Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Doing, Not Doing, and Real Doing

  I received this email a few days ago from a friend:

“Been thinking about your email—is it ok with you that you don't have any free time?  Everyone needs free time to play and to it ok for you this way?  All work and no play?  Are you happy with that?”

It was her response to something I had said about not having any free time. Of course, her concern for me was sincere, and I did understand what she was asking, but to engage the subject on anything more than a most superficial level, I knew we would have to enter some, as they say, deeper waters. So, I told her that I would answer her in a blog. And, Doing, Not Doing, and Real Doing is that blog.

I have spoken about it before, how, for me, questions often contain hidden implications and assumptions that have to be accepted before one can begin to engage the question. In my friend’s email she spoke about free time, play, work, and relaxation. Implications, explicit and implicit, abound here—that work and play are two different things, that play is something we do in our free time, that there is even such a thing as free time, that relaxation has some relationship to play as opposed to work, and that without play one might not be happy. And behind all of these distinctions, with all of their implications, is a huge and hidden assumption, the assumption that we do.

And so, behind my friend’s questions lurk a number of questions of my own—like: is there really a difference between work and play? For me it is difficult to make a distinction. To work, I need to schedule students and when they come in for their lessons I need to bring my attention to their music and offer my responses to their work. Likewise, when I play tennis, I first need to schedule time for it, and then when I play, I need to bring my attention, my energy, to the game. I work just as hard at tennis as I do at my music. I owe myself no less than that. Teaching music and playing tennis no doubt are two very different activities but, for me, teaching music is as much play as is tennis, and playing tennis is as much work as teaching guitar.

Then there are the questions about happiness. Does playing tennis or doing music bring me happiness? Does not playing tennis or not doing music make me unhappy? In other words, is there really a link between happiness and what we do or don’t do? And if there is a link, what is it? Personally, I have observed that there are some people who seem never to be happy no matter what they do and then there are some people who just seem to be happy, also, no matter what they do. All of which leads to another question, perhaps a deeper question: what do we mean by happiness? I think that most people would agree that happiness is something more than contentment, something more than the momentary experience of pleasure. What is this so-called happiness?

Meher Baba once said, “Real happiness lies in making other happy.” Perhaps the most important word here is real? Meher Baba also said, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Of course, this is just part of a larger statement He made which explains, Do your best. Then, don’t worry; be happy in My love. I will help you.” 

Perhaps you have read the comment by keysunset on Part 1 of this blog, Doing, Not Doing, and Real Doing. Among other things she wrote, “I struggle constantly with time, and what I should be doing and when. What I want to be doing, and what others want or expect me to be doing.”  Notice how many times the word doing comes up.

A consideration of the subject doing plunges us into the deeper waters promised earlier. Doing is the huge assumption we make about ourselves. We imagine that we are capable of making decisions, long term and short term; we imagine that these decisions lead to choices; and that these choices lead to actions.

But the great teachers and the Perfect Masters do not seem to agree with us. Take, for example, these statements of G.I. Gurdjieff, quoted from P.D. Ouspensky’s book, In Search of the Miraculous:

“As I have said before, man’s chief delusion is that he can do. All people think that they can do, all people want to do, and the first question all people ask is what they are to do. But actually, nobody does anything and nobody can do anything. All that befalls man, all that is done by him, all that comes from him—all this happens.”

“And it happens in exactly the same way as everything happens—popular movements, wars, revolutions, changes of government; all this happens. And it happens in exactly the same way as everything happens in the life of individual man. Man is born, lives, dies, builds houses, writes books, not as he wants to, but as it happens. Everything happens. Man does not love, hate, desire—all this happens.”

Gurdjieff then adds; “But no one will ever believe you if you tell him you can do nothing. This is the most offensive and the most unpleasant thing you can tell people.”

And why should we believe him, Gurdjieff, how can we believe him when our experience is, our experience tells us, all the time, that we can, and do, indeed, do? Do I not choose to write my blog, choose what I will write about, choose to eat eggs or just toast, choose to invest in this stock or that, choose to get married, choose to buy a new house, etc. etc. And when I act on these choices is not my experience that I do? Gurdjieff said that the conviction that we can do is man’s chief delusion.

Wikipedia defines various forms of delusion. One form is described as, “… a false belief that another person, group of people, or external force controls one's general thoughts, feelings, impulses, or behavior.”  I think that most people would agree that one who is under the power of this kind of delusion would be in a very difficult state, but consider how much more difficult the state would be, how much deeper the trap would be, if the delusion was instead, a false belief that oneself controls one's general thoughts, feelings, impulses, or behavior—when, in fact, they don’t?    

And so for the average man, everything happens, everything is done; yet man’s experience is that he does indeed do. And these are deep waters, but here the waters get even deeper, because, if we are to believe the Perfect Masters, all this happening is not really happening at all because it is all happening in a dream. In a dream we do all sorts of things—all sorts of things happen, but then when we wake up we realize that nothing has been done, nothing has happened; it was all just a dream. In Bhau Kalchuri’s book, The Nothing and the Everything, Bhau conveys the following teachings of Meher Baba:

“How can a man know that this is only a vacant dream unless he is awakened from it? The dream of the universe is ever real until one is awakened.”

“But later when he awakens, he soon realizes that it was a dream and nothing but a dream, after all. All that he valued (in the dream) is now meaningless because it is nothing but the stuff that dreams are made of—sanskaras.”

“People marry while dreaming, have children and homes, work, play, fornicate, fight, love, hate, theorize, intellectualize and philosophize, thinking that it is all real, when not one experience is real.”

“So everything and everyone goes on and on—new families, new affairs, different values: deaths and births are as insubstantial as waking and sleeping. The human consciousness changes, not the species, and sometimes experiences itself in the form of a man, and sometimes a woman—healthy and sick, sometimes rich and sometimes poor, intelligent and stupid, ugly and beautiful, sane and insane, black and white, and so forth 8,400,000 rounds, (lifetimes in the human form).”

Yes, these are truly very deep waters, and experiencing even a fraction of their depths—that which Gurdjieff named “the terror of the situation”,— does it not evoke a question, possibly the one and only question that has any meaning at all? The question, how do I get out? What can I do? Oh, that’s right, I can do nothing!!!

My friend who asked me the initial questions about free time, relaxation, etc. sent me another email saying how much she has been enjoying my blog, Doing, Not Doing, and Real Doing. She said how much she really loved the last paragraph.

The tone of her email was very chirpy and up-beat and it made me wonder, because my friend is very, very smart and precocious. She takes in information like a sponge—easily, quickly, and naturally. And, she is able to repeat it back to you in a way that seems to indicate that she not only knows the material, but really understands it.

So how, I wondered, can she be so chirpy about the fact that we are asleep and can do nothing to wake up? I decided to ask her, “Do you think you are asleep?” She answered, “Well, that's not exactly a clear cut answer—I think I'm in one of those dreams where you know that you are dreaming but you are still not fully awake. I know intellectually that I'm dreaming, but it's not like I know it every minute of every day.  I know it to be true and I believe it with all my heart and soul.  However, when I'm in it—it's so easy to forget that it's only a dream.  Sometimes when I go thru my day, I know it.  But when I have strong emotions about something—then it's easy to forget that it's just a dream. So I read something every day to keep it all fresh in my mind—usually it's (Meher) Baba, although at the moment it's Rumi.”

See, I told you she was very, very smart. My friend concluded her email with the question, “And you?  Do you feel fully awake?” Fair enough. My answer is no, not even close. What I do experience is that I’m not awake, and like my friend, I sometimes forget that I’m asleep and get into this state where I neither experience myself as being awake, nor experience myself as being asleep. In other words, I get into the state where, as Gurdjieff said, “everything happens.” In this state there is an underlying, unspoken assumption of doing accompanied by an underlying, unspoken identification with my body and my mind—my mortality.

And what is identification with my body? It is when I look at myself in the mirror and there is no question that I am not that body. It is when the body feels pain or pleasure and there is no question that it is me who is in the state of pain or pleasure. And what is identification with my mind? It is when I take myself to be what I think and feel, without any doubt that those thoughts and feelings are not real and are not me.

I once heard an audio tape of Meher Baba attending a meditation group in New York City. He had been invited to speak by a newer western follower who led the group. Baba attended with a few of His close eastern followers who interpreted His gestures. (Remember that Meher Baba did not speak for the last forty-four years of His life.) So on the tape you hear the group leader announce that there would be a short silent meditation. Silence followed, but within minutes you hear a single loud clap—Meher Baba. Then Eruch, Meher Baba’s close follower, interpreting His gestures said, “You are all asleep! You are all asleep and even with Me, the Avatar, in your midst, telling you that you are asleep, you still cannot wake up; you still remain asleep.”

Which brings us back to the same question? How can I wake up? What can I do? Oh yeah, that’s right, I can do nothing!

What Gurdjieff called “the terror of the situation,” comes down to this:  life is a dream from which we cannot wake up, and within that dream everything happens—no one can do. And where exactly does the “terror” come in? It is when we begin to realize our situation, yet remain unable to free ourselves from experiencing that the living lie we call ourselves is the truth, while the vicious pendulums of pleasure and pain, ephemeral happiness and unavoidable suffering continue to swing lifetime after lifetime as we revolve on a wheel of eternal recurrence unable to stop it or get off.

So everything happens, no one can do; is there any difference between what the Perfect Masters are saying and the writings of the nineteenth century existential philosophers like Kierkegaard, Sartre, Kafka, and others?  I remember from my student days the quintessential existential image of a pregnant woman giving birth over a coffin. Is it like that? Is the only meaning in life the meaning we give to it? That is what the existentialists say, but that is where they differ from the Perfect Masters, because though the Masters say that everything happens and no one does, they are not saying that it is all without meaning or purpose.

The Perfect Masters and the Avatar are very consistent on this point, they tell us that purpose is in everyone and everything, and that the creation was brought forth in the beginningless beginning to actualize this purpose. You have heard me talk about it before; it is the Whim—the Lahar—the question that arose in the deepest state of God’s sleep, who am I? It is this question that started the real “big bang” in the Infinite Ocean of God’s Beyond the Beyond Original State, and it is this question that guides Him in all His endless forms to the one inevitable answer, the answer embodied in the consciousness and experience of the Avatar and the Perfect Masters, I am God.

Meher Baba tells us that the soul’s journey to be conscious begins with the first of eight million four hundred thousand forms, the last being the human form, and then continues through eight million four hundred thousand lifetimes to arrive at consciousness of Itself. During this nearly endless journey everything happens, nothing and nobody does, and it all happens in a dream that is only a dream—a delusion walking in a hallucination inside of an illusion. What the world calls doing and not doing is merely the happening that is what I distinguished as doing in the title of this blog. It is not not doing and it is not real doing. And what then is not doing, and what then is real doing? 

If in the dream of my life I choose to take one path over another, and this choosing is an example of happening as opposed to doing, then what do I call it if in my dream I choose to not take any path at all, if in fact I choose to do nothing? In other words, is doing nothing an example of not doing? From the point of view of the Avatar and the Perfect Masters the answer is no. This so-called not doing is just the other side of doing which is happening.

But there is a state of real not doing and we enter this state every night when we sleep. When we pass from the waking state, through the dream state, and enter the dreamless deep sleep state, we are in the state of real not doing. Meher Baba tells us that this state is none other than the Beyond the Beyond State of God and if we could be conscious in this state, if we could remain awake in our own dreamless deep sleep state, we would be God realized, we would experience ourselves as God.

How incredible is it to contemplate this cycle of waking, dreaming, deep sleep, dreaming, and awakening? All of creation seems to share this rhythm, and mostly we just take it for granted, assuming that we need to sleep to be inactive in order to rest and give our bodies and minds an opportunity to rejuvenate. But looking at the phenomenon from Meher Baba’s perspective, the significance of the dreamless deep sleep state is that we are daily immersed, daily baptized in Reality, and in Reality we acquire the fortitude that is required to live our lives in illusion in the state of the holy ghost—the holy ghost who is in truth holy—divine—yet a ghost because we continue to experience ourselves as everyone and everything other than what we really are.

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

All of creation enters the state of real not doing during the dreamless deep sleep state, but does not experience this state until journey’s end. What happens then? The first stage of God-Realization is what the Buddha called Nirvana and what Meher Baba calls the Real Fana. In Nirvana there is consciousness, but this consciousness is conscious of Nothing—neither of creation nor of God. It is the divine vacuum state; it is what we would experience if we could remain awake in the dreamless deep sleep state. In this state there is no inner and no outer, no place and no space, no above and no below, no body, no mind, and no experience of self or Self. It is the deeper meaning behind the biblical statement, “In Christ there is no east or west.” Nirvana is the state of real not doing—for in Nirvana there is nothing to do and no one to do it. There is only consciousness—consciousness without thought.

Normally, consciousness and thought are linked. Without consciousness there is no thinking and without thinking there can be no consciousness. This is what is so incredible about Nirvana. Consciousness is, yet it is without any thought, without any object, without anything to reflect on. Upasani Maharaj once said, “Consider two perfect unblemished mirrors facing each other. What is seen reflected in them?”

But Nirvana—Fana—is not the end of the journey. Much in the same way as the darkness of night is dispelled by the light of day’s dawning, Fana is displaced by Fana–Filla, the “I am God” state called Nirvikalpa Samadhi. In this state the soul experiences its Divinity, and for most souls Nirvikalpa Samadhi is the goal—the end of the journey. Now in His book, God Speaks, Meher Baba goes into quite a lot of detail regarding this state and what can possibly follow it. Boiling it down for the purpose of this blog, it can be said that the “I am God” experience is the same for all souls, but the difference is the degree of creation consciousness of these realized souls. For some, for most, there is no creation consciousness after realization, but for some there is a small degree of creation consciousness, and for a very few, there is full creation consciousness with the “I am God” state. Here, we are talking about the Perfect Masters and the Avatar.

Another important detail to remember is that all souls experience realization in a gross human form in creation. For most, after realization, the body is soon dropped and all consciousness of creation is severed. Other realized souls whose Divine destiny it is to have some work, some responsibility, toward creation, maintain their bodies until that work is completed. After that, they too, including all Perfect Masters, drop the body and their link to creation is permanently severed. Perfect Masters don’t come back, they continue, as do all realized souls, to eternally experience the “I am God” state. It is important to make these distinctions because it is only about the Avatar and the Perfect Masters that it can be said, “They do”.

I repeat this quotation, attributed to Meher Baba, from Bhau Kalchuri’s book The Nothing and the Everything that I posted earlier:

“People marry while dreaming, have children and homes, work, play, fornicate, fight, love, hate, theorize, intellectualize and philosophize, thinking that it is all real, when not one experience is real.”
“So everything and everyone goes on and on—new families, new affairs, different values: deaths and births are as insubstantial as waking and sleeping. The human consciousness changes, not the species, and sometimes experiences itself in the form of a man, and sometimes a woman—healthy and sick, sometimes rich and sometimes poor, intelligent and stupid, ugly and beautiful, sane and insane, black and white, and so forth 8,400,000 rounds, (lifetimes in the human form).”

I think it would not be a stretch to add that all efforts and attempts to wake-up—to do—also go on in sleep. This includes all manner of spiritual practices, yogas, austerities, religions, and techniques. Indeed, I can speak from my own personal experience and observation of others, that in all my attempts to wake-up there is, as Kabir said, “…a strange sense of failure.” The full quote is, “Because you have forgotten the Friend; that is why in all you do, there is a strange sense of failure.” And I have tried, really tried, maybe not nearly as much as some have tried, but more than most, and yet for all the momentary blushes of success and accomplishment, I have remained asleep—asleep in my body, asleep in my mind. I am asleep when I practice and perform my music, asleep when I teach music, and I am asleep right now as I am writing this blog—this very sentence. I am asleep, and I have no doubt that you are asleep too, even as you read this very sentence. Hopeless?

I used to think that knowing was the answer—knowing about the planes of consciousness, knowing about the states of God-Realization, knowing how to meditate, knowing how to control my mind. But knowing ultimately led me nowhere and then I hit on another idea. What if I could hitch my wagon to One who was already free—to a Perfect Master, to the Avatar? I knew about Meher Baba, I read about Him, and came to the personal conclusion that He was who He said He was.

“The Avatar is always One and the same because God is always One and the same, the eternal, indivisible, infinite One who manifests Himself in the form of man as the Avatar, as the Messiah, as the Prophet, as the Buddha, as the Ancient One—the Highest of the High. This eternally One and the same Avatar is made to repeat His manifestation from time to time, in different cycles, adopting different names and different human-forms, in different places, to reveal Truth in different garbs and different languages, in order to free humanity from the pit of ignorance and help free it from the bondage of delusions.” – Meher Baba, God Speaks

So, yes, I decided to hitch my wagon to His star, but there were/are still more twists and turns in this journey.

At first I was attracted to what Meher Baba said.  His explanations of spiritual truths were beyond anything I had ever encountered, and since I had been, what many call a seeker, since childhood, I had encountered many—religions, yogas, systems, techniques, etc., and Meher Baba’s were, for me, the most pure, the most lucid, the most clear, and the most authoritative. I loved His descriptions and explanations of the spiritual path, the planes of consciousness, the states of God-Realization, the Avatar, and the mechanisms of evolution, reincarnation, and involution of consciousness. I also truly loved His translations and interpretations of the poetry of the Sufi masters—like Hafez, Kabir, Rumi, etc. It seemed to me that Meher Baba somehow trued the meaning and message of these poets and restored and modernized their timeless truths in a way no translators ever had—or could.

But there was another side to Meher Baba—His personal history, the stories about Him, the quotations attributed to Him, not His teachings or His discourses, but anecdotes, glimpses of the God-Man, glimpses of how a Master works. It was so different being around His followers as compared to followers of other traditions, other teachers, other yogis. For the most part, they mostly recounted stories of Him—where He was, what He did, how He worked with people. It was like His followers all lived in the past. I named the phenomena the cult of nostalgia. There was no doubt in my mind that Meher Baba was who He said He was, but I wondered about His poor followers—they seemed to have nothing, no practices, no meditations, no techniques for self-remembering. They seemed to have nothing except their stories or the stories they heard from other older Baba lovers and followers. It took me time to realize that, in fact, they didn’t have nothing, they had Everything! And having Everything, they needed nothing, and that was what all those teachings, techniques, archaic forms of worship, etc. were, nothing. Just being with Him was all that mattered—keeping their wagons hitched to His star—by remembering Him, visiting the places He lived and resided, the place where His body now resides, trying to live their lives in accord with the simple directives He left us like, “Think thoughts you would not hesitate to think in My presence, speak words you would not hesitate to speak in My presence, and do actions you would not hesitate to do in My presence.” Simple yes, but not always so easy

And so, when I realized that all my efforts to think, meditate, or discipline myself awake were ineffective, I began to embrace the personal philosophy of living my life and letting Meher Baba worry about waking me up. All I needed to do was to remember Him in any and all ways I could. Meher Baba often used the expression, “Hold on to my daman.” (daman = the hem of His garment.)

 I continued to read His words, but now my motivation was not about what I could do with those words; the words themselves became a way of holding on to Him. I continued to meditate, but not to get myself into another higher state, my meditations became about watching Him meditate on me. Meanwhile I began to wonder what it would be like to actually be with Him—to be one of His close disciples. Life, for me, was not bad in any way, but it was becoming rather stale. I had read stories about the close followers—he called them His Mandali—and how difficult it was for them to be with Him. He was always stirring things up, creating dramas so skillfully conceived that those who were the targets would be swept away in the moment without ever realizing the ruse, and His real intention to breakdown their egos and lead them deeper into the state of effacement. I realized I had a long way to go to be able to be with Him; I just had too much pride and too much ego. And so my prayers took the form of a plea that He helps me to achieve the state where I could be with Him.

But my motivation was not simply a desire to be with Him—it was tinged by my desire for God-Realization. In time, this desire began to change as well. I remember a friend of mine, relatively new to Meher Baba, once said to me that if it ever turned out that Meher Baba was not, in fact, who He said He was, that he would lose all hope for spirituality. In other words, since he felt that Meher Baba was the highest example of all things spiritual, then if Meher Baba lost that status, then my friend would have no one else, no place else, he could turn to for help. I thought that this was a very powerful statement, but then I heard something from one of Meher Baba’s closest and oldest disciples. He said that if it ever turned out that Meher Baba was not who He said He was that it would not make any difference at all to him—because life with Meher Baba had become, for him, the end in itself. Nothing was superior to that life, not even God-Realization. Now I contemplate being with Him, my only real desire is to be with Him in this life, in the next life, and beyond all life and lives.

I can think of no better way to sum up Doing, Not Doing, and Real Doing, then to quote this story taken from Meher Baba’s biography, Lord Meher.

More interviews followed. At 4 P.M., Baba called Ella Winterfeldt in to ask how many were left. Ella had dreamt of Baba, and he told her, "Ella my dear, all the world is an illusion; it is a dream and only God is real."
Baba called all those waiting in the other room – over one hundred – and when they had assembled, he asked Ivy Duce to repeat what he had just told Ella. She, however, did not have her tape recorder running, so she began from memory, but not too exactly, for Baba interrupted her, gesturing, "You speak as if you were in a dream!" After the laughter that followed, Baba himself narrated:
Baba told Ella that all this is nothing but a dream. Only God is real. And God is in everything, in you and in me. When Ella goes to sleep and sees the dream in her sleep, her body is on the bed. Yet she goes about, engrossed in the body; she enjoys a good dinner, eats well, feels happy. Then, sometimes she feels very sad, she suffers. Both pleasure and pain are there in the dream, yet the body is there on the bed. It does not go anywhere; it does not do anything; yet it enjoys.
Baba comes there in the dream while she is enjoying or while she is suffering an illusion, and Baba tells her, "Ella, don't worry; this will all disappear. It is nothing but a dream."
But she answers, "Baba, how is that? I suffer. How can I help it, Baba? I see you, I see others. Some are troubling me. Some are giving me pleasure. How can I believe it is nothing but a dream? How can it be so real?"
But as soon as she wakes up in the morning, she realizes that she saw only a dream, that Baba had come in her dream and explained that it was nothing but a dream, that she should not suffer, she should not weep. But she did not listen to Baba, so she starts weeping as she works, remembering the dream at night. Then Baba tells her: "Ella, that was a dream when you slept. But now I say this is another dream; while you are living and working, while you are sitting here near me, all that you see here, this New York City, and my lovers here, and Baba himself sitting here, it is nothing but illusion; it is a dream."
Then Ella says: "Baba, this is too much! I cannot believe that because I see them, I hear them. I see you here, sitting near me, explaining to me." Still, Baba insists, saying to Ella, it is nothing but a dream. Then after years, after Baba's grace descends, Ella suddenly wakes up from this vacant dream, and what does she find? She finds only God is real and infinite. When she experiences that bliss, that infinite bliss, unlimited, continuous, then she realizes what Baba said was true.
Christ said the very same thing. Why do we need another prescription? Because humanity would never listen to him. He said the same thing: "I am the Reality. All follow me. Wake up from the dream!" None listened. The same thing is repeating again. That is why I tell you, love me more and more and make others love me. Through your own example, make others happy. God will listen to that. As soon as we make others happy, then God knows about it immediately, and is pleased. No amount of prayer or meditation or artis [songs] you can say will please God. He is deaf to that. But when you help others, or serve others at the cost of your own happiness, immediately God knows and hears – your actions, your activities – and is pleased.

(Lord Meher, 1st. ed., Bhau Kalchuri,Vol. 14, pp. 4964 - 4965. The Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust, Ahmednagar, India are the copyright holders of all of Meher Baba's messages, discourses and photographs, unless otherwise stated.)

Anonymous left this comment on Doing, Not Doing, and Real Doing.  I am including it along with my response.

“I remember somewhere hearing or reading that there were others on the planet that were also God-Realized, seems there was some unchanging number beyond the perfect masters and the avatar. Is this correct? And if it is do they do?”

Yes, quite true, In His book, God Speaks, Meher Baba explains that there are fifty-six God-Realized souls on the planet at all times.  Counted in the fifty-six are the Avatar, who takes a birth every 750-1,400 years, and the five Perfect Masters. The rest are in various states of creation consciousness. Meher Baba says that the Majzoob-e-Kamils have no creation consciousness at all; the Paramhansas have some degree of creation consciousness, and Jivanmuktas have more. But these distinctions are distinctions of creation consciousness only, with regard to experience of the “I am God” state, they are all exactly the same.

So, to the question, do Majzoob-e-Kamils, Paramhansas, and Jivanmuktas do? The answer is that they can do, but they do do only what and when their responsibility to creation demands. What is the nature of this responsibility? It is to give a spiritual push to the creation.

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