Sunday, November 20, 2011

Change and Spirituality

As I continue on my journey to learn all that I can about the nature of Self, it's completely apparent that knowledge does not change a person.  Knowing everything in the universe will not produce a more noble character or an enlightened spiritual entity.  It is not knowledge that brings about change in a person.  It is merely the beginning of understanding.  But to truly gain understanding and wisdom, and thus create change in a person, one must practice behavior that will overcome the nature of our outer ego, the instinctive behavior of flesh.  This is one of the basic messages of all religions, even in the esoteric circle.

If anyone is looking to find the truth, they must apply practical behaviors, which most religions describe in their teachings.  It makes no difference what religion you ascribe to.  They all teach a fundamental practice to produce change within a person's soul.  What spiritual knowledge provides is the understanding of why the practices produce change in the soul, but it does not in and of itself produce that change.  This is the difficulty in realizing true change in a person.  It's plain to see that among the people, many are not as spiritually developed as they would profess by their religious speeches.  This is true among all persons who ascribe to a particular spiritual belief.  In terms of practices, many find it difficult to maintain their practice in this world because of the world and the life within this world.  As Jesus said, one cannot serve God and money.  They must choose one or the other.  This is quite a difficult task if you have responsibilities to others.  I believe this is the reason why the bible teaches celibacy.   It is not for some religious ideals, but rather to remove any obstacles from the person who wishes to have no distractions from their practice.  It is not a judgement on those who are not celibate.  The need to take care of others force a person to choose money over God.  However, this does not mean one cannot attain the goals of spiritual freedom through spiritual practices while making a living.

In order to produce the fruits of our labor through spiritual practices while living in the world, one must make every effort to be aware of their state of mind.  When you find yourself focusing more on the problems and concerns of this world, then you are drifting away from the spiritual practice and thus forgetting your goal.  So how does one prevent this?  The only way is to practice being aware of your thoughts.  In Buddhism, this is described as mindfulness, which is the act of observing your thoughts in order to be aware of your thoughts.  In Christianity, the Bible describes it with the passage "watch your life and doctrine closely".  The life is what you do because of your thoughts.  Your doctrine is what you think and not just what you believe, for your thoughts come from your beliefs.  In both of these cases, you are aware of your thoughts and actions from those thoughts.  But not just your thoughts, but also your emotions which amplify your thoughts.

As I mentioned in my previous posts, your thoughts become reality by the very nature of thought.  The nature is to create action when thought occurs.  Without awareness, your subconsciousness will try to act out your thoughts.   This can be seen when things occur to bother you and you act out your emotions and thoughts without control, such as expressing anger or frustration because of someone cutting you off on the road, or someone saying something that bothers you.  Without awareness of all your thoughts and emotions, it is easy to act out those thoughts and emotions without your awareness.  When you have awareness, then you have the opportunity to control your thoughts and emotions before they become action.

This ability to be aware of your thoughts and emotions require much practice and training.  The bible says “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."  The path of destruction is the acts that are contrary to our spiritual nature, which are the acts born out of a lack of love.   This path is so easy to follow when one does not have control over their thoughts and emotions.  If one is to get off this path and onto the narrow road, they must practice control over their thoughts and emotions, however they wish to practice this.  Some will follow the Buddhist way of meditation.  Others will follow the Christian way of practicing love for others.  In either case, they are consciously being aware of their actions and it is this practice that must be maintained if one is to become enlightened in their spirit.

The idea of enlightenment simply means you are aware of your place among all of creation: that you and everything around you are One, that all beings are a part of All That Is and therefore worthy of love.  This means you can love who you are just as much as you love those around you.  If you cannot love yourself, then you will not love others.  Love does not mean being egotistical.  Love means that you are non-judgmental and accept everything as an experience, rather than a condition.  In other words, you do not feel personally any negative or positive situations as being a part of you or act against or for you.  Instead, if you look at it from the perspective of an outside viewer, then you are accepting the negative or positive situation as merely an experience and not something that is permanent.  In this way, you are detached from the things of this world without ignoring the experience, which provides wisdom.  This can only come about through practice being aware of your thoughts.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Buddhism and Spiritual Concepts

Lately, I've been learning about the basic principles of Buddhism.  It's very interesting to see how it correlates with spiritual principles and yet does not subscribe to traditional concepts of spirituality in the esoteric sense.  Rather it describes spirituality in terms of the mind and the concept of "emptiness" (the idea of recognizing limitless potential while having form that is temporary.  Same concept as our soul, having a temporary body containing a limitless soul that is released).  Having a Christian background, I immediately saw the same high-level message in Buddhism as there is in the message of Christ, that we are enslaved by the "sins of the flesh" and that we must be "saved".  In Buddhist terms, life is pure dukkha, or suffering, and this is due to cravings and desires of attachment (this is the same concept as sins of the flesh).  In order to be freed from this perpetual Samsara (karmic reincarnation due to attachment), one must follow the path of enlightenment (righteousness in Christian terms).  The Hindu religion also has the same principle, that of an ignorance of their true self due to sinful cravings and attachments to the flesh.

The aspect that I find missing in all of these religious principles is the gnostic knowledge of the esoteric.  But I believe this was planned in order to train people who follow these religions towards a spiritual understanding through practice and experience in order to know the truth, rather than simple knowledge of the truth.  The great messengers all taught what to do to be "saved" because it trains the mind (soul) to become "free" of ignorance to our true nature.  If the messengers spoke the gnostic knowledge directly to people, the people would not have understood and would not have known how to be freed from their ignorance of self.  This is one area that religions are in conflict with each other to proclaim the "only way" to be saved, because the true message is completely missed as they try to demonstrate how their message is the only way.

In Buddhism, without knowing what their deeper/hidden teachings are, due to the tradition of passing the more esoteric knowledge from master to disciple, on the surface the teachings will no more explain why we exist in the first place anymore than many other religions.  To the religious, esoteric knowledge may appear to be devoid of a purpose other than gaining some scary mystical concepts or evil powers of ESP.  But esoteric knowledge is what helps us in our spiritual development.  Why does Buddhism promote meditation?  Why does Christianity promote prayer?  These are both the same acts that you do in order to "know yourself".  Meditation is the means to realize your inner self through contemplation and observance, while prayer allows you to speak to that which is not seen ("God", which is the spiritual father of "you" in All That Is).  The aspect of esoteric knowledge that really helps one to gain perspective on their true nature is the fact that you know why these religious actions work the way they do so that you can gauge progress.  It goes beyond Buddhist goals of enlightened inner peace.  It goes beyond Christian joy of salvation.  Esoteric knowledge gives you the understanding of how to be what you want to be, beyond the limitations of the physical.  To be able to perceive beyond the physical senses, to know that your thoughts become reality, to communicate through the connectedness with All That Is (one with the universe).  These are the elementary goals of each of us and the different religions and philosophies, when practiced, provide the beginning steps towards the higher goal.

Why do you practice a religion?  Why do you do what you do?  What goal do you seek by your beliefs?  These are all fundamental questions one must ask themselves if one wants to start to know who they are, and thus know what they are.

In my belief, samsara is not because of karmic debt nor is it the cause of the next life incarnation.  Rather, the next life in samsara is driven by the need to experience all aspects of being.  If one acted in a negative manner in a previous life, it did not cause your next life.  The next life, if the previous life was a "bad" life due to "karma", is designed for you to experience and learn what the other side of your "bad" actions will be like.  It is an educational tool, not a punishment.  Suffering through attachment is the consequence of our learning process.  We begin each life anew so that we can experience what we need to learn without any prejudice from our previous life.  Then the outer ego (the part we associate with "I") will not expect anything, but rather experience everything as it happens and hopefully learn through it, eventually leading to a release from attachment of things and concepts (rigid beliefs are a form of attachment).  This learning process adds to the overall experience of our inner ego (the soul), and thus produces a wiser personality.  And this wisdom gained through multiple varying life experiences, carry forward into our future lives until we become whole (inner ego, aka soul, and outer ego, waking conscious mind, no longer think, and thus act, independently).

Buddhism has many very useful practical knowledge.  It also has many of the esoteric knowledge available in a way that is relatable in human terms.  But one must not take those teachings purely at face value anymore than the teachings of Jesus.  Jesus spoke in parables so that those who are ready and able to seek the deeper truths through their examination of themselves will understand once they have experienced what Jesus was talking about.  The same goes for the teachings of Buddha.  He gave practical instructions on how to become enlightened so that when one becomes enlightened, they can start to find the meaning behind the teachings.