Why Be Monastic?

Time and again people ask us, “Why on earth would you want to be monastic?  Are you trying to escape from the world, or what?”

481567479-56a0c46d3df78cafdaa4d775Becoming a monk or a nun is a vocation.  It’s a calling from Divine Spirit to lead a life of prayer, immersion in the dharma teachings of a spiritual pathway, and an opportunity to live in community.  Living in a monastic community means living with people who may, or may not, be your friends, which then creates an opportunity for acceptance and compassion. Monastic community creates a society dedicated to the common purpose of thinking, praying, meditating, working, and living for the benefit of all beings.

True Prayer and meditation is the ability to harness Divine Mind (the One Mind) to declare and know healing, peace, light, harmony, generosity, and compassion for the needs of others.  The monastic life requires hours of focused attention to being awake in the moment.  When we are awake in the moment it’s possible to choose compassion, kindness, generosity, fearlessness, and hope.

suffering.jpg.e0ba387663cfd689d3b50b560c59a3e0Every day billions of humans on this planet are THINKING!  They are thinking into the One Mind of infinite possibilities.  And from all that thinking decisions are made.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the majority of humans are putting into the One Mind, and into action.  We see it in the news, on Facebook, and in the public marketplace.  Anger, hatred, contempt, despair, hopelessness, violence, and domination are the ugly manifestations millions of humans are constantly projecting into One Mind, no wonder the spiritual teachers tell us this world is hell.  No wonder so many are suffering.

Yes, there are good people, kind people, and generous people everywhere!  But even good people are often filled with anger and despair at the state of the world.  Stress and anxiety has been determined to be the number one disease of the 21st century.

Monastics train, daily, hourly, to send thoughts of loving kindness, peace, healing, and compassion into the One Mind generator of action.  It is a life dedicated to creating light in the darkness of world mind.  Throughout the ages humble souls, dedicated souls, sensitive and generous souls have given up the things of the world (money, possessions, power, prestige, family, and relationships) to devote their lives to prayer, meditation, and service to those in need.

Monks and nuns do not run away from the world.  They chose to renounce ordinary life and enter a world of devotion, to become a Bodhisattva in hell.  Perhaps we should honor their courage, their sacrifice, their unremitting determination to free all beings from suffering!

light-in-the-dark-13lviur

Spiritual Seeking

Youll-be-thatDuring the last one hundred years there has arisen a longing to understand the nature of reality, genuine humanity, and the true nature of the Divine, often referred to as God.  Spiritual seekers have arisen across cultural, ethnic, and educational backgrounds searching for an answer to the “Great Matter of Life and Death.”

For thousands of years humans had mostly been content accepting definitions and understandings of the Great Matter through organized religions.  A spiritual seeker investigated Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, or maybe Shinto religious texts and teachings discovering which faith group seemed to resonate within their soul and became a member of one of the various sects associated with that belief system.

But, as people lost confidence in organized religion there arose a movement toward a new understanding of who we are, why we are here, and where we are going.  There developed a demand for innovative and even firsthand experiences of the Divine.  The most important questions a spiritual seeker asks has to do with our relationship with the Divine Spirit within.  We ask and answer many, many times, discovering greater depths with each exploration.

Who am I and what is my purpose for being?

What does it mean to be awake?

What legacy will I leave?

Am I connected to Mother Nature and all life?

What and who inspires me?

How can I serve life and spirit?

How might I find peace and live it?

Who benefits from my life?

How can I cultivate compassion, generosity, and a loving heart?

27C6BC6800000578-3046897-The_number_of_schoolgirls_at_risk_of_emotional_problems_has_rise-a-4_1429525696475Unfortunately, with modernistic thinking, spirituality has gotten mixed up with emotional needs, and self-fulfillment.  So, people decide to judge a sangha or spiritual circle on the basis of how good one feels belonging to the group.  So the questions tend to take this form:

Are these people welcoming and non-judgmental?

Are my opinions valued and implemented?

Am I feeling happy and uplifted?

Am I loved unconditionally?

Am I being healed from my childhood traumas?

Can I trust these people in an intimate relationship?

Do I feel respected?

All of these are excellent questions, and yet…is getting our personal needs met the responsibility of a spiritual teacher or a sangha?  The members of a spiritual learning circle are unlikely to be perfectly loving, kind, welcoming, and totally focused on us and our needs at all times.

When we say we don’t want to be judged- does that mean we can’t accept correction, suggestions, or teachings that don’t make us feel good?

When we say we want our opinions to be heard and implemented- does it mean we expect others to do what we want regardless of whether we know what we’re talking about or if our judgment is helpful or in line with the vision held by that group?

Isn’t it a personal responsibility to learn how to be happy and uplifted regardless of how others treat us or what is said in a dharma talk?

If we are loved unconditionally- does that translate to “don’t tell me how my behavior affects you, because it will make me feel bad about myself?”

Trust happens when we share a vision, a dream, a work, a life.  Trust isn’t something people have to earn from us, it’s a gift of accepting diversity of thought and focusing beyond our childlike emotional neediness.  And respect comes from self-acceptance. It’s not a permission given by someone outside of ourselves.

dark-light-wallpaper-005When we find a true teacher or spiritual circle we will discover that the things we thought should be provided for us are the very energies we need to make available for self and others.  Opening the door to our Divine Nature will shatter our delusions of desire, need, and self-indulgence.  We will stand before the mirror of Truth and begin to understand that we are born to contribute.  We will discover that we have been given a precious human life to imagine and create a world without war, hunger, and greed.  Ego-naked before Divine Source we are challenged to be greater than we ever thought possible, to forget the little self, and become a burning light in the darkness of hell.

Practical Duality or Delusional Duality

dualityWhen we incarnate we enter a world of duality, an experience of separation.  In a realistic sense this is important.  We are able to recognize objects, people, and animals as distinct from ourselves, we interact with our environment and the entities and objects within that environment.  We learn that fire burns, animals can bite, and rocks are hard.  We also learn more subjective identifications such as- good and bad; right and wrong; happy and sad; beautiful and ugly.  Duality is the existence of pairs of opposites.

In metaphysical spirituality, we are taught to strive for oneness with all things, to let go of separation, and understand that we are interdependence upon one another.  Teachings often speak of the importance of emptiness, that thoughts and things do not have independent origin but arise from other things.  Sometimes we are told that this world is a delusion and that nothing that happens here matters because we are destined for heaven, nirvana, enlightenment, and bliss.

Left or right on handsDuality is both illusion and reality.  How can that be?  Well, let’s take a pragmatic approach.  In life on a day to day basis it’s important to know left from right, up from down, forward from back, hot from cold, and open from closed.  If we can’t tell left from right or up from down we have a cognitive disability.  If we can’t distinguish between hot and cold we can injury ourselves physically.  It’s also helpful to know if a door is open or closed.  So, duality in this respect, has a utilitarian functionality.  Even fully enlightened beings still need to maneuver in daily life, just like everyone else.

Then, there is the duality of Delusion.  This can be extremely subtle and is the true cause of suffering.  Great Spiritual Teachers have told us that suffering has a cause and discovering that cause allows us to find the path to liberation from suffering.  The duality of delusion arises from opinion, beliefs, attitudes, and judgments.  For example:  good and evil, right and wrong, neat and messy, beautiful and ugly, whole and broken, or happy and sad, man and woman, us and them, etc.

'Cleanliness is next to 'clean room' in the dictionary.  Look it up.'I am not saying we shouldn’t have opinions, beliefs, attitudes, and discernments.  What we want to examine is how some of these things lead to suffering for ourselves and contribute to the suffering of others.  Let’s start with neat and messy.  As a child, or as a parent, we were probably exposed to this concept.  If the parent has a standard of neatness that has to be met…or else.  What happens?  Angry words.  Tears.  Resentment.  Feelings of not being loved.  All of these are a cause of suffering.

In relationships, these delusional dualities or opinions can cause tremendous suffering.  Example:  A young married couple with two small children appear to be very happy together.  The husband works hard and long hours so that his beloved can stay home and care for their two young children, keep the hearth, and make a home just like in his childhood.  The wife is happy to be with the children and loves her home.  She’s grateful that her dream is possible and she doesn’t have to leave her children with strangers.  Then, one day both children become ill, and she also becomes ill.  She isn’t getting any sleep, can’t eat, and needs help from her husband.  He becomes angry and storms out of the house and doesn’t come back for a few days.  This is the duality called wife and husband.  Both those words have a world of idea, belief, and story behind them.  Our ideas work as long as other factors don’t come into play.  But other factors have a way of showing up.  The result?  Suffering!

One more example:  I work hard for a living, seeing people, problem solving, organizing events, and serving my spiritual community.  Therefore, my delusional belief is to come home to a neat and tidy house.  That is a neat and tidy house according to my programmed, conditioned expectations.  Sometimes that just doesn’t happen.  Irritation, self-pity, and entitlement creep into my thoughts.  If I share those thoughts everyone is challenged.  If I don’t then only I am challenged.  But this is suffering and for what?  Because things were not the way my judgement-self thought they should be?

wallpaper-2450469Liberation from suffering comes when I am able to see through the delusion of what should be and allow myself to be OK with what is at the moment.  Watching thoughts, we begin to see our aversion and attractions: I like it, I don’t like it; It should be, it shouldn’t be, and on, and on, and on.

But we do not need to decide for the whole world what beauty is, what happiness is, what love is, what the correct dress or behavior is, or any other ideal that is only a matter of opinion or cultural conditioning.  Let us strive to recognize our causes of suffering and let go of the wheel of fire. Liberation awaits those willing to release attachment to delusional duality!

 

In Honor We Hold Ourselves

868be8e27122c1683a068bd950546df1As we look at this statement we understand that it’s about holding all life as sacred.  We love the earth, the creatures, and being outside in nature.  We see the value in preserving life on earth and we try to honor others who are think differently than we do.  Perhaps the challenge of this statement is accepting and honoring ourselves as who we are.

“The primary task of spirit is in discovering and knowing the value in yourselves.”
 Maha Amma Ilowan

Within earth energy, all things serve a purpose.  Think about mosquitoes, while they may not be valuable to you, they are valuable to birds, frogs, lizards, snakes, and other insects. All life is intertwined.  Everything has a place and a purpose. Everyone matters.  We can observe the pain and suffering when certain people or entities are singled out as unimportant.  It’s easy to want to get rid of something or someone who seems threatening to us.  But that is not the way of Compassion.

When we look at a tapestry or even a piece of cloth we can see that every thread has a purpose.  When some threads are missing it creates a hole in the fabric. We all have a purpose for being here and we don’t necessarily have to know our purpose for our contribution to be relevant to others.  Bees, birds, cats, dogs, and multiple other animals don’t know their purpose but their contribution is relevant.

Beings always matter.  When someone dies, they leave a space – a hole in the tapestry of the lives of friends and family, but they may also leave a hole in the lives of people they didn’t even know.  Your life, as you are, who you are, where you are, has value no matter what your life looks like. There is a perception in our culture that one person’s worth and contribution matters more than another’s. This is capitalism – where one’s value is measured by productivity, possessions, power, and prestige.  In capitalistic machine-mind consciousness, a machine can be created to do a human task.  The machine replaces the human or animal who is then cast out and left to starve.

“Life is a privilege that has been gifted to you as a human being in order to create love, compassion, generosity, and kindness.
Maha Amma Ilowan

Consuming KidsWe are taught to be good consumers and the more we consume, the more value we have. We are taught that if we have more things, we will be happier.  If we believe those lies a problem arises which creates a tendency to compare and contrast what we have – and don’t have – with what other people have and don’t have. We might think that what others have is better than what we have. Sometimes we even want to change places with another because that person seems to be and have everything we want. There is a line in a song that says “Desire is the fire of creation.” But desire can also be the suffering of grasping the fiery wheel of samsara.

Consider: “Is a squirrel greater than a tree? In size, yes. Yet, each holds a fullness of being and purpose that is neither greater than, nor less than. A tree and a squirrel understand what they are and each finds a way to share their gifts.”

Reflect: “You have a responsibility to the earth, family, community, and life itself.  Be the greatest YOU that you are capable of being.  Share your skills and talents. You are here to use yourself up in service to Life.”

Contemplate: Some people think that having a role is binding, a limitation, but to have a role means we are of value to ourselves.  If we know our role we can be a gift to those around us and contribute to the whole. Example: Being a mother or father to small children is a role.  If we refuse to offer that role and make it a special gift, we create pain and suffering that can last for generations. To give to others is not only important to life, but to our soul.”

In this culture, we think that being busy, over-obligated and stressed brings value to our lives.  But if we serve only our task list, constantly run errands, keep so busy that we don’t have any time, or live life according to the dictates of electronic devices, how is this creating value?”

DNA-Sequencing-Is-As-Beneficial-And-HelpfulTruly we are ONE essence with all other life. Science tells us that we share 95% of the same DNA with all other life forms. This means we belong together. Our spirit’s purpose is to create a life to share with Life.  We must learn to celebrate interdependence instead of independence.

 

“We were brought here to give, love, and share. This is all that really matters.”

What If…?

What if there is nothing wrong with me?  What if there is nothing wrong with you?

apocalypse-statue-of-libertyIn this very difficult and scary time when the world we thought we knew seems to be disintegrating it becomes important to ground and center in spiritual truth.  No, I am not advocating a head in the sand, ignore the pain, and pretend everything is happening for the best attitude.  I’m suggesting that we reinforce our relationship with our humanity, with our inner goodness, with our strength of character.  I am suggesting we remember and ground ourselves in the benefactor qualities of the human race.

Because we can imagine and act on our imagination humans have created many amazing, beautiful, and positive things in this world.  We have also created, through imagination and action, genocide, poverty, destruction, hatred, bigotry, and war.  As we know the beginning of both heaven and hell reside in the use of our own mind.  It resides in the way we think and speak of others and the way we think and speak about ourselves.  As we become overwhelmed by hearing and seeing the dark side of human behavior let us also look for and listen to the good in our young people, in the actions of our brothers and sisters around the globe.  Let us remember that hard times call for heroic action.  The heroes of old are calling your name.  Many children, women, and men are listening and responding in protection, compassion, and a renewed sense of purpose.  Protecting all of life we nurture and defend what is precious.

hand-846092_1280-2-custom-1Here are some things to consider as you cultivate the hero within you:

*You are living your life the best you know how and attempting to get better every day.

*You make mistakes, like everyone else, which allows you to gain wisdom.

*You’re unique, whether you’re introverted or extroverted, practical or a dreamer, technical or artistic, book smart or street smart…however you are…you are the only person just like you on the planet.

*If you do what you enjoy and don’t harm other beings, you’re living a beautiful life.

*You will never become someone because you already are someone.

*If someone hurt, you…you didn’t deserve it…no one does…and it didn’t happen because of karma.

*It’s OK to feel your emotions and respond to them.  If you need to improve the way you respond; well everyone could use some improvement in that area.

Chaos, confusion, darkness, fear, anger, grief…these are all perfectly understandable emotions in this time of upheaval and potential destruction of the values we were taught was the American Way.  The Buddha once said, being with what is we can respond (not react) to what is.  We respond by knowing who and what we love- the Earth, the animals, the children, compassion, generosity, and fearlessness.  We respond by maintaining the knowledge of our inner goodness and working to create a world we can proudly leave to our children.

obi-wan-kenobi-star-wars-alec-guiness

And if, like the Jedi, many of us are destroyed, then like the Jedi we will rise again and defeat the darkness of hatred, greed, and anger.  The Force is with us!  We are unstoppable!

The Word, The Will, The Way

divine-sparkIn the beginning was the word.  The word was with the Divine and the word was the Divine.  All things were made by the word and without the word nothing was made.  In the beginning the Divine sent out sparks from itself, sparks of potential love, kindness, compassion, and generosity.  Some of these sparks became angels of light and some incarnated as humans into the earth worlds.  Each spark held the ability to activate the Divine Mission of Grace and Benevolence but few understood how to properly use the word, the will, and the way.  And so chaos, confusion, and the darkness of selfishness became manifest causing extreme suffering for all life.

Every human on our planet is a spark of Divine Potential a piece of the Great Plan of Grace and Blessing intended from the beginning of time.  Potential means: possible or likely although not yet actual; powers or resources not yet developed or made use of; a latent possibility.  Therefore, when we have not yet discovered or manifested our divine purpose, we must incarnate again and again to demonstrate our part of the Divine Mission.

nytimes-word-cloud_2In order to accomplish this, humans have been gifted with the word, the will, and the way.  The word is thought, focused intention and attention on what we believe, know, and consider important.  Words are constantly filling our mind.  Even in meditation we notice thought/words and decide not to focus on them.  The word/thought we continually pay attention to, believe and know is true becomes infused with Will.  Will is thought fortified through emotions.  When the word/thought is present and we engage our feelings and emotions with that thought it becomes manifest.  The manifestation of thought/word as a tangible experience is the creation of the Way.

Example: If I am convinced that I’m not very smart, or confident, or lovable there will be a dialogue taking place in my mind that persuades me this is true.  It may be the inner voices of my parents, teachers, or the words may be coming from remembering a past event which didn’t turn out the way I wanted.  When I have those thoughts/words I have emotions that arise- fear; anger; sadness; disappointment; or pain.  Therefore, when encountering a new situation or individual I have already decided how it will turn out and most likely that will be the case.  I have used my words, my will, against myself to create a way that proves I am a loser.

If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always got.  If you think what you’ve always thought, you will feel how you’ve always felt.  If you feel what you’ve always felt, you will get what you’ve always got.

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The power of the word, will, and way is irrefutable.  We can see it clearly in the lives of people around us and if we look we will see it in our lives as well.  But we are NOT POWERLESS!  Inside each of us is a Great Being waiting to be actualized through thoughts, feelings, and acts of loving kindness, compassion for all life, generosity to those in need; determination to bless instead of curse; and a fearless heart that refuses to accept the suffering of the world.

We have two selves.  A small, self-centered, egocentric self and a Great, selfless, benevolent self.  Everyone has activated the egocentric self that’s how we got our ticket to this life.  Few have taken the energy necessary to activate the infinite potential of Great Self.  Spirituality is the path out of suffering and into becoming the answer to all the prayers pouring out to Divine Spirit every minute of every day.

Monitor the words you say to yourself.  Change those words to kindness and compassion.  When you immerse in loving kindness to self give kindness away to others- the Way of Love, the Way of Grace, the Way of Blessing will manifest all around you.  What we focus on increases.

Remember, we can only add our piece to the great picture of Divine Goodness so we may be disappointed that our efforts don’t change the entire world.  But if we refuse to add our spark to the Divine Goodness Mission nothing will ever change.

In this time of fear, doubt, and disillusionment it’s essential that people of good heart, everywhere, use the power Divine Spirit has entrusted to us (The Word,The Will, The Way) to ensure that All beings shall be freed from suffering!

freedom-from-suffering

A Christmas Story

Once upon a time Mama and Papa Light and the angels were getting ready for the birth of the baby Jesus.  Everyone was very excited.  Everyone wanted to participate, and everyone wanted to help.  There were many jobs to be done, but there were also many, many angels who wanted to do those jobs.  So Mama and Papa Light decided to hold auditions to see who would be best suited for each job.

angels-artwork-christmasThe first auditions were for those angels who would sing in the Hallelujah choir. These angels would announce the baby’s birth to the shepherds near Bethlehem, singing Hallelujah! Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth! Good will to all!

Many angels applied for the job and were accepted. But one angel couldn’t sing quite as well as the others.  One little angel was rejected because he had a scratchy voice.  Angels were also needed to keep the Christmas star bright.  Many angels applied and were accepted. Each angel smiled brightly at getting such an important job.  But our little scratchy-voiced angel was also a little sloppy.  Although his smile was bright, he always had cookie crumbs on his face and his robe didn’t fit right.  All those things got in the way of his brightness.

anime-boy-angel-with-brown-hair-images-pictures-becuo-3500685Soon after Jesus’ birth, an angel was needed to help the holy family to get safely to Egypt and away from King Herod of Judea.  This angel would need to protect the family on their long journey. Our little scratchy-voiced, sloppy angel applied for that job, too, but he was too fat to fit into the armor. So our scratchy-voiced, sloppy, fat angel did not get any of the jobs needed for Jesus’ mission – not the messenger job to tell the 12-year-old Jesus to stay behind at the temple and learn from the rabbis, while his parents waited for him; not the job of being with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane; nor the job of guarding Jesus’ tomb after the crucifixion and telling of his resurrection.

The little angel participated as best he could from afar during Jesus’ lifetime and during the annual birthday of the Christ child and of course all the celebrations of the resurrection.  But our little angel did spend most of his time playing and eating cookies.

lluu8Many years went by and the annual birthday celebration seemed to lose its meaning.  People no longer shared love and joy. They just thought about what to buy and how to be safe in their own houses.  It seemed that the world was becoming dark again.  Mama and Papa Light decided they needed to do something to bring the light back. They opened a job position for an angel who could bring love, joy, and the spirit of the giveaway back to Christmas.  Many angels applied and many were rejected.

The scratchy-voiced, sloppy, fat angel, looking at the many angels who were applying for the job, decided not to apply.  Instead he took his cookies and went to sit in a corner. After all the angels had applied for the job and been turned down, Mama Light said, “This is a very special job that will take a very special angel.  Where’s the scratchy-voice, sloppy, fat little angel?

“Santa Claus come here.  This job is for you.” Mama Light said.

Santa Claus’ mouth fell open. “Who me?”

santa-claus-04Mama Light handed the angel a red, furry suit, just his size, saying, “I have made you a special furry suit to wear for this job.  It is bright red for joy, and soft and furry for love.”

Papa Light then said, “You will need helpers in order to create the millions of toys that you will be taking to the children of the world.  Here are some elves that will assist you.”

Then He said, “I have created a special home of light for you at the North Pole.  It can only be seen by children who have pure hearts.  From there you will be taking presents to children all over the world, and so you will need transportation.  Here is a sleigh and reindeer to pull it.”

Santa Claus was so happy to have found his special job that he laughed out loud, deep and clear.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

And to this day Santa Claus brings love and joy to all the children at Christmas time.  The children, knowing his love of cookies, are always sure to leave him a plate of on Christmas Eve.  And on Christmas morning, all that are left of those cookies are the crumbs he has brushed from his wonderful red suit of love.

Why So Much Hatred?

Enemy consciousness is the desire to blame and punish others because we are feeling unsafe, emotionally distressed, and desperate to return to comfort and a modicum of happiness.  We see this in the political world around us.  We see the hatred and violence, the torture and death, of men, women, and children because they are perceived to be the enemy.  Most of us watch in horror the genocide, the persecutions, and the angry mob violence wondering how on earth humans could act in such evil and inhumane ways.

Punish Children With Right Method_1The root of enemy consciousness lies inside all of us.  When we are children and run to tell an adult that Johnny was pulling our hair or Suzy was pinching us we expected that Johnny and Suzy would be punished.  They would “get into trouble” for what they had done.  We quickly learned to avoid trouble ourselves, or at least not get caught doing something, in order to avoid punishment.  And although we never wanted to be punished even through time-outs, being grounded, or deprived of something important to us, we were glad someone else got what they deserved.

We have been well-trained to find someone to blame when we are unhappy and to fill our prisons with those who dare to make us uncomfortable.  Prison is seldom a place of rehabilitation.  Its purpose, as most prisoners will tell you, is to punish the offender.  Desperate people do desperate things.  Probably you and I have never advocated for someone to go to prison for harming us.  Instead we shut our mind, our hearts, and our willingness to associate with, listen to, or forgive those who have offended against us.  We imprison them within our mind and keep them there so we will be safe.

When we feel betrayed we want that person out of our lives.  When we feel disrespected we want others to be told that they are bad.  We have learned to associate mostly with those who reward us with affection, listening, appreciation, and respect.  We have learned to disassociate with anyone who appears to disagree, disapprove, disrespect, or not like us.

socialoutcastWhen people in the Dharma Center make errors of judgment, cause emotional harm to others, break the rules, and step out of bounds their fellow sangha members often want to have that person disgraced, brought to a public accounting, or dismissed from a circle.  Even those with deep spiritual training often have difficulty overcoming the conditioning to demand punishment.  Fortunately, our spiritual teachers are not swayed by the Sangha’s emotional demands and upsets.  Instead they offer restorative justice.  Restorative means: gentle, kind, generous, harmless, and curable.  Justice means: fair, equal, impartial, honorable, and right.  They guide us back into acceptance, into love, and into unity.

“If people are cast out of the circle of love because they have caused harm, how will those people learn forgiveness, kindness, and honor?”  Maha Amma

When harm is created everyone must try to understand how they contributed to the creation of that harm and seek compassion, understanding, and forgiveness for themselves and for the other; only in this way will unity and goodness be restored.”  Maha Abba

GoldenRule-2As we watch, in disbelief and horror, the speech and actions of angry, fearful people let us take a moment and look at the darkness in our own hearts.  When we find it let us bring the light of hope, compassion, and generosity into that angry, fearful place within.  We can remind ourselves that we really don’t want to give away to others grief, hurt, and actions that we would not wish to experience for ourselves.  Enemy Consciousness is a weed with deep roots.  If we want it to die we must stop watering it with personal insecurities, emotional traumas, blame, guilt, and angry.  And instead truly practice what has become known over the centuries as: The Golden Rule.

Six Realms of Hell

meditateLet us speak of six realms of suffering.  In the Bodhisattva vow we promise to free ourselves and all beings from suffering so it’s helpful to understand how we arrive at the place of suffering.  Another line says we will destroy evil passions and seek only the good.  The only way to destroy suffering is to seek that which is good.  The good that we are seeking is the good that already exists inside of us.  So we do not need to cultivate some mythical or idealized concepts about what it is to be good.  There is a core of inner goodness inside each of us.  This core of goodness is because we are the children of Divine Spirit.  Seeking, knowing, and manifesting our inner truth destroys the six realms of hell that are otherwise waiting to ensnare us.  We find this good by recognizing what we like about ourselves or others and cultivating those qualities.

Hell is not a place created by some deity in order to punish those who disobey his commandments. Hell is a habituated belief or set of thoughts regarding ourselves, our lives, and our interactions with others.  We have been trained to suffer.  We are trained to think of ourselves as sinners, someone who has problems, someone who can be diagnosed- psychologically, psychically, physically, or via personality tests on the internet. Therefore, many of us spend time asking ourselves- what is my problem?  If we’re not asking ourselves that question we are asking it about others- what’s their problem.   Once we identify a problem our mind wants to focus on it.  What our mind or emotions focus on we respond to and because of this we create more of it.

GalaticAlignEyeThe following information on the six realms of hell is not something else to worry about, feel guilty over, or create into a problem.  It’s helpful to understand this information so that there can be awareness of the sources of suffering.  When we’re aware that something is the cause of suffering we can develop a plan to change our thoughts or behaviors.  So many times people are suffering and have no idea why certain things keep happening.  As within the Buddha’s four noble truths- there is suffering, there is a cause of suffering, there is a way out of suffering, and a cessation of suffering.

Whether you are the demon or you believe others are torturing you the hell is within mind and the way out is self-awareness, mindfulness of thoughts, and the ability to see how we are taking the road to hell.  No one is dragging us into suffering.  We are conditioned to return time and again because our inner thoughts and unmet needs take us there.  When this is recognized we can develop skillful means to stay out of the hole.  This is the path of spirit.

Demon Realm– this is called the demon realm because the cause of suffering seems to come from outside of self.  The people we associate with put us down, betray us, abuse us emotionally or physically, maybe we feel that they taunt and tease us.  We always start out thinking that a new relationship, job, or place will be different and yet somehow it turns on us and once again we fall into suffering.  We can see examples of this in repeated abusive relationships.  Perhaps we created a relationship with an angry, violent person.  Once we’ve left that relationship we feel safe to find someone who is very different.  After a while the new companion turns out to be abusive as well- even if not in the same exact way.  Someone cheats on their spouse; the spouse forgives them; the individual promises to be faithful and then down the road cheats again.  We fall into relationships with people who have an addiction problem.  At first they seem eager to quit the drugs or alcohol asking for our help and assuring us that our love is all they really need.  But sooner or later the addiction calls and they go on a binge, apologize, beg, and stay clean and sober until the next time.  We just know we are a victim of our own loving nature and never consider why we keep drawing these energies into our lives. We could be the one with an obsession with sex, drugs, alcohol or the thrill of extra-marital affairs.  We mean to quit; try to avoid temptation; but we fall prey to our emotional need and greed over and over again.  Of course, that’s not what we tell ourselves.  We say we were sad, depressed, upset, that others don’t understand us, that we had abusive parents, etc.  We make excuses and go to hell.

Hedgehogpie-FFIXHungry Ghost– A hungry ghost is an inner emptiness…not enough.  This can take the form of not enough security, love, companionship, education, money, clothes, etc.  We hoard the thing we are afraid to be without.  An alcoholic or drug addict might hide a store of their necessary fix.  An individual has a closet full of clothes but buys more- just in case.  Someone has a half-a-million dollars in a retirement but they know that isn’t adequate and keep on working just another year or two.  Another person worries that she will end up alone and forgotten even though she has a loving family and friends so she clings to those she has demanding reassurances that are never enough.  Still another individual nags her spouse because he doesn’t spend enough time with her, doesn’t talk enough, doesn’t show enough affection, doesn’t really care.

No matter how much there is it’s never enough!  Being a hungry ghost we see a pattern of insecurity, self-doubt, and a lack of confidence.  There’s a fear that never goes away no matter how much evidence we are shown that our fear is groundless.  Hoarders of all kinds have the hungry ghost hell- a nagging anxiety, panic attacks, times of profound emptiness, and a crippling fear of being without.

Animal Realm– This hell is one of truly being caught at the mercy of world events, cultural beliefs, and cruel people.  These are the unfortunate souls who have no recourse and can’t change what is happening.  This is the realm of survival because that’s all that’s possible.  Children born into abusive families where they are burned, beaten, choked, locked in dark places, and often sodomized by the ones who should love them live in this hell.  Domestic animals- neglected, chained, left without water and food, forced to have litter after litter of babies for the pet market, tortured, and maimed live in this hell.  refugeesThe population of a war zone where they are considered collateral damage, free game to be raped, tortured, insulted, and forced to flee because there is nothing to eat and no water to drink are living in this hell. Those who have no choice but to work from sunrise to sundown or longer just to maybe have shelter and food live in this hell.  When there is no hope and no way out except death one is living in this hell.

Human Realm- This is an extension of the animal realm in that the individual is concerned with personal contentment.  This contentment takes the form of attachment to eating, drinking, sleeping, playing, and sexual satisfaction.  Whatever is required to satisfy those needs is considered ok. There can be an obsession with eating long past the time when the body is full.  Ordinary food is not good enough one seeks after more and better adventures for the palate.  Sleep becomes something that preoccupies the thoughts. (I’m are not talking about those who have been sleep deprived which is the animal hell realm.) This is someone who spends inordinate amounts of time napping.  Many people at this time are possessed by a need to be entertained.  They are unable to put down their cell phone or tablet long enough to have a conversation with another.  Hours are spent in front of the television watching other people live virtual life.  Video games are safer than friends. Going to the woods or the beach requires a motor home, an air conditioner, a generator, a television, and only staying where there is WiFi.  Sex becomes important not just as a sharing in loving relationship but as proof of one’s prowess, or to satisfy a bodily craving. Comfort is paramount and anything that disrupts that comfort is met with anger or rejection.  Hell breaks loose when any of these demands are unmet.  There is nothing one would not sell or sell out in order to maintain personal comfort.

Asura/ Jealous God Realm– This is the hell of envy and jealousy.  Most of us would say we are rarely jealous or envious of others and yet we say things like- I don’t know why I’m not appreciated I do as much or more than___.  I wish I had the kind of money that ___ does, I don’t know why he’s always complaining.  I never had a chance to get an education like___ if I had I’d be as successful as she is.  It’s not fair that I have to work so hard when___ hardly lifts a finger around here.

When we complain about our life, our choices, our lack of opportunity, and use it as an excuse to fall into anger, depression, and critical judgments we are living in the Asura hell.  Gossiping about others to make ourselves look good is this hell.  Allowing irritation, frustration, and annoyance to fill up our thoughts about ourselves or others sends us to live in this hell.  Whining of all kinds is part of this hell.  Cruel thoughts and mean statements directed toward ourselves or others is part of this hell.  Road rage, hate slogans, finding an enemy to destroy are all part of this hell.

heavenHeavenly Realms- One would imagine, and we are often told, that the whole point of life is to arrive in the place of reward where nothing remains to be done and we rest on our accomplishments.  People in this hell have already been there and done that.  There is nothing further to strive for only maintaining the reward and comfort that has been inherited or earned.  There is an abundance of money to do whatever is desired whenever it is desired.  One is so rich and powerful that one can do and say whatever one likes and others have to put up with it.  Entitlement and privilege without responsibility is part of this realm.  As long as I get mine.  The one with the most toys wins.  Get all you can while you can. Look out for number one.  My family, my people, my nation first.  It’s all mind over matter- I don’t mind and you don’t matter.  Nuke them all!

While most of us will never acquire enough money and power to become dehumanized by this hell the very desire to- win the lottery, inherit a million dollars, and possibly rule the world are markers on the road to this selfish and destruct path.  The greatest dictators of all times were ridden with fear, distrust, and the arrogant need to destroy all that stood in their path.  Living in the hell of the heavenly realm allows one to visit unthinkable horror on other living things.  Clinging to what we have, becoming unwilling to share of what we have, we place our feet on this path to destruction of our soul.

 

How Can We Have Love?

What is necessary to have love in our lives?  Is it someone who loves us and who we also love?  Is it true friends, people to trust, and those who are supportive of us?  Is it belonging?  Is it being accepted as we are and who we are?  In order to have love we have to sacrifice something to get it.  In order to have joy we have to sacrifice something.  In order to have peace we have to sacrifice something.  In order to have abundant energy and good health something must be sacrificed.  What needs to be sacrificed is almost always an unhelpful attitude or belief.

192859-I-m-Letting-Go To have love, one must sacrifice the attitude that we are unlovable, unworthy, or challenged in some way.  We let go of the idea that there is something wrong with us, or that everyone is against us.  To have love we must sacrifice those attitudes, stories, and ways of thinking about ourselves and the world around us.  If we come into the place of divine relationship and find love inside of our heart, it isn’t because we’ve found the right person, set of circumstances, group to belong to, or new family associations.  It’s because we have decided true love is within us and can be found all around us if we are open to receive it.

heartbreak-rejection-lost-love-1 We might go to a  church, meditation, or dharma gathering and declare, “I have never found so much love from a group of strangers than I have here.”  And if we don’t feel welcomed, think we don’t belong, or that people are ignoring us- we will tell a story, or form some kind of belief about what’s wrong with that group of people in order to excuse our inability to feel love and compassion.  Love comes from within us- not from the people around us.   This doesn’t mean that sometimes there are not people who don’t like us.  There probably will be.  No matter how wonderful we are, someone won’t like us.  When people don’t like us or we form dislikes of others it’s the lack of love within our heart or their heart that’s the problem.

But if we are expecting love- mostly we will receive love.  If we are expecting to be disapproved of- mostly we will be disapproved of.  If we have a story of unworthiness- mostly we will experience unworthiness.

In order to have love, something has to be sacrificed.  What needs to sacrificed is whatever story we have about why love doesn’t work for us.  How useful is that story?  We want to think about cutting away the past that doesn’t serve us and keeping only the past things that help us go forward in love.  And if we have an experience where someone doesn’t love us or doesn’t like us, walk on.  Leave them behind.  Why are we dragging them along?  If we cut ties to the things of the past that anchor us into victimization, unhappiness, isolation, not belonging-guess what?  Life is filled with opportunity instead of pain, happiness instead of suffering!

hold-handsYes, it’s true.  We think everyone should love us.  But they won’t.  This doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us?  It means someone didn’t like us or love us…that is not our problem.  Our challenge is not being able to love everyone just as they are, in not being filled with Divine Compassion for all beings.  If we are not able to look at everyone and love them, does that mean that they are intrinsically unlovable?  Or that we have just not found the place of love and compassion in our own heart so we can see them with love?

The point of sacrifice is to cutaway, liberate, and detach from the things that actually end up causing our suffering.  If we are attached to stress it’s very hard to be at peace.  If we are attached to being overwhelmed and burdened it will be difficult to find peace.  What would we have to give up or sacrifice in order to create a life that didn’t hold burdens and stress?

Liberation is not always permanent.  But if we are liberated for an hour, we had a good hour.  And then everything fills back up and we have to liberate ourselves again.  We could say that the world provides plenty of opportunities to have be upset and stress.  But it is possible to detach ourselves from the stress of the world through meditation, silence, times of prayer, and going somewhere to be in nature.   We detach ourselves so we may come back to a place of joy, peace and love.  That is why there is the phrase- Be Here Now.

Divine Spirit Awakenings LogoMost of what we have to sacrifice is attachment to what happened in the past, five minutes ago or five years ago.  If we detach from those things, sit in the present, be focused, know who we truly are, be who we truly are, mostly we will be happy.  Mostly we will have the space of joy.  Mostly we will have peace.

There is a Great Beings inside of each of us just waiting to be released.  Why are we keeping that Being locked behind a wall of unhappiness, anger, thwarted desires, and struggling?  What if we decide to know our heart of love?  What if we decide to allow ourselves to be happy now?  What if we let go of what upsets us and allow peace to flow into the crevices and corners of our lives?  Anything is possible for Spirit!  We are Spirit and when we know that anything will be possible for us!