Making images : our major test as humans

 

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Humans are actually taught to make images to symbolize or represent almost everything – for remembering, for recognizing, to navigate, and so on – and we excel at it. This aptitude to bring to bear rich imaginations and wide vision in our daily lives is one of the things that differentiates us from animals and plants.

But actually, this often becomes an abstract route to creating our exclusive way of seeing the world. It literally forces us to identify, to stamp ‘me’ and ‘mine’ on that mind moment, and if we are not mindful we may become attached to such images, mistaking them for reality.  

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This temptation to ‘identify’ with the images we constantly create is our major test as humans – our conditioning and DNA (countless ancestors who have lived distant to the sacred) lead us to etch a clear line between reality and the imaginary, to make a distinction between the visible and the invisible. Also, we unknowingly consign ourselves to experiencing life always from the sidelines, via concepts and archives.

But many of us have never even heard of this test which means that we have fully and unconsciously turned our backs on our divine mission. Instead, we favour and over-cherish a synthetic ‘self’ invented by the dictatorial intellectual mind. This is pure ego and arrogance: some would say it is the dark side of human beings, our personal ‘Satan,’ our samsara, It is as if we are constantly resisting the gravitational field of love and goodness. These resistant consumers surround us in modern life: those who live lives of surrender and desireless-ness are rare.

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Science informs us that human beings have evolved physically as much as they can; in other words, that we are at our peak as a species, but evidently our spiritual evolution is badly retarded. As a result, most of us are not truly happy and neither is the world at large. We are restless, insatiable, destructive and primitive, unable to create harmony in our social groups for the most part and constantly craving artificial stimulation.

In our short-sightedness in life most of us convincingly conceal our terror of death and disappearance. But this endemic fear has caused us to lose the use of so many subtle tools available to the higher mind: the mind of ‘grace’ (Christian) or emptiness (Buddhist) or moksha (Hindu). Instead, we invest all our energy in the visible, the intellectual and in acquiring. We give over our precious human existence to shopping, possessing and questing for attention, and so we have become major stakeholders in the worlds of materialism and sensual satisfaction.

Given our huge stake, it is logical that we sit back in our high comfortable chairs, flicking switches and frittering away our time viewing visual collections. Logic? – Another resistance to what is natural.

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We may even make images to represent our own minds: for example, the iceberg with its small tip showing above the water surface and its mass below, symbolizing the conscious mind and the unconscious mind respectively: the onion with its tender centre and its layer upon layer of ever-hardening skins is another. Although this may be useful to try to appreciate or recognize the difference between these two contrasted aspects of our mind, it does in fact separate them from one another in an Aristotelian way.

By attaching ourselves to such images, we are unwittingly identifying with them and so coaxing our contrived ‘self’ to acquire and possess compulsively.  In actuality, there is no self to identify with anything material because we are beings of energy made flesh for the express purpose of evolving spiritually.

It is preferable then to avoid making or encouraging these images even though they may seem to ease understanding. Ironically, understanding in its original sense is connected to listening not looking.  Perhaps, rather than finite blocks of black and white as captured on screens and pages and in bold framed linear scenarios, there is only a boundless greyness which floats and fleets in whatever shape is needed to embody the essence of love. There is only an unconditional listening, a subtle flickering of our essence of light.

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If we give up trying to pin down our feelings, cementing them into our foreground, crying out for witnesses to come forward and acknowledge us, asserting our view to others, we might realize that the field of awareness is infinite and has no boundaries, no images.  Then we can quietly coalesce in the field needing no images or intermediaries at all.

By closing the busy outer eyes so addicted to colour, shape and orientation we can close the image albums and lock the archives, walking away to our real home beyond all concepts created by the human mind. Then we will be able to clearly hear the sound of reality moving and merging, the concrete sound of infinity and eternity, of goodness and the divine.

True understanding consists of universal unconditional listening during which nothing is pinned down, nothing is owned and everything becomes one. We embody love with our true nature enabled only by the privilege of breathing air granted from the universe. Everything else is simply arranged only to stimulate the intellectual mind.

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‘We shall know each other by our deeds and being,

and by our eyes and no other outward sign save

the fraternal embrace.’

The above is a verse from the Cathar Creed (1244), The Church of Love. The spirit of life is played out whilst silently respecting everything on the material plane though not identifying with it; accepting everything but quietly supporting those who need support. It is clear from our history that identifying and possessing destroy and engender greed and ignorance. Using images is, in a way, an attempt to possess aspects of the visible, to keep them for reference as a source of knowledge.

The medieval mystic Cathars possessed nothing material, not even Bibles which showy Christians had become slaves to. Indeed, all the great spiritual adepts have dispensed with material supports. Instead, they did what was natural and wholeheartedly embodied their spirit of compassion and humility.

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I have deliberately positioned myself in my life in a different culture (Japan) in which I cannot easily read or write or even understand the society around me.  This is the most precious opportunity to stop making images and concepts.  I notice that I am not using my mind in the same way as I did living in my native culture because it is often impossible to make interpretations of my environment here.

As I wander down crowded streets decked out with loud kanji, katakana and hiragana neon signs so characteristic of Japanese cities, whisked aside by bicycles mounted on the pavement and bustling people pushing through crowds, I can often only listen deeply and breathe. It is no use bringing out my image albums and brandishing metaphors and idioms because they are meaningless in a culture which reads the air instead of dissecting and deeply analyzing ideas.

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It is often impossible to imagine what is going on in other minds around me because there is no pattern I can predict, no pictograph I can possibly imagine, no inherited template. I can only embody my love and float around sealing away the intellect and allowing visions to temporarily occupy me, while relying on my ancient senses to help me to navigate.

There is only the field of awareness. I am the terraced shaking paddy, standing in sluiced rice rows, paddled by ducks and frogs, activated by tremors from the inflamed warts of the Earth’s crust below me, burned and bundled and finding its way inevitably into famished stomachs.

Here, I have dramatically learned how not to be separate from anyone or anything here in a Land created from the hair and kimono of the million gods. To interfere with this seamlessness for even a second to create an image, to snap a shot, would make me gasp for air!

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Images: courtesy of megapyxl.com
  1. Bird and web  – Alisen.com
  2. Sensing Energy between palms –  Nikkizalewski.com
  3. Man hunting. bushman’s prehistoric cave art –  Wilad.com
  4. Three geisha –  Razvanjp.com
  5. Cosmic Transformation –  thefinalmiracle.com
  6. Iceberg – Luislouro.com
  7. South and North pole and all things related – Stuidoclover.com
  8. SoundHealer’s web banner – Nikkizalewski.com

Reading the Air: Open up the Temple Precincts

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I wake thinking of our lovely neighbors waking up in their apartment above us. We live in the hills around Takatsuki City in western Japan – an area filled with Emperor’s tombs preserved in their beautiful enclosures. Our neighbours are pure and generous, their faces clear-skinned, their universal respect shining through gentle mushroom eyes always give me a warm feeling. We exchange local produce quite often but do not spend so much time together as we would like.

Then suddenly, I remember the temple precinct we live in and wonder if they feel excluded because they are not members/followers. The high walls of the temple loom over the whole area, its strong gatehouses manned always by young guards, impenetrable. Entering is impossible without badges and ecclesiastical proof. In other words, visitors who do not have the right qualifications cannot enter. They are excluded because the spiritual current is only accessible to those who make a commitment to it. How must they feel to have this citadel with its gleaming golden sorin visible for miles on top.

Religion and spirituality are fearful things to most Japanese so they often avoid any discussion on the matter. The Dharma Crisis here after World War 2 when all religions were sanitized, their status regulated, has made these shy, sincere people retreat in fear from religious visibility. And yet, their hearts are naturally connected to sacred things such as respect and peace. They often venerate their ancestors each day on their home altars, lighting candles and incense on their special days, ensuring that their throats are not dry with daily offerings of green tea, their stomachs not empty with rice cooked before sunrise in the first drawn water. They remove themselves back to their home towns once or twice a year en masse to prepare for the arrival of the spirits, waiting with all their loving relatives in the lantern light.

Perhaps they are right to avoid associating themselves with one particular religion, one sect, one view. Their wisdom comes from the time when our divine flame was alight and there were no divisions, only one universal faith. No-one was excluded. No membership credentials were needed. A time when each human was a spiritual leader, a god, a Buddha, a holy being.

I close my eyes and open up the precincts of the temple in my mind, removing the stout gates enclosing the spirits to exclude the uninitiated. The temple is surely a sanctified space for all beings, even animals and plants, without discrimination. It is not a place of fear and secrets. I vow to remove all boundaries in my own mind and to regard all my neighbours with exception as fellow holy beings.

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