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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Oasis of Dharma.

The Self cannot be pierced by weapons or burned by fire; water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it. The Self cannot be pierced or burned, made wet or dry. It is everlasting and infinite, standing on the motionless foundations of eternity. The Self is unmanifested, beyond all thought, beyond all change. Knowing this, you should not grieve.

-Bhagavad Gita 2 23-25

James: This description of oneness is the kind of wisdom that initially attracted me to Eastern spirituality. As many of you know I was raised in a very strict, dogmatic Christian religion, which shaped my life in every way. Eventually as I matured into adulthood that carefully constructed, isolating world started showing cracks. I could no longer stay in the religion because I began to see it as incompatible with the world I was discovering as an adult.

It didn't fit with the new ideas, concepts and information that I had been sheltered from all those years and my world crashed down around me like a cascading crystal chandelier falling from above. For the first time in my life I felt truly alone, lost and didn't know what or whom to trust. And so like many in this world of chaos, selfishness and suffering I felt overwhelmed. Add modernity's way of diminishing peoples' value and I was living in constant fear and anguish.

I was going through my own process of seeing the true unsatisfactory nature of the real world as Buddha did. I drifted into nihilism and hated just about everything and everyone that I came into contact with and then I began reading books on Buddhism and other Eastern spiritual traditions. I began to see hope and sought out every book and teacher on the subjects that I could find. I was insatiable. It was like I had been wandering in a desert thirsting for relief and stumbling upon a cool, relaxing, refreshing oasis. Except that at this oasis there was a Buddhist master patiently sitting at the side of the clear, clean, crisp pool waiting for me to finish guzzling the water. The water was like the initial gratification of finding Buddhism before realizing that was just the tip of the iceberg. It was as if he smiled and said, "Water is nice but you must find the infinite oasis for lasting relief."

This master (Buddhism) began teaching me not only how to survive the suffering of thirst (greed, anger, delusion--suffering in general) but taught me how to survive traveling through the desert (samsara) in a way that wouldn't be so painful and discouraging. So that one day I would reach my destination (Nirvana--liberation from traveling from life to life in an infinite cycle of suffering) and no longer be lost wandering the disorienting desert (samsara). This of course was the Dharma. I had spent too long just looking for the next oasis (immediate gratification) instead of trying to actually find the way out of the damn desert altogether!! It took Buddhism to show me that life changing discovery.

I was no longer looking through the self-isolating eyes of individualist, materialism. I zoomed out and saw the bigger picture, which made me smaller and I found some much needed relief in that reality. Saying that feeling small made me feel relief might sound odd to those new to ideas of the Higher Self or Oneness. Or to those use to the materialism of the West. However, it helped me feel for the first time that I wasn't alone and that I didn't have to take on this overwhelming world alone.

I was apart of a much bigger essence that could never be diminished, tarnished or taken away regardless of what this sometimes mean and nasty world could present as an obstacle. It gave me a feeling of belonging, true belonging that could never be taken away because how do you take away everything that is? How do you take away Oneness? How can you separate the molecules that make up your body from the molecules that make up the air that surrounds your entire body? How do you then separate the air molecules from those that make up the radiation from the sun that keeps all things on Earth alive? And how do you separate those radiation molecules from dark matter and gravity? So if we are both this body AND air, earth, water, fire, space dust, dark matter and who knows what else--how can you feel alone and lost after knowing all of that? As the quote says,"Knowing this, you should not grieve." It's easy to diminish an individual but impossible to diminish the totality of the all that exists.

I soon realized, however, that it isn't as easy as just making that discovery--it takes a lot more than discovering a mine to find enough to gold to free you from poverty. It's not easy following the path of Dharma but I have seen enough to know that it sure is worth it and better than the alternative. It's easy to forget to look at the compass (not practice the Dharma) while traveling toward the end of the desert (samara) so I keep meditating and breathing my way toward liberation. The funny thing is that in reality there is no desert!!

~Peace to all beings~

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PeterAtLarge said...

So the beautiful mirage picture you lead with is what it's all about! We're fortunate, at least, if our particular mirage is beautiful. But that makes it harder, of course, to recognize for what it is! Nice post, James.

sfauthor said...

Nice posting. Do you know about this edition of the Gita?

Was Once said...

I think it is very important to show people what brought us to this point. I was finding dissatisfaction in the world, when the real dissatisfaction was in me. I needed answers that only Dharma has provided, with much meditation. I know, now, where to turn.
Thank you for your insights.

tozan said...

The journey you recount is a familiar one. No doubt many of us have trod similar paths.

My most powerful illumination came not from the scriptures or any traditional practice but from the English philosopher-teacher, Douglas Harding.

Douglas spoke my language (English) and spoke to my condition (Avidya) so clearly that I "got it" immediately.

He left the world in January 2007 but his friend Richard Lang continues to maintain the Headless Way website at:

Douglas's approach is the very same self enquiry that Lord Krishna urges on Arjuna in the midst of the battle of Kurukshetra.

indavao said...

hi... just dropping by!

Adam said...

Thank you for that. Great post.

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