almost paradoxically, is essentially you and yet much greater than you. It is finding true your true nature beyond name and form. The inability to feel this connectedness gives rise to the illusion of separation, from yourself and from the world around you. You then perceive yourself, consciously or unconsciously, as an isolated fragment. Fear arises, and conflicts within and without become the norm.”
~ Eckhart Tolle, Practicing the Power of Now

“Enlightenment” is Being –
beyond entity identity.
Ego and “enlightenment” cannot coexist.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings

Ron’s Commentary on What is “Enlightenment”?

Dear Friends,

I am privileged to share with you today key quotations from spiritual teachers about the perennial process of inner illumination – or “enlightenment”.

In memoirs titled “Transcending Transcendence” I’ve told about my conscious pursuit of “enlightenment” as a spiritual goal, until gradually I abandoned goal oriented spiritual seeking, and – as “An Uncertain Undue” – intuitively began surrendering to the Infinite, with more and more heartfelt faith in The Lone Arranger. 

I realized that “enlightenment” is only a word – a mere mental concept with different meanings for different people.  So I determined that in this illusory world “enlightenment” is not an ultimate destination, but an evolutionary process; that beyond space/time/causality ‘reality’ there are no concepts – only ineffable Mystery.   

As a spiritually unenlightened “Uncertain Undo”, I’ve ‘heretically’ decided that Suzuki Roshi was right in observing that

“there are no [fully] enlightened people, . . only enlightened activity”.


In my view incarnation is limitation.  So no completely “enlightened” person can manifest all infinite aspects of non-duality Reality – of limitless LOVE.  Therefore, as a devotional non-dualist, I’ve decided that Nisargadatta Maharaj was paradoxically right in saying that in this illusory world: 

“There is no such thing as enlightenment,
the realization of that fact is itself enlightenment.”

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj


I respectfully suggest that – except for rare Avatars, Buddhas or Bodhisattvas – we all appear here on the Earth Branch of the great Cosmic University to evolve spiritually by learning LOVE and being LOVE; and that in this ever impermanent space time “reality” our challenge is to skillfully stay in harmony with always changing energy – whether perceptible or imperceptible; that as times change our “enlightened” behaviors must change; that historically enlightened behaviors may not still be appropriate in this modern age of mental malaise.  

For me perpetual change challenges us to always live life presently – ‘in the zone’ – by constantly responding appropriately, skillfully and spontaneously to ever changing earth energies.  So we are learning to experience life spontaneously, like skilled master musicians in a jam session – always harmoniously responding or blending with each sensed musical sound or soundless space.  

But if we had mastered that “enlightened” process of always being ‘in the zone’, we wouldn’t be here.  Consider these apt quotes from popular spiritual authors: 

“Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t.”
~ Richard Bach

“If you’re not dead yet, you’re not done yet.” 
~ Elizabeth Gilbert (quoting her mother)


As long as we incarnate on Earth, participation in the “enlightenment” process entails learning mindfully “to let go, and go with the flow” – and to “leave it to the Lone Arranger.”    Moreover, active pursuit of “enlightenment” can become a subtle ego trap, to be averted.  So it’s best to surrender because:


“What you seek is seeking you.”
~ Rumi

Thus, while ever honoring my beloved Guruji as guiding and inspiring ‘outer authority’, I’ve more and more relied on inner intuitive authority while experiencing the earth-life “enlightenment” process.  And such reliance has brought an ever happier life.
   
Knowingly or unknowingly we are all on a spiritual path to discover within our true Self identity – which ‘is seeking us’.  So this essay is offered to help us realize ever increasing inner happiness by finding and following our Sacred Heart.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner


What is the human “mind”?
Is it best friend or worst enemy?


One must elevate – and not degrade – oneself with one’s own mind, as the mind is both a friend and an enemy.
For those who have subdued and conquered the mind, it is the best of friends.
But for those who fail to do so, the mind remains the greatest of enemies.
~ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter Six, Lord Krishna to Arjuna (6.05-06)



Bhagavad Gita – Krishna teaching Arjuna




Q. What is the human “mind”?

A. “Mind” is a word with many meanings. In answering this question about the human “mind” we consider it a conditioned egoic space/time energy process, and call it “mortal mind” or “ego–desire mind” or “conditioned mind”.

Religious philosophies sometimes equate “Mind” with God, or ultimate Reality beyond space/time. But we distinguish and exclude those concepts in answering this question about the human “mind”, which is the conditioned perceiver and projector of space/time samsaric ‘reality’ .

In the Bhagavad Gita, an important Hindu scripture, Divine Avatar Lord Krishna informs warrior Arjuna that the conditioned human mind


“is both a friend and an enemy”
, that “for those who have subdued and conquered the mind, it is the best of friends. But for those who fail to do so, the mind remains the greatest of enemies.”


Q. How can the human mind be either our best friend or worst enemy?

A. The human mind can be either our best friend or worst enemy depending on whether we use it skillfully to advance, or egotistically to deter, our spiritual evolution – to either terminate or perpetuate mistaken ego entity-identity.

The above Bhagavad Gita passage epitomizes the essential spiritual teaching of the entire Scripture: Attaining freedom from saṃsāra, the karmic cycle of death and rebirth, through spiritual liberation or Moksha. Metaphorically this scripture portrays (in an epic battle) the perpetual conflict between good and evil – between satisfying ego’s endless desires for ephemeral worldly gratifications, or transcending ego to achieve realization as God – the Absolute eternal spirit beyond all impermanent energy forms and phenomena.

When it identifies and perpetuates itself as ego the human mind can be our worst enemy.

For millennia spiritual sages have identified “ego” as the greatest impediment to spiritual evolution and Self realization. Thus, the ancient Vedic seers told us that “Ego is the biggest enemy of humans.” (Rig Veda ) And the Dalai Lama says that in Buddhism ego is the “number-one enemy of compassion.”

“Ego” is conditioned mind’s mistaken self-identity as an entity separate from God – as a separate mortal perceiver of a supposedly objective world. But this is an unreal illusion – a mental mirage. Nonetheless ego-mind fearfully and constantly attempts to perpetuate its unreal existence. But such attempted self-preservation is ultimately futile. What never was can never be preserved.

Thus, while conditioned-mind attempts to perpetuate itself as illusionary ego-mind it impedes spiritual evolution, and thereby becomes “our worst enemy”.

When used skillfully to transcend ego, the human mind can be our best friend.

Except for rare Avatars and Bodhisattvas virtually all incarnate humans have not yet completed the process of spiritual evolution from humanity to divinity. So they are still subject to the karmic cycle of death and rebirth through ego misidentification. But the human mind can skillfully be subdued and used to transcend and conquer ego, and thereby to advance spiritual evolution toward achieving spiritual liberation or Moksha .

Ultimately, such transcendence happens when mind and thought cease and Universal Awareness which has been mistakenly regarded as a separate experiencer of sensations and emotions, and a separate performer of actions, exists by itself and as its Self, and is not mentally divided.

Thus, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a sacred Hindu text, state:

“Yoga is the cessation of mind.”


“The witness is Self, pure awareness, which,

though boundless and unchanging,

appears to perceive creation through the construct of mind.”


“The identification of pure awareness with the mind and its creations
 causes the [mistaken] apprehension of both an objective world and a perceiver of it.”


“When the mind withdraws attention from sense experience,
the senses receive no impressions from sense objects,
and awareness rests in its essential nature.”


“When he is not in the state of yoga, man remains [mistakenly] identified with the thought-waves in the mind.”

~ Patanjali – Yoga Sutras


Similarly, when twentieth century Indian sage J. Krishnamurti was asked

“Is belief in God necessary or helpful?”,  he replied (in part):

“Belief in any form is a hindrance. A man who believes in God can never find God.
If you are open to reality, there can be no belief in reality.
If you are open to the unknown, there can be no belief in it. … belief is a form of self-protection…” …

“The mind is the product of the past.”
“There can be reality only when the mind understands the total process of itself and comes to an end.
When the mind is completely empty – only then is it capable of receiving the unknown.”
“Only when the mind is wholly silent, completely inactive, not projecting, when it is not seeking and is utterly still – only then that which is eternal and timeless comes into being.”


Conclusion.

Until the human mind is psychologically de-conditioned and emptied, and no longer confuses pure awareness as a separate objective world, it can be gradually subdued and used skillfully to advance spiritual evolution. We can use it to lose it. Like using a thorn to remove another thorn’s sliver, we can use ego-mind to end ego-mind. We can quiet, control and dis-identify with the ‘voice in the head’, and we can behave dharmically and compassionately.

Thereby the human mind can become our ‘best friend’, by hastening transcendence of illusionary ego identity to allow self realization as timeless thoughtless Universal Awareness.

And so may it be!

Epilogue.

In considering the nature and function of the conditioned human mind, the following further information may be helpful.

Body, mind and soul are inseparable abstractions.

Every conditioned human incarnation necessarily includes body, mind and soul as concepts which cannot be separated, without destroying their spiritual significance.

They all connote an entity or energy process seemingly separate from its Source. Thus, in the Bhagavad Gita “body”, “mind”, and “soul” are all denoted by the same Sanskrit word: “atma” or “self”. So in investigating the human mind it is imperative to consider it as only one connotation of “atma” or “self” and, in all events, to consider it as a conditioned subtle energy process experienced as separate from its Source.

Metaphorically, each incarnate person can be described as a systemic earthly energy process (or vortex), with enveloped mysterious layers of perceptible and subtly imperceptible energies. What we call the “mind” includes both conscious and subconscious energy processes. When subconscious, the mind autonomically operates and regulates countless systemic functions. Consciously, conditioned mind is like a subtle energy processor of conceptual thought, intellect, memory, intention, and communication.

Death of physical bodies and brains does not end consciousness and conditioned mind. They remain to perpetuate the karmic cycle of death and rebirth.

All mental perceptions, memories and tendencies associated with physical bodies are stored in subtle mental energy bodies which survive death of those physical bodies. Contrary to pseudo-scientific materialist beliefs, brains do not create consciousness and mind; consciousness creates brains and mind to function like tuner/transducers decoding karmic cosmic energies for human interpretation.

For millennia seers and mystics have revealed that subtle mental energy bodies associated with physical bodies survive death of those physical bodies. Just as computers need an operating system to function, so do physical bodies. Like computers which operate via software, physical bodies are controlled by subtle mind-stuff energies (chitta). And when – like computers – physical bodies inevitably deteriorate and die, their ‘mental software’ survives, and is reused.

Thus, just as I am able to use with a new i Mac the same OS X software system that operated an old i Mac, I can (and may for eons) operate other physical bodies with the same mind-stuff energy that is animating this one. And those other physical bodies which will be using my pre-existing mental software, will probably display many of the same ‘operating features’ as my prior physical bodies. These mental operating systems can be gradually ‘up-dated’. But this usually requires a very slow process of intentional self-discovery and removal of conditioned mental obscurations and defilements.

Like computer software systems, all mental conditioning comes from the past – from this or prior lifetimes.

Thus twentieth century sage J. Krishnamurti, has declared:

“Mind is memory, at whatever level, by whatever name you call it; mind is the product of the past, it is founded on the past,
which is memory, a conditioned state.”
“The timeless can be only when memory, which is the `me’ and the`mine’, ceases.”
~ J. Krishnamurti


Transcendence of past mental conditioning is essential to achieving spiritual liberation or Moksha in the Eternal NOW.

The goal of all spiritual practice is to transcend past mental conditioning.

Such transcendence is achieved only when thoughts cease and Universal Awareness which has been mistakenly regarded as a separate experiencer of sensations and emotions, and a separate performer of actions, exists by itself as Self, and is not mentally divided.

And so shall it be!

Butterflies

“What the caterpillar calls the end,
the master calls a butterfly.”
~ Richard Bach




 
Butterflies

Butterflies are living
metaphors for metamorphosis.

They symbolize our
knowing or unknowing
quest for transformation;
for transcending inevitable
earthly miseries and mortality.

We are inspired by the butterfly’s metamorphosis:
from creeping, crawling caterpillar,
to cocooned chrysalis,
transformed by amazing imaginal cells
to beautifully winged wonder.

Butterflies can inspire and symbolize
not only human aspirations and potentialities
for transforming our life on Earth,
they also can remind us that there is much more
to our ever changing “reality”
‘than meets the eye’.

Some butterfly wings which appear to us in colors,
are actually transparent.
Their iridescent scales overlap like shingles on a roof,
refracting light – like rainbows –
so as to give the wings the colors we perceive.

But in some species, like the Glasswing (pictured above),
we can observe the transparency of the butterfly wings.
With such transparency,
we can see what normally we don’t see.

In the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:11-12),
Paul observes that “now we see through a glass darkly”,
but that some day we shall fully know,
as we are fully Known now by the Divine.

Now, we view our “reality”
through the ‘mirror of the mind’,
which imperfectly refracts and reflects
the unseen light of Eternal Awareness
onto the screen of our human consciousness.

But, with meditation and other mind-stilling methods,
we can evolve and transform our mind mirror
from opacity to translucency to transparency.

And thereby, with ever expanding
human consciousness and ever deepening insight,
we can and shall ‘see’ more and more –
we can and shall see what we couldn’t see before.

So, beautiful transparent butterflies
can symbolize and inspire our highest aspirations:
our aspirations for elevating and expanding human consciousness
so as to transform life on our precious planet.

And butterflies can remind us that Reality
is much more ‘than meets the eye’;

That beyond this phenomenal world
of ever passing appearances is one changeless Reality –

One unseen Source and Essence of
all appearances, all phenomena, and all ideas:

Infinite Potentiality – our Eternal SELF.


Beholding Divinity in a Weeping Willow Tree ~ Ron’s Memoirs

“Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.”
~ Jonathan Swift

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
~ Antoine de Saint Exupery

“People think that they see, but they don’t.”
~ Henry Moore
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
~ Michelangelo
“True Vision is insight, not eyesight.
Eyesight is mind-sight; insight is soul-sight.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Reality’s essence is Divine luminescence.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,

The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem 

Appareled in celestial light,

The glory and the freshness of a dream.

It is not now as it hath been of yore;

Turn wheresoe’er I may, 

By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see not more.”
~ William Wordsworth, Intimations of Immortality




Beholding Divinity in a Weeping Willow Tree

In early 1980’s I experienced at Wilbur Hot Springs, an unforgettably revelatory experience of perceiving luminescent Divine light. (*See Footnote)
I was there attending a week-end retreat for Board and staff of the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), as Board Chairman.


One morning I awakened early before any scheduled meetings, and meditated on a wooded hill above the lodge level. After descending I walked with a silent mind on a nature trail near the lodge. Whereupon, I discovered and crawled into a tiny cave where I again sat in deep meditation for a while. (Later, I learned that cave had long been considered a sacred place by original indigenous people there.)

On emerging from the cave and while unknowingly still in an ‘altered’ state of awareness, I walked to the bathhouse, removed my clothes, stepped outside, and immersed my body in a large shallow hot springs pond.  

While standing alone in the stilled pond with a stilled mind, I gazed at a beautiful weeping willow tree beside the pond on the side furthest from the bath house.  Instead of seeing the tree as it appeared during usual waking consciousness, I beheld it marvelously transfigured as ever streaming lines of white light, more beautiful than any imaginable Christmas tree.

Unaware of my exceptional state of consciousness, I kept gazing at the tree in awe. After a while Tara, a CIIS staff member, entered the pond.  Then, innocently I addressed her: “Tara, look at the lights in that tree.  Aren’t they beautiful?”  Puzzled, Tara responded “What lights?”.   And immediately the lights disappeared for me as I was abruptly returned to my usual state of waking ‘un-consciousness’.  

But I can never forget the flowing tree lights, nor the insight which they confirmed:  That there is much more to our “reality” than meets the eye; that “Reality’s essence is Divine luminescence”.

Later that day, I recounted my experience to Dr. John Broomfield, then CIIS President, who cited me to this similar experience of author Annie Dillard:

“[O]ne day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it.  I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame.  I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed.  It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance.  The lights of the fire abated, but I’m still spending the power.  Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared.  I was still ringing.  I had my whole life been a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.” 
~ Annie Dillard, A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 

Like Annie Dillard’s tree vision at Tinker Creek, beholding the transfigured weeping willow at Wilbur Springs was for me an unforgettably inspiring and transformative experience for which I remain ever grateful.

Footnote* Other memorable experiences of Divine light, beginning with an epiphany in Yosemite, are recounted elsewhere in these memoirs.


The Way In, Is The Way Out

“Ego is the biggest enemy of humans.”

~ Rig Veda
“Undo ego!
As ego goes,

consciousness grows,

until it Knows
– Its Self.”

~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.”

~ Buddha
“As you grow up, you form a mental image of who you are, based on your personal and cultural conditioning. We may call this phantom self the ego. It consists of mind activity and can only be kept going through constant thinking. The term ego means different things to different people, but when I use it …it means a false self, created by unconscious identification with the mind. …..
As long as you are identified with your mind, the ego runs your life.”

~ Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
“Your task is not to seek for love,

but merely to seek and find
 all the barriers within yourself

that you have built against it.”

~ Rumi
“As long as you take yourself to be a person, a body, a mind, separate from the stream of life, having a will of its own, pursuing its own aims, you are living merely on the surface and whatever you do will be short-lived and of little value, mere straws to feed the flames of vanity.”
~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj



Beyond Ego



The Way In, Is The Way Out

In this crazy age
of mental malaise,
we’re caught
in a mental maze.

Without a doubt,
to find our way out
we must know
the way we got in.



Ron’s Audio Recitation of “The Way In, Is The Way Out”

Listen to


Ron’s Comments and Explanation of “The Way In, Is The Way Out”

Dear Friends,

The SillySutras.com website is dedicated to encouraging our conscious spiritual evolution, thereby freely helping us live ever happier lives.

Upon birth as human lifeforms we experience instant amnesia about our true spiritual self-identity. Whereupon, perceiving and believing ourselves to be mere mortal physical bodies separate from each other and nature, we mistakenly think and behave as unconnected egos, and thereby become subject to the universal law of cause and effect – karma.

Every Human – except for rare Buddha-like beings – knowingly or unknowingly is in some evolutionary stage of undoing mistaken ego identity – a process indispensable to our inevitable evolution. So for millennia spiritual seers have recognized “ego” as the greatest human “enemy” and impediment to our spiritual evolution.

Thus, because of ego’s supreme significance, numerous SillySutras.com writings describe “ego” and ways to transcend it. (See e.g. website archives linked here.)

In writing about ego I have sometimes with ‘artistic license’ used memorable or whimsical metaphors. For example, I have written that ego identification causes each soul to become ‘encapsulated’ and ‘entangled’ in a “self-woven karmic cocoon” arising from our unique behaviors – through which we often bring about personal and world sufferings. And that each “karmic cocoon” becomes a kind of “psychological prison” in which suffering is inevitable, and which restricts realization of our unlimited potentialities.  But that we can each mentally transcend that “prison” and emerge “free at last”, no matter what our outer circumstances, by “undoing ego”.

Thus


“As ego goes, consciousness grows, until it Knows – Its Self.”


A YouTube documentary film titled: “Walks With Ron (A Spiritual Memoir)” (See https://sillysutras.com/walks-with-ron-a-brief-film-about-ron-rattner/ ) includes dialogue, with visual and musical segments about my song We’re Just Butterflies In A Caterpillar World. In it I explain how butterflies are living metaphors for human metamorphosis, and powerful symbols of our human potential to gradually emerge from “karmic cocoons” to transcend inevitable earthly sufferings.

Similar to our dilemma of being metaphorically imprisoned in “self-woven karmic cocoons”, I have sometimes whimsically said that we’re “caught by thought – in a mental maze” and “lost in a lingual labyrinth”. But until now none of my ‘mental maze’ metaphors were posted or linked on the SillySutras website except for a sutra reading in The Walks With Ron documentary.

So I’ve posted above “The Way In, Is The Way Out”, the whimsical ‘mental maze’ poem which appears in that video. I hope you’ll enjoy it. And that it may help all of us who are still “caught by thought” and haven’t yet found the way out of our ego created “mental maze” or escaped from – our self-woven karmic cocoons.

May this whimsical poem help remind us all of our critical need to let go of who or what we mistakenly think we are, so can realize and BE what we really are – ONE with Nature as its Eternal Source.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner