Practicing Eternity

“The Tao …is like the eternal void: filled with infinite possibilities.” – Tao Te Ching #4

Centuries ago everyone knew the world was flat, and that the Earth was the center of the Universe. The geocentric, or Earth-centered, view of Reality was the leading philosophical and religious belief during the Middle Ages, held since Aristotle. This view appealed to the human ego, as well as to the powerful religious leaders of the time eager to maintain their authority. Copernicus started no less than a scientific revolution when he suggested otherwise, and later scientists Bruno and Galileo would suffer greatly for it during the Inquisition.

Why was the Church so intent on refuting evidence that our world, and our species, were not the center of God’s creation? Of course, because it would disrupt the vast power base they had so carefully constructed, with them in charge not only of the religious, cultural and legal framework of society, but over the concept of Reality itself. In order for them to retain their power, they had to convince the populace that their power and authority came from God Himself. To believe otherwise directly confronted their control over the western world at the time, and could be very dangerous.

Surprisingly, in today’s ultra-modern, high-tech world, we find ourselves under similar illusions. Of course, we all know the world is round, and that it is just one of many planets, in one of many solar systems, in a vast and expanding universe. However, even though quantum physicists have known for decades that we live in merely one small slice of a much larger dimensional framework, the world at large is for the most part unwilling or unable to comprehend or accept what this revelation could mean to us. As Lao Tzu wrote, “true wisdom seems foolish.” (#45)

Such awareness would place us at an even smaller level of importance than we believed we held in medieval times. And human ego is still hard at work, convinced of our self-centered belief that this is the only world, the only Reality, that we can Know. Not to mention, the power and authority of our time has just as many reasons to keep us from knowing beyond or present reckoning of Reality as did the Church during the Inquisition. Our governments and corporations do not want us to acquire awareness outside of their established parameters. They have too much to lose.

Our wise and ancient sages long ago attempted to open our eyes to a broader concept of Reality, and our true place within it, but their words mean little to today’s short attention spans, media conglomerates, personal gratification and insufferable egos. If we merely listened carefully to the words of Lao Tzu, Buddha or even Jesus, we might learn that what we term and define as conscious Reality is no more than the resonating ball of light and shade explanation set forth by famous scientists such as Einstein and Tesla. Lao Tzu wrote, “seeing into darkness is clarity.” (#52) Whether explained through spiritual or scientific words, what’s important is the realization that things are not as they seem, and we might we wise to look beyond our physical senses for the ultimate definition of Reality. If we could set aside our egos, maybe we could live in harmony with each other and our world. “If you keep your mind from judging and aren’t led by the senses, your heart will find peace.” (#52)

Imagine what an eye-opener it must have been to learn the Earth is round, instead of flat. Some people may have continued to scoff the idea regardless of scientific evidence. Today, even the well-educated scoff at the notion of a multitude of dimensional realities. And this is merely the tip of the iceberg. As a species, we cannot be said to know even one small percentage of what there is to Know. How can we argue which religion is right, or which government is best, if we are not even looking in the right places? Learn from the sages, or learn from the scientists. Understand the Tao, or the Unified Field. The real truth of our Reality is within us, within each and every person. We are part of It, and It is within us. Read between the lines, and Surf the Tao into a higher awareness of Reality, and a new world of peace. It’s up to you.

“Of all discoveries and opinions, none may have exerted a greater effect on the human spirit than the doctrine of Copernicus. The world had scarcely become known as round and complete in itself when it was asked to waive the tremendous privilege of being the center of the universe. Never, perhaps, was a greater demand made on mankind – for by this admission so many things vanished in mist and smoke! What became of our Eden, our world of innocence, piety and poetry; the testimony of the senses; the conviction of a poetic – religious faith? No wonder his contemporaries did not wish to let all this go and offered every possible resistance to a doctrine which in its converts authorized and demanded a freedom of view and greatness of thought so far unknown, indeed not even dreamed of.” -Goethe

The Tao of Buddha

“Few cross over the river.

Most are stranded on this side.

On the riverbank they run up and down.

But the wise person, following the way,

Crosses over, beyond the reach of death…”

-Teachings of the Buddha (from the Dhammapada, trans. Thomas Byrom)

The Buddha was born a prince in ancient India, and raised in wealthy seclusion. He began to see the misery of much of the rest of the world as he grew older. He left home as a young man to seek the truth of what he found, hoping to find an end to the sorrows of human existence. He lived for awhile as an ascetic in the forests, but soon realized he had found no further wisdom in such a life. He one day realized that peace of mind and freedom of spirit could be found in a simple life of balance. He called his teachings the Dharma, or “Way”. (Remember that “Tao” is Chinese for “Way”.)

The word ‘Buddha’ means ‘one who is awake’. The Buddhist tradition attempts to teach the experience of ‘awakening to the truth of life’. They seek to liberate the body and the mind from the materialism of the world, offering instead a Middle Path of peace and balance.

Buddha’s words are in fact strikingly similar in spirit to those of Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching. Of course the religious practices that have developed down the ages took different angles. However, if we consider the original words passed down by these two sages, it begins to seem as if they were both talking about the same realizations – and indeed much the same Way to live.

Buddha said, “Live in joy, in love, even among those who hate.” (Dhammapada) Lao Tzu taught, “The master…is good to people who are good. She is also good to people who aren’t good. This is true goodness.” (Tao Te Ching)

Buddha taught, “Look within. Be still. Free from fear and attachment, Know the sweet joy of the way.” Lao Tzu may have had a different tone and spoke a completely different language, and yet the spirit of his words is familiar: “Since before time and space were, the Tao is. It is beyond ‘is’ and ‘is not’. How do I know this is true? I look inside myself and see…if you want to be given everything, give everything up.”

“The Master keeps her mind always at one with the Tao, that is what gives her her radiance…she doesn’t cling to ideas,” wrote Lao Tzu. “A mind unshaken when touched by the worldly states, sorrowless, stainless, and secure, this is the blessing supreme,” taught the Buddha.

Both also recognized the futility in the very act of trying to put the great truths into words. Lao Tzu commented, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.” In turn Buddha lamented, “Words! The Way is beyond language, for in it there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today.” (trans. Richard B. Clarke)

One cannot but help notice that the teachings are similar in tone to other great teachers of note, including some I have mentioned previously such as Ueshiba and Tagore. Once a student begins to truly internalize this higher awareness, they become aware of a ‘Way’ to live or to be, a simple, loving, unselfish and calm state of mind. They see the divine in the mundane, and allow the Way to spread before them, “If you want to accord with the Tao, just do your job, then let go,” wrote Lao Tzu. Or, as Buddha put it so beautifully, “To live in the Great Way is neither easy not difficult…Just let things be in their own way.”

The Tao of Physics

If you haven’t yet read this book by Fritjof Capra, I highly recommend it. It was of great help to me when I began my Journey, since I come from an analytical and intellectual background, and had no idea what to do with a mystical experience such as I had. Physicists like Capra are attempting to point out similarities between new quantum discoveries and Eastern mysticism (Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism), and it’s changing how we perceive our world. “The further we penetrate into the submicroscopic world, the more we shall realize how the modern physicist, like the Eastern mystic, has come to see the world as a system of inseparable, interacting and ever-moving components with the observer being an integral part of this system.” (p. 25)

Both new physics and mystical experiences are difficult to put into words – they are both full of paradox. Einstein wrote, “All my attempts to adapt the theoretical foundation of physics to this (new type of) knowledge failed completely. It was as if the ground had been pulled out from under one, with no firm foundation to be seen anywhere, upon which one could have built.” Capra wrote, “…discoveries of modern physics necessitated profound changes of concepts like space, time, matter, object, cause and effect…to change them felt something of a shock.” (p. 54)

The discovery that subatomic units were not solid objects sent a wave of disbelief through the scientific community. Further it was noted that the simple act of observation seemed to have an effect on them. They realized they could never predict atomic events with certainty. Thus, “Quantum theory has thus demolished the classical concepts of solid objects and of strictly deterministic laws of nature.” (p. 68) It seemed as if classical ideals of ‘reason’ were thrown out the window; as Capra quoted Chuang Tzu, “The most extensive knowledge does not necessarily know it; reasoning will not make men wise in it. The sages have decided against both these methods.” (p. 113)

Capra states that the mystic and physicist alike arrive at the same conclusion, “one starting from the inner realm, the other from the outer world…” (p. 305) He notes a further similarity, that both “their observations take place in realms which are inaccessible to the ordinary senses.” (p. 305)

For me, this book made the unreasonable reasonable, and the nonsensical sensible. It eased my aching analytical brain, and I was able to open myself to further ‘mystical’ experience – transforming my world and my life.

Rabindranath Tagore

I have heard in my being the voice of Eternal Silence…’ -Tagore

Not many westerners know that Rabindranath Tagore, a great writer, musician and philosopher from Bengal, India, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 for his collection of poems, “Gitanjali”. His extraordinary life began in 1861, and before it ended in 1941 he had been contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi, written about by Jawaharlal Nehru, W.B. Yeats, and Ezra Pound, and famously conversed with Albert Einstein about the nature of reality. He wrote over 2000 songs including India’s national anthem. He spoke often and loudly against the militant nationalism rising in his day, and in 1919 he repudiated his knighthood as a public gesture against violence.

Tagore was firmly for freedom – freedom of mind, freedom of education, freedom of belief, freedom of existence. Contrary to the educational establishment of his day, he founded a school, called the ‘Abode of Peace’, which eventually became an important center for culture, music, art, languages and even rural development. He was involved in what we now call ‘Third World Development,’ attempting to teach new farming techniques to his struggling nation. He resisted categorization based on race or economics, and believed in the unity of man and nature.

Though some of his work reflects the politics and struggles of his country, there is so much that relates purely to his spiritual being. His words reflect a deep wisdom and understanding of our reality, and man’s proper behavior within it. He rejected the common religious orthodoxy of his upbringing, instead creatively seeking the spirit behind it. His words bring to mind a startling awareness of this Tao, the compassion and openness necessary to perceive it, and the difficulty of explaining it to others.

“It is only the revelation of You as the Infinite that is endlessly new and eternally beautiful in us and that gives the only meaning to our self when we feel Your rhythmic throb as soul-life, the whole world in our own souls; then are we free. O Worker of the universe! Let the irresistible current of Your universal energy come like the impetuous south wind of spring; let it come rushing over the vast field of human life. Let our newly awakened powers cry out for unlimited fulfillment in leaf and flower and fruit.” -Tagore, from “The Heart of God”

Which Way Will You Walk

While whirlwinds woo a wary world
The way worn written warnings wait
Which Way will you walk, will you wish
When wisdom weighs the wrongs of woe

Watch witch and wizard waging wars
With weapons wreaking wrath and waste
If wit is won with wretched wealth
Would work and worry warrant worth?

While woe works wonders waking will
It’s wisdom whispers well within
Which Way will you walk, will you wish
The woeful witness wishes wise.

Genetically Modified World

“When rich speculators prosper while farmer lose their land; when government officials spend money on weapons instead of cures; when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible, while the poor have nowhere to turn – all this is robbery and chaos. It is not in keeping with the Tao.” -Tao Te Ching, #53

Ministers are trying to scrap an international agreement banning the world’s most controversial genetic modification of crops, grimly nicknamed “terminator technology”, a move which threatens to increase hunger in the Third World. The Government is to push for terminator crops to be considered for approval on a “case-by-case basis” at two meetings this month; its position closely mirrors the stance of the United States and other GM [genetically modified organisms]-promoting countries. Terminator technology…would stop hundreds of millions of poor farmers from saving seeds from their crops for resowing for the following harvest, forcing them to buy new ones from biotech companies every year. The technique is officially known as genetic use restriction technology (Gurt), making crops produce sterile seeds. It could be applied to any crop, including maize and rice, widely grown in developing countries. The UK working group on teminator technology…says: “It could destroy traditional farming methods, damage farmers’ livelihoods and threaten food security, particularly in developing countries.” [Former UK Minister of Environment Michael] Meacher said: “For the first time in the history of the world, farmers would be stopped from using their own seeds.”

Note: For more on this alarming development:

Awakening the Spirit

The Master keeps her mind at one with the Tao; that is what gives her her radiance. The Tao is ungraspable. How can her mind be at one with it? Because she doesn’t cling to ideas. The Tao is dark and unfathomable. How can it make her radiant? Because she lets it. Since before time and space were, the Tao is. It is beyond is and is not. How do I know this is true? I look inside myself and see. (Tao Te Ching, #21)

To be ‘one’ with the Tao means to live with the awareness of this Flow, even if we may not understand it completely. We may still find ourselves faced with various daily fears and issues – but it is how we react to these troubles, which determines our progress along the spiritual path. We have a choice – we can either react along with our worldly programming, becoming hurt, angry, or fearful; or we can choose to react instead with calmness and kindness. This choice, an act of our free will, is the greatest power we have to overcome obstacles along our path. It is a step towards awakening our Spirits.

Surfing the Tao refers to an awareness of this ‘Higher Power’, or consciousness, without all the trappings, archaic ritual or questionable authority of a worldly religion. Our greatest sages all taught us that the truth is contained within us – all we need to do is be still long enough to find it. With stillness and love, we can awaken our spirits. The experience can be profound – or subtle. Often it can be both. The changes happen gradually at first, when the mind finally rests of chatter, and true breath takes hold. Breathing techniques, prayer, yoga, meditation and other tools are available to us which can help us along this path. But they are only a means to an end, not the end in and of themselves.

Find love within you and you have found the Tao. Behave peacefully amidst the chaos and you have found the Tao. Live in harmony with others, and with nature, and you have found the Tao. As you walk through each moment of your life in this way, your awareness of this higher power will grow and grow, until it is no longer difficult to be the eye of the storm. Surf the Tao to a higher consciousness, and watch your life, and the world, transform.

“It is a lot like surfing… you catch a wave by being prepared, timing your move and having your board in position. Like surfing, you have some control, but the Flow has all the power.”