Saturday, December 11, 2010

This path is spiritual, not religious

I found this to be a wonderful essay from Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. It was posted on Huffington Post, August 6, 2010. I bolded a couple sentences which I found especially exciting...
This is written to Buddhist practitioners, but i believe it has more universal usefulness. As my old teacher, Dr Bruce Morgan, used to say: "eat the fruit, spit out the pits".

Is Buddhism a Religion?

We often talk about Siddhartha, the young man who became known as the Buddha, as if he were a god. The fact is that he was just a simple Indian guy, a human being like you and me. We think of him as some kind of super-genius for having attained complete spiritual awakening, but in fact his real genius was in showing how any one of us can attain the same awakening as he did. We describe him as a prince and a member of the elite royalty of his time, and we think that must have given him an advantage over us — but the reality is that most of us today are probably better off, in material terms, than Siddhartha was.

We talk about his kingdom and so forth, but what the prince Siddhartha had was really no more than what you might find in any middle-class American household. He might have had more wives, but you’ve got more gadgets, more technologies and comforts and conveniences. Siddhartha didn’t have a refrigerator, and you do. He didn’t have WiFi, or a blog, or Facebook or Twitter. He might have had more houses and land, but you’ve got a more comfortable bed than he had. Maybe you even have one of those new, space-age Tempur-Pedic beds. Think of how much time you spend in bed, and how important your bed is. I guarantee that Siddhartha had a worse bed than you have.

The point is, we shouldn’t mythologize Siddhartha’s life and think that his spiritual awakening was due to his special circumstances. Most of us today actually live in conditions very similar to Siddhartha’s, in terms of our material situation.

Siddhartha was a truth seeker, nothing more. He wasn’t looking for religion, as such — he wasn’t particularly interested in religion. He was searching for the truth. He was looking for a genuine path to freedom from suffering. Aren’t all of us searching for the same thing? If we look at the life of Siddhartha, we can see that he found the truth and freedom he was seeking only after he abandoned religious practices. Isn’t that significant? The one who became the Buddha, the “Awakened One,” didn’t find enlightenment through religion — he found it when he began to leave religion behind.

The Lure of Religious Trappings

A lot of people prefer to think of Buddhism as a religion. It’s easy to see why, when Buddhism abounds with religious trappings: the rituals and the chants and the golden statues sitting on the shrine. Buddha himself never wanted to be deified in any kind of icons; at the beginning, he told his students no icons, no worshiping. But it’s said that he had a very devoted student who kept pestering him, requesting his permission to make a statue of him, until finally the Buddha gave up and allowed the first image to be made. And now we have all these elaborate golden icons that look like they were dug out of an Egyptian pyramid. It’s nice to have these reminders, but we must remember that’s what they are: reminders of something, an example to be followed, not idols to be worshiped.

If our goal is to turn Buddhism into a religion, that’s fine — in America we have freedom of speech and the Bill of Rights. We can make Buddhism into a religion, or a branch of psychology, or a self-help program, or whatever we want. But if we’re looking for enlightenment, we won’t find it through relating to the Buddha as a religious idol. Like Siddhartha, we’ll find real spiritual awakening only when we begin to leave behind our fixed ideas about religious practice. Seeing the Buddha as an example and following his example — recreating, in our own lives, his pursuit of truth, his courage and his open mind — that’s the real power of Buddhism beyond religion.

Truth Has No Religion

Siddhartha actually became the Buddha through his failure at religion. He saw that the ascetic practices he’d been engaged in were not leading him to true liberation, and so he left them behind. But he had five colleagues who continued their religious practices of asceticism, and they regarded Siddhartha as a failure. From their point of view, he just couldn’t hack it, and that’s why he gave up. Later, after he attained enlightenment and became known as the Buddha, they became his first five disciples; but at the time when he left behind their religious program, they regarded him as a failure. I find that very encouraging. As spiritual practitioners, we should be open to being a failure. We can take heart in the fact that Siddhartha found enlightenment not through his great success at religious practices, but through his failures.

As Buddhists, Siddhartha’s example is the most important one for us to follow. He was a great explorer of mind and its limits. He was open-minded, seeking truth, with no preconceived agenda. He thought, “Okay, I’ll do these religious practices and see if I can find the truth that way.” He did the practices, he didn’t find the truth, and so he left the religion. Like Siddhartha, if we really want spiritual enlightenment we have to go beyond religiosity. We have to let go of clinging to preconceived religious forms and ideas and practices.

Religion, if we don’t relate to it skillfully, can trap us in another set of rules. On top of all the ordinary rules we are already stuck with in this world, we pile on a second set of religious rules. I’m not saying there is anything bad about religion or rules, but you should be clear about what you’re seeking. Do you want religion and a set of rules to follow, or do you want truth? Truth has no religion, no culture, no language, no head or tail. As Gandhi said, “God has no religion.” The truth is just the truth.

If you are interested in “meeting the Buddha” and following his example, then you should realize that the path the Buddha taught is primarily a study of your own mind and a system for training your mind. This path is spiritual, not religious. Its goal is self-knowledge, not salvation; freedom, not heaven. And it is deeply personal. Without your curiosity and questions and your open mind, there is no spiritual path, no journey to be taken, even if you adopt all the forms of the tradition.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Kingdom of God is Within You

Always we hope
someone else has the answer.
some other place will be better,
some other time it will all turn out.

This is it.
no one else has the answer.
no other place will be better,
and it has already turned out.

At the center of your being
you have the answer;
you know who you are
and you know what you want.

There is no need
to run outside
for better seeing.

Nor to peer from a window.

Rather abide at the center of your being;
for the more you leave it, the less you learn.

Search your heart
and see
the way to do
is to be.
--Lao Tzu

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How does one Become a Spiritual Guide?

An acquaintance asked me:
How does one become a spiritual guide?
What did you do? How does it all work?

This is a Big question, I can offer a quick answer, from my perspective: What I notice about it when I look right now, reminds me of ‘the Mountain’ image so many use to speak of spiritual life…

Like a Mountain Guide, one devotes large swaths of life to exploring– not in theory, in reality: the main paths the side paths, the deer paths; getting lost and getting found; braving the elements. Doing the Mountain. Being the Mountain. One starts to Know the Mountain, and then one is chosen/chooses to share the Mountain with others.

The guide sees who each traveler is, where they are, where they want to go and offers assistance along the way. The guide works with the traveler to build muscle, to deepen into the practices and abilities needed to go to the next level on the Mountain. The guide encourages, informs and tries to share perspective with the traveler.

One cannot in any way do anything For the traveler. IF and when they are willing to hear, they still may or may not actually apply what they heard. Sometimes folks get in challenging positions, and that is necessarily fine: people get what they get on the Mountain, just as the guide does. Sometimes the traveler enjoys it and sometimes they don’t enjoy it: often both. Regardless, being on the Mountain is its own reward; there is no ‘winning’, anyway.

Being a guide is often hard, uncomfortable, expensive on many levels, and relatively thankless:
When the best leader's work is done the people say,
'We did it ourselves!' — Lao-tsu

And if these kinds of experiences on the Mountain sound like the most exciting way to invest one's life, then being a guide can be the best ‘job’ on earth!

in Life, wendy

PS - And the above is more of the physically-focused answer. My belief is, here is really the spiritual answer:

It is all about Matching - one could say Resonating more and more with God. with spiritual reality (what Jesus called the Kingdom of God), and less and less with 'the world'. You may call it other things, but we learn from each other by spiritually matching each other: by matching how we run, hold, deal with our energy spiritually.

When I have the chance to play with kids I see this so obviously - they learn most everything through 'monkey see, monkey do'.

That is how all of us learn from each other spiritually: Matching, Resonating, Shifting to be more in alignment with Spirit.

So the most important of the spiritual guide's 'jobs' is to continue to do our own 'work': heal, deepen, learn, grow, be present, keep practicing, match Jesus... allow our vibration to rise:

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus,
the champion who initiates and perfects our faith
- Hebrews 12;12

with Jesus, as Jesus leads, we:

Allow in:
enjoyment of Spirit,
invitation of high and light vibration.

Allow out:
attachment to physically-focused/hooked energy,
invitation of low and heavy vibration.

Everyone profits from these shifts that we allow God to make in us, and everyone can more easily allow God to shift them, as well.

As an example, my favorite Christian teacher, Dr Bruce Morgan, used to talk a lot about morphic resonance, which is one way to try to explain this concept: (one of many possible links)

; ) w