A human life, my ordinary life and the way it is lived and experienced by me, is to a great degree determined by the baggage of my past and the constant craving for something better in the future. That “something better” we call salvation, enlightenment and other times something else. We feel ourselves on a search. Often this search is triggered by a nagging feeling of deep dissatisfaction in us: there is something amiss, there’s something not quite right with us. We feel deficient in some way and if only we knew what that something was, our worries and our frustrations would cease and there would be no more obstacles in our life. In other words, we would be free and happy.
This is called “dukka” in Tibetan and it has been and continues to be the experience of almost every human being on this planet. It has certainly been my own experience. That is not to say that there have not been wonderfully happy and fulfilling experiences in my life, but always underlying it all, there has been “dukka”.
This dissatisfaction which often pervades my experience of myself, gives rise to never-satisfied demands for recognition and self-protection. It is my personal story, nicely secure in the narrow and limited perspective of whom and what I am. It is my cozy baby-blanket along with the repetition of all the ego-mantras in my head playing endlessly in my comfort and discomfort zones.
The Great Spiritual Traditions have always told us that we are much more than this narrow view we have of ourselves. These traditions, East and West speak with one voice: this perception of our life is a fragmented and distorted view of what and who we essentially are. It is Maya, delusion. As one of my favorite authors (Almaas) has light-heartedly put it “we are like an elephant trying to live the life of a mosquito” And all our self-improvement plans, therapies and workshops aimed at making us feel better or more “spiritual” are not going to be of any essential use. We are aiming at making mosquitoes happy or fulfilled while continuing to live the life of a mosquito. But essentially we are elephants, so it is not going to work.
Our mind is heavily influenced by our past; those worn-out familiar grooves that we play and re-play constantly in our minds to find reassurance, especially in moments of great change and insecurity. This is what I feel myself to be, this is my safe place, my personality, my identity; it is the place from which I fob off my fears and also the place from where I project all my desires into a multitude of imaginary futures. Here I dream of better times to come, and here also there is the nagging fear that they might not come at all.
Here too, we get inspired. And with great determination we get on with our practices and we dream of liberation just around the corner. Sometimes, if we are lucky enough to meet a realized teacher, we hear about Being: Just be, we are told. It sounds so simple. Yet, it is difficult enough to just be ourselves, to leave ourselves alone. Letting go of our worries, our desiring, our hopes and our fears seems to be anything but easy most of the time. So we project possible and impossible scenarios of enlightenment into the future. It will all happen “When I am enlightened”, or its opposite “I know I am not going to be enlightened in this lifetime anyway” I have heard variations of these two themes from other practitioners many times and I have to confess to being guilty of having fallen into this trap myself. Tibetan masters put it very simply: “Practice diligently, be kind to everyone and forget all about enlightenment”
The ideal we have of enlightenment can be our most desirable projection and just one more dream, just another baby-blanket, one that at least smells cleaner. We have our dreams, we have heard of our future riches and the path to them and yet, we continue to feel poverty-stricken. We are rich beyond our wildest imagination, we are often told; in our depths we intuit that, but missing again and again the present moment of awareness, we continue to miss the portal to a very real world of ecstatic beauty and joy. “I glimpsed the beauty of God for fifteen seconds, and it made me a servant for life!”- Kabir exclaimed. Fifteen seconds is not much, as we usually measure time.
Truth has to be loved for its own sake. When we let things be what they are, the way existence presents itself to us from moment to moment, we become attuned to the flowing moment. The fear of losing the false security of who we think we are, that which makes us repeat all the old patterns, begins to lose its fascination. The need for approval also fades away and the broken record of our life-story begins to slow down and finally stops. We begin to feel reconnected to the whole and along with that there is a tremendous sense of relief. No longer do we search for solutions outside of ourselves. In our being, we finally understand that we have always been the solution to an imaginary problem. In the true expression of our Buddha Nature, which is none other than our True Self, all qualities are present “Always already” as Ken Wilber puts it. These qualities begin to be expressed in the world as a natural flow of whom and what we are. We no longer need to express love, we are Love flowing through us; we do not manifest joy, we are the flow of Joy; we are not trying to muster courage, we are Courage, Wisdom and all of Being’s precious qualities manifesting and unfolding constantly like waves out of the ocean depths. And like a skilled surfer we are able to choose the wave we want to ride at any particular moment. We become truly creative.
The symptoms of our human malaise, those limiting factors we often see in ourselves, are signs of untapped potentials. Our true potentials live a shadowy life in all of our projections. We dream our delusory world anew whenever we leave present moment awareness in search of our own creations, noble or otherwise. Searching often creates further suffering because, in our searching, we are moving away from our Being. Searching implies the future, but we can never realistically imagine the future. The Universe is filled with wonders right now. “Paradise is this world rightly seen” again, Ken Wilber. And whenever realization dawns, it is going to be so much more that we could ever imagine it to be. If fifteen seconds of beauty, love and joy changes your whole life forever, trying to imagine a human life lived in its full majesty and delight, is always going to be but a pale impoverished view of that Reality. In our mortal form, our temporary embodiment, we are one of the many expressions in time of that Being. We are all Buddhas. Each one of us a unique and particular pulsation, one might say. The universe is creative and continues to evolve its creations. When we begin to align ourselves with its flowing qualities we participate in this creativity, in this moment-to-moment flow; we build our path with the intrinsic qualities of Being as we continue to walk on it. The poetry and delight of the manifest world becomes our playground.
The highest spiritual teachings, East and West have always spoken with one voice. They continue to do so: there’s a major new shift in consciousness now appearing in the world. My own path has gone through many forks on many a road. Born a Catholic in Spain, rejected traditional religion at an early age; read everything that the best of humanity had to offer as I saw it, and became a humanist of sorts. Later, after further disenchantments, I met with the Eastern Traditions. What a relief that was! The Spiritual Path was something that I could experience directly for myself, no need to believe dogmatic statements which by then had ceased to make any sense anyway. Except that something always flowed through all these religious and philosophical meanderings which urged me forward. The Buddha understood the need to present human beings with different possibilities for growth. He gave us 80.000 different teachings. That was his genius. My path, any human being’s path, is intrinsically my own; it is mine to follow, it is my responsibility as a human being to walk it and it is my joy to discover the sacredness of existence as it presents itself to me in a unique way. Only then I can authentically communicate it to others.
Being, existence, God, expresses itself through all of life. It tells many stories to serve different times and cultures, different peoples; its expression pulsates through cells and molecules; it vibrates mightily in you and me and every other living organism. It has been doing this for 60 billion years, from the very beginning of time. In us it is felt sometimes as a gentle kind of persuasion, sometimes like the roar of a lion. It helps us reconnect with our source, with one another and with our world in Love. It urges us to leave behind those old fragmented ways in which we usually relate to one another and our world. Continuing on the path, which paradoxically is no path, I ask myself: what is it that I want to contribute to the world, that which is unique to me as an evolving expression of the One? Do my words and actions speak authentically of my realization, however great or small that may be?
We live in both troubled and truly inspirational times. The problems of our world -and there are many and serious problems- will only begin to be resolved when greater numbers of individuals awake to the One Voice. A great awakening is already underway. It is the power of the “WE”; it is me, it is you and everyone, co-creating our world in Love. It is the power to bring about the Universal Sangha. It feels in us like a powerful vibration of Love; it resonates deeply within and communicates itself to others. It wants us to get involved in this momentous evolution of consciousness, its next jump, you might say. Our practices, meditation, contemplation, -whichever is your chosen path or tradition- and our shared determination to make a difference in our world will take those of us capable and willing, to make a real difference, to increasingly clearer states of mind in which we will fully connect with this universal energy, which in none other than Love, the Evolutionary Impulse of the Cosmos. We can call it Buddha nature or God or the Universe. “The human mind has the full capacity and ability of achieving that which it sets itself to achieve” said Kalu Rimpoche. These words were my very first inspiration on the Buddhist path. Words are fingers pointing to the moon; the moon is all One, unified and divine. The Sacred expresses itself in us and through us. It sees through our eyes and acts through our body; it beats within our heart and flows outwards and joyfully to others. It connects us fully with the whole of existence. It is you, it is me. It is all of us unified in a sacred and ever-loving embrace.