“You will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.”
~ John 8:32
“There is only one central issue, crisis, or challenge for man, which is, that he must be completely free. As long as the mind is holding on to a structure, a method, a system, there is no freedom.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
“Freedom is not a reaction; freedom is not a choice.
Freedom is found in the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
“Bondage is of the mind; freedom too is of the mind.
If you say ‘I am a free soul. I am a son of God who can bind me’ free you shall be.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa
“Be empty of worrying,
Think of Who Created Thought!
Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?”
“The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body,
the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him –
that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.”
~ Swami Vivekananda
“All life is an effort to attain freedom from self-created entanglement;
it is a desperate struggle to undo what has been done under ignorance,
to throw away the accumulated burden of the past,
to find rescue from the debris left by a series of temporary achievements and failures.”
~ Meher Baba
“Freedom is of the nature of the soul, it is its birthright:
.. real freedom of the soul shines through veils of matter in the form of the apparent freedom of man.”
~ Swami Vivekananda
“To acquire freedom we have to get beyond the limitations of this universe;
it cannot be found here. ….
The only way to come out of bondage
is to go beyond the limitations of [natural] law,
to go beyond causation.”
~ Swami Vivekananda
“Liberation is our very nature. We are that.
The very fact that we wish for liberation shows that freedom from all bondage is our real nature.”
~ Ramana Maharshi
“The soul can grow only in freedom. Love gives freedom.
And when you give freedom, you are free, that’s what detachment is.
If you enforce bondage on the other, you will be in imprisonment on your own accord.
If you bind the other, the other will bind you; if you define the other, the other will define you;
if you are trying to possess the other, the other will possess you.”
“Spiritual freedom is freedom from all wanting. . . When the soul breaks asunder the shackles of wanting, it is emancipated from bondage to body, mind, and ego. This freedom brings realization of the unity of all life and puts an end to all doubts and worries.”
~ Meher Baba
“True freedom and the end of suffering is living in such a way as if you had completely chosen whatever you feel or experience at this moment. This inner alignment with Now is the end of suffering.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
“The most fundamental message of Gautama the Buddha is not God, is not soul… it is freedom: freedom absolute, total, unconditional. He does not want to give you an ideology, because every ideology creates its own slavery. He does not want to give you a religion, because religion binds you.”
“We are shackled by illusory bonds of belief.
Freedom is beyond belief.”
~ Ron Rattner – Sutra Sayings
“You are truly free when you are not a person.”
~ Deepak Chopra – The Book of Secrets
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual,
“Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr. — “I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963
Q. What is “freedom”, and how can we experience it?
A. “Freedom” is a word with different meanings.
Here we define “freedom” as an ultimate spiritual Reality beyond thought or ego – beyond human comprehension, imagination, description or belief –
which can only be known experientially, not rationally or mentally.
Ultimate “freedom” is our divine birthright, our nature and our destiny. Freedom is ever NOW, never then.
After mystically experiencing “freedom”, great beings like Jesus, the Buddha and Krishna have encouraged us to aspire to this ultimate transcendent experience. Knowingly or unknowingly, all people – including atheists, non-theists, and agnostics – long for “freedom”.
Mystics say that as long we self-identify only with our thoughts in ever changing space/time/causality reality we are inescapably ‘imprisoned’ in a state of psychological bondage, with inevitable suffering; that we experience ultimate “freedom” only in the present moment – the NOW – as we choicelessly self-identify with timeless universal awareness or spirit imminent in each of us.
Essential wisdom teachings of all enduring spiritual, mystical and mythic paths allude to spiritual “freedom”.
Thus, the most important Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, is a teaching by Divine Avatar Krishna about the ultimate spiritual goal (“moksha”) of liberation or “freedom” from the cycle of death and rebirth (“samsara”).
Similarly, all of Gautama Buddha’s teachings were aimed at ending human suffering through attainment of “freedom” from mental fetters or chains (samyojana) of mistaken self-identification with samsara.
When Jesus said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) he meant that we will experience “freedom” on realizing our true self-identity as soul or spirit. And in declaring: “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30), Jesus showed that we can only find such freedom when we self-identify with ONE Divine spirit – the kingdom of heaven within – rather than as supposedly separate embodied personalities.
“Freedom” is the esoteric essence and mythical message of the biblical Passover story. Many Jews and Christians annually remember and ritually observe the biblical Exodus legend about God miraculously rescuing Jews from bondage as slaves in Egypt, with Christians recalling that a Passover seder dinner was Jesus’ last supper. Some Afro-American Christians celebrate by singing the popular spiritual song “Go Down Moses”
The Exodus story symbolizes humanity’s eternal quest for spiritual freedom – for societal escape from enslavement by mistaken beliefs in false external Gods or goals to an inner ‘promised land’ of ONE eternal Divinity universally imminent within each of us, regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs, if any. So Passover rituals of lighting outer candles, can symbolically remind us of humanity’s perpetual quest for the eternal inner light of universal freedom.
We find and experience ultimate freedom only in choiceless awareness beyond our apparent subject/object separateness; beyond our beliefs, religions, ideologies or philosophies. By recognizing and transcending illusory belief barriers which seem to imprison us, we are –
“Free at last, free at last!”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.”
NOW – ever NOW, never THEN!
Ron’s Commentary on Spiritual Freedom
Spiritual freedom is an ultimate goal of all perennial wisdom paths. Most people associate “freedom” with personal, political, and economic liberty. But spiritual freedom is an extraordinarily rare psychological state which can be inwardly attained even by those who do not enjoy external freedoms, like felons imprisoned for life.
I first deeply reflected on philosophical concepts of “freedom” during the 1950’s when I learned about Abraham Maslow’s psychological analysis of ‘self-actualizing’ people, and when I read “Escape From Freedom” by then prominent author-psychotherapist Erich Fromm. But after becoming a San Francisco civil litigation lawyer I rarely reflected about inner freedom until after a memorable exchange with my beloved Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas.
While residing in my apartment just prior to his 1980 return to India, Guruji told me:
“Rasik, a yogi’s body is like a baby’s body. Your body is like a prison. I am like a jailer with the prison key. I come and go as I please.”
Thereupon, I became intensely curious about Guruji’s revelation that my body was like a prison. And I wondered how and why ‘I’ was ‘imprisoned’, and how ‘I’ could get out of ‘jail’ – free like Guruji.
So I began deeply exploring spiritual freedom, as distinguished from personal, political, and economic freedoms.
Soon, I was reminded of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, and wondered why his words “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last” were so deeply powerful.
Ultimately, I realized that those words were rooted in the biblical Exodus Passover story; and I intuited that spiritual “freedom” is the esoteric essence and mythical message of that story. I concluded that the Passover story symbolically emphasizes escape from outer bondage to a Divinely ‘promised land’ within – viz. escape from enslavement by mistaken beliefs in false external idols, Gods or goals to an inner ‘promised land’ of ONE eternal Divinity imminent in each of us.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is ONE!”
~ Deuteronomy 6:4
Later, I noted that Jesus powerfully alluded to spiritual freedom by prophesying:
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
~ John 8:32
So Jesus was teaching that we will find freedom (from self-imposed worldly slavery) only when we transcend entity identity and self-identify as ONE Divine spirit – the kingdom of heaven within – rather than as supposedly separate embodied personalities.
Ultimately, I concluded that our limited and limiting ego ideas about self-identity and reality confine each of us within a kind of psychological prison in which suffering is inevitable, and which restricts realization of our infinite potentialities.
However, the masters teach and demonstrate that we can each mentally transcend that “prison” and emerge “free at last” from our self-woven karmic cocoons, no matter what our outer circumstances.
Thus, Rumi reminded us:
“Be empty of worrying,
Think of Who Created Thought!
Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?”
The encouraging possibility of getting out of jail FREE is explained in the foregoing quotations and essay. May they help us evolve toward precious inner freedom, our divine birthright.
And so may it be!
“Go Down Moses”
Karma is a cosmic incentive system.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
The Book of Life is a karmic comic book.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Every action, every thought, reaps its own corresponding rewards. Human suffering is not a sign of God’s, or Nature’s, anger with mankind. It is a sign, rather, of man’s ignorance of divine law. . . .
Such is the law of karma: As you sow, so shall you reap. If you sow evil, you will reap evil in the form of suffering. And if you sow goodness, you will reap goodness in the form of inner joy.”
~ Paramhansa Yogananda
“It is true that we are not bound. That is to say, the real Self has no bondage. And it is true that you will eventually return to your Source. But meanwhile, if you commit sins, as you call them, you have to face the consequences. You cannot escape them.”
~ Ramana Maharshi
Clear your past, to live as presence.
Clear your karma, to live your dharma.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“To go from mortal to Buddha, you have to put an end to karma,
nurture your awareness, and accept what life brings.”
Close Out Your ‘Karma Card’ Accounts
Coming from subtle planes to Earth
(the plane of space/time and causation)
the soul dons an “earth suit” – a human body/mind –
as its vehicle to explore this realm.
Each such vehicle comes equipped with
a revolving “karma card” account.
The object of the visit is to clear all “karma card” debits,
without incurring new ones.
Until we close out all our “karma card” accounts,
our visits to Earth become endless revolving round trips
repeated in a different vehicle for each trip.
So, we’re here to try closing out
all our “karma card” accounts.
Ron’s Karmic Commentary:
Karma is the subtle or spiritual equivalent of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, that for every physical action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It is a natural spiritual law which governs all space/time interactions. Thus for every worldly action – every thought, word or deed – there is also an equivalent and opposite reaction on subtle or spiritual planes. So karma can be seen as “a cosmic incentive system”, of cause and effect. As explained by Paramhansa Yogananda: “Every action, every thought, reaps its own corresponding rewards” – either joy or suffering.
Hence, knowing the law of karma can help encourage us to do good and be good – even if we are motivated initially by what the Dalai Lama has called ‘enlightened selfishness’. Rare Buddhas and sages say that by doing good we may ultimately transcend identification with this space/time world of inevitable suffering, which mystics see as unreal illusion – maya or samsara.
But, as Yogananda observed, “those who cling to the cosmic illusion must accept its essential law of polarity: flow and ebb, rise and fall, day and night, pleasure and pain, good and evil, birth and death.” [Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 30]
Sometimes humor – truth said in jest – helps us remember significant ideas that we might otherwise forget. So I have shared with you the foregoing whimsical sutras and poem about karma.
May they help us sow ever more loving-kindness and compassion, bringing everyone everywhere ever more worldly happiness and fulfillment, until ultimately we reap eternal joy.
And so it shall be!
Ron’s audio comments and recitation of Close Out Your ‘Karma Card’ Accounts
“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
“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
As explained in other posts, during a traumatic 1976 divorce, I experienced a transformative mid-life spiritual awakening. Two years later, I met a hundred year old Hindu guru, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, and evolved from being a secular Hebrew, to becoming a “born-again Hindu”. Then gradually I developed ever increasing interest and curiosity about Indian spirituality and culture. After a few years, the “universe” presented me with an ideal opportunity to satisfy that curiosity.
In 1981, soon after my beloved Guruji, Dhyanyogi, had returned to India, I met Sant Keshadavadas, a devotional Indian spiritual teacher known as a singing saint. Especially in the absence of Guruji, I appreciated Sant Keshadavadas’ loving demeanor, singing, stories and teachings. So I frequently attended programs at his Oakland, California “Temple of Cosmic Religion”. Thereafter, on learning that Sant Keshadavadas would be conducting a spiritual tour of Indian holy places, I wanted to join that tour.
So after obtaining Guruji’s approval, in January and February 1982, I journeyed with Sant Keshadavadas on a wonderful spiritual pilgrimage to Japan, India and Nepal. That guided tour was, and remains for me, the most important trip of my lifetime.
Never before had I been in a land with such a palpably spiritual ambiance as I experienced everywhere in India. Our tour group crossed the length and breadth of that vast country (mostly by airplane and local buses) visiting many spiritual shrines and meeting saintly beings, like Mother Teresa and Satya Sai Baba. And I had numerous wondrous experiences. (In other chapters I have recounted some of those experiences.)
Ten years after that trip, in 1992 I retired from law practice and returned to India to pay my respects to Guruji, who at age 114 requested that I write and publish my spiritual memoirs. Though initially bewildered by this request, I knew that such memoirs needed to describe experiences during my 1982 ‘trip of a lifetime’. But I hadn’t kept a diary during that pilgrimage trip, and had to rely mostly on memory to tell about it.
Thereafter, many years passed during which I lived in introspective semi-seclusion, without a TV, computer, newspaper, or radio news of the “real world”, meditating, praying, seeking philosophical answers to ultimate questions, and “enlightenment”. During these years I did not yet feel ready to honor Guruji’s request that I write and publish my spiritual memoirs. But I was always mindful of the importance of fulfilling his wishes.
More than twenty years after my ‘trip of a lifetime’, while thinking about Guruji’s request, I discussed it with two long-time spiritual friends. I told them that while I was delaying in writing and publishing my spiritual memoirs they were being edited by time, as my memories waned. And I expressed concern about whether I could remember sufficient details of the 1982 pilgrimage to India, suggesting that my friends might be able to help me remember stories I had previously shared with them.
Thereafter, within a couple of weeks, the universe produced an amazing double synchronicity – two “manifestation miracles” which re-kindled memories of that momentous trip.
Here is what happened:
One afternoon while walking to the Marina Green adjoining San Francisco Bay I intended picking some dandelion and fennel leaves for my salad. But as I passed across the street from the Marina Safeway supermarket, I realized that I’d forgotten to bring a plastic bag in which to carry my ‘harvest’. After momentarily considering a detour into the Safeway, I decided instead to keep my eyes peeled for stray small bags which then commonly could be seen blowing around in the public park area where I was walking.
Soon I saw at a distance on the sidewalk ahead of me a white plastic bag, and presumed that it was just what I needed. But as I approached it, I saw that it was far too large for my purposes – a Bed & Bath bag rather than a Safeway bag. So, rather than leaving it cluttering the sidewalk where it might be blown into the water, I decided to put the plastic bag into a nearby waste dumpster.
I picked up the bag, walked a few a yards to the dumpster, and opened the dumpster lid prepared to discard the bag. But I was diverted by a surprising sight. Clearly visible, at the very top of the refuse pile in the dumpster, were about a dozen commercial VHS video tapes, which I began to examine with curiosity. If I’d come sooner, the tapes probably wouldn’t yet have been discarded; if I came later they’d probably already be covered over with much more trash, and not be visible.
As I looked at the video titles, I saw that they all seemed related to spiritual subjects that interested me, like yoga. Though never before a ‘dumpster diver’, I decided that I’d like to take all those videos home and check them out.
Thereupon, I wondered momentarily how I could carry them. Then, remembering the large plastic bag that had led me to the dumpster, I laughed as I realized that the universe had not only led me to the videos, when they were clearly visible, but also had provided me a bag perfectly sized to carry them home. So I put them in that bag, which when loaded became quite heavy.
So, unable to continue walking as planned, I returned home with the heavy bag of videos but without dandelion or fennel for my salad. At home I discovered to my amazement that the universe had just produced perhaps the most extraordinary “manifestation miracles” of my life.
On examining the videos, I found one titled “Call of the Flute – Spiritual Journey To India And Nepal”*. To my delight and amazement, I discovered that it was all about my 1982 pilgrimage to India with Sant Keshavadas.
And then I remembered that a team of professional videographers, led by a devotee of Sant Keshavadas, David Karp, had accompanied our tour group. Apparently afterwards they had produced and distributed this one hour documentary video for display on some non-network and cable television outlets. I had never acquired a copy of the video, and don’t recall ever before seeing it.
Yet somehow, over twenty years later, a copy of that video had synchronistically manifested for me in a Marina garbage dumpster which I unexpectedly visited at a rare time when videos were visible at the top of the garbage pile, and when I had just found a plastic bag large enough to carry them home.
And on viewing the video at home I found that it included numerous scenes which had been filmed when I was present, thus serendipitously rekindling memories of that momentous trip, and fulfilling my recently expressed desire for such reminders.
Who can explain such synchronicity “miracles”? Nonetheless, despite their mysterious origins, such synchronicities can fill us with feelings of awe and gratitude for our miraculous life on this precious planet, and remind us that we are part of Nature, connected and interdependent with all Life everywhere.
Einstein once observed that: “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” As I have been ever more blessed by such noteworthy and amazing “coincidences”, they ever more inspire and infuse me with heartfelt gratitude for the grace of this lucky life, and for the omnipresent but ‘anonymous’ Divine Source – The Lone Arranger – of all appearances therein.
*Videographer David Karp has generously permitted me to share with you on You Tube this documentary video, which so miraculously manifested for me just when I was trying to recall details of our 1982 pilgrimage to India and Nepal.
“All suffering is caused by human desire,
particularly the desire that impermanent things be permanent.
Human suffering can be ended by ending human desire.”
“To have no wants is divine….
The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods.”
“The power of unfulfilled desires is the root of all man’s slavery”
~ Sri Yukteswar (Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 43)
Topping our wish list, is our wish to be wish-less.
For ’til we stop wishing, we’ll ever be wanting.
~Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
Words About Wishes
Wishes and wants are mental projections to the future
of remembered pleasures from the past.
Wishes are then, but Life is NOW.
Well-wishers sometimes sincerely say,
“May all your fondest dreams and wishes come true.”
But, we’ll never have all we want ’til we want just all we have.
And – unfulfilled wishes can be Divine blessings.
So – topping our wish list, is our wish to be wish-less.
For ’til we stop wishing, we’ll ever be wanting.
Ron’s audio recitation of “Words About Wishes”
Ron’s explanation and dedication of “Words About Wishes”
The foregoing quotes and whimsical sutra verses are about a spiritually crucial subject – our futile mental desires or wishes as root impediments to spiritual evolution.
Buddhist philosophy’s primary purpose is to help end human suffering. Gautama Buddha taught that humans suffer because we mentally strive for illusory and impermanent pleasures that cannot give lasting happiness. We futilely try to hold on to relationships, health, circumstances, or things that cannot last. And this causes sorrow and suffering.
According to Buddhist teachings we suffer from ignorance (avidyâ) of our true self-identity, and from our consequent mistaken thoughts, words and deeds.
Suffering ends when ignorance ends. Ignorance ends gradually with experiential Self knowledge that we are Infinite Potentiality beyond conception, rather than merely mortal and limited persons.
Thus the Dalai Lama explains that
“In Buddhism, ignorance as the root cause of suffering refers to a fundamental misperception of the true nature of the self and all phenomena.”
Unfulfilled desire is also discussed in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi,” Chapter 43, The Resurrection of Sri Yukteswar wherein Yogananda recounts an amazing astral visitation by his departed spiritual master Sri Yukteswar, who declares with detailed explanations that:
“The power of unfulfilled desires is the root of all man’s slavery.”
According to Sri Yukteswar even very subtle or unconscious desires of highly evolved beings can keep them from Being Infinite.
An amazing near death experience consistent with Sri Yukteswar’s teaching was recounted by my beloved Guruji, Sri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas:
During a terrible Gujarati draught and famine, in 1971 Guruji became extremely sick and exhausted from selflessly helping people and animals. Guruji’s physical body died, and his soul traveled to the heavenly domain of his “Ishta-Devata” Lord Rama – the principal Divine form of his devotional practices. Though Guruji wished to remain forever in Rama’s indescribably loving Presence, he was told that he would have to return to his Earthly body because of his unfulfilled desires to help people, whose images were then shown to Guruji. Rama told him:
“So long as there are any desires in your mind, … you must return to fulfill those desires.”
Thus various spiritual traditions have recognized enlightened beings – like Buddhist Bodhisattvas – who compassionately forgo spiritual Freedom, or nirvana, or the kingdom of heaven, in order to “save” others.
May the above “Words About Wishes” help those of us still suffering from futile mental desires see and transcend them –
Until we can choose to return to this crazy world to help all other suffering sentient beings transcend it.
And so may it be!
“Humility is the solid foundation of all the virtues.”
Humility: A Supreme Virtue
Q. What is “humility”?
A. Authentic humility is a core virtue and a sign of spiritual evolution.
It is a state of modesty, free from pretension, pride and arrogance;
a state that intuitively recognizes the Divine equality of all beings as blessed with the same Eternal Essence, and their Oneness with Nature; a state which opens us to learning by allowing us to acknowledge our limitations and fallibilities, and to experience with awe and wonder how little we know about the miraculous magnificence of this Creation.
Yet, it is not a state of powerlessness or of low self esteem, but of powerful inner security, inner knowing, and inner-directedness.
Q. How does humility happen?
A. Humility grows as ego goes. As we ever more realize that we are part a vast universe and not separate from it, we gradually become less and less egoistic and self centered and more and more compassionate and humble. As Einstein says, this is a process of “widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Q. Why is humility considered a virtue, especially in prominent people?
A. Prominent people are subject to great flattery, praise and adulation which can entice and inflate ego, the enemy of compassion and humility. Those who have resisted such ego temptations have been lauded as truly great beings. Eg. Gandhi was called “Mahatma” a Sanskrit word meaning “great soul”.
Throughout history, “humility” has been recognized and appreciated as a supreme virtue manifested by great beings from every tradition and culture, who chose to lead non-pretentious, simple lives dedicated to helping others, and who have thereby inspired countless others. Today, for example, H.H. the Dalai Lama who is revered by millions worldwide as a great sage and religious leader, often describes himself as a “simple monk”, and sometimes publicly responds to questions with “I don’t know.” *
[*According to Buddhism, ego and “enlightenment” cannot coexist. No “enlightened” Buddhist can acknowledge “enlightenment” because any such acknowledgment would necessarily imply an ego-identity, a personality, a being, a separated individuality. ~ Diamond Sutra, Chapter 9]
The Bhagavad Gita [13:8-12], perhaps the most important Hindu scripture, recognizes humility and lack of pride as virtues essential to Self Realization.
In the Tao Te Ching the great Taoist sage Lao Tzu states that
the Master’s “constant practice is humility.”; and that: “Humility means trusting the Tao, thus never needing to be defensive.”
Various bible passages attest to the humility of Jesus. Jesus once said of Himself,
“I am meek and humble of heart”
~ Matthew 11:29.
And in the Sermon on the Mount,
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
~ Matthew 5.5.
Jesus claimed no special powers but attributed all to God. eg.
“I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doth the works.”
~ John 14:10;
“..I can of mine own self do nothing…I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”
~ John 5:30.
And Jesus counseled humility:
“Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another: for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.”
~ 1 Peter 5.5.
Of Moses the bible says:
“Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.”
~ Numbers 12:3.
Albert Einstein remained simple and self-effacing despite the world’s “genius” label and immense flattery, using his great prestige to advocate for social justice and controversial causes, like pacifism. Einstein was a very humble man who regarded himself as just an ordinary person, with certain abilities in theoretical physics. [eg. see Synchronicity story: Analyzing Einstein’s Autograph]
For example, he disclaimed the ‘genius’ label, saying:
“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
“It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Einstein explained his humility, thus:
“What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.”
The great Gandhi, whose example of non-violent relentless pursuit of Truth and selfless service to humanity continues to inspire countless others, remained a humble man despite his immensely important accomplishments. His humility was evidenced by these Gandhi statements:
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” . . . .
“I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.”
Authentic humility is a supreme virtue which ever expands as we become less and less egoistic and self centered and more and more compassionate, thereby “widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Spiritually, the supreme virtue of “humility” is inversely associated with “ego”. Thus humble people – like the Dalai Lama, Albert Einstein or Mahatma Gandhi –– are often regarded as great beings, because they are not egotistic.
From childhood we are acculturated to identify only with a limited and disempowering self-image. We are taught to believe that we are born into Nature as limited and separate mortal beings; but not that Nature is our nature, or that essentially we are Beings of Light, sharing limitless immortal Cosmic consciousness with all life-forms.
Such restrictive self-image is what spiritual teachers call “ego” – as distinguished from Freud’s salutary psychological definition of “ego”. Spiritually, “ego” refers to fundamentally mistaken human self-identity as personalities separate from eternal Infinite potentiality; our restrictive self-identity which causes us endless karmic suffering from unskillful thoughts, words and deeds.
Thus the ancient Rig Veda called “ego”:
“the biggest enemy of humans.”
Since “ego” arises from mental activity – from thoughts and beliefs – it cannot continue without persistently mistaken thoughts about who or what we are. Through an evolutionary process of conscious psychological self-transformation, we can transcend mistaken egoic ideas of who we think we are, and gradually realize and remember that ultimately we truly are ONE with Universal Intelligence – with Eternal Spirit.
As gradually we transcend our illusory ego identities as merely separate mortals, and increasingly self identify as Eternal Spirit, we inevitably become ever more humble. Our Humility grows as ego goes. The smaller the ego, the greater the being.
In these critical times of immense suffering and jeopardy, yet immense opportunity, let us join with utmost love and humility in envisioning our precious planet democratically ruled bottom-up by humble, peaceful and compassionate citizens, rather than top-down by insensitive and egotistic purported “leaders” who are emotionally sociopathic or psychopathic.
May these biblical passages prove prescient:
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
~ Proverbs 16:18
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
~ James 4:6
And so may it be.
“We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
“My appointed work is to awaken the divine nature that is within.”
~ Peace Pilgrim
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.
Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”
~ Carl Gustav Jung
My friends, it is through the establishment of the clarity of mindfulness
that you let go of grasping after past and future,
overcome attachment and grief,
abandon all clinging and anxiety,
and awaken an unshakable freedom of heart,
here and now.
~ Buddha [the Awakened One]
“Those who awaken never rest in one place.
Like swans, they rise and leave the lake.
On the air they rise and fly an invisible course.
Their food is knowledge.
They live on emptiness.
They have seen how to break free.
Who can follow them?
~ Buddha [the Awakened One]
“[An] awakened state is possible only when there is …
critical self-awareness devoid of judgment.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
“If you want to awaken all of humanity,
then awaken all of yourself.
If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world,
then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.”
~ Lao Tzu , Hua Hu Ching
Through eons of ignorance,
we have been asleep –
Dreaming “I am a body,
a name, a form, a story” separate from
the rest of “reality”.
Now, blessed with a precious human
existence and truth teachings,
we are awakening gradually,
And experiencing ever more
moments of living truth.
But still, from the habits of countless
lives of ignorance,
we suffer a kind of spiritual narcolepcy –
involuntarily falling asleep again and again.
Only when those habits are
will we awaken –
Ron’s audio recitation of “Awakening”
Ron’s Dedication of “Awakening”
As recognized by Venerable Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, awakening from our illusion of separateness to our common Divinity is the essential purpose of spiritual evolution.
Thus the word “Buddha” is not just a name but an honorific title, meaning in Sanskrit “one who is awake” to Reality.
So the foregoing verses gratefully honor and are dedicated to all “awakened” and awakening ones – whether historically known or unknown – who help other beings awaken from a fearfully persistent illusion of individual mortality to joyous realization of our deathless ONENESS as Eternal Divinity.
May such ‘awakened ones’ inspire – in this precious lifetime – our societal realization of eternal oneness of Life as LOVE.
And so shall it be!
“Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.”
~ Erich Fromm
“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”
~ Erich Fromm
“The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another.”
~ Dalai Lama
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
Without them humanity cannot survive.”
~ Dalai Lama
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
~ Albert Einstein
“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.”
~ Albert Einstein
“Freedom from the desire for an answer
is essential to the understanding of a problem.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
“If we can really understand the problem,
the answer will come out of it, because
the answer is not separate from the problem.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
“The quest is in the question.
The question is the answer.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Life is not a problem to be solved,
but a reality to be experienced.”
~ Soren Kierkegaard
What causes problems?
And how can we solve them?
Ignorance spawns them;
Intelligence solves them;
Wisdom averts them;
Truth transcends them.
Ron’s audio recitation of “Problems?”:
Ron’s Comments about seeing and solving “Problems”
As sentient beings on planet Earth, we share innate yearning for uninterrupted happiness. But there aren’t yet utopian Earthly societies inhabited by perfectly happy people without problems.
Thus, individually and societally, all humans inevitably experience problems and limitations which interfere with their happiness – no matter who we are or how we are identified or categorized.
Though – like snowflakes – each of us is physically unique with a unique story and history, we are all inextricably interconnected and interdependent – existentially sharing a common spiritual Self identity and common cosmic matrix.
Problems preclude lasting happiness
So solving our societal and interpersonal problems is crucial to fulfillment of our inborn wish for lasting happiness. And just as curing disease normally requires diagnosis of its cause, to solve Earthly problems we need to see their source.
To help us “diagnose” our problems I have posted the foregoing quotations and enigmatic sutra poem – written many years ago – about seeing, solving and transcending “problems”.
Seeing and solving psychological problems
This poem mainly addresses mental – rather than physical – “problems”, since physical pain is inevitable while mental suffering is optional.
As to such psychological problems, His Holiness the Dalai Lama teaches that
“The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion” because “the need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence;” and because without “love and compassion . . .humanity cannot survive”.
Psychological problems and suffering inevitably arise when we are ignorant of our true spiritual self-identity – which is LOVE – but futilely seek happiness from ephemeral worldly satisfactions. So the poem identifies “ignorance” as the source of “problems”.
Thus Rumi tells us:
“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.”
Mental Problems are Ego Problems
Those mental ‘barriers’ which we have ‘built within’ all arise from ego, to which Buddhist teachings often refer as ‘self-cherishing thought’.
Through ego we mistakenly mentally self identify as entities separate from the Whole – as separate perceivers of a supposedly objective world.
But this is an unreal ego illusion – samsara. And our self-cherishing beliefs and behaviors seeking psychological self-preservation and protection of that ego illusion of separateness are ultimately futile.
What never was can never be preserved.
To promote lasting happiness and compassion, most spiritual practice has been aimed for millennia at transcending illusionary ego identity. For example this intention has been mentioned in ancient Vedic and Taoist texts such as Rig Veda and Tao Te Ching, as well as in Buddhist scriptures:
Ego is the biggest enemy of humans. ”
~ Rig Veda
“The ego is a monkey catapulting through the jungle: Totally fascinated by the realm of the senses, it swings from one desire to the next, one conflict to the next, one self-centered idea to the next. If you threaten it, it actually fears for its life. Let this monkey go. Let the senses go. Let desires go. Let conflicts go. Let ideas go. Let the fiction of life and death go. Just remain in the center, watching. And then forget that you are there.”
~ Lao Tzu
“The foundation of the Buddha’s teachings lies in compassion, and the reason for practicing the teachings is to wipe out the persistence of ego, the number-one enemy of compassion.”
~ Dalai Lama
Thus, according to perennial spiritual teachings, ego must be recognized, renounced and transcended.
No thought, no ego.
Ultimate overcoming of ego happens only when thought ceases NOW and Universal Intelligence which has been mistakenly regarded as a separate experiencer of sensations and emotions, and a separate performer of actions, exists by itself and as itself, and is not mentally divided and projected.
Happiness grows as ego goes
Only very rare ‘awakened’ Buddha-like beings have completed the metamorphosis from Humanity to Infinite Intelligence – from human consciousness to superconsciousness. So the overwhelmingly vast majority of Humankind are incarnate because we are limited by illusionary ego entity-identity, and we inevitably suffer “problems” in space/time causality/duality.
But all of us can gradually evolve and achieve ever growing happiness by seeing and solving our ego problems from ever elevated mental states of consciousness, subtler than those which created them.
Initially we may use our instinctive intelligence to “diagnose” and abandon the beliefs and behaviors causing our experience of such problems. Later, with wisdom we may avert problems by observing mistakes of others and not emulating such mistakes.
We can overcome our suffering from earthly ‘problems’ and experience ever growing happiness, compassion and fulfillment of our deepest aspirations by gradually recognizing, renouncing and transcending egoic beliefs and behaviors.
And so may it be!
“My teaching is like a finger pointing to the moon.
Do not mistake the finger for the moon”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, quoting the Buddha’s Teachings
“There’s nothing to say, but words point the way.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood,
the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.
The Way is perfect like vast space
where nothing is lacking and nothing in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things and such
erroneous views will disappear by themselves.
When you try to stop activity by passivity
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain in one extreme or the other
you will never know Oneness.
Those who do not live in the single Way
fail in both activity and passivity,
assertion and denial.
To deny the reality of things
is to miss their reality;
To assert the emptiness of things
is to miss their reality.
The more you talk and think about it,
the further astray you wander from the truth.
Stop talking and thinking,
and there is nothing you will not be able to know.
To return to the root is to find meaning,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance.
Do not search for the truth;
only cease to cherish opinions.
do not remain in the dualistic state.
Avoid such pursuits carefully.
If there is even a trace of this and that,
of right and wrong,
the mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
Although all dualities come from the One,
do not be attached even to this One.
When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
nothing in the world can offend.
And when a thing can no longer offend,
it ceases to exist in the old way.
When no discriminating thoughts arise,
the old mind ceases to exist.
When thought objects vanish,
the thinking-subject vanishes:
As when the mind vanishes, objects vanish.
Things are objects because of the subject (mind):
the mind (subject) is such because of things (object).
Understand the relativity of these two
and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness.
In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable
and each contains in itself the whole world.
If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.
To live in the Great Way is neither easy nor difficult.
But those with limited views are fearful and irresolute:
the faster they hurry, the slower they go.
And clinging (attachment) cannot be limited:
Even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment
is to go astray.
Just let things be in their own way
and there will be neither coming nor going.
Obey the nature of things (your own nature)
and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
When the thought is in bondage the truth is hidden
for everything is murky and unclear.
And the burdensome practice of judging
brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived
from distinctions and separations?
If you wish to move in the One Way
do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to accept them fully
is identical with enlightenment.
The wise man strives to no goals
but the foolish man fetters himself.
There is one Dharma, not many.
from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
To seek Mind with the (discriminating) mind
is the greatest of all mistakes.
Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
there is no liking and disliking.
All dualities come from ignorant inference.
They are like dreams or flowers in air –
foolish to try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong,
such thoughts must
finally be abolished at once.
If the eye never sleeps,
all dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations,
the ten thousand things are as they are,
of single essence.
To understand the mystery of this One-essence
is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen equally
the timeless Self-essence is reached,
No comparisons or analogies are possible
in this causeless, relationless state.
Consider movement stationary
and the stationary in motion,
both movement and rest disappear.
When such dualities cease to exist
Oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate finality
no law or description applies.
For the unified mind in accord with the way
all self-centered striving ceases.
Doubts and irresolutions vanish
and life in true faith is possible.
With a single stroke we are freed from bondage:
Nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.
All is empty, clear, self-illuminating,
with no exertion of the mind’s power.
Here thought, feeling,
knowledge and imagination are of no value.
In this world of suchness
there is neither self nor other-than-self.
To come directly into harmony with this reality
just say when doubt rises “not two”.
In this “not two” nothing is separate,
nothing is excluded.
No matter when or where,
enlightenment means entering this truth.
And this truth is beyond extension
or diminution in time and space:
In it a single thought is ten thousand years.
Emptiness here, emptiness there,
but the infinite universe
stands always before your eyes.
Infinitely large and infinitely small;
no difference, for definitions have vanished
and no boundaries are seen.
So too with Being and non-Being.
Don’t waste time in doubts and arguments
That have nothing to do with this.
One thing, all things,
move among and intermingle without distinction.
To live in this realization
is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.
To live in this faith is the road to non-duality,
because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind.
The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is
The Hsin-Hsin Ming is a profound 6th Century non-dualistic perennial wisdom poem, first in the Ch’an (Chinese Zen) Buddhist tradition, attributed to the legendary third Zen patriarch, Seng Ts’an. Long regarded as a masterpiece by Zen practitioners, its essential non-dualistic message (influenced by Taoism) is that “When all things are seen equally the timeless Self-essence is reached. No comparisons or analogies are possible in this causeless, relationless state”. Thus any attachment, mental exertion or conceptual effort to characterize or distinguish impermanent perceptions precludes living an enlightened life – The Great Way, since words and concepts arise from illusion of duality and cannot describe timeless non-dual Truth, but merely point the way.
Masterfully translated from Chinese to English by Roshi Dr. Richard B. Clarke (1933-2013), founder and First Teacher of The Living Dharma Center near Amherst, MA. this version is available elsewhere on-line and in print. Currently it is featured in “Teachings of the Buddha”, edited by Jack Kornfield, Shambala 2012, at pp. 143-9.
YouTube recitation by Ben Bigelow:
Many Faiths, One Truth
By TENZIN GYATSO
WHEN I was a boy in Tibet, I felt that my own Buddhist religion must be the best — and that other faiths were somehow inferior. Now I see how naïve I was, and how dangerous the extremes of religious intolerance can be today.
Though intolerance may be as old as religion itself, we still see vigorous signs of its virulence. In Europe, there are intense debates about newcomers wearing veils or wanting to erect minarets and episodes of violence against Muslim immigrants. Radical atheists issue blanket condemnations of those who hold to religious beliefs. In the Middle East, the flames of war are fanned by hatred of those who adhere to a different faith.
Such tensions are likely to increase as the world becomes more interconnected and cultures, peoples and religions become ever more entwined. The pressure this creates tests more than our tolerance — it demands that we promote peaceful coexistence and understanding across boundaries.
Granted, every religion has a sense of exclusivity as part of its core identity. Even so, I believe there is genuine potential for mutual understanding. While preserving faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire and appreciate other traditions.
An early eye-opener for me was my meeting with the Trappist monk Thomas Merton in India shortly before his untimely death in 1968. Merton told me he could be perfectly faithful to Christianity, yet learn in depth from other religions like Buddhism. The same is true for me as an ardent Buddhist learning from the world’s other great religions.
A main point in my discussion with Merton was how central compassion was to the message of both Christianity and Buddhism. In my readings of the New Testament, I find myself inspired by Jesus’ acts of compassion. His miracle of the loaves and fishes, his healing and his teaching are all motivated by the desire to relieve suffering.
I’m a firm believer in the power of personal contact to bridge differences, so I’ve long been drawn to dialogues with people of other religious outlooks. The focus on compassion that Merton and I observed in our two religions strikes me as a strong unifying thread among all the major faiths. And these days we need to highlight what unifies us.
Take Judaism, for instance. I first visited a synagogue in Cochin, India, in 1965, and have met with many rabbis over the years. I remember vividly the rabbi in the Netherlands who told me about the Holocaust with such intensity that we were both in tears. And I’ve learned how the Talmud and the Bible repeat the theme of compassion, as in the passage in Leviticus that admonishes, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
In my many encounters with Hindu scholars in India, I’ve come to see the centrality of selfless compassion in Hinduism too — as expressed, for instance, in the Bhagavad Gita, which praises those who “delight in the welfare of all beings.” I’m moved by the ways this value has been expressed in the life of great beings like Mahatma Gandhi, or the lesser-known Baba Amte, who founded a leper colony not far from a Tibetan settlement in Maharashtra State in India. There he fed and sheltered lepers who were otherwise shunned. When I received my Nobel Peace Prize, I made a donation to his colony.
Compassion is equally important in Islam — and recognizing that has become crucial in the years since Sept. 11, especially in answering those who paint Islam as a militant faith. On the first anniversary of 9/11, I spoke at the National Cathedral in Washington, pleading that we not blindly follow the lead of some in the news media and let the violent acts of a few individuals define an entire religion.
Let me tell you about the Islam I know. Tibet has had an Islamic community for around 400 years, although my richest contacts with Islam have been in India, which has the world’s second-largest Muslim population. An imam in Ladakh once told me that a true Muslim should love and respect all of Allah’s creatures. And in my understanding, Islam enshrines compassion as a core spiritual principle, reflected in the very name of God, the “Compassionate and Merciful,” that appears at the beginning of virtually each chapter of the Koran.
Finding common ground among faiths can help us bridge needless divides at a time when unified action is more crucial than ever. As a species, we must embrace the oneness of humanity as we face global issues like pandemics, economic crises and ecological disaster. At that scale, our response must be as one.
Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world. From this perspective, mutual understanding among these traditions is not merely the business of religious believers — it matters for the welfare of humanity as a whole.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the author, most recently, of “Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together.”
Originally published as an Op-Ed by New York Times on May 24, 2010
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
~ Albert Einstein
Ron’s Introductory Comments.
Is “reality” absolute or relative?
And how should the answer to that question influence our worldly ways?
Our phenomenal Universe is miraculous, marvelous, and meaningful. But it is ever changing and impermanent – a “relative reality” of space, time and causality which some mystics call illusion, samsara, or maya.
It arises and appears in an unchanging mysterious matrix of Infinite Potentiality, which some call “Absolute Reality”.
When aware or awakening to this distinction between Absolute and relative reality, we may realize that while we are apparent entities in this world, our Source and ultimate identity transcends this world; that we are ‘in this world but not of this world’.
Thus realizing the impermanence and relativity of our phenomenal reality, we may ponder on its meaning and purpose and, accordingly, on how to best behave herein: viz. what thoughts, words or deeds (if any) are most appropriate and skillful?
SillySutras.com is dedicated to raising perennial questions about how to best be in this world. Even spiritual masters and great scholars can disagree on answers to such questions.
So, ultimately, each of us must intuitively answer such questions for ourselves.
In the opening chapter of “Thoughts Without a Thinker”, concerning psychotherapy from a Buddhist perspective, author psychotherapist Mark Epstein recounts this apt anecdote about a meeting at the home of a Harvard University psychology professor of two prominent teachers of Buddha-dharma with different ideas about dharma.
“Thoughts Without a Thinker”, by Dr. Mark Epstein – Excerpt From Chapter One.
“In the early days of my interest in Buddhism and psychology, I was given a particularly vivid demonstation of how difficult it was going to be to forge an integration between the two. Some friends of mine had arranged for an encounter between two prominent visiting Buddhist teachers at the house of a Harvard University psychology professor. These were teachers from two distinctly different Buddhist traditions who had never met and whose traditions had in fact had very little contact over the past thousand years. Before the worlds of Buddhism and Western psychology could come together, the various strands of Buddhism would have to encounter one another. We were to witness the first such dialogue.
The teachers, seventy-year-old Kalu Rinpoche of Tibet, a veteran of years of solitary retreat, and the Zen master Seung Sahn, the first Korean Zen master to teach in the United States, were to test each other’s understanding of the Buddha’s teachings for the benefit of the onlooking Western students. This was to be a high form of what was being called ‘dharma’ combat (the clashing of great minds sharpened by years of study and meditation), and we were waiting with all the anticipation that such a historic encounter deserved. The two monks entered with swirling robes — maroon and yellow for the Tibetan, austere grey and black for the Korean — and were followed by retinues of younger monks and translators with shaven heads. They settled onto cushions in the familiar cross-legged positions, and the host made it clear that the younger Zen master was to begin. The Tibetan lama sat very still, fingering a wooden rosary (mala) with one hand while murmuring, “Om mani padme hum” continuously under his breath.
The Zen master, who was already gaining renown for his method of hurling questions at his students until they were forced to admit their ignorance and then bellowing, “Keep that don’t know mind!” at them, reached deep inside his robes and drew out an orange. “What is this?” he demanded of the lama. “What is this?” This was a typical opening question, and we could feel him ready to pounce on whatever response he was given.
The Tibetan sat quietly fingering his mala and made no move to respond.
“What is this?” the Zen master insisted, holding the orange up to the Tibetan’s nose.
Kalu Rinpoche bent very slowly to the Tibetan monk near to him who was serving as the translator, and they whispered back and forth for several minutes. Finally the translator addressed the room: “Rinpoche says, ‘What is the matter with him? Don’t they have oranges where he comes from?”
The dialog progressed no further.”