Monday, July 14, 2008

Spiritual Awakening By Living Consciously in Our Double Nature

Humankind has always been faced, knowingly or unknowingly, with the reality of living with a strange paradox, a barrier to spiritual awakening. As human beings we live as seeming individuals in a relative "reality" that is dictated and delimited by our five senses. The rational and analytic functions of our mind, and the imagery and vocabulary of our thoughts, create a world perception that seems wholly dependent on and strictly limited by the sensual reality that forms the fabric of our world perspective. But strict reliance on this, the shallower part of our mind, robs us of a true perspective on existence. Such a strict reliance on rationality and the senses obscures the deeper intuitive and mystic depths of our being. And it is these deeper faculties that a true perspective of Being lies.

As spiritual beings - interrelated and entangled entities that are inextricably part of the Whole, or Being - we have our existence in what the leading minds of physics (and metaphysics) describe as a field. Some say that the fundamental energy that forms this field is nothing less than an all-pervading consciousness itself. Some would call that unitive consciousness G_d, others know that unitive Whole by other names, but all - physicists and metaphysicians of every sect, school and tradition - seem to point to the same unitive Whole. They point to a supra-sensual Absolute beyond (or at least beyond the limits of) our senses and the relativities of time and space. The great dilemna for the seeming "individual" within this Whole is how to live in both "realities" at once. Great teachers say that to live in one or the other of these two "realities" without knowledge or awareness of the others is a false path which only engenders suffering and restricts our ability to take refuge and find peace within the Absolute. Far better to be transformed by the renewal or recovery of the inner depths of one's mind and being, than to be merely conformed to the outward perceptions and relativities of a strictly sensual world.

In a lecture to an assemblage of Buddhist monks, nuns and lay people at Bodh Gaya (the place where the historical Gautama Buddha first achieved enlightenment) the 14th Dalai Lama taught the "Essential Teachings" of Mahayana Buddhism. Central to these teachings is the Buddhist notion of 'dependent origination' and the underlying 'emptiness' - both physical and mental - of all phenomena and nuomena. He spoke of the importance of recognizing and being attuned to the "emptiness" that underlies our world experience if we are to avoid suffering and realize the bliss of spiritual enlightenment (or nirvana) for our own sake and - more importantly - for the sake of all other beings. At the center of our difficulty in doing this lies the paradox of our having existence, or seeming existence, in the relative and the Absolute at the same time. "Every day," the Dalai Lama notes, "we are fooled into believing that something is true when it is not; similarly . . . we suffer because we think that all phenomena have a real existence when they do not."

In "Relativity, Philosophy and Mind", Paul Brunton, a true 'world philosopher', highlights the paradoxical challenge of living simultaneously in both the relative and the Absolute once we become cognizant of the double nature of our being. He suggests that we must be conscious of both simultaneous 'realities' and practice living both at once, albeit from a deeper and unitive perspective, if we are to live successfully.

"The Absolute is not a human being and can have no possible point of view," Brunton observes, "but the human being must have a humanized philosophy and can have a point of view. What is he to do after recognizing the opposition between the absolute and relative consciousness, between the real and the unreal? The answer must be (to manifest) the double point of view. Not, mind you, the double nature of Truth, but the double point of view for us, humans: the one being empirical, practical, earthly and rational, the other being ultimate, divine, intuitive."

Both Brunton and the Dalai Lama seem to assert that our impression of an event, or of the world, is 'real' from a relative perspective, yet 'surreal' from the perspective of the Absolute (or 'Emptiness'). Truly, 'things' are not as they seem, but exist eternally and ephemerally as a strange amalgalm of the real and surreal. All wisdom traditions seem to point to the necessity of our being aware of both perspectives simultaneously and continuously if we are to live successfully and end suffering - a daunting existential task.

To do so, the Dalai Lama, urges us to practice compassion, the way shown by the Buddha as well as Christ. Brunton urges a dispassionate compassion - the way of the sage - to avoid the personal suffering of our relative existence by taking refuge in the timeless Absolute. Going beyond the relativities of our dualistic nature to embrace a fully unitive perspective and consciousness rooted in the Absolute of timelessness is a means to go beyond suffering, and to demonstrate this possibility to others.

"If the worldly man agitatedly sees the event against the background of a moment, if the philosophic student calmly sees it against the background of an entire lifetime, the sage," Brunton writes, "while fully aware of both of these points of view, offsets them altogether by adding a third one which does not depend on any dimension of time at all. From this third point of view, he sees both the event itself and the ego to whom it happens as illusory. He feels the sense of time and the sense of personality as unreal. Deep within his mind he holds unshakably to the timeless character of true being, to the eternal life of the kingdom of heaven, In this mysterious state time cannot heal, for there are no wounds present whereof to be healed."

"So soon as we can take the reality out of time," Brunton explains, "so soon can we take the sting out of suffering. For the false self lives like a slave, bound to every passing sensation, whereas the true self lives in the timeless peace of the kingdom of heaven. As soon as we put ourselves into harmony with the true self, we put ourselves into harmony with the whole universe; we put ourselves beyond the reach of calamity. It may still happen, but it does not happen to, nor is it felt by, our real self. There is a sense of absolute security, a feeling that no harm can come to us. The philosophic student discovers the mission of time; it heals sorrows and under karma or through evolution, cures evils. The sage solves the mystery of timelessness, which redeems man."

Shakespeare, an enlightened man, wrote that this world is but a stage and we are merely players. To solve this paradox of the dualistic nature of relativity and the Absolute and become whole, we must become like the sage who sits in the audience partaking of this moment in time from the perspective of a timeless and innate unitive Wholeness, dispassionately enjoying the play until the curtain falls on maya and our identification with the relative.