Sunday, March 17, 2013

Look For the Union Label

The nature of the human experience is a pretty insular one. It's easy for us to have an encompassing, even obsessive awareness about everything that's immediately around us, touching us, pressuring us, doggedly jumping up on our radar screens. Because of this unconscious self-centeredness that comes to us so naturally, it's easy to imagine ourselves as being separate from everybody else. Not even attached to the natural world which we're so obviously a part of, and is clearly part of us, especially considering the process of birth, growth, loss of energy, death (and rebirth) that we experience along with every other form of life here on Earth.

 To a human, life on Earth can be experienced as a set of external properties, relentlessly imposing themselves on our private 10'x10' world, when all of our most important perceptions and processing happen inside. It's how we respond internally to the external world-at-large that defines our life experience, that gives us the insistent sense of what's good or bad, right or wrong, something we desire, or something we fear. A function of the way we think and feel.

"Just as a fire is hidden by smoke...knowledge is hidden by selfish desire...this unquenchable fire for self-satisfaction...Selfish desire is found in the senses, mind, and intellect...burying the understanding in delusion."
                                        The Bhagavad Gita, 3:39-40 

This is when we begin to pay a heavy price for what otherwise could be the free and joyful experience of Life. These are "the wages of sin," the sin in this case being human Pride – the chief ingredient of that insularity I started with. When we engage in Life in an automatically self-centered fashion, Life becomes something that happens to us, not something that happens for us. 

That's because we're often reacting to external life experiences with our egoic intellect, the source of our "sins" of pride, greed, envy, etc., and all the rest of that "fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" that creates a sense of separation, leading to the fearful self-centeredness that's such a natural default of the human condition. Believe me, I know all about it, and it very frequently makes me very uncomfortable too.

So what's a good way out of that unconscious corner we so willingly paint ourselves into, without tracking more wet and selfish intentions around?  Where's the key to the gate that slammed shut behind us when we were "cast out of The Garden?"  Well, here's a hint:  You're not gonna find it by looking outside...

"The Kingdom of Heaven is not real estate."  and  "Our job is to recognize The Eternal in one another."
Joseph Campbell

Buddhists talk about looking on everybody you encounter as "a Buddha in the making," and of using "Big Mind" to recognize the "Buddha Nature" in all things. Indigenous people perceive the world as one living thing, energized and enlivened by a Great Spirit. If we "modern thinkers" use our all-important intellects –scientific reason in this case– it's clear that our sharing DNA and elemental constituents almost entirely with everything else on Earth is evidence that all of life on this planet truly is one unified thing.  Closer to home, in terms of our own species, that means that human experience is a completely shared state of being. We just need to get over ourselves to see it.

The next time you're in a cashier's line that's moving way too slowly, realize this – if you could hear the thoughts of everyone else in line, it would sound like a chorus of people chanting in unison: "Why are they talking so long? Doesn't that cashier know what they're doing? Why does this person get such special treatment? Can't they see how long the line is? Unless this gets moving, I'm going to be late!"

That externally inspired voice is the standard-issue, default self-centeredness that drowns out the realization of our common good.  Go inside yourself for a moment, and with everyone you see, just think to yourself: All of these people are me – just trying to get it right.  In one simple word, it's empathy. With another, it's empathy and compassion. And in two more, it's open-heartedness. 

Stop judging other people based on whether your external processes prompt you to think that they are good or bad, right or wrong. Don't look on the outside for what separates us from one another, instead look inside, and you'll quickly discover what unites us. You'll find a few very beneficial extras too – acceptance, generosity, and the even inspiration to live life in a new way, coming from some unusual sources.

"Whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me, and I will become them, and what was hidden from them will be revealed."
The Gospel of Thomas, 108

Then you may want to use that inner discovery to extend your greater shared self outward, and immediately see our common definition for the real wrongs we're all facing, namely –  the unconscious destruction of Life on Earth. Don't just look for that union label in the people you're closest to, but in everyone and every "thing." All of Life on Earth is sacred. All of Life on Earth is Divine. You wouldn't kill someone because they may taste good. You wouldn't want to destroy a natural wonder to build an empty mansion. You wouldn't want to burn the Earth's beauty for power when untold energy is bathing us in every instant.

It may be by our outer natures that we experience the challenges of our life and death, but it's by our inner natures  that we can recognize that Buddha Nature, the Great Spirit – that we can recognize The Eternal in everyone and everything. Then, if each of us can get out of our own (and each other's) way, and reveal our view of the freedom and magically joyful experience that Life is meant to be, we will know in our hearts where the lines of right and wrong are truly drawn.

"They live in wisdom who see themselves in all and all in them, who have renounced every selfish desire and sense craving tormenting the heart."
The Bhagavad Gita, 2:55 

The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is now available everywhere, but ask for it it at your local bookstore.

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