Saturday, January 18, 2020

Meher Baba's Tiffin Lectures (Part 1.)

A few months ago my wife shared with me the details of a problem a friend of ours was having. My immediate response was that she should keep a card with Meher Baba’s picture with her at all times and then talk to Baba whenever she was experiencing her problem. Frankly, I was a bit surprised by my response, because our friend was not a “Baba lover,” although she had heard about Baba from my wife and me. I would say that my wife’s response to my suggestion was somewhat ambivalent. She said that she would take the card and give it to her our friend if she felt it was the right time.

I agreed, but then realized that I was actually out of Baba cards to give her and called Sheriar Bookstore the next day for a fresh supply. I also, decided to order the book, Meher Baba’s Tiffin Lectures—a book I was only mildly interested in and might not have ordered at all if it hadn’t been for the cards.

In a few days the package arrived from Sheriar Press and my wife and I picked out “the right” Baba card for our friend and I began reading the Tiffin Lectures. The timing could not have been more perfect. Each and every talk seemed to speak directly to me and to all that I was personally going through at the time—it was, indeed, the perfect book at the perfect time.

The Tiffin Lectures consists of a series of talks given by Meher Baba in 1926 – 1927 to a small group of close followers. The feeling is casual and spontaneous, similar to the six volume collected talks of Upasani Maharaj and quite different from the polished form of God Speaks of later years. Though casual in feel, the talks themselves are very deep and most profound.

Those who have read my blogs (Embedded with the Kali Yuga) over the years know that though they are totally dedicated to Meher Baba and constantly reference Meher Baba’s statements and stories, I very seldom write a whole blog on a specific Baba book, my reason being that I believe that Meher Baba’s books speak for themselves and really need no interpretation from me. That said, I would like to talk about the Tiffin Lectures, not so much to explain Meher Baba’s words as to, so to speak, share the news of this incredible treasure.

One of the many statements that struck me was when Baba said that behind the gross (body/world) is the subtle; behind the subtle is the mind; behind the mind is the intellect; behind the intellect is the ego; and behind the ego is the TRUTH. The consciousness of the average human is gross; yogis have consciousness of the subtle; even more advanced souls have consciousness of the mind, and then the intellect, and then, as is the case with those who have reached the final plane of illusion—the plane from which they can see directly and have knowledge of TRUTH (God/Self)—consciousness of the ego. But the Goal is consciousness of the TRUTH—consciousness as in direct experience (not belief, or assumption, or conviction, or even sight,) of themselves as the TRUTH (God/Self).

For me, this statement is a reminder that my consciousness, the consciousness that I experience—inhabit day to day, moment to moment—is the furthest consciousness from the TRUTH. It is a reminder that I should not take things too seriously, not ignore or be inattentive, not to be arrogant about, or aloof from, my life as I experience it, but to always try to keep somewhere in mind, that all this, this world, this life, is as Baba calls it, bhas (an appearance, a notion, an impression, a similarity…illusion which is experienced as real even though it is not so). –Tiffin Lectures, glossary, page 599.

(To be continued.)

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Relationship -- the game that the Infinite plays with Itself

Relationship is a game that the Infinite plays with Itself.  If you want to learn about this game, read Meher Baba’s book God Speaks.

In the dedication Meher Baba states; “To the Universe—the illusion that sustains Reality.”

An amazing statement! Even some of Meher Baba’s closest followers thought that He had got that wrong! Illusion sustains Reality, how can that be? But, as the Perfect Master Hafez once said;

About what you hear from the Master, never say it is wrong, because, my dear, the fault lies in your own incapacity to understand Him.” – Hafez

Perhaps the first most obvious question is; if the Infinite is Infinite, then nothing exists that is not the Infinite; so how is it possible for the Infinite to have a relationship with itself?

And secondly, why would the Infinite even need, or want, to have a relationship with Itself?

Of course the mind, especially the Western mind, is addicted to knowing—to trying to know—  and so Meher Baba was generally very patient with our questions and our doubts. But in the conclusion of God Speaks, Meher Baba reminds us;

Nevertheless, all that is said here and explained about God to appease the intellectual convulsions of the mind of man, still lacks many more words and further explanations because the TRUTH is that Reality must be realized and the divinity of God must be attained and lived.

In human terms we can say that relationship is something—a something—that can exist between two entities. It is also something—a something—that can exist among more than two entities.

We speak about a marriage between two people—two distinct individuals, but one marriage—one relationship. By its very nature, a relationship is something—a something—that makes one thing out of two or more entities.

There are all kinds of relationships; between the bird and the tree, the tree and the earth, the earth and the sky;  relationships between a man and a woman, the rich and the poor, the good and the bad, the sane and the insane, the heathy and the sick….

Relationships exist among all the people of a nation and among all nations in the world. Planets are in relationships with other planets and in relationship to the sun, the sun with other suns, galaxies with other galaxies… on and on throughout all of creation. It might be said that the very nature of creation itself is relationship and that the ultimate question is about the relationship that exists between this creation and its Creator.

Meher Baba reveals the essence of any and all relationships on page one of  God Speaks:

All souls were, are and will be in the Over-Soul.
Souls are all One.
All souls are infinite and eternal. They are formless.
All souls are One; there is no difference in souls or in their being and existence as souls.
            There is a difference in the consciousness of souls;
there is a difference in the planes of consciousness of souls;
there is a difference in the experience of souls and thus there is a difference in the state of souls.”

What is a soul?

A soul is a drop of the Ocean of the Over-Soul. The drop is of the Ocean; the drop is the Ocean; the drop is one with the Ocean.

What is the Ocean of the Over-Soul?

The Ocean is all of the drops of the Ocean. In Reality no distinction exists; but in illusion distinction exists as consciousness, planes of consciousness, and experience.

But how can there even be a drop of an Ocean which is Infinite? Does not the state of a drop imply some part of the Ocean as being, as becoming, separated from the Ocean?

And if the Ocean is Infinite, than nothing can be other, or outside, of the Infinite; therefore, how can a drop even exist?

Meher Baba explains that the existence of the drop is an illusion—a delusion—an imagination of the Ocean Itself.

Then, what gives the drop its apparent reality as a drop?

Meher Baba tells us that three bubbles apparently surround the drop—the soul. There is a bubble of mind He calls the mental body, a bubble of energy that He calls the subtle body, and a bubble of form He calls the gross body. It is these three bodies, actually the consciousness of these three bodies, which creates the illusion of existence of the drop and its separateness from the ocean.

So might we ask what’s the point of it all the apparent-lies, the illusions, the delusions, the bubbles, etc.?

Again, Meher Baba tell us that the point—the purpose—of this game of drops and bubbles is for the drop to gain consciousness of itself as the Ocean.

So that original one, in order to consciously experience itself—its oneness—makes itself appear to itself as two, so that these two can, in the end, unite and experience consciously and eternally its  original oneness that it always was, is, and will be. 

But is there another word, perhaps a better word, than relationship to describe this game? Do we dare say the word is love?

Rumi once said; “The tale of love must be heard from love itself, for like the mirror, it is both mute and expressive.”

And on another occasion he was heard to say; “And when the subject turned to love, the quill broke and paper tore!” – Ibid

But can more be said? Is there anything more to say? And to whom can we turn to for the truth? No doubt, that is for each to decide for oneself, but as for me, I turn to the words of Meher Baba:

The development of love is conditioned and sustained by the tension of duality. God has to suffer apparent differentiation into a multiplicity of souls in order to carry on the game of love. They are His own forms, and in relation to them He at once assumes the roles of the divine Lover and the divine Beloved. As the Beloved, He is the real and the ultimate object of their appreciation. As the divine Lover, He is their real and ultimate savior, drawing them back to Himself.” – Discourses, 7th edition, pp. 115-116

The attraction and repulsion of one magnet to another; the orbits of the planets circling the sun; and what about the hunter and the prey; are these not all the expression of love at different levels?

Then, there is human love and hate, and there is also Divine love—the love of the Creator for the creation? Does not relationship exist at the core of all and everything in creation and therefore, does not love exist as the core—the reality—of all of creation, no matter how much to the contrary it may appears to the limited mind?

There is the story of a king who asked his minister why God periodically takes birth in His creation in human form. The minister put off the question, saying it was far too weighty a question for such a beautiful day and that instead the king should have a nice picnic aboard the royal barge.

And so the barge set sail on the river with the king, his young son, the minister, and a whole royal retinue of soldiers, guards, and servants.

It was indeed a beautiful day, for a while, but soon the weather changed; the sky turned dark and rainy, and winds whipped the waters into menacing waves. And then, at the height of the storm, the minister picked up the king’s young son and through him into the raging waters! Without the slightest hesitation, the king leapt into the water and saved his son.

As soon as they were safely aboard, the weather again abruptly changed, and the sky was clear and sunny, the winds were gone, and the waters were calm.

Of course, the king was furious and demanded an explanation from his minister who immediately replied; 

“You yourself jumped into the water to save your son, even though you had a whole retinue of soldiers and guards who were ready, willing, and able to jump into the water to save him. But you saved him yourself because of love, and that is the answer to the question you asked me this morning—this is why God comes again and again into His creation—the answer is always the same, the answer is love!”

    (c) copyright Michael Kovitz 12/13/2019

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

How Far Can A Dog Run Into The Woods?

When Meher Baba was asked by one of His followers how he should live in the world, Baba replied; “Don’t eat too much and don’t eat too little… don’t dress like a dandy and don’t dress like a slob...”

The follower, exhibiting some wisdom, asked nothing more. Baba hadn’t laid down a dress code or a specific code for conduct; instead, He left it up to the follower to determine for himself what was appropriate based on Baba’s indications.

How far can a dog run into the woods? Halfway, and then he is running out of the woods. But all dogs are different and not all dogs run in the same woods, and, in any case, who determines what is halfway? Every individual has his own unique karma—what is appropriate for the beggar is not appropriate for the king…

One’s own dharma lived imperfectly is better than living another’s dharma perfectly.” Mahabharata

To a group of followers, the Perfect Master Upasani Maharaj said:

All objects, when utilized for enjoyment, i.e. more than what is absolutely necessary, act like poison and eventually destroy the body; hence they should be used very sparingly; that way they actually help us. One should feed and protect the body somehow or other with something or other; such a practice will easily make you live without any food in your ensuing birth.” The Talks of Sadguru Upasani-Baba Maharaja, Volume III, page 87

Upasani Maharaj was a God-Realized Perfect Master and His words could be understood and interpreted on many levels—on all levels. Was He being literal when He said “…live without food..?” And when he said, “…actually help us,” can we not ask the question; “help us what?”

Many years ago I had the opportunity of meeting a very advanced Nada Brahma yogi. Ostensibly the meeting was arranged for me to ask him questions about sound and the sacred Vedic mantras and chants, but the first thing he said to me when I entered the room was, “Money is like food—let it in and let it out. If it gets stuck, you get sick.”

At the time I was a relatively poor hippy making money by performing with my guitar and teaching a handful of students. I was making no more than five or six thousand dollars a year, so I wondered why he was saying this to me. But when an advanced soul says something to me, I don’t forget it. And so, over the following months and years I observed myself, and indeed, I began to notice a problem. Being frugal with the little money I had was not the problem, but the fear of being without it was. I was afraid and I was holding it in out of fear. I was not letting it in and letting it out—it was like I was holding my breath.

Over time I came to see that the problem was much bigger than money—money was just a symptom, and money was just a metaphor for life itself. I was afraid of life, I was afraid to let it in and let it out. But life cannot be stopped, and you either go with it or it tears you apart and carries the parts away.

Going deeper into the question, I rationalized that life was not to be trusted—that life was not my friend. Both the teachings of the Masters and everything in my own experience showed me that this was true, and so I wondered that if I can’t trust it, then how could I not fear it?

But that was only part of the story—life was not my friend, but neither was life my enemy, though it was very contrary. The more one asks from life, the less it gives; the less one asks from life, the more life gives, but this is not the whole story either, because life has nothing to give; life is like the postman who delivers the check—life is not the One who sends the check.

If we remain and behave in a pure and right way, then even God begins to serve us; but if we behave in the opposite way, nobody even cares to look at us.” – Ibid, page 81

Whatever I have said boils down to one thing, and that is that one has to get beyond—one has to deny oneself the enjoyment emanating from all the objects in and of the world.” The Talks of Sadguru Upasani-Baba Maharaja, Volume III, pages 86-87

Of course the immediate response of the finite mind to this assertion is quite predictable, but if one thinks a little more deeply about it, well, then maybe there is another response…

Gurdjieff used to remind his students that with regard to consciousness, the average person lives, as it were, in the dark dirty basement of a beautiful house with many stories and many rooms with experiences of bliss far beyond anything even imaginable in the basement. Why waste so much time and trouble attempting to eke-out those inferior experiences of pleasure in the basement? I guess that one has to decide for oneself…

Once you know the secret of opposite aspects presented by any object (of enjoyment), you automatically remain alert about their influence.”—Ibid

In other words, one has to always remember that the price of pain might not be worth the pleasure obtained. Gurdjieff used to remind his students; “Every stick has two ends.”  If you grab the pleasure end, well, the pain end comes with it.

To grab or not to grab is the question, but is it really? I mean, do we really have a choice? I know that this sounds like the old question of free-will or predestination. Meher Baba was once asked about it. He asked the questioner to pick up his right leg. The questioner easily lifted his leg off the ground. Meher Baba then asked him to lift the other leg off the ground as well. Of course the questioner was unable to lift both legs into the air.

I have often mentioned how practical the Masters are. Look again at Upasani’s statement;

Once you know the secret of opposite aspects presented by any object (of enjoyment), you automatically remain alert about their influence.”

Notice that He is not saying that once one knows the secret they will automatically be able to refrain from taking the experience of objects of enjoyment. Perhaps for a few, this would be the case, but for the rest, well, maybe, the words of the Masters act as a kind of speed bump to the automatic mechanical process of putting desires into action.

In His talk, Upasani offers a second suggestion:

There is another thing that leads to Infinite Bliss and that is the principle of ‘Ahimsa Paramo Dharma,’ meaning, not to kill—not to trouble—not to disturb another—is the highest religion.” —Ibid, page 87

He then goes on to explain that;

Whatever is separate or different from one’s body is another. No ‘another’ should even be troubled in any way. —Ibid

Anticipating a question, He then goes on to say;

Somebody may ask; ‘Should we not eat then?’  Of course you should—but only as much as is necessary to maintain the body; that is all, and not more. The things consumed in this way live along with the body… but whatever is eaten beyond the bare necessity to maintain the body does not protect the body, on the contrary, it leads to its deterioration and destruction.”—Ibid

Upasani then adds; “It is wrong to buy a costly Kashmiri shawl where some coarse cloth can give protection from the cold.” —Ibid

Remember Meher Baba’s response to the questioner;

Don’t eat too much and don’t eat too little,” with regard to dress He said; “Don’t dress like a dandy and don’t dress like a slob.”

The words of a Perfect One must be treated with great care—they are probably misquoted more often than they are quoted! Notice that Upasani Maharaj did not say that it was wrong buy a costly Kashmiri shawl; what He said was, “It is wrong to buy a costly Kashmiri shawl where some coarse cloth can give protection from the cold.”

But what if one needed a shawl for a wedding or some special occasion? In that case, some coarse cloth would not do. Perhaps it could be said; it is wrong to buy some coarse cloth when a costly Kashmiri shawl would be more appropriate.

Perfect Masters and the Avatar are always very practical…

It is generally understood that the terms Jiva and Shiva mean, respectively, the state of identification with creation—imagination—Nothing, and the state of realizing the Self—God—Reality—Everything. On another occasion, Upasani Maharaj defined the term Jiv-Atma as “that pure celestial soul (atma) identified with the projections of the mind (Jiv).”

In the present talk He then explains the relationship that exists among Jiva, Shiva, and the objects of enjoyment:

There is nothing like the Jiva uniting with the Shiva; they are not two; they are one and the same; but when the atma, the Shiva, gets entangled in the objects of enjoyment, it loses its Shiva state and attains the Jiva state.”

In fact, He states the objects of enjoyment belong to the Shiva state and that to enjoy these objects Shiva takes to the Jiva state. But there is a difference between enjoying these objects and becoming entangled in these objects. It makes me recall the words of Meher Baba when He said; “The Master throws you into the ocean and tells you not to get wet!

But how is this possible? How is it that we can be in the ocean without getting wet? This is what Upasani Maharaj is telling us.

It is the entanglement through desires towards the objects that made Shiva become Jiva. Yet, the Shiva is always there—it is Eternal. It is in the nature of things that the Shiva should become Jiva to enjoy all these objects, but as the Jiva begins to get entangled in them, it begins to lose its Shiva state. But if we manage not to get entangled in these objects—if we manage to enjoy them without destroying them, then we attain eternity—the Shiva state. In other words, we have done away with—killed—our Jiva state.”

But did you catch it—the secret He revealed?—“to enjoy them without destroying them!”

Years ago I was staying in the Far Cabin at the Meher Spiritual Center. At the time there was a small desk in front of one of the cabin’s many windows. It was a hot summer’s night, all the windows were open in the cabin, and I was sitting at the desk reading Rumi’s Masnavi when my attention was attracted by a commotion occurring on the window screen in front of me.

A large spider was attacking an even larger moth that had gotten caught in its web. The scene was unfolding right before my eyes. The spider would sting the moth and with each sting the moth would shudder and recoil in distress. After what seemed like an eternity, the moth stopped struggling and the spider stopped stinging. Apparently exhausted from the struggle, the spider surrounded the moth in an eight-legged embrace and became very still.

The next night I returned to the desk at the window. The spider and the moth were still there—the moth did not look very good. After a few days, the spider was nowhere to be seen and the discarded corpse of the moth lay on the window’s sill below. An old Persian saying says, “When it’s time has come, the prey finds the hunter.”

What had I witnessed? Was it an act of love—an act of love that ended in the destruction of the beloved—or the lover? But most important for me was the question; was this the kind of love I wanted to experience—was this the way I wanted to love?

“…to enjoy them without destroying them!” This would indeed be a different kind of love—a much higher form of love—maybe something that could be called real human love?

The messages of the Avatar and the Perfect Masters are always remarkably similar. Forms change in response to the time and place, but as Gurdjieff reminds us, “There is a difference between the wine and the wine glass—do not mistake the one for the other!”

Meher Baba is considered to be the spiritual authority of our time;

“‘Seek and you shall find’ has become such a commonplace slogan that spiritual aspirants have begun to wonder what it means. To them I say: ‘Do not seek and you will find.’
“Do not seek material pleasure and you will find the spiritual treasure. This means, seek only God by not seeking material pleasure and you will find God.

“You can only seek God through self-denial. The spiritual treasure cannot be obtained by merely stretching out your hand for it. Only in the completeness of self-denial can the spiritual treasure become self-evident.

“There are three ways of obtaining the spiritual treasure:

“First, to earn it yourself by self-denial; second, to receive it as a spontaneous gift from God given to His lover whose self has become effaced in the intensity of his longing for his Beloved; and third, to inherit it directly from the Perfect Master who bequeaths it to those who remain completely resigned to his will.

“Therefore if you wish to find the treasure, stop seeking material pleasure. Seek the kingdom of Heaven by not seeking the kingdom of Earth, and you will find it.” Lord Meher, American ed., Bhau Kalchuri, Vol. 17, p. 5786.

And so it becomes clear that the Avatar and the Perfect Masters are always reminding us that creation consciousness is a way and not an end it itself.

He returns to the door from which he first came out, although in his journey he went from door to door.” – Maulana Shabistari

The first door is from God; the last door is to God; consciousness is what is gained along the way—the journey.

We began with the question; “How far can a dog run into the woods?” Really, the answer is, depends on the dog.

There was a very wealthy worldly follower of Meher Baba. He was in the oil business and had a home on the French Riviera. He was invited to spend some time with Meher Baba in India. One day he was deep in thought about something and Baba asked him what he was thinking about. He told Baba how much he admired the simple lives of many of Meher Baba’s followers—that he felt he should make his own life simple like theirs.

Meher Baba looked disappointed. He told the follower; “If you only knew how much I have worked to give you the life you have. This is the life I want you to lead…”

The king disdains the beggar and the beggar envies the king. In their next lives, the beggar is born a king and the king a beggar. The pendulum swings back and forth for lifetimes on end until the king eventually realizes that he has been both a king and beggar and takes no more pride in former or disdain for the latter. The beggar, for his part, realizes that he has been both a beggar and a king and takes no regret for the former or envy of for the latter.

The Avatar and the Perfect Masters are always reminding us that both the beggar and the king live in the basement of gross consciousness. Why place so much importance on finding a better place in the basement?  Why not try to manage somehow and use the effort saved to cultivate a longing for that which lies beyond the basement? And when the opportunity arises, when the Beloved appears—the Beloved who is beyond the basement and even all the rooms above the basement—seize the moment, seize the hem of His garment, and try, at least, to not resist His efforts to free you!

"Come, come, come,
Whoever you are -
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving...
It does not matter, ours is not a caravan of despair.
Though you may have broken your vow 1000 times; come, come yet again, come!"
- Shams/Rumi

                                                                                                                      © copyright Michael Kovitz 09/24/2019


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