Thursday, 27 July 2017

Through the Gates of Gold, Chapter 1, Part 5

This deals with the question why so few people seek the gates of gold or find it. Picking up a thread from part 3, it is also hinted that the context of a declining civilisation can provide an impetus to seek. And like Plato in the Philebus, he states pleasure is not to be negated, but the idea is to tun away from the sensual ones and enjoy the more subtle, absract ones, such as enjoying the feeling of a job well done, living a balanced life, living according to spiritual ideals.  The ideas of the homological unity of the universe and non-separateness are key.

“When it seems as if the end was reached, the goal attained, and that man has no more to do, — just then, when he appears to have no choice but between eating and drinking and living in his comfort as the beasts do in theirs, and scepticism which is death, — then it is that in fact, if he will but look, the Golden Gates are before him. With the culture of the age within him and assimilated perfectly, so that he is himself an incarnation of it, then he is fit to attempt the great step which is absolutely possible, yet is attempted by so few even of those who are fitted for it. It is so seldom attempted, partly because of the profound difficulties which surround it, but much more because man does not realize that this is actually the direction in which pleasure and satisfaction are to be obtained.”
“There are certain pleasures which appeal to each individual; every man knows that in one layer or another of sensation he finds his chief delight. Naturally he turns to this systematically through life, just as the sunflower turns to the sun and the water-lily leans on the water. But he struggles throughout with an awful fact which oppresses him to the soul, — that no sooner has he obtained his pleasure than he loses it again and has once more to go in search of it. More than that; he never actually reaches it, for it eludes him at the final moment. This is because he endeavors to seize that which is untouchable and satisfy his soul’s hunger for sensation by contact with external objects.
“How can that which is external satisfy or even please the inner man, — the thing which reigns within and has no eyes for matter, no hands for touch of objects, no senses with which to apprehend that which is outside its magic walls? Those charmed barriers which surround it are limitless, for it is everywhere; it is to be discovered in all living things, and no part of the universe can be conceived of without it, if that universe is regarded as a coherent whole. And unless that point is granted at the outset it is useless to consider the subject of life at all. Life is indeed meaningless unless it is universal and coherent, and unless we maintain our existence by reason of the fact that we are part of that which is, not by reason of our own being “
“This is one of the most important factors in the development of man, the recognition — profound and complete recognition — of the law of universal unity and coherence. The separation which exists between individuals, between worlds, between the different poles of the universe and of life, the mental and physical fantasy called space, is a nightmare of the human imagination.”
“But if man has the courage to resist this reactionary tendency, to stand steadily on the height he has reached and put out his foot in search of yet another step, why should he not find it? There is nothing to make one suppose the pathway to end at a certain point, except that tradition which has declared it is so, and which men have accepted and hug to themselves as a justification for their indolence.”

Some related passages from Light on the Path:

As he retreats within himself and becomes self-dependent, he finds himself more definitely becoming part of a great tide of definite thought and feeling.

He does not obtain his strength by his own right, but because he is a part of the whole; and as soon as he is safe from the vibration of life and can stand unshaken, the outer world cries out to him to come and labor in it.

For the voice to have lost the power to wound, a man must have reached that point where he sees himself only as one of the vast multitudes that live; one of the sands washed hither and thither by the sea of vibratory existence. It is said that every grain of sand in the ocean bed does, in its turn, get washed up on to the shore and lie for a moment in the sunshine. So with human beings, they are driven hither and thither by a great force, and each, in his turn, finds the sunrays on him.
(Comment 2)

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Karen Armstrong: 3rd Global Conference on World's Religions after September 11

Karen Armstrong OBE is a historian of religion, whose books on the traditions of India, China, Judaism, Christianity and Islam have been translated into forty-five languages. They include, A History of God, which was an international bestseller; The Battle for God, A History of Fundamentalism; Islam: A Short History, Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time; Buddha; The Great Transformation: The Origin of Our Religious Traditions and most recently Fields of Blood; Religion and the History of Violence. In 2007 she was appointed by Kofi Annan to the High-Level Group of the UN Alliance of Civilizations with the task of diagnosing the causes of extremism. In 2008, she was awarded the TED Prize and began working with TED on the Charter for Compassion, created online by the general public, crafted by leading thinkers in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. It was launched in the fall of 2009 and has become a global movement. Also, in 2008 she was awarded the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal. In 2013, she received the British Academy’s inaugural Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Transcultural Understanding and in 2015 the ISESCO prize for educators. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Trustee of the British Museum.
Below is a transcript of the introduction of her talk:
I am told repeatedly in eerily the same number of words every time, religion has been the cause of all the wars in history, and that’s a very odd remark because we know that the two world wars were not fought for religion but for secular nationalism. Military historians tells us that we never go to war for a single reason; there are always multiple factors, interlocking factors involved, territorial, political, cultural and above all, economic, the competition for scarce resources. And similarly, experts in terrorism tell us that, whatever the motivation for a terrorist atrocity, terrorism is always inescapably political, and yet it seems to me that we make a scapegoat of religion, piling all the blame on that and not examining all the factors that are before us, and at this very dangerous moment in history, we need clarity.
Part of our problem is that we in the west have developed a very peculiar view of religion, dating back to the 18th century enlightenment, when we separated religion from politics. Before the enlightenment, what we called religion, spirituality permeated all aspects of life. So by trying to take politics, for example, out of religion, would be like taking the gin out of a cocktail. So when people thought politically in religious terms, this wasn’t because they were too stupid to distinguish things which were essentially distinct, rather questions such as injustice and inequity, human pain, poverty, suffering, these are matters of sacred import.
And the prophets of Israel, for example, would have had no time for people who said their prayers nicely in the temple, but did not address themselves to the plight of the poor or allow their rulers to get away with war crimes and other atrocities. Now, similarly, when we’re looking at a situation today, it’s often said, if only people would stop mixing religion with politics, and Islam in particular is seen as something inherently violent. This is a myth that has taken deep root in the western world since the time of the crusades, when it was actually Christians inflicting a gratuitous violence on the Muslim world, rather a projection of their own unease about their behavior onto the enemy.
But we really must try to avoid all these stereotypical ways of looking at Islam, we can’t afford that kind of myopia. People are always saying, well, we had a reformation, they need to reform themselves as we did. This shows an absolutely embarrassing ignorance of Islamic history, which is punctuated continually with movements of renewal and reform, just like any other faith. There are many political factors that are involved in the distress in the region in the middle east, not least, the colonialist. The French and the British, who set up the nation states that we have in the region today, they almost set them up to fail, making them inherently unstable.
Now we’ve got plenty evidence about the role of Islam in the atrocities that we’ve been thinking about all day, but they don’t get much traction in the west. Gallop, for example, did the biggest poll that it had ever undertaken after 9-11 in 35 Muslim majority countries and they discovered that, when they asked the question, were the 9-11 attacks justified, 93% of respondents said, no, they were not justified. And the reason they gave for this were entirely religious, they quoted the Koran which says, to kill a single person is to destroy a whole world. The 7% who said they were justified, their reasons were entirely political.
If religion is not all about violence as the myth says, then what is it about and what should religion be doing to counter-balance this appalling state of affairs. In 2008, I won the TED prize and TED gives you a wish for a better world which they promise to make happen and I knew at once what I wanted because I got absolutely sick and tired of hearing religious leaders coming together and pronouncing on some abstruse point of doctrine, condemning this or condemning that and they never mentioned compassion, even though my studies showed me that whatever I was writing about, whether it was a history of God, a history of Jerusalem, a history of fundamentalism, I kept being drawn back inexorably to the issue of compassion.
Every single one of the major world faiths has developed its own version of what is called the golden rule, never treat others as you would not like to be treated yourself, and said that this is the essence of faith, the test of true spirituality; and if the world needs anything at the moment, it is compassion.
Check out the full lecture:
Check out her Compassion Charter:

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Golden Rule in 20 World Religions

1- Hinduism:
"This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you." (Mahabharata, 5:1517)
"Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." (Udana-Varga 5:18)
3- Jainism:
"A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated." (Sutrakritanga 1.11.33)
4- Tamil Tradition:
"Do not do to others what you know has hurt yourself." (Tirukkua, Tiruvalluvar (Chapter 32, k. 316)
5- Taoism:
"Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss." (Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien)
6- Confucianism:
“What I do not wish men to do to me, I also wish not to do to men." (Analects 15:23)
7- Shinto:
"The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form." (Munetada Kurozumi, Opening Way 57)
8- Zoroastrianism:
"Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others." (Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29)
9- Judaism
"...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Leviticus 19:18)
10- Ancient Greece:
"What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either." (Sentences of Sextus, 179)
11- Ancient Rome
"What you would avoid suffering yourself, seek not to impose on others." (Epictetus, Fragment 38)
12- Christianity
"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." (Luke 6:31)
13- Islam:
"None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." (Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths,13)
14- Sikhism:
"Don't create enmity with anyone as God is within everyone." (Guru Arjan Devji 259)
15- Sufism:
"Human beings are members of a whole, In creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, Other members uneasy will remain. If you have no sympathy for human pain, The name of human you cannot retain." (Saadi, Gulistan 1, 10)
16- Ancient Incas:
"Do not to another what you would not yourself experience." (Manco Capoc, Testament, 11))
17- Native American:
"May all these people and all their generations walk together as relatives." (Black Elk, Sacred Pipe 37)
18- Ancient Egyptian:
"Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do." (The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, 109 - 110)
19- The Yorubas of West Africa:
"He who injures another injures himself." (The Juvenile, vol.1, 176, 1853)
20- Moroccan tribesmen:
"What you desire for yourself you should desire for others." (Wit and Wisdom in Morocco, Westermarck, 236)  
"Therefore, we say, that unless every man is brought to understand and accept as an axiomatic truth that by wronging one man we wrong not only ourselves but the whole of humanity in the long run, no brotherly feelings such as preached by all the great Reformers, pre-eminently by Buddha and Jesus, are possible on earth." (Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, 47)

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Tibetan Mindfulness of Death Meditation 2

From Chapter 9 of Tsong Khapa's Stages on the Path of Enlightenment (aka The Nine-Point Death Meditation)

2. The time of death is uncertain.
If  you think every day, “I will die today,” or at least “I will probably die today,” you will act for the benefit of whatever next life you will go to, and you will not make preparations to remain in this life. If you do not have this thought, you will see yourself as staying in this life, and you will make provisions for this life rather than act for the benefit of your next life. For example, when you plan to stay someplace for a long time, you make preparations to stay there. If you think that you are not going to stay there, but are going elsewhere, you make preparations for leaving. Hence, every day you must develop an awareness of the imminence of your death in the following way.

a- The life span in this world is uncertain.
Bear in mind the cases you have seen or heard concerning the gurus and friends who reached the end of their life span but died without fulfilling their intentions, suddenly dying because of external and internal causes. Be aware of death, thinking over and over, “I too am subject to such a death.”

b- The causes of death are very many and the causes of life few.
Furthermore, there are no causes of staying alive that no not become causes of death. In other words, you seek such things as food and drink, shelter, and friends in order not to die, but even these can become causes of death. For instance, you may consume the wrong food and drink, or consume too much or too little. Your shelter could crumble, or your friends could deceive you. Thus, it is clear that there are no causes of staying alive that cannot become causes of death. Since life itself is headed toward death, the conditions for life would offer no security even if they were numerous. (156)

c- The body is very fragile.
The contemplation of the uncertainty of the time of death is the most important of the three roots. This is the very thing that will redirect your mind, so work hard at it. (158)

3. The contemplation that at the time of death nothing helps except spiritual practice

a- Friends will not help.
When you see that you must go to your next life, no matter how many loving and very worried relatives and friends surround you at that time, you cannot take even one with you. (158)

b- Resources will not help.
No matter how many piles of beautiful jewels you have, you cannot take even the slightest particle with you.

c- Your body will not help.
If instead you seek only to find happiness and to avoid suffering up until your death, then you are going to need a course of conduct which surpasses animal behaviour, since animals are better than humans at temporal happiness. (159)

Therefore, although it is quite hard to produce this mindfulness of death, you must work at it because it is the foundation of the path. (159)