"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, September 30, 2011

Huston Smith: On Sufism

"The Sufis claim that a certain kind of mental and other activity can produce, under special conditions and with particular efforts, what is termed a higher working of the mind, leading to special perceptions whose apparatus is latent in the ordinary man. Sufism is therefore the transcending of ordinary limitations."

-- Idries Shah --
("The Way of the Sufi")

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lama Surya Das: Craving, Desire and Lust in a Consumer Society

Lama Surya Das
"Craving, or lust, as it is sometimes called, is one of the primary five hindrances, or challenges, that Buddha warned seekers they would meet on the path to awakening," observes Lama Surya Das. "When Buddha Dharma speaks about craving, it implies psychological hunger and thirst, unhealthy desire, longing, attachment, and psychological fixation."

"Who among us," he asks, "is so completely filled that he or she is above "wanting" of any kind? Is there nothing wanting in your life right now? As we try to purify and refine our actions, we need to be aware of the myriad ways by which our desires create pitfalls on the spiritual path."

"Purifying oneself of craving and desire," Das notes, " is a complex and subtle process. The analogy of a misguided moth being consumed by the candle flame to which it is fatally attracted is a good one. Sometime," he observes, "we want something so badly that we think we can't possibly let go of our goal."

"Judge the moth by the quality of its candle," Rumi advises. For even our spiritual thirsts can prove a fatal distraction from true attainment. Wisdom traditions in all ages are rife with stories of great achievers who have been distracted by the sensual, the occult or other powers they have achieved, only to allow their final liberation to slip by the wayside.

"Every object, every being, is a jar full of delight," Rumi points out. "Be a connoisseur and taste with delight. Any wine will get you high," he cautions. "Judge like a king and choose the purest."

"On the spiritual path," warns Surya Das, "be prepared to confront compulsive desires again and again. Watch what you desire," he advises, "observe what attracts or repels you most. Notice what buttons are pushed in you by external stimuli, and how you respond to each of them. We have all invested emotional intensity and energy in wanting, achieving, accumulating and grasping," he points out.

"How does it happen? What is it for?" he asks. "Just round up the usual suspects and look them over - love, ego gratification, sex, sensual pleasures, money possessions, fame, security, power."

Looking at the proliferation of all these desire objects in our modern consumer society, Surya Das rightly asks: "Are we making Faustian deals with the devil?"

"It is said," Das points out, "that a thief's vision is so distorted that even when he meets a saint, all he can see is the saint's pocketbook. Ask yourself: Is there anything or anyone you crave so much that it clouds your judgment and vision? What do you hunger for? Is there anything that engenders feelings so intense that your pursuit of it becomes a substitute for furthering your inner development?"

"It has often been said," Das notes, "that everyone has a price. What is yours? Don't sell yourself short," he advises, "or you'll pay for it."

[Lama Surya Das, "Awakening the Buddha Within," pp. 219-220.]

Friday, September 23, 2011

Eckhart Tolle: On Ownership and Consumption

"The physical needs for food, water, shelter, clothing, and basic comforts could be easily met for all humans on the planet, were it not for the imbalance of resources created by the insane and rapacious need for more, the greed of the ego. It finds collective expression in the economic structures of this world, such as the huge corporations, which are egoic entities that compete with each other for more. Their only blind aim is profit. They pursue that aim with absolute ruthlessness. Nature, animals, people, even their own employees, are no more than digits on a balance sheet, life objects to be used, then discarded."

-- Eckhart Tolle --
("A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose")

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Unfathomable Depth

"Words, no matter whether they are vocalized and made into sounds or remain unspoken as thoughts, can cast an almost hypnotic spell upon you. You easily lose yourself in them, become hypnotized into implicitly believing that when you have attached a word to something, you know what it is. You have only covered up the mystery with a label. Everything, a bird, a tree, even a simple stone, and certainly a human being, is ultimately unknowable. This is because it has unfathomable depth. All we can perceive, experience, think about, is the surface layer of reality, less than the tip of an iceberg."
-- Eckhart Tolle --
("A New Earth," page 25.)
 The depth of everything is a mystery, as Tolle notes, a mystery that is only obscured - or worse ignored - by our labeling it. The ultimate mysteries, the mystery of man and of God, are hidden deep within our own depths, and it is only the person who is willing to probe such inner depths who will ever come close to the source of these mysteries.

The great theologian, Paul Tillich puts it this way:
"The wisdom of all ages and of all continents speaks about the road to our depth. It has been described in innumerably different ways. But all those who have been concerned - mystics and priests, poets and philosophers, simple people and educated - with that road through confession, lonely self-scrutiny, internal or external catastrophes, prayer, contemplation, have witnessed to the same experience. They have found they are not what what they  believed themselves to be, even after a deeper level had appeared to them below the vanishing surface. That deeper level itself became surface, when a still deeper level was discovered, this happening again and again, as long as their lives, as long as they kept on the road to their depth. . . .

The name of this infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of all being is
God. That depth is what the word God means. . . . For if you know that God means depth, you know much about him. You cannot then call yourself an atheist or an unbeliever. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life itself is shallow. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not. He who knows about depth knows about God."
[Paul Tillich, "The Shaking of the Foundations," Scribners, 1948, pp. 56-57.]

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Case For A Cosmocentric Religion

“A religion that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by traditional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.”

-- Carl Sagan --
In an insightful interview in EnlightenNext magazine, husband-and-wife research team, Joel Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams (coauthors of The View From the Center of the Universe) make a strong case for the need for a new cosmocentric religion that takes into account all that we now know of the universe, from the smallest quark to the dark energy that appears to fuel the cosmos. Such a religion is an imperative, they note, if humanity as a species is to take advantage of the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves at this singular point in the history of the cosmos. 
"The experiment of intelligent life is (now) giving the universe its own way of looking at itself," Abrams notes. "All of us together—we and any intelligent aliens that might be out there—we are the consciousness of the universe. We are the way the universe reflects on itself, and without us, the universe is utterly meaningless and will forever be meaningless. A beautiful planet could be here with animals and plants, but the whole thing would be meaningless. Those environmentalists who imagine this planet from their point of view as a pristine beautiful Eden are giving the planet meaning. Without us, no one’s going to be imagining that."  
"(W)e’re in an extraordinary position from the point of view of human meaning," says Abrams, "because we’re now at a place where we can satisfy this deep need to understand ourselves as central to the universe. We can make it scientifically rigorous and accurate at the same time. That’s what has never been possible before. That’s what we really need to develop now."
"Throughout all of history," she notes, "people have needed to experience their place in the universe because it gave them grounding, made them feel that their lives were real and that they mattered. It was the basis of their various religions. We still are the same kind of people. We really do need meaning. And we need meaning that is grounded in the best picture of reality available to us in our time. Now, for the first time, we have a new picture of reality, and our meaning has to be grounded in that." 
"We can experience the entire universe spiritually if we realize that . . . what spiritual means is experiencing our connection to the cosmos," Abrams points out. "That is all it means; it has nothing to do with anything supernatural. The universe itself is so much grander than anyone imagined. If we even attempt to feel that we’re part of it, that is a spiritual action."
"Basically," says Primack, "the bottom line is that you never find meaning without looking at the big picture. You can’t understand what a little piece of a picture means until you see the big picture; you see how the little piece fits in. Cosmology is the biggest picture we have. It can help us find meaning by letting us see ourselves as part of a grand story."
"The amazing thing," Abrams points out, "is we have this opportunity right when the world is falling apart. There are a lot of people who are scared of these ideas. They’re scared partly because they feel they can’t understand the science. We have to understand how the universe works and make our spirituality as real as possible. The whole idea of trying to spend your life understanding your spiritual connection to the universe but not having any interest in how the universe actually works seems to me absolutely bizarre. We need to be coherent beings. That’s how it’s going to matter."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Krishnamurti and Tolle: "Don't Mind What Happens"

In his best-selling book, "A New Earth," Eckhart Tolle recounts a singular moment in a lecture given by the great enlightened thinker, Jiddu Krishnamurti. Stopping his lecture momentarily, Krishnamurti asked his audience if they wanted to know his "secret" The lecture hall reportedly went silent as the audience waited to hear the pith of Krishnamurti's teaching, the kernel at the heart of the often obscure wisdom that Krishnamurti sought to convey. "This is my secret," he is purported to have said, "I do not mind what happens."

Tolle utilizes this story to emphasize the importance of being "in alignment with what happens." "To be in alignment with what is," he points out, "means to be in a relationship of inner nonresistance with what happens. It means not to label it mentally as good or bad, but to let it be."

This is undoubtedly part of Krishnamurti's "secret," after all sources as diverse as Shakespeare and the Ashtavakra Gita point out the truth that "nothing is either good or bad, but our thinking makes it so." And, on that level, Krishnamurti is surely pointing out that he does not make a judgment on whether what is happening at any moment is good or bad, positive or negative. However, contemplating on this singular event in Krishnamurti's teaching, I find additional (although related) meanings in this "secret."

Krushnamurti must, as set out above, have meant at one level that he does not "mind what happens" by judging its aspects as being positive or negative, good or bad. What happens, happens. It is what it is. And, Krishnamurti apparently took a position of neutrality and non-resistance to whatever happened as Tolle discusses.

At a second level, I suspect that Krishnamruti meant he does not "mind what happens" in the sense that at a deep level he does not take responsibility for what happens externally. Take, for example, the shopkeeper who leaves his store in the care of a clerk while he steps out to do the banking. "Mind the store while I'm gone," he might say. In this sense, I suspect that Krishnamurti knew that there is no one individual who can "mind what happens" collectively, although he undoubtedly recognized that most of us cannot resist trying vainly to shape and manage life's circumstances. The vast majority of us are heavily invested in things turning out the way that we think that they should. We seize responsibility to assure these outcomes, and thus "mind what happens."

"To pursue the unattainable is insanity," Marcus Aurelius observed, "yet the thoughtless can never refrain from doing so." How many of us seek to attain control of, and manage what happens all around us? The vast, vast majority I would guess. Thus, arises the insanity of "minding" what happens.

At a third level - and this may be the most basic level - I suspect that Krishnamurti meant he did not "mind what happens" in an active sense, with "mind" being the active verb. Krishnamurti, undoubtedly did not "mind what happens" by mechanically turning it over and over in his mind, by chewing on it figuratively, or by letting thoughts of what happens preoccupy his psyche. He did not mentally "mind what happens," or mentate upon it.

To not "mind what happens" in these three senses implies that one has acquired a radical acceptance of what is - neither judging, manipulating, or ruminating on what occurs in one's life. It is, as Krishnamurti notes, a "secret" that we do not have to come to grasps with reality in such manners, but need only accept what happens as it is on its face, as an isolated moment in our lives.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thomas Merton: On Crisis

"Our highly activistic and one-sided culture is faced with a crisis that may end in self-destruction," Thomas Merton observed, "because it lacks the inner depth of an authentic metaphysical consciousness. Without such depth," he wrote, "our moral and political protestations are just so much verbiage. If, in the West, God can no longer be experienced as other than "dead," it is," he pointed out, "because of an inner split and self-alienation which have characterized the Western mind in its single-minded dedication to only half of life: that which is exterior, objective and quantitative."

[Thomas Merton, "Thoughts On The East," (New York: New Directions), p. 48.]

"We live in crisis, and perhaps we find it interesting to do so," he observed. "Yet we also feel guilty about it, as if we ought not to be in crisis. As if we were so wise, so able, so kind, so reasonable, that crisis ought at all times to be unthinkable. It is doubtless this “ought,” this “should” that makes our era so interesting that it cannot possibly be a time of wisdom, or even of reason. We think we know what we ought to be doing, and we see ourselves move, with the inexorable deliberation of a machine that has gone wrong, to do the opposite."

"If we really sought truth," he points out, "we would begin slowly and laboriously to divest ourselves one by one of all our coverings of fiction and delusion: or at least we would desire to do so, for mere willing cannot enable us to effect it. "

[Thomas Merton, "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander," (New York: Image) pp. 66-68.]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rabindranath Tagore: On Science and Spirituality

"All the great utterances of man have to be judged not by the letter but by the spirit - the spirit that unfolds itself with the growth of life in history."

-- Rabindranath Tagore --
Rabindranath Tagore
In the opening chapters of "Sadhana," the Nobel prize-winning Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, seeks to reconcile the differences of the externally and scientifically driven West, and the internally and intuitively driven East. The schism between the two, he notes, cannot go on forever.

"Man," Tagore points out, "must realize the wholeness of his existence, his place in the infinite; he must know that hard as he may strive, he can never create his honey within the cells of his hive, for the perennial supply of his life food is outside their walls, He must know that when man shuts himself out from the vitalizing and purifying touch of the infinite and falls back upon himself for his sustenance and his healing, then he goads himself into madness, tears himself into shreds, and eats his own substance."

The difference between the self-referential man and the man focused on his inner being is that between a cannibal and a lotus-eater; one seeks power, domination and survival, while the other seeks meaning in life. The one is bound to be perpetually frustrated as his goals are by their nature impermanent, while the other is bound to be fulfilled as his goals are eternal.

"The man of science knows, in one aspect," Tagore notes, "that the world is not merely what it appears to be to our senses; he knows that earth and water are really the play of forces that manifest themselves to us as earth and water - how, we can but partially apprehend. Likewise the man who has his spiritual eyes open knows that the ultimate truth about earth and water lies in our apprehension of the eternal will which works in time and takes shape in the forces we realize under those aspects. This is not mere knowledge, as science is, but is a perception of the soul by the soul. This does not lead us to power as knowledge does, but it gives us joy, which is the product of the union of kindred things."

"The man whose acquaintance with the world does not lead him deeper than science leads him will never understand what it is that the man with the spiritual vision finds in these natural phenomena. The water does not merely cleanse his limbs; it purifies his heart, for it touches his soul. The earth does not merely hold his body; it gladdens his mind, for its contact is more than a physical contact - it is a living presence. When a man does not realize his kinship with the world, he lives in a prisonhouse whose walls are alien to him. When he meets the eternal spirit in all objects, then he is emancipated, for then he discovers the fullest significance of the world into which he is born, then he finds himself in perfect truth, and his harmony with the all is established."
[Rabindranath Tagore, "Sadhana," pp. 5-7.]

 As the great physicist, Albert Einstein, famously put it: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." (Einstein, "Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium," 1941.)
In the Tao Te Ching we read:
"There is a thing confusedly formed,
Born before heaven and earth.
Silent and void
It stands alone and does not change,
Goes round and does not weary.
It is capable of being the mother of the world.
I know not its name
So I style it 'the way'.
I give it the makeshift name of 'the great'.
Being great, it is further described as receding.
Receding, it is described as far away.
Being far away, it is described as turning back.
Hence the way is great; heaven is great; earth is
great; and the king is also great. Within the realm
there are four things that are great, and the king
counts as one.
Man models himself on earth,
Earth on heaven,
Heaven on the way,
And the way on that which is naturally so.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Eckhart Tolle: On Attachment and Our Real Needs

It is hard to even begin to gauge how much a complication of possessions, the notions of "my and mine," stand between a true, clear, liberated way of seeing the world. To live lightly on the earth, to be aware and alive, to be free of egotism, to be in contact with plants and animals, starts with simple concrete acts.

The inner principle is the insight that we are interdependent energy-fields of great potential wisdom and compassion - expressed in each person as a superb mind, a handsome and complex body, and the almost magical capacity of language. To these potentials and capacities, "owning things" can add nothing of authenticity. "Clad in the sky, with the earth for a pillow."

-- Gary Snyder --
(Excerpt from "Essential Zen," page 32.)
Humanity's "physical needs" are relatively few - clean air and water, heat, food, clothing and shelter - but our "psychological needs" are nearly infinite - we all, or so it seems, want more and more to gain some sense of fulfillment or completeness. Tragically, in seeking to fill this vacuous need for more "things" to meet our "psychological needs," we preclude millions of others from attaining the most basic physical necessities of life.

The whole structure of the world's interrelated economy is thus premised on an unachievable aspiration. We all want "more" than we possibly need, both for seeming "comfort" and to give a twisted sense of "meaning" to the mad rush for material "well-being" rather than true psychological and spiritual fulfillment.

This unending drive to fulfill faux psychological "necessities" becomes, as spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle points out in his best-selling book, "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose" (below), a self-perpetuating cycle of dysfunction.
"The physical needs for food, water, shelter, clothing, and basic comforts could be easily met for all humans on the planet, were it not for the imbalance of resources created by the insane and rapacious need for more, the greed of the ego. It finds collective expression in the economic structures of this world, such as the huge corporations, which are egoic entities that compete with each other for more. Their only blind aim is profit. They pursue that aim with absolute ruthlessness. Nature, animals, people, even their own employees, are no more than digits on a balance sheet, lifeless objects to be used and then discarded."
Nevertheless, Tolle places the blame exactly where it originates - within the smaller "self" or "ego" by which the overwhelming majority of us blindly run our lives.
"The thought forms of "me" and "mine," of "more than" of "I want," "I need," "I must have," and of "not enough," pertain not to content but to the structure of the ego. The content is interchangeable," Tolle notes.

"As long as you don't recognize those thought forms within yourself," he points out, "as long as they remain unconscious, you will believe in what they say; you will be condemned to acting out those unconscious thoughts, condemned to seeking and not finding - because when those thought forms operate, no possession, place, person or condition will ever satisfy you."
It is time that we recognize this, individually and collectively, in order to live softly upon the face of the earth.  "Clad in the sky, with the earth for a pillow," as Gary Snider so poetically put it.
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Sunday, September 11, 2011

A New, Kosmocentric Paradigm

In a New-Age Emersonian rant, the narrator of "Cosmopolitical Thoughts on Leaving for Black Rock City, Nevada" (attached) raises recurrent questions about the survivability of humankind as a species (along with the survival of all other species) under our current socio-political paradigms. An advocate of a new "kosmocentric" understanding of life, the narrator of this great video clip offers a glimpse of an alternative to the industrial-productive, money-centered way we live now.

Of course, Black Rock City is the home of the Burning Man Festival, an annual art event and temporary community based on radical self-expression and self-reliance, and leaving for such a destination is bound to focus one's mind on what can be done to advance through change our increasingly sclerotic and seemingly moribund post-modern society. This is accomplished in spades in the attached clip.

"Isn't apocalypse," our narrator asks, "the best-selling plot in today's mass media market?  Everybody knows the old world is coming to an end," he notes, "but because the horror of this reality is too much to take responsibility for the majority of us sit on the couch and pretend it is all just another form of entertainment. Fantasy has replaced forthrightness," he observes, "and imagination has withered to make way for shallow ideological affiliation with merely symbolic causes."

"Of course, symbolism is no mere trifle, and our sense of meaning is precisely what is at stake," he notes. And, thus, he asks:
"How are we to conceive of the human presence on the planet? Are we a cancerous growth or the incarnation of God on Earth? Are we to become once again a spiritual instead of a consumptive and pleasure-driven species? Are we to replace industrial with initiatory cosmology? Is our goal to worship, celebrate, and create, or to use, abuse, and destroy?"
"These are questions of the ultimate meaning of the universe," according to this New-Age Emerson, "and their answers," he points out, "determine how we inhabit the Earth."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On Karma: The Law of Cause and Effect

Karma, or the law of cause and effect, in common terms is what occurs (or will occur later) as the result of our actions now. We cut off a driver on the road, and our passenger may point out, "That's bad karma." Or, we ease up on the gas and let another driver struggling to make a lane change go in front of us. Our passenger may say, "That's good karma." On a more subtle level, however, karma has little or nothing to to do with our actions, and everything to do with the thoughts and emotional states that give rise to our actions.

In "As a Man Thinketh," a small but essential guide to spiritual awakening, James Allen writes:
"The soul attracts that which it harbours, that which it loves, and also that which it fears; it falls to the level of its unchastened desires - and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own."

"Every thought seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces its own blossoming sooner or later into act, and bearing its own fruitage of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit; bad thoughts bad fruit."

"The outer world of circumstance shapes itself to the inner world of thought, and both pleasant and unpleasant external conditions are factors which make for the ultimate good of the individual. As the reaper of his own harvest, man learns both by suffering and bliss."
And at the most subtle level, that of our very essence, it is karma that obscures or reveals the nature of our divine being. Says Allen:
"The 'divinity that shapes our end' is in ourselves; it is our very self. Only himself manacles man: thought and action are the gaolers of Fate - they imprison, being base; they are also the angels of Freedom - they liberate, being noble. His wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions."
"In the light of this truth," Allen asks, "what then is the meaning of "fighting against circumstance?""

In the Tao Te Ching we read, in part:
"Understanding others is knowledge.
Understanding oneself is enlightenment:
Conquering others is power,
Conquering oneself is strength;
Contentment is wealth,
Forceful conduct is willfulness;
Not losing one's rightful place is to endure,
To die but not be forgotten is to endure."

Thus, at the most subtle level, we shape our own being, revealing or concealing what we are. The cloth that we either draw off or throw over our essence is the karma of our thoughts and actions, and it is this that the world sees and judges us by.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A new study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") shows that approximately 25 per cent of Americans suffered from some form of mental illness last year, at a cost in terms of treatment and lost productivity in excess of $300 billion. Moreover, the CDC predicts that fully half of all Americans will suffer from some form of mental illness - ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to depression to suicide - at some point in their lifetimes. Indeed, 8.4 million Americans reported having suicidal thoughts in 2010, 2.2 million made plans to kill themselves, and 1 million attempted suicide.

Why, one asks, in a country devoted to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are Americans so evidently and profoundly unhappy?

The answer may be that the United States, more than nearly any other developed country, suffers from a common post-modern malaise, from a crisis of meaninglessness that only accentuates deeply flawed human thought structures. Alienated from their inner life and faced with the unraveling of a fictitious "American" dream, one wonders if Americans in the early 21st century are not suffering from the same sense of anomie that Emile Durckheim, the father of modern sociology, associated with increased suicide rates amongst nineteenth century Europeans citizens disaffected from their societies following epidemics and dislocations resulting from war.

"The achievements of humanity are impressive and undeniable," notes Eckhart Tolle in his best-seller, "A New Earth," observing that the human mind has proven itself to be "highly intelligent" particularly in the arts, technology, and science. "Yet," he notes, "its very intelligence is tainted by madness."

Moreover, he notes, "(s)cience and technology have magnified the destructive impact that the dysfunction of the human mind has upon the planet, other lifeforms, and upon humans themselves. That is why the history of the twentieth century is where that dysfunction, that collective insanity, can be most clearly recognized. A further factor," he points out, "is that this dysfunction is actually intensifying and accelerating."

"The collective manifestation of the insanity that lies at the heart of the human condition," writes Tolle, "constitute the greater part of human history. It is to a large extent a history of madness."

"If the history of humanity were the clinical case history of a single human being," Tolle points out, "the diagnosis would have to be: chronic paranoid delusions, a pathological propensity to commit murder and acts of extreme violence and cruelty against his perceived "enemies" - his own unconsciousness projected outward. Criminally insane, with a few brief lucid intervals."

Such a collective diagnosis is far from exaggerated. If you do not recognize it, Tolle suggests that you watch the evening news, with its daily tales of war, terrorism, violence and mayhem, our collective madness is all too apparent.

With societies the world over hitting new lows in terms of their compassion for the individual, each other and the planet as a whole, is it any wonder that Americans mired in two apparently unresolvable wars, massive dislocations caused by financial hardship and unemployment, and with no end apparently in sight, are feeling blue? And yet, little or nothing is being done about it. If one in four Americans were suffering from an incurable and life threatening virus, one can assume that all the stops would be pulled out to find a cure. But is it possible, one wonders, to solve the problems of societal disintegration and looming crises portended by these skyrocketing rates of mental illness within the currently existing societal paradigms? Is time running out?

It was Einstein who famously said one cannot solve one's problems with the same level of thinking that created them. Tolle, too, clearly acknowledge that our current thinking is the problem, and that we cannot get to the solution utilizing that same mode of thinking that got us here.

(For more on Tolle's views on our "collective insanity" and the problems created by a strictly "consumer society", please listen to the audiobook readings from "A New Earth," below.)

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Monday, September 5, 2011

The Greatest Battle

In the attached video, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf describes how in returning from a fierce battle the Prophet Mohammed tells his followers that they are returning to a greater battle. "But we are battle-wearied," was their complaint. To which the Prophet declared that the "greater battle" is that of the battle with the lower self, the battle of the ego.

Fadiman and Frager, in their book, "Essential Sufism," note that it is the lower self or ego (in Arabic, the nafs) that "tends to lead us astray."
"The lower self is not so much a thing as a process created by the interaction of the soul and the body," they point out. "Body and soul are pure and blameless in themselves. However, when our soul becomes embodied, we tend to forget our soul nature; we become attached to this world and develop such qualities as greed, lust, and pride."

"On the spiritual path and in life in general," they note, "we all struggle to do those things we clearly know are best for ourselves and others. We often struggle even harder to avoid those actions we know are wrong or harmful."
 This struggle with the egoic, lower self is indubitably the source of the famous remonstrance of the Apostle Paul, when he observes:"For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." (Rom. 7:19)

"The sources of (all) human problems," Imam Rauf points out, "have to do with egotism, with "I".