The eyes are the windows of the soul.
~ Traditional Proverb
“The windows of my soul I throw
Wide open to the sun.”
~ John Greenleaf Whittier, My Psalm
“Open thine eyes — bright windows to the soul”
~ William Hetherington
“It is the soul itself which sees and hears,
and not those parts which are, as it were,
but windows to the soul…”
~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
“There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, …
beyond the highest, the very highest heavens.
This is the light that shines in your Heart.”
~ Chandogya Upanishad 3.13.7
“Let my soul smile through my heart
and my heart smile through my eyes,
that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda
The Eyes Have It – It’s In Every One of Us
The eyes are the world’s windows to the soul;
and the soul’s windows to the world.
The eyes gleam with Eternal Light –
of Infinite Awareness –
our Common “I”ness.
The Eyes Have It.
So, let us open our hearts to the Infinite,
through gleaming eyes of others.
Ever remembering that –
“It’s In Every One of Us”.
“It’s In Every One of Us” – David Pomeranz
Photos & Video by Wernher Krutein.
Lyrics Refrain: “It’s In Every One of Us”
It’s in every one of us to be wise
Find your heart
And open up both your eyes
We can all know every thing
Without ever knowing why
It’s in every one of us by and by
“The first preliminary practice consists of recognizing and giving value in its right measure to the precious human existence and the extraordinary opportunity that it gives to us to practice Dharma and to develop spiritually.”
~ Kalu Rinpoche – Foundations of Tibetan Buddhism
A Precious Human Life
“Everyday, think as you wake up:
Today I am fortunate to have woken up,
I am alive,
I have a precious human life,
I am not going to waste it,
I am going to use all my energies to develop myself.
To expand my heart out to others,
To achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings,
I am going to have kind thoughts towards others,
I am not going to get angry, or think badly about others.
I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
~ H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama
Ron’s Dedication and Comments about “A Precious Human Life”
Today is the 83rd birthday anniversary of His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. In honor of His Holiness, and as a special blessing for all who read his deeply inspiring words, I am privileged to share online His Holiness’s above advice about how we should greet and live each day with mindfulness of our fleeting precious human life.
Before my spiritual awakening, like most other people, I never thought about being a human, rather than some other life-form. But after meeting my Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusundandas, I learned that Eastern spiritual paths identify human incarnation on planet Earth as an extraordinarily precious opportunity to evolve – beyond that of any other life-form; that Buddhist and Hindu teachings say that for spiritual evolution it is better to be born human than even in a heavenly realm.
Tibetan Buddhist teachings especially helped me realize that human birth is amazingly precious and rare. They persuaded me that, although the not yet experienced effects of mysterious karmic causes and conditions result in unavoidable rebirths, there is no guarantee that we will evolve on rebirth; that we obtain human bodies because of good deeds in former lives, but that without living compassionately and mindfully, with continuing determination to transcend selfish behaviors, we squander an extraordinarily rare chance to evolve spiritually.
In October 1982, in San Francisco, I participated together with hundreds of others in a Kalachakra empowerment given by (now deceased) Tibetan master Kalu Rinpoche. In describing the history and rare significance of that ceremony, Lama Kalu explained that our attendance arose from beneficial causes and conditions so mysteriously and statistically rare as to be well beyond ordinary human comprehension – like Jesus’ metaphor of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. For example, Rinpoche explained that according to the Buddha, obtaining a human birth and following truth teachings is as unlikely as it is for a blind turtle to put its head through a single yoke which is cast on the oceans of this world.
These Tibetan Buddhist Kalachakra teachings deeply impressed upon me the extraordinary preciousness of fleeting human birth, and the utmost importance of our honoring it by living skillfully and mindfully to evolve spiritually.
So I feel especially privileged to share the foregoing crucially important advice from the H.H. Dalai Lama, our contemporary world’s most renowned exemplar of Buddhist teachings.
May these deeply profound teachings inspire us to gratefully and constantly honor our precious human lives by ever expanding our heart of compassion for the benefit of all beings.
And so shall it be!
“The first preliminary practice consists of recognizing and giving value in its right measure to the precious human existence and the extraordinary opportunity that it gives to us to practice Dharma and to develop spiritually.”
~ Kalu Rinpoche – Foundations of Tibetan Buddhism
“[T]he reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I believe the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics that is beyond religion.”
~ H.H. the Dalai Lama – Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World
“In the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone else will solve their problems. Every individual has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction. Good wishes are not sufficient; we must become actively engaged.”
~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama, from “The Path to Tranquility: Daily Wisdom”
Introduction. I have been blessed by meeting and learning from many spiritual teachers, in addition to my beloved Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas. Especially inspiring and helpful have been certain Tibetan Buddhist teachers.
Soon after my mid-life spiritual awakening, I was first exposed to Buddhist teachings via radio. For many years, I regularly listened to masterful New Dimensions Radio interviews by Michael Toms of spiritual teachers and authors, often Buddhists. And on Sunday nights, while driving home from visiting my parents, I regularly heard on KPFA recorded talks by Buddhist teacher, Alan Watts, a brilliantly insightful and articulate former Episcopal priest who had ‘converted’ to Zen Buddhism and moved from the UK to Marin County, California. Also for a short time I attended Sunday morning dharma talks and Zazen meditations at the beautiful and bucolic Green Gulch Zen Center in Marin County.
After my 1978 shaktipat initiation by Guruji I mostly focussed on Hindu spiritual teachings. But I remained curious about other spiritual and mystical traditions, especially non-duality teachings which I found not only in Advaita Vedanta, but also in Buddhism, Taoism and Sufism. (Ultimately, beyond religion, I became most focussed on certain universal wisdom principles at the heart of all enduring spiritual, religious, philosophical and ethical paths – like the “Golden Rule”. And to further those teachings I established The Perennial Wisdom Foundation.)
During a 1979 apparent ‘near death’ experience, I had visions of ethereal, luminescent and intricate mandalas – like those associated with Vajrayana Buddhism – which sparked much curiosity about Tibetan Buddhists and their mandalas. Soon afterwards I was synchronistically blessed with darshan of Tibetan lamas who in diaspora had started coming to the West. Most important for me were H.H. the Dalai Lama – who remains a living inspiration for me, and Kalu Rinpoche, a very venerable Tibetan Buddhist meditation master, now deceased and reborn.
For over thirty years I have been deeply inspired by core Buddhist teachings, as practiced by the Tibetans, though I never became a practicing Buddhist. In the 1980’s I honored that inspiration by receiving refuge and taking Boddhisattva vows from Kalu Rinpoche, and by receiving empowerments and teachings from both Kalu Rinpoche and the Dalai Lama, as well as other Tibetan lamas.
Taking Refuge. After meeting Kalu Rinpoche, I soon took refuge from him in the three jewels of Buddhism – the Buddha, sangha and dharma. In a brief refuge ceremony with this great yogi, I thereby symbolically committed to honor the Buddha – as my own true nature – and those teachings and communities which would advance realization of that Buddha nature.
Boddhisattva vows. Shortly after taking refuge I was inspired to take Boddhisattva vows from Kalu Rinpoche to altruistically help all sentient beings end their sufferings.
In taking these vows I was deeply inspired by this selfless Tibetan Buddhist ideal exemplified by the Dalai Lama, Kalu Rinpoche and many other Lamas. Never content with only their own spiritual evolution and salvation, Buddhist Boddhisattvas postpone their own ‘nirvana’ choosing to take continuing rebirths in order to serve humanity until every sentient being has been helped to liberation. For example, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, is latest in a long line of Boddhisattva Dalai Lamas, believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and the patron saint of Tibet.
Taking Boddhisattva vows symbolically marked an important transition from my prior aspiration to escape through spiritual “enlightenment” from this world of inevitable suffering. Rather than yearning to leave this crazy world forever, I took those vows aspiring to stay here in ways which might help all life everywhere, as I continued to observe and clear my own mental defilements.
Enlightenment as a Process. After taking these Buddhist vows, I didn’t expect an early departure from space/time causality reality. Instead, influenced by Buddha’s teachings that conditioned existence (samsara) has been going on for so long that all beings may have been each other’s parents in some lifetime, I began regarding “enlightenment” as a virtually endless evolutionary process in which – except for Buddhas and Boddhisattvas – we unwittingly participate for eons.
The Tibetan Tulku Tradition. Tulkus are emanations of those who retain spiritual consciousness and continuity through successive births. Except perhaps for rare Buddhas and very evolved beings, on rebirth almost everyone experiences ‘instant amnesia’ about conscious details of other lifetimes and prior spiritual learning, which details remain in our subconscious memory. The Tibetan Tulku tradition, aims to facilitate fulfillment of boddhisattva vows by locating reborn Lamas at an early age and training them from childhood to rekindle their consciousness of Buddhist teachings and practices. Tibetans have elaborate tests to prove that newly reborn Tulkus are truly who the waiting elders think they are, such as checking whether the child can recognize acquaintances or possessions from his previous life or answer questions only known to his former life-experience. For example, this process is portrayed in Kundun, the classic biographical film about the Dalai Lama. Some rare Tibetans (like the Karmapa) are able to foretell before dying where they will consciously take rebirth.
Karma. The Tibetans’ Tulku tradition is inextricably intertwined with their teachings about karma, rebirth, and Boddhisattvas. Although virtually all mystical traditions accept karma, afterlife and reincarnation, the Tibetan Buddhists’ karma and rebirth teachings and their Boddhisattva traditions especially helped me enhance identification with spirit while diminishing my psychological fear of bodily death.
According to Eastern philosophies, Karma is universal law of cause and effect applied at subtle levels to everything we think, do or say during repeated rebirths as supposedly separate beings. A similar concept is implicit in Western teachings that we reap as we sow. [Galatians 6:7-9]
As long as we self-identify as subjects separate from supposed objects of our choice or intention, our exercise of supposed free will creates karmic causes and conditions. Buddhism teaches that karma means “volitional action.” Any thought, word or deed conditioned by samsaric illusion – for example, defilements like desire, hate, or passion – creates karma. On death, the unexperienced effects of karmic causes, result in unavoidable rebirths.
What is reborn? “Reincarnation” is commonly understood to be the transmigration of a “soul” – viz. apparently circumcised spirit – to another body after physical death. But in Buddhism there is no concept of separate soul or individual self that survives death. Yet Buddhists believe in rebirth.
So, what do Buddhists say is reborn to experience karmic causes and conditions, or to fulfill Boddhisattva vows? I will simplistically and metaphorically share my understanding.
I was once told by Swami Sivananda Radha that during a private audience with the Dalai Lama she asked, “In view of Buddhist teaching that there is no separate self or soul, what reincarnates?” And His Holiness replied: “An energy vortex.”
The Dalai Lama’s explanation that an “energy vortex” is what incarnates was consistent with Western science. Since Einstein’s groundbreaking theory of relativity, quantum physicists have confirmed that in this world of space/time and causality everything is energy – every impermanent form and phenomenon, whether or not perceptible or measurable.
And 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 reusable.
Thus, just as I am able to use with my new iMac the same OS X software system that operated my old iMac, 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 mental obscurations and defilements.
Precious human birth. Before my spiritual awakening, like most other people, I never thought about being human, rather than some other life-form. But after meeting Guruji, I learned that Eastern spiritual paths identify human incarnation as an extraordinarily precious opportunity to evolve – beyond that of any other life-form; that Buddhist and Hindu teachings say that for evolution it is better to be born human than even in a heavenly realm.
Tibetan Buddhist teachings especially helped me realize that human birth is extraordinarily precious and rare. They persuaded me that although the unexperienced effects of karmic causes result in unavoidable rebirths, there is no guarantee that we will evolve on rebirths; that we obtain human bodies because of good deeds in former lives, but that without living compassionately and mindfully with continuing determination to transcend selfish behaviors we squander a rare chance to evolve spiritually.
In October 1982, in San Francisco, I participated together with hundreds of others in a Kalachakra empowerment given by Kalu Rinpoche. In describing the history and rare significance of that ceremony, Lama Kalu explained that our attendance arose from beneficial causes and conditions so mysteriously and statistically rare as to be well beyond ordinary human comprehension – like Jesus’ metaphor of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. For example, according to the Buddha, obtaining a human birth and following truth teachings is as unlikely as it is for a blind turtle to put its head through a single yoke which is cast on the oceans of this world.
In all events, Kalu’s teaching deeply impressed me with the preciousness and impermanence of human birth, and the importance of using it to evolve spiritually.
More memorable experiences with Kalu Rinpoche. Before receiving the Kalachakra empowerment, in 1982 I attended a public talk by Kalu Rinpoche at Fort Mason, San Francisco, about the Mahamudra experience, which he described (through an interpreter) as the quintessence of all Buddhadharma. Though I didn’t understand much of what was said, I intuited that I was in the presence of a great meditation master – like Guruji.
After talking about Mahamudra, Lama Kalu said that to help us understand Mahamudra experience he would give us a brief demonstration of that state of being. Whereupon, with ‘miraculous’ mind-power, he dramatically transformed the energy in that small lecture room. Suddenly my mind went completely still and I experienced a rare state of peace and oneness beyond comprehension or expression. By Kalu Rinpoche’s immense power as a meditation master, he briefly but unforgettably shared with us a glimpse of his rare and exalted state of clear mind.
A few years later, circa 1986-7, I had another memorable experience of Kalu Rinpoche’s powerful presence. Together with my daughter, Jessica, and friends Mark and Marsha Newman, I attended a public talk by him at the San Francisco Unitarian Universalist Church, one of the city’s largest religious sanctuaries. After waiting in a long line for some time, we managed to be seated in pews near the very back of the church.
Just as Kalu Rinpoche had ‘magically’ transformed the energy in the small lecture room where I heard him describe the Mahamudra experience, the energy ambience in that entire large church was palpably transformed upon his appearance at the pulpit. My daughter Jessica, had never before experienced such a spiritually powerful presence and was deeply impressed. Afterwards, she posted a picture of Kalu Rinpoche in her room, and though she never again saw him she was emotionally affected and cried on news of Kalu’s death in May, 1989.
After seeing Kalu Rinpoche at the Unitarian Church, I saw him again when he was interviewed by Michael Toms at the New Dimensions San Francisco radio studio. On his arrival at the studio he was introduced to staff and to me (as a New Dimensions director). Whereupon he came up to each one of us and humbly introduced himself with a friendly handshake. At that gesture, I was impressed with that great yogi’s humility – like Guruji’s. Later I was inspired to observe that: “The more we know we’re no one, the more we’re seen as someone”.
Learning to keep faith despite disillusionment. After many years of questioning, I have found a faith based life – beyond beliefs, dogmas, theologies or personalities. I was very much helped and encouraged in this process by another important and synchronistic encounter with Kalu Rinpoche, at a time of great disillusionment in my life,.
In the 1980’s after Guruji’s return to India I learned with shock that certain private behavior of a spiritual teacher (other than Guruji) with whom I had a close relationship was significantly inconsistent with his teachings and outer image. Though by this time, I knew of numerous instances in which well known spiritual teachers were credibly shown to be flawed humans, like the rest of us. But this was the first time that it happened with a teacher with whom I felt a close rapport and had spent much time. And I was emotionally upset and confused.
Whereupon, I learned that Kalu Rinpoche would be appearing for a morning talk and darshan at Kagyu Droden Kunchab a San Francisco Center dedicated to the ultimate benefit of all sentient beings, which he founded; that his Buddhist teachings would be followed by a question and answer session. I desperately wanted Kalu’s guidance about my crisis of faith. But I had to be in court that morning. So dressed in suit and tie, I came to the darshan with very limited time to spend there.
By the time that Kalu ended his talk, I had only thirty minutes left before needing to leave for court. Whereupon the translator announced that Rinpoche would now entertain questions, and virtually everyone in the room – including me – raised a hand for recognition. ‘Miraculously’ Kalu beckoned first to me to ask my question, which was:
“What is the proper attitude of a student on discovery of a teacher’s behaviors inconsistent with the teachings?”
Whereupon Lama Kalu gave an extremely wise and helpful thirty minute dissertation in response to my inquiry. As soon as he finished and began answering the next question, I was obliged to leave for court. I cannot recount details of what Kalu said, but the unforgettable essence of his answer was:
“Never lose faith in the teachings, even if you lose faith in the teacher.”
Only after years of introspection and more instances of disillusionment with teachers and others upon whom I had mistakenly projected flawless ethics, was I able to fully grasp Kalu’s wise teaching. During that process, I decided that “incarnation is limitation”; that no one is infallible; and, that “it is better to live the teachings, and not teach them, than to teach the teachings and not live them”.
A few years after my last face to face encounter with Lama Kalu, I was memorably reminded of his meditation mastery and his message of faith. On a beautiful week-end day while hiking in the forested higher elevations of Point Reyes National Sea Shore nature reserve, I decided to sit on a rock from which I enjoyed a panoramic view out into the ocean. As I beheld that inspiring nature scene in a meditative mood, Lama Kalu Rinpoche’s smiling visage fleetingly appeared in my inner vision. We never again met in this life, but I shall remain ever grateful for his blessings. With his encouragement I have never lost faith in this precious human life and in the infinite opportunities it affords us.
His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.
Of all prominent living people, I am most inspired by H.H. the Dalai Lama – the spiritual leader (and former political leader) of Tibet. Apart from his Holiness’s spiritual attainments, which are beyond my comprehension, I am especially inspired by his universal compassion, wisdom, humility and humor.
I see him as a living exemplar of human potential – a Boddhisattva helping countless sentient beings and all life on our precious planet in infinite ways beyond religion or politics. Although my encounters with His Holiness have been impersonal – only as part of large audiences or via videos or writings – I feel a deep connection and harmony with him as a revered fellow human being.
Ever since an October, 1989 darshan, I have wondered whether that harmonious connection began in other lifetimes. At that time, I had the good fortune of being one of a limited number of people privileged to attend a ceremony to be conducted by His Holiness atop sacred Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, in a natural outdoor amphitheater. Because of limited highway access, the Dalai Lama was scheduled to arrive by helicopter. But his flight was delayed, and so we awaited his arrival.
Instead of waiting in the amphitheater, I decided to meditate in a nearby nature place. Then, on contemplating the Dalai Lama I experienced such heartfelt affinity and reverence, that I began an intense and protracted devotional crying jag. I became so overwhelmed with emotion of devotion that I was unable to stop weeping and enter the amphitheater even when I heard the sounds of the helicopter’s arrival. Ultimately, a compassionate Buddhist woman, who on her arrival had observed me crying, came out and taking me by the hand led me, still weeping, into the amphitheater.
The Dalai Lama is the only Tibetan teacher, including Kalu Rinpoche, with whom I have continuously felt such a deep devotional rapport – like my rapport with Guruji. He is regarded by Tibetans as the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and perhaps it is this subtle energy which opens my heart. In all events, though I don’t yet remember another life as a Tibetan, I intuit an important karmic connection with His Holiness, and regard him as a role model for living an ethical and compassionate life, regardless of our religious or cultural history.
Here are some of the ways in which I have been inspired by the Dalai Lama’s life and teachings:
Compassion. In his ever inspiring deportment, talks, and writings, His Holiness manifests and emphasizes the crucial importance of compassionate behavior – even with enemies. Drawing great inspiration from him, I have gradually come to regard everyone I meet – including those with whom I have disagreements – as spiritual siblings – brothers or sisters all sharing the same aspirations for happiness and peace of mind, despite superficial cultural differences. And, despite my pronounced lawyer’s tendencies to combatively judge all adversaries, more and more I have even found compassion for those whose ignorance of their true spiritual identity leads them to egregiously harmful behaviors. For example, at a time when I considered former US President George Bush, Jr., a war criminal and mass murderer, His Holiness publicly described him as “a nice man.” Hopefully, he privately influenced Bush – with whom he shares the same July 6th birthdate – to adopt more compassionate ethics.
Humility. His Holiness is regarded by Tibetans and by many others as a living Buddha. For, example, a Tibetan emigre attending a Tibetan Losar new year ceremony conducted in Minneapolis by His Holiness told a newspaper reporter there that “for Tibetans in exile, seeing the Dalai Lama is akin to Christians getting to meet Jesus”. Moreover, especially since his nomination for the Nobel Peace prize, His Holiness has become like a world-wide rockstar celebrity, attracting capacity audiences for all public appearances. Yet he remains exceptionally humble, describing himself as “a simple Buddhist monk” and member of the Human family. Despite his renown as a living sage, I have heard him several times answering questions with “I don’t know”. In my experience, this is very rare behavior for an elevated Eastern spiritual teacher. For example, I have never heard of any such humble response from elevated Hindu teachers regarded as avatars or ‘god-men’. I was especially drawn to Guruji who (despite his Hindu acculturation) was exceptionally humble, and even told my friend Joy Massa: “follow your heart, even if it contradicts my words”.
I have always felt ambivalent about spiritual teachers who pontificate as if they are infallible. For me, such behavior encourages adulation over inspiration. And I am uncomfortable with any spiritual group or tradition emphasizing adulation of the incarnate over adoration of the Infinite.
In my opinion, selfless humility is a supreme virtue. It is especially rare in prominent people who are subject to great flattery, praise and adulation, which can easily entice and inflate ego, the enemy of compassion and humility. Those like the Dalai Lama, Guruji, Gandhi and Einstein, who have resisted such ego temptations I consider inspiring great beings.
Universal morality and ethics beyond religion. In public talks and in his recently published book “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World” His Holiness explains how inner values “are the source of both an ethically harmonious world and the individual peace of mind, confidence and happiness we all seek”, concluding that “the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics that is beyond religion” which alone “is no longer adequate”. To me, this is a crucially inspiring message, which completely coincides with my philosophy and life experience. Before publication of “Beyond Religion” I established The Perennial Wisdom Foundation dedicated to elevating awareness of universal principles – like the ‘Golden Rule’ – at the heart of all enduring religious, spiritual, and ethical traditions. And His Holiness’s book and teachings have encouraged me to continue pursuing that path.
Politics, Economics and Ecology. Just as the Dalai Lama’s views on universal morality and ethics beyond religion have paralleled my views and inspired and encouraged me to pursue them, His Holiness supports liberal political, economic and ecological views with which I have long identified and pursued as a social justice advocate.
He recognizes as “a very great thing” Mahatma Gandhi’s sophisticated political implementation of ahimsa – the ancient moral teachings of nonviolence and non-injury. As an engaged Buddhist, the Dalai Lama outspokenly endorses Gandhian non-violent and compassionate political social action benefitting the majority of citizens, especially those underprivileged and exploited.
Thus, he rejects capitalist economics, as focussed on greed, gain and profits and outspokenly endorses democratic Marxist theory of equitable access to means of production and distribution of wealth. But, he rejects as lacking compassion and encouraging class hatred the so-called Marxism of the failed totalitarian former USSR, or China, and he objects to their excessive emphasis on class struggle.
Ecologically the Dalai Lama recognizes that Earth is severely threatened by ignorant human greed and lack of respect for all life on our precious planet. Accordingly, he urges that we become actively engaged as a global human family to resolve this crisis with compassionate solidarity, not just as a matter of morality or ethics but for survival of life as we know it. (See e.g. Spiritual People in a Perfectly Crazy World)
Conclusion. Thus I am supremely grateful for the wisdom and inspiration bestowed by Tibetan teachings and teachers, especially through His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, who for me is a living exemplar of human potential – a Boddhisattva helping countless sentient beings and all life on our precious planet in infinite ways beyond religion or politics.
“A yogi’s body is like a baby’s body.”
~ Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas
“Can you coax your mind from its wandering and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become supple as a newborn child’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things?
Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.”
~ Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Chapter 10, Translated by Stephen Mitchell
“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.”
“To keep the body in good health is a duty, for otherwise we shall not be able to trim the lamp of wisdom, and keep our mind strong and clear.”
“The first preliminary practice consists of recognizing and giving value in its right measure to the precious human existence and the extraordinary opportunity that it gives to us to practice Dharma and to develop spiritually. It is naive to expect that such a favorable juncture will repeat continuously. Moreover, life is too short. ….If we bear in mind all these things, we will soon realize the need to take advantage of the opportunity that the precious human existence gives us to fully develop all the potential of our being.”
~ Kalu Rinpoche – Foundations of Tibetan Buddhism
Human Body – A Precious ‘Prison’?
Eastern spiritual paths identify human incarnation as an extraordinarily precious opportunity to evolve – beyond that of any other life-form; Buddhist and Hindu teachings say that for enlightenment it is better to be born human than even in a heavenly realm.
Before my mid-life spiritual awakening, I self-identified only with my body/mind and its story. Though I cherished my health, I was totally unaware of esoteric evolutionary perspectives about preciousness of human incarnation. But, since realizing that I was and am much more than my body and its story, I have deeply reflected on the significance and purpose of a human lifetime.
My 1976 realization that I was not my body or its thoughts, but pure awareness, followed a prior out of body experience [OOB] and sparked an amazingly intense ‘rebirth’ process, with convulsive crying, hyperventilation and spasmodic bodily movements. Immediately after that realization/rebirth process I briefly experienced myself not as pure consciousness but as meridians of flowing life-force energy, like those corresponding to ancient Chinese acupuncture teachings. Then I soon returned to “normal” bodily consciousness, but with greatly enhanced vital energies which continued for several months.
Thereafter, with great curiosity sparked by these new experiences, I began wondering about the nature and importance of the human body. And, synchronistically, I gradually learned with interest about body-work disciplines like massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, osteopathic, and various mind-body bio-energetic therapies. All these therapies aimed to stimulate or release flow of ‘trapped’ or blocked life-force energies.
I realized that my intense rebirth experience had temporarily released for me a previously unimaginable flow of vital energies (chi or prana), which gradually had abated as I returned to ‘normal’ consciousness. So, I became highly motivated to again access that hidden reservoir of vital energy. Thus, before meeting Guruji I had received chiropractic manipulations and had several sessions with a Reichian therapist to enhance and balance vital body energies. But I had not again experienced the extraordinary vitality which immediately followed my rebirth experience.
Then, after meeting Guruji and observing his amazing physical prowess, even as a centenarian, I learned that he received frequent massages from very few close disciples, which supposedly enhanced his physical well-being, while blessing those privileged disciple/masseurs who in touching his body experienced direct transmission of his extraordinarily intense and powerful cosmic life-force energy (“shakti”).
I began wondering about the relationship, if any, between Guruji’s regular massages, his extraordinary physical condition and his amazing ability to transcend ‘normal’ physical limitations. Then, while Guruji was staying at my apartment, just before his 1980 return to India, I had an unforgettable synchronistic experience with him that related to my mind/body questions.
One weekend morning when I was home from work, I was invited for the first and only time to give Guruji a massage – a rare blessing and privilege. As I began massaging Guruji’s then 100 year old body, I was astonished at its flexibility and softness.
Then, suddenly, I exclaimed in utter amazement:
“Guruji your body is so supple!”
Unforgettably, he replied:
“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.”
I became and remained intensely curious about Guruji’s revelation that my body was like a prison. I wondered how and why ‘I’ was ‘imprisoned’, and how ‘I’ could get out of ‘jail’ – free like Guruji. Was I imprisoned by body stiffness from subconsciously stored traumas? It was apparent that my body was not supple like Guruji’s body. Though half his age, I couldn’t even sit with crossed legs, much less stand on my head or perform the other advanced yogic postures (asanas) that Guruji demonstrated.
As I remembered the extraordinary vitality which temporarily followed my rebirth “peek” experience, I intuited that it was a glimpse of a potentially achievable bodily state well beyond anything I had theretofore imagined. But how could I restore that state? And even if possible, would the restoration of such a state allow me to get out of prison at will, like Guruji? That remained a mystery.
Gradually and synchronistically, I have been given insights about the bodily ‘prison’ mystery, but haven’t yet ‘solved’ it.
Most memorably, in 1982 I was profoundly moved and inspired by Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi”. There in Chapter 43, Yogananda recounts an unforgettable visit from his beloved Guru, Sri Yukteswar, who miraculously resurrected and reappeared to Yogananda in physical form a few months after his physical death. Yukteswar then explained to Yogananda the genesis of human physical, astral, and causal bodies, saying:
“The mere presence of a body signifies that its existence is made possible by unfulfilled desires.” “The power of unfulfilled desires is the root of all man’s slavery…”
“Physical desires are rooted in egotism and sense pleasures.”
“So long as the soul of man is encased in one, two, or three body-containers,
sealed tightly with the corks of ignorance and desires, he cannot merge with the sea of Spirit.”
~ Sri Yukteswar
(As recounted by Paramahansa Yogananda in Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 43)
Upon reading Sri Yuktewar’s words, I intuitively and reflectively accepted them as true. And I remembered that Guruji had revealed in San Francisco lectures on “Death, Dying and Beyond” that during a 1971 ‘near death experience’ he had been sent back by Lord Rama from a heavenly realm to his physical body because of his unfulfilled desires to help people. * [See footnote]
I realized that all phenomena and forms – including human forms – that appear in this space/time reality interdependently originate in subtle energy planes pursuant to mysterious laws of causality. And I remembered that even though Guruji had evolved beyond limits of ordinary human consciousness, he had remained in a human body, but with amazing ability to transcend ordinary physical limitations, only because of his unselfish desires to help others. Whereas it was obvious that I was ‘imprisoned’ by bonds of ego desire and ignorance mentioned by Sri Yukteswar.
So, thereafter, I became highly motivated to transcend all such egotistic bonds, and to get out of ‘prison’ – free like Guruji. Expressing these aspirations, I soon wrote (or channeled) sutras and poems like these:
Time is how
“I” Measure “Now”
And space’s for places
Where I’m –
Entangled here in time.
But I long to be – FREE
Where there is no “ME”-
Out of time,
As just Awareness –
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
We’ll never have all we want ’til we want just all we have;
So – topping our wish list, is our wish to be wish-less.
For ’til we stop wishing, we’ll ever be wanting.
Though at first – longing to be merged with the Divine – I fervently aspired to transcend all physical and subtle desires, I came to realize that my aspiration was in itself a subtle desire. So, intuitively I began with ever increasing heartfelt faith in universal Awareness – the Tao – to surrender to the mysterious Infinite – “to let go, and go with the flow”.
Deeply inspired by the Buddhist Bodhisattva ideal of altruistically helping all beings end their sufferings, I gradually stopped trying to transcend this world. But with ever growing gratitude I began accepting my life as a cherished evolutionary opportunity; an opportunity to be in my precious human body in a compassionate and loving way which – at subtle levels – might help all life everywhere.
And the more I have gratefully accepted my human incarnation, the greater has been my happiness and the more I have experientially and synchronistically learned from this precious human life.
Though I always cherished and appreciated good health, more than ever before I have become mindful of my bodily needs for appropriate nourishment, exercise, and rest, and have tried to satisfy those needs in a natural way. And remembering that subtle life-force energies are the genesis of every physical form or phenomenon, I have become ever more alert to my thoughts, emotions and attitudes which may influence physical well-being.
Though, unlike Guruji, I have not yet transcended subtle desires and ignorance and am still ‘imprisoned’ in my body, I aspire to emulate his wise and compassionate way of being in this world. Recently, for the first time in this life, I have even started treating my body to regular massages.
Who knows, maybe some day I’ll be able to report to you the massage that ‘sets me free’?
* In 1971, during a terrible Gujarati draught and famine, 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.”
“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.”