Sunday, January 22, 2012

Things Are Not Always What They Seem To Be

I have looked up the word “faith” in various dictionaries and the definitions are quite consistent; “faith” is a confidence or trust in a person, entity, or idea that does not rest on material evidence or logical proof. A common and consistent application of the word is to the existence of and belief in God. The average person does not see God, does not experience God directly, but is confident and trusts that God exists. Some say they see the hand of God working, but this seeing is like inferring the existence of the wind by observing the movement of the leaves on the tree.

But there is another side to “faith” that is not generally recognized or understood. This other side cannot be found in the definitions of dictionaries and thesauruses and yet, without this other side, the first side of faith cannot stand; it this other side of faith that I wish to address in this blog.

“I am called Shri Nazar,” she said. I guess my surprise was quite obvious all over my face.

“Yes, it is unusual for a woman to be addressed as Shri,” she said. “It was my spiritual master who gave me this name.” She smiled, adding, “In the spiritual world, things are not always what they first appear.” – Lovers of Silence; Lovers of Sound – Michael Kovitz

“In the spiritual world, things are not always what they first appear.”

Kabir, the great 15th Century poet and Perfect Master said:

“Lamps burn in every house, O blind ones!, and you cannot see them.

“One day your eyes shall suddenly be opened, and you shall see:
And the fetters of death will fall from you.

“There is nothing to say or to hear,
There is nothing to do:
It is he who is living, yet dead, who shall never die again.

“Because he lives in solitude, therefore the yogi says that His home is far away.
(But), your Lord is near: yet you are climbing the palm-tree to seek Him.

“The Brahman priest goes from house to house and initiates people into faith:
Alas! The true fountain of life is beside you,
Yet you have set up a stone to worship.

“Kabir says: I may never express how sweet my Lord is. Yoga and the telling of beads, virtue and vice—these are naught to Him.”

We always think there is something to say—something to do—something to learn—something to know. But, as Kabir says, when what appears to be so real is seen for what it is, then one becomes living, yet dead, and is never born again...

[One of my readers, Keysunset, left the following comment on Things Are Not Always What They Seem To Be.]

“Just need a little clarification. The quote from Kabir says, ‘There is nothing to say or to hear,
‘There is nothing to do:
‘It is he who is living, yet dead, who shall never die again.’”

“But then you say, ‘But, as Kabir says, when what appears to be so real is seen for what it is, then one becomes living, yet dead, and is never born again.’”

“Is it ‘never die again’ or ‘never born again’? For me, at least, it changes the thought.”

So, to answer her question, it was not my intention to change Kabir’s statement in my paraphrase. It should read; "But, as Kabir says, when what appears to be so real is seen for what it is, then one becomes living, yet dead, and never dies again."

Thank you Keysunset for catching my mistake.

But that said, her comment did make me wonder—I mean the part about it changing the meaning for her. I thought it had something to do with the fact that Keysunset is a Christian, and the concept of ‘born again’ holds tremendous significance to her and her faith. So I asked her about it, and in fact, my assumption was correct, that in her faith, the end, as in the goal, is to be born again into Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven...

I remember the story of Lazarus in the New Testament. Lazarus was dead until Christ walked by and told him, “Lazarus arise!” And Lazarus arose and was ‘born again’ in Him. I recall that Andres Segovia, the great classical guitarist, once referred to that story saying, “from that moment, Lazarus belonged more to Christ then he did to his own mother and father.”

Still, I wonder, what the distinction is between ‘born no more’ and ‘die no more’. The soul is eternal and in eternity there is no birth—no beginning—and if there is no beginning there can be no death—no end. Birth and death only have meaning in life—in illusion.

Additionally, I think the distinction Keysunset makes brings up the difference in belief held by modern Christians and Muslims—that there is only one birth and one death—and the Vedic belief in reincarnation (many births and many deaths).

I love how Meher Baba deals with this distinction in God Speaks:
“…it is made clear that it is God who plays the different roles, real and imaginary. The beginning is God and the end is God; the intermediary stages cannot but be God.

“Maulana Shabistari, in Gulshan-e-Raz says:

‘He returns to the door from which he first came out, although in his journey he went from door to door.’”

G.I Gurdjieff was a spiritual teacher who had a profound impact upon many seekers in the western world. Among many other things, he wrote three series of books, the first of which was under the collective title, An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man, or, All and Everything – Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.

The stated objective of his first series was, “To destroy mercilessly, without any compromises whatsoever, in the mentation and feeling of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world.” –Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.

Chapter XVII is titled The Arch Absurd (According to the Assertion of Beelzebub, Our Sun Neither Lights nor Heats). On page 135 is written, “…that not only does nothing like ‘light,’ ‘darkness,’ ‘heat,’ and so on, come to their planet from their Sun itself, but their supposed ‘source of heat and light’ is itself almost always freezing cold like the ‘hairless-dog’ of our highly esteemed Mulla Nassr Eddin.”

Gurdjieff then goes on to explain, in great detail, that this ‘light’ and ‘heat’ is the result of certain cosmic processes that take place within the individual himself—in other words, that we are the very source of this ‘light’ and ‘heat’ we think is emanating from the Sun.

I found it very interesting, that some years after reading this explanation by Gurdjieff, I read something very similar in the Talks of Upasani Maharaj. Upasani too, asserted that our Sun neither gives ‘heat,’ nor ‘light,’ and went on to explain that the Sun was a phenomenon of great density—something similar to what our science understands as a black hole—and that this density reflects, like a mirror, the ‘light’ of the soul, which is emanating from our very self.

The poet Rumi tells the story of the musk-deer who runs around searching everywhere for the source of the exquisite scent emanating from itself. Yes, in this gross-conscious world, things are not always what they seem to be.

“‘When I speak about the center of the universe, I am not speaking about a physical center because that center does not exist at all. It does not exist because, in reality, the universe does not exist.’

‘Does not exist?’ I said incredulously.

‘Haven’t you ever heard the little song?

‘Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.

“‘There is actually more truth in this little song than is often imagined.’ Mr. Kubadi then went on to explain that the universe is something we, as conscious beings, create by projection—like a movie on a screen. As we watch it, we become more and more engrossed in what we see and forget it is only a movie.

‘In the case of the universe,’ he said, ‘the average person never questions its reality and is never aware they are, in fact, the creator and projector of the movie itself.

‘Of course, this is only an analogy and unlike a traditional movie projector, consciousness projects the universe omni-directionally as concentric spheres from its own center.

‘Consciousness then sees this projection but is not aware of itself as its source and this creates a contradiction of perception it then unconsciously tries to correct. This correction take the form of an attempt to remove itself from the center of its experience by creating for itself a perspective of the projected rather than the projector, or if you will, as the dream rather than the dreamer.

‘Consciousness does this by convincing itself that the curve of the concentric sphere is a straight line or, if you will, a horizon. The end result is consciousness, relieved of the role of creator, begins to identify with its creation and becomes the creature of its own dream.’” – From Silence to Sound – Richard Kyle’s Journey to Musical Competency – by Michael Kovitz (available at

Some twenty years ago, a friend of mine loaned me a library book. It wasn’t a very long book, a short story really, attributed to Lama Yongden and written by Alexandra David-Neel.

The story goes something like this: A disciple returns to the hermitage of his teacher late one night to find his teacher in a state of deep meditation. Wishing not to disturb him, the disciple slips inside the door of the little chapel and trying to fathom the auspicious state of his teacher; himself enters into a state of meditation. In the morning, when he becomes aware of the dawning sun, he opens his eyes, and in the light of day sees that his teacher has not been meditating at all, that he was dead—murdered—and the sacred amulet he always wore had been ripped from his neck. In anger and despair he vows to avenge the death of his teacher and return the sacred amulet.

And so, based on information he ascertained about a young couple from a near-by village who had suddenly gone missing, he sets off on a journey that was to last him many years. He goes from town to town, searching for the couple, looking for more information and more clues. But, he is always unsuccessful and eventually, his mind and health shattered, he is taken into a monastery and shown to a little cell where he is allowed to rest and recover.

After a number of days, he is told that the head of the monastery wishes to see him. But the man is cautious—skeptical—thinking that the head of the monastery wants something from him—maybe information—maybe something more—and he vows to himself to reveal nothing during his interview.

Having imagined that the head of the monastery would use all manner of tricks and ploys to gain information about him and his teacher, he is thrown off his game when the head of the monastery says nothing to him at all. As a result, the man begins to tell his story, and, in the end, reveals everything and more about the murder of his teacher and his own quest to find those responsible and gain back the amulet. The head of the monastery responds by telling the disciple to return to his cell and contemplate the murals on its walls in order to gain insight into, and direction for, his quest.

The man is a little puzzled by this response; he had been staying in the same room for days, but did not remember any murals. Again, he thought he was being tricked—perhaps it was part of a plan to imprison him?

So the man returns to his monastic cell and, indeed, he sees the murals covering the walls. How could he have missed them? With caution and skepticism he begins to examine the murals and to his surprise he sees that the murals are telling the story of his own journey. He sees his teacher and all the places he visited on his quest. Surprise turns to terror when he finally sees himself painted into the mural. Now he knows for sure, there is a plot against him; he will never be allowed to leave the monastery.

He calls out and an attendant responds to his demand to be allowed to leave the monastery immediately. Of course he can leave anytime he wants—there never really was a plot against him.

And so the man leaves the monastery and gives up his quest and returns to his teacher’s hermitage. Arriving late at night, he goes to the little chapel where years before he discovered the murder of his teacher, but when he goes inside, to his amazement, he sees his teacher sitting there in meditation, the amulet around his neck. There had never been a murder or a theft; there never was a plot against him; there never had been any murals—the walls of his monastic cell were white.

The name of the book, The Power of Nothingness.

The Beloved’s message is always different/always the same:

“Nothing is real except God—nothing matters except love for God.” – Meher Baba

In The Garden – by Michael Kovitz (© copyright Michael Kovitz 2002)

“Oh my lover, walk with me
in this garden now at dusk—
the joining time that stands between
the dark of day
and light of night.”

Happy I was to be with Him,
my heart content,
my mind at rest,
and when He took my hand in His,
like dusk joins night with day,
I no longer knew where He did end
or where it was that I began.
Content was I, yet in my mind,
one silly thought could not dismiss.

“What can it be?” He asked,
“that at this moment of communion’s bliss
ensnares your thoughts in reason’s trap?”

“A silly thought.” I shyly said.
His eyes were oceans,
their shores his lids.
“And folly itself I must have to be,
to voice this thought and risk the
moment’s peace.”

His right brow arched—
a mountain’s peak beyond the oceans shore,
while the left hung low and flat,
an endless plane commanding that my
speech go forth.

“It’s really nothing,” I meekly said,
“but if you insist,
it was when you said that day is dark
and night is light-
I could not but wonder
if you had said it right?”

The smallest wisp of cloud appeared upon the ocean vast,
and on the garden’s breeze a ripple of a chill was cast.
Before us lying near the path, a man asleep appeared to me.

“Tell me,” my Beloved spoke,
“asleep or awake do you take him to be?”

“Asleep.” I said.
“His eyes are closed,
snoring sounds rise from his throat.”

“Yet awake he is within his dreams.”
My Companion said to me.
“Within the shadow play that is his mind,
he dreams himself to be,
and takes the image that he sees
to be Reality.”

And so we continued along the path,
joined by hands still clasped,
when soon another man appeared,
and I heard the question that I feared-

“Asleep or awake do you take him to be?”
My Beloved smiled.
“What do you think?”
“Asleep to me is what he seems,
yet perhaps, awake within his dreams?”

Laughter furrowed the sky
above the oceans of his eyes
and without speech conveyed,
“Good try! Is not this garden walk such fun?”

I said,
“To be with You is joy sublime,
but your questions oft disturb my mind.
‘Asleep or awake?’
How can I know such things?
Oh what perplexity
your questions bring.”

“This is true,”
was His reply,
“when you see the point,
but not the line,
while my vision is perfect
and sees beyond time,
the plane and the cube,
the dreams of the mind.”

“Now this man before us that we see
is withdrawn to dreamless sleep.
Within his soul he dwells in peace,
not knowing his self, or dreams,
or this body that we see.”

“But were he to awaken,
without disturbing his sleep,
Eternal Bliss would be his to keep.
Truly awake his real self would be,
no more illusion would he see.”

“My dear, it seems strange,
even to Me,
that every creature goes to sleep,
and in their nightly sojourns
reach the state their souls seek,
only to awaken
with the dawn of each day,
into the dream of life’s illusion,
forgetting self,
forgetting soul,
forgetting bliss,
forgetting all.”

The day had nearly given way,
our garden lost to shadow’s play,
while high above a jeweled lace of stars
did veil evening’s face,
and longing that to Him be wed,
cast beams of light to crown His head.

He stopped and gazed into the sky,
heaven’s clouds began to cry,
tears of rain rolled down His cheek,
I drifted into a silence deep.

Upon a stony seat we sat—we did not speak,
while in my heart my mind took rest on silence’s seat.
The garden’s breeze became my breath
uniting me in love to earth and sky and tree.

And He and me,
that was no more,
we formed one sea without a shore.

“Oh my dear one, try to see,
when you are happy,
I am free,
and by illusion’s powers no longer tied,
to greed and lust, hatred, jealousy, selfishness, and pride.”

The garden walked inside of me,
my body’s breath became its breeze.
Within the silence of my heart my mind did rest,
free from worry, void of quest.

“Things that are Real are given and received in silence.”
He said to me.
“Silence is the abode of Reality.”

We sat as one upon our stony seat
and watched the evening’s curtain close upon the day.
But then, as darkness overtook the light,
again my mind began to play.

“Do not worry,” He said to me,
“from your mind you will be freed,
by love’s power you will be free
to live in Bliss eternally.”

“Await my dear that perfect time
be patience with My game divine,
till I wake you from your waking dream,
to gain at last that Bliss Supreme.”

The beloved, Meher Baba said,

“When love is the presiding genius,
The path to truth is effortless and joyous.”

After my second or third blog entry on the subject, “Things Are Not What They Seem,” a friend told me she was a little confused—she thought that it was going to be a discussion about faith, but I had stopped talking about it. I told her that it was not about faith as much as it was about the requisites for faith. I told her to hang in there and, hopefully, it would all become clear in the end. We shall see…

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:23-24

So who is a rich man? One interpretation is that a rich man is a person who believes in the world—a person who takes the material to be real, who believes in the infallibility of science and the scientific method. Confronted by the truth of his beliefs—because the reality of the material world and the infallibility of science is, in the end, only a belief; no more, no less—how can the rich man have even an interest—even a curiosity—about things that cannot be seen, or proved, or understood? Where would there be any motivation to seek and enter the kingdom of God?

P.D. Ouspensky was a sincere seeker of truth, a philosopher, a mathematician, and a writer. The story is well documented of how he eventually became a student of G.I. Gurdjieff, and how on their first meeting Gurdjieff, in speaking to Ouspensky about his book, The Fourth Way, told him that if he only understood a tenth of what he had written, that he(Gurdjieff) would come and sit at his feet.

Ouspensky was very fond of talking about the higher dimensions—in fact, around the turn of the twentieth century, the whole subject of higher dimensions was very much the vogue du jour of the intelligentsia of the world. Ouspensky said, imagine a world not of three dimensions but of two, populated by beings, he called them plane beings, who could see all around them but not what was above or below their plane. He said, now pass a striped pole through their plane—what would they see? They would see some phenomenon of shifting changing colors, but could not be aware of the existence of the pole above and below their plane. And so, they would attempt to explain the three-dimensional phenomenon based on their two-dimensional science.

Ouspensky then went on to say that we were in the same situation with regard to our three-dimensional science because it did not, could not, take into consideration the fact that the phenomena we seek to explain is really four-dimensional. What we call time, is our imperfect perception of the fourth dimension. What we come away with is that the rich man—the man of his own three-dimensional world and his three-dimensional science—would never be able to enter the kingdom of God—because to accept the possibility of a four-dimensional world would threaten the entire foundation of who and what he takes himself to be.

We began with “faith” – “a confidence or trust in a person, entity, or idea that does not rest on material evidence or logical proof.” The other side of faith is the sensing that things are not what they seem, that “the sun neither heats nor lights,” that death, and birth, are an illusion of the soul, that God who is not seen is real, while the creation which is seen, is not real.

The Spiritual Paradox – by Meher Baba

“Unless and until ignorance is removed and Knowledge is gained (the Knowledge whereby the divine life is experienced and lived) everything pertaining to the spiritual seems paradoxical — God, whom we do not see, we say is real; and the world, which we do see, we say is unreal. In experience, what exists for us does not really exist; and what does not exist for us, really exists.
We must lose ourselves in order to find ourselves; thus loss itself is gain. We must die to self to live in God; thus death means life. We must become completely void inside to be completely possessed by God; thus complete emptiness means absolute fullness. We must become naked of self-hood by being nothing, so as to be absorbed in the infinity of God; thus nothing means Everything.”

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