Thursday, 30 July 2009
Monday, 20 July 2009
I've been reading about the history of the New Age movement, and I've just discovered a chap called Jiddhu Krishnamurti. Apparently, the Theosophist Society tried to set him up as some sort of New Messiah, and established The Order of the Star in his honour. In 1929, having been groomed from the age of 13 to be the New Messiah, Krishnamurti dissolved the Order of the Star, broke with the Theosophists, and went his own way. Here is the speech he gave on the day he dissolved the order (he was 33 years old):
We are going to discuss this morning the dissolution of the Order of the Star. Many people will be delighted, and others will be rather sad. It is a question neither for rejoicing nor for sadness, because it is inevitable, as I am going to explain.
You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, "What did that man pick up?" "He picked up a piece of Truth," said the devil. "That is a very bad business for you, then," said his friend. "Oh, not at all," the devil replied, "I am going to let him organize it."
I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices. You must climb towards the Truth, it cannot be "stepped down" or organized for you. Interest in ideas is mainly sustained by organizations, but organizations only awaken interest from without. Interest, which is not born out of love of Truth for its own sake, but aroused by an organization, is of no value. The organization becomes a framework into which its members can conveniently fit. They no longer strive after Truth or the mountain-top, but rather carve for themselves a convenient niche in which they put themselves, or let the organization place them, and consider that the organization will thereby lead them to Truth.
So that is the first reason, from my point of view, why the Order of the Star should be dissolved. In spite of this, you will probably form other Orders, you will continue to belong to other organizations searching for Truth. I do not want to belong to any organization of a spiritual kind, please understand this. I would make use of an organization which would take me to London, for example; this is quite a different kind of organization, merely mechanical, like the post or the telegraph. I would use a motor car or a steamship to travel, these are only physical mechanisms which have nothing whatever to do with spirituality. Again, I maintain that no organization can lead man to spirituality.
If an organization be created for this purpose, it becomes a crutch, a weakness, a bondage, and must cripple the individual, and prevent him from growing, from establishing his uniqueness, which lies in the discovery for himself of that absolute, unconditioned Truth. So that is another reason why I have decided, as I happen to be the Head of the Order, to dissolve it. No one has persuaded me to this decision.
This is no magnificent deed, because I do not want followers, and I mean this. The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth. I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not. I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies. Then you will naturally ask me why I go the world over, continually speaking. I will tell you for what reason I do this: not because I desire a following, not because I desire a special group of special disciples. (How men love to be different from their fellow-men, however ridiculous, absurd and trivial their distinctions may be! I do not want to encourage that absurdity.) I have no disciples, no apostles, either on earth or in the realm of spirituality.
Nor is it the lure of money, nor the desire to live a comfortable life, which attracts me. If I wanted to lead a comfortable life I would not come to a Camp or live in a damp country! I am speaking frankly because I want this settled once and for all. I do not want these childish discussions year after year.
One newspaper reporter, who interviewed me, considered it a magnificent act to dissolve an organization in which there were thousands and thousands of members. To him it was a great act because, he said: "What will you do afterwards, how will you live? You will have no following, people will no longer listen to you." If there are only five people who will listen, who will live, who have their faces turned towards eternity, it will be sufficient. Of what use is it to have thousands who do not understand, who are fully embalmed in prejudice, who do not want the new, but would rather translate the new to suit their own sterile, stagnant selves? If I speak strongly, please do not misunderstand me, it is not through lack of compassion. If you go to a surgeon for an operation, is it not kindness on his part to operate even if he cause you pain? So, in like manner, if I speak straightly, it is not through lack of real affection - on the contrary.
As I have said, I have only one purpose: to make man free, to urge him towards freedom, to help him to break away from all limitations, for that alone will give him eternal happiness, will give him the unconditioned realization of the self.
Because I am free, unconditioned, whole-not the part, not the relative, but the whole Truth that is eternal - I desire those, who seek to understand me, to be free; not to follow me, not to make out of me a cage which will become a religion, a sect. Rather should they be free from all fears-from the fear of religion, from the fear of salvation, from the fear of spirituality, from the fear of love, from the fear of death, from the fear of life itself. As an artist paints a picture because he takes delight in that painting, because it is his self-expression, his glory, his well-being, so I do this and not because I want any thing from anyone.
You are accustomed to authority, or to the atmosphere of authority, which you think will lead you to spirituality. You think and hope that another can, by his extraordinary powers-a miracle-transport you to this realm of eternal freedom which is Happiness. Your whole outlook on life is based on that authority.
You have listened to me for three years now, without any change taking place except in the few. Now analyze what I am saying, be critical, so that you may understand thoroughly, fundamentally. When you look for an authority to lead you to spirituality, you are bound automatically to build an organization around that authority. By the very creation of that organization, which, you think, will help this authority to lead you to spirituality, you are held in a cage.
If I talk frankly, please remember that I do so, not out of harshness, not out of cruelty, not out of the enthusiasm of my purpose, but because I want you to understand what I am saying. That is the reason why you are here, and it would be a waste of time if I did not explain clearly, decisively, my point of view.
For eighteen years you have been preparing for this event, for the Coming of the World-Teacher. For eighteen years you have organized, you have looked for someone who would give a new delight to your hearts and minds, who would transform your whole life, who would give you a new understanding; for someone who would raise you to a new plane of life, who would give you a new encouragement, who would set you free-and now look what is happening! Consider, reason with yourselves, and discover in what way that belief has made you different-not with the superficial difference of the wearing of a badge, which is trivial, absurd. In what manner has such a belief swept away all the unessential things of life? That is the only way to judge: in what way are you freer, greater, more dangerous to every Society which is based on the false and the unessential? In what way have the members of this organization of the Star become different?
As I said, you have been preparing for eighteen years for me. I do not care if you believe that I am the World-Teacher or not. That is of very little importance. Since you belong to the organization of the Order of the Star, you have given your sympathy, your energy, acknowledging that Krishnamurti is the World-Teacher- partially or wholly: wholly for those who are really seeking, only partially for those who are satisfied with their own half-truths.
You have been preparing for eighteen years, and look how many difficulties there are in the way of your understanding, how many complications, how many trivial things. Your prejudices, your fears, your authorities, your churches new and old - all these, I maintain, are a barrier to understanding. I cannot make myself clearer than this. I do not want you to agree with me, I do not want you to follow me, I want you to understand what I am saying.
This understanding is necessary because your belief has not transformed you but only complicated you, and because you are not willing to face things as they are. You want to have your own gods - new gods instead of the old, new religions instead of the old, new forms instead of the old - all equally valueless, all barriers, all limitations, all crutches. Instead of old spiritual distinctions you have new spiritual distinctions, instead of old worships you have new worships. You are all depending for your spirituality on someone else, for your happiness on someone else, for your enlightenment on someone else; and although you have been preparing for me for eighteen years, when I say all these things are unnecessary, when I say that you must put them all away and look within yourselves for the enlightenment, for the glory, for the purification, and for the incorruptibility of the self, not one of you is willing to do it. There may be a few, but very, very few.
So why have an organization?
Why have false, hypocritical people following me, the embodiment of Truth? Please remember that I am not saying something harsh or unkind, but we have reached a situation when you must face things as they are. I said last year that I would not compromise. Very few listened to me then. This year I have made it absolutely clear. I do not know how many thousands throughout the world- members of the Order-have been preparing for me for eighteen years, and yet now they are not willing to listen unconditionally, wholly, to what I say.
So why have an organization?
As I said before, my purpose is to make men unconditionally free, for I maintain that the only spirituality is the incorruptibility of the self which is eternal, is the harmony between reason and love. This is the absolute, unconditioned Truth which is Life itself. I want therefore to set man free, rejoicing as the bird in the clear sky, unburdened, independent, ecstatic in that freedom . And I, for whom you have been preparing for eighteen years, now say that you must be free of all these things, free from your complications, your entanglements. For this you need not have an organization based on spiritual belief. Why have an organization for five or ten people in the world who understand, who are struggling, who have put aside all trivial things? And for the weak people, there can be no organization to help them to find the Truth, because Truth is in everyone; it is not far, it is not near; it is eternally there.
Organizations cannot make you free. No man from outside can make you free; nor can organized worship, nor the immolation of yourselves for a cause, make you free; nor can forming yourselves into an organization, nor throwing yourselves into works, make you free. You use a typewriter to write letters, but you do not put it on an altar and worship it. But that is what you are doing when organizations become your chief concern. "How many members are there in it?" That is the first question I am asked by all newspaper reporters. "How many followers have you? By their number we shall judge whether what you say is true or false." I do not know how many there are. I am not concerned with that. As I said, if there were even one man who had been set free, that were enough.
Again, you have the idea that only certain people hold the key to the Kingdom of Happiness. No one holds it. No one has the authority to hold that key. That key is your own self, and in the development and the purification and in the incorruptibility of that self alone is the Kingdom of Eternity.
So you will see how absurd is the whole structure that you have built, looking for external help, depending on others for your comfort, for your happiness, for your strength. These can only be found within yourselves.
So why have an organization?
You are accustomed to being told how far you have advanced, what is your spiritual status. How childish! Who but yourself can tell you if you are beautiful or ugly within? Who but yourself can tell you if you are incorruptible? You are not serious in these things.
So why have an organization?
But those who really desire to understand, who are looking to find that which is eternal, without beginning and without an end, will walk together with a greater intensity, will be a danger to everything that is unessential, to unrealities, to shadows. And they will concentrate, they will become the flame, because they understand. Such a body we must create, and that is my purpose. Because of that real understanding there will be true friendship. Because of that true friendship- which you do not seem to know-there will be real cooperation on the part of each one. And this not because of authority, not because of salvation, not because of immolation for a cause, but because you really understand, and hence are capable of living in the eternal. This is a greater thing than all pleasure, than all sacrifice.
So these are some of the reasons why, after careful consideration for two years, I have made this decision. It is not from a momentary impulse. I have not been persuaded to it by anyone. I am not persuaded in such things. For two years I have been thinking about this, slowly, carefully, patiently, and I have now decided to disband the Order, as I happen to be its Head. You can form other organizations and expect someone else. With that I am not concerned, nor with creating new cages, new decorations for those cages. My only concern is to set men absolutely, unconditionally free.
There is so much food for thought in just this speech. I must find out more about this man. He died in 1986 in Ojai, California.
I find it so interesting that he was 'discovered at age 13,' then taught for 3 years, then left his followers (so to speak) at age 33. Who does that remind you of? Was that done on purpose, or was it just a bizarre coincidence?
Krishnamurti here calls himself the embodiment of Truth and the World-Teacher. He then went on to spend the rest of his life teaching that each of us is the embodiment of Truth and our own World-Teacher. And who does that remind you of?
Saturday, 18 July 2009
I will come back to Cheri Huber's book another time. In the meantime, I've been reading Healing Mantras by Thomas Ashley-Farrand. This is a very friendly introduction to using Sanskrit mantra to promote healing, insight, creativity and spiritual growth. The book I bought includes a CD on which the author demonstrates how to pronounce and chant the majority of the mantras covered in the book. It's an excellent resource for anyone interested in chanting.
I love chanting and have always loved it, but I wasn't sure how to do it and felt self-conscious about it. Hubby bought me an MP3 player a few years ago and I downloaded some chants and attempted to chant along with them, but that practice fell away. The chants I could find didn't resonate with me. (Except the Heart Sutra! See the bar at the right, and click the link to hear it chanted. I love that one). Mantras are a bit different, in that they are shorter phrases packed with energy and intention, chanted aloud (or silently) in sets of 108 repetitions.
I first discovered mantra through Ravi & Ana's kundalini yoga workouts. Those mantras are sung in Gurmukhi, and are Sikh mantras.
I then stumbled upon Sanskrit mantra when I ordered my first Deva Premal album in order to get to the Gurmukhi track 'Aad guray nameh' on her album, 'Dakshina'. (I discovered that online while doing a search for kundalini mantra). I have since ordered most of her back catalog, and 'Dakshina' remains my favourite. She has recorded traditional Sanskrit (and some other) mantras in a non-traditional way. She has been called 'the Enya of mantra'. Her music is classed under 'New Age' or 'Yoga'. Her music is just so beautiful, I listen to it every morning while getting ready for work. Her songs are Sanskrit mantra, and so it is just the same phrase over and over.
Listen to these 2 fairly traditional (though quite slickly rendered) versions of the Gayatri mantra. I really like both very much, particularly the first one:
Gayatri Mantra (traditional)
Another Gayatri Mantra
Now listen to Deva's version:
Gayatri Mantra (Deva Premal)
(This mantra has an entire chapter devoted to it in the book 'Healing Mantras'.
Om bhur bhuva swaha
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yonah prachodayat
It is a chanted with the intention of enlightenment and is very difficult to translate. Deva's album sleeve renders it:
'Through the coming, going and the balance of life
The essential nature which illumines existence
is the adorable one.
May all perceive through subtle intellect
the brilliance of enlightenment.'
I have also seen it translated:
'Let us meditate on the splendour of God,
who illuminates our understanding.'
You can google it and find many translations. 'Healing Mantras' translates it as:
'O self-effulgent Light that has given birth to all the spheres of consciousness, who is worthy of devotion, illumine our intellect.')
To chant an entire mala (108 repetitions) while singing like that, though, was not Deva's intention and doesn't really work. You have to chant. That's why I was so glad that she came out with her album 'Mantras for Precarious Times', because she just actually chants mantra for 108 reps. Here's the one I've been doing:
Om gum ganapatayei namaha
I don't know if that link will let you play the track, but it's worth a try.
Anyway, I'm enjoying exploring this new world of real chanting, and the book is very helpful. I am now 17 days into my 40 day sadhana using the Ganesh (Ganapata) mantra. I chant one mala, then sit in silence and count breaths (Zen style) for 10 minutes, twice a day. It's lovely.
Monday, 6 July 2009
How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Cheri Huber (Soto Zen teacher, writer and leader of retreats)
I bought this book in the Works yesterday because it was on sale for £1.99 and the title caught my eye. The first paragraph clinched the deal for me:
Earlier in my life, I read many wonderful, informative books about what is possible for us. I was inspired and enlightened by them. But in each case, the inspiration faded, and I was essentially left in the same place I started--with only a little more intellectual understanding, and a stronger belief that I should somehow be 'different' as a result. But I wasn't different in any significant way. I still wasn't able to be the person I felt I was capable of being. I didn't know how to be that person, and none of the books I read helped much.
Well, that sounds just like me. I have read books that have made me want to change the way I live my life and I have made those changes (anything by John Robbins, for example). I have also read books that make me want to change how I am, but I haven't been able to figure out how to get from the me I am to the me I want to be (Thich Nhat Hanh, Eckhart Tolle and so on). Just a few hours before we went to the mall yesterday, I had been trying to explain just this feeling to my ever-patient and supportive husband. I was attempting to work out how I manage to go from zero to meltdown at the seemingly slightest provocation. It really is all to do with my vision of the person I want to be clashing continuously with reality. My disappointment, embarrassment and deeply rooted belief that I've failed to live up to what I should be is what leads me to meltdown, or 'triggers the pain-body,' if you like. When you subconsciously expect yourself to be flawless, you begin to disappoint yourself from the moment you wake up, until the 'tiny' thing that sets you off feels like a really, really big deal. And you're not even aware that you're registering these constant failures to live up to your own expectations, at least I'm not. So you're going through your day, keeping a subconsious tally of screw-ups and boo-boos, then when you can't instantly recognize who gets priority on a roundabout, for example, it might seem like the first insignificant blip of the day, but to my subconscious little scorekeeper, it's mistake number 3,000 and it's one that involves other people--a life-or-death situation--real danger! All the bells go off in my head and the 'pain-body' is unleashed to beat it home to me that I'm a useless nothing, that since everything I do goes wrong I should just give up entirely. 'I try and try and try,' I end up saying (usually sobbing), 'but I just can't seem to figure out how to be good. All I want is to be good. I try so hard and all that happens is people tell me I'm trying too hard. How do you not try hard? Aren't you supposed to try? I don't understand, I just don't know...' and so on and so forth.
It occurred to me yesterday that most of my life has been directed at trying to get to this point of 'goodness' I long for. Looking at my day-to-day life, I realise that most of my spare time is spent trying to 'improve' myself or the world in some way. My diet reflects my concerns for health and the environment. I vote Green. I work out regularly and spend a lot of time and money on it. I use a detailed journal where I make attempts to exercise some control over my days, make my plans, set my goals. My interest in Buddhism, yoga, chakras and even flower essences are all about the attempt to find a way to get me from where I perceive myself (deeply flawed but yearning to be better) to what I want to be: at peace, serene, having the emotional intelligence to deal with life's vicissitudes. During our talk, I realised that all my life I've been searching for some way to turn me from the roiling little wreck I feel I am to the serene and graceful being I want to be. When I was a Christian, it was the same. My favourite song was a prayer asking for 'clean hands and a pure heart.' All my interests have been attempts to find my way to...well, perfection. Even though I know no one is perfect and can't be perfect, the illogical part of me won't seem to allow me to be anything less. And since I cannot possibly live up to my own expectations, my constant disappointment with myself leads me to these meltdowns. There's nothing wrong with the things that I do, it's the meaning I assign to them that is causing the problem. I'm only a quarter of a way through this book, and this realisation has shaken me.
Clinging to our beliefs about what things mean is how we avoid seeing that those meanings aren't true. Most of are terrifed of questioning the validity of those meanings, because that involves going against out internal programming, which we think keeps us safe. But not examining the hidden meanings prevents us from addressing the issues in our lives that cause us to suffer.
For instance, I think that if I take more than my share, I might be seen as 'selfish', and being selfish means I am a bad person. But does it? Taking 'more than my share' doesn't mean anything except that I am a person who on this occasion took more than what was considered (by someone) as 'my share'.
Doing acts identified as kind does not make you a good person; it does not even mean you are kind. Doing kind acts makes you a person who is currently doing what someone has labeled as 'kind acts'. Yelling at the kids does not make you bad parent; it makes you a parent who is yelling at the kids.
When we can separate behaviours from all the 'meanings' that define a person, we can sort them into groups and address each for what it is, like sorting socks...
This is an extremely subtle and enormously important point. What would the issues of your life look like if none of them meant anything?
Wow. I am not a bad driver who will never pass the driving test. I'm just a driver who at a particular roundabout was momentarily confused.
I am not an idle slob. I'm just a person whose weight is a bit higher than it was yesterday.
I am not anti-social and mean. I'm just a person who didn't want to go out when invited.
I am not a capricious wastrel. I am just person who bought a pair of shoes that she then never wore.
I am not a terrible housekeeper and therefore undeserving of a nice home. I'm just a person who hasn't dusted.
According to the author, we start to create meanings for everything as soon as we start dealing with other people--in other words, from birth! This is our social conditioning, and comes about through the same process, although the content will vary from culture to culture or even from family to family.
'Eat your vegetables, people are starving.' What in the world does that mean? What message are we to derive from that? As a small child, I don't know that there are people other than the ones I've seen. I don't know that there are other countries. What is a country? I don't know what starving means. I don't know what eating my vegetables has to do anything--with growth, with health, with money. I've never not had food. I don't know what gratitude is. All I understand is that the idea of not eating what's on your plate makes you a bad person in the eyes of the people around you. Here is the point to keep in mind: children cannot allow their survival to rest with an unknown. If a message is not clear, the child learns to make up meaning from what the message sounds like or feels like or seems like.
So we grow up creating a duality: who you must be and who you must never be. You must always be strong, good, right, kind, selfless, smart, successful. You must never be weak, bad, unkind, selfish, stupid or a failure. The list could go on.
People want to believe that being, feeling, thinking,and doing what they are supposed to will get them everything they want. No problems, no hassles, no disappointments--do the right thing and get the right result. The flaw with this kind of thinking is simply that life is not that way.
The author's answer to this problem is almost a koan:
Instead of focusing on what should be happening, focus on what is happening, and then ask How?
You notice that I didn't ask why, I asked how. Because it doesn't matter why. Why just takes us into our conditioned thinking patterns and away from the situation at hand. In the course of answering how, one will often answer the question why. How takes us to interesting places. How is the movement. How reveals. How is process.
When we stop making judgements about ourselves, we can see the how.
Saturday, 4 July 2009
Since I wrote that last entry, I've embarked on a 40-day sadhana in the run-up to my driving test.
I've ditched my July exercise rotation to focus on daily yoga practice and chanting of a mantra for removal of obstacles:
Om gum ganapatayei namaha
This mantra is to Ganesha (I've added a very light-hearted graphic of 'baby' Ganesha--it was too cute to resist, and I think sometimes the more traditional depictions can be very offputting at first glance--) Ganesha (also called Ganapati) is the god of success and the remover of obstacles. He is one of the five prime Hindu deities. He has a lot of arms because he's a busy boy and has a lot of work to do! He holds a goad (to prod mankind forward toward our goals), a lotus (enlightenment), a noose (for capturing and removing obstacles) and a bowl of fruit (for abundance). His head represents our spirit (the Atman), the trunk is the Om, his pot-bellied body represents the earthly life. And he is accompanied by a mouse, the lowliest of creatures, to represent humility.
I used to be quite repelled by the image of Ganesh, but the more I've learned about him, the more I like him. I'm going to get a figure of him to go on my altar with Buddha, Jesus, and Kwan Yin (aka Avalokiteshvara).
The chant, to me, is not a prayer to an actual deity, but a hello to the 'remover of obstacles' within myself. To me, all the dieties represent aspects of myself. I don't have to seek him or invite him or welcome him, he's an aspect of myself that is already here. I just have to say hello to him.
Om -- the universal
Gum -- the seed sound of Ganesha
Ganapatayei -- the name of Ganesha (Ganapati) -- the 'yei' is kind of a little add on to give it some oomph; it sort of means exalted (many Buddhist chants refer to Buddha as Buddhaya, for example)
Namaha -- 'I bow' or 'I greet' or 'I acknowledge'
The main reason I chose this mantra is because it's on Deva Premal's new album, 'Mantras for Precarious Times'. To do one japa mala (108 repetitions) of this mantra takes a little over 8 minutes. Here's what Deva says about this mantra:
Salutations to the remover of obstacles.
This sound formula assists us in the removal of obstacles. In order for this to happen there is no need to know the exact nature of the hindrances. Just the awareness and recognition that there are obstacles and then chanting this mantra with the intention for resolve is enough. This mantra unifies us within. When there is oneness, there are no obstacles.
This mantra is also used for the beginning of any endeavor. Whenever we start anything anew we can bless the project with the energy of Ganesh through this mantra.
I've been using my carnelian mala, then following the chanting with 10 minutes' silent meditation. This usually comes directly after a yoga practice, but I've also done it first thing in the morning as well, so I'm actually chanting twice a day.
I've chanted every day for the last 3 days, and I've driven a car each day this week, except today. (Saturday is not a good day for a learner to be out in Nuneaton!) But I'm hitting the road again tomorrow morning.
Here are a couple more traditional Ganesha images:
There isn't a sample of Deva's recording of this mantra, but I did find a few good ones on YouTube. This one doesn't sound much like Deva's but you'll get the idea:
Om gum ganapatayei namaha